The Best Credit Cards For Millionaires Who Count Their Miles… and The Rest of Us

millThe sales pitch for American Express has always been that their cardholders are wealthy and thus big spenders, which in turn justifies their above-average transaction fees charged to merchants. The theory is a merchant won’t mind paying more in fees if it is offset by higher average receipts (and thus profits). This is why Tiffany & Co takes AmEx and my favorite Indian food truck does not.

However, this recent Bloomberg article suggests that American Express is losing their millionaires because they are actually doing the math on their credit card rewards and finding the perks are better elsewhere. The title in the Businessweek magazine version is “Even Millionaires Count Their Miles“. To which I say, of course they do!

As less-affluent consumers cut spending during the recession and a 2009 law known as the CARD Act limited lenders’ ability to raise interest rates and charge late fees, banks revved up their pursuit of customers with top credit scores who pay their bills on time.

The article quotes hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, who switched from using American Express for 30 years over to the new Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (my review). He states:

The difference between getting 1 percent and 2 percent cash back is thousands of dollars and for that amount of money, Barclaycard has a better offer [...]

(I should mention that Tilson is well-known as a disciple of the Graham-Dodd-Buffett-Munger school of value investing. You would think value investors would know a good deal. :) Of course, you could also flip that as the largest shareholder of American Express is… Berkshire Hathaway.)

The problem is that the American Express Platinum used to be “the” card for affluent travelers because it got you into any of the airport lounges from all major carriers. But now if you want access to all American lounges, you need the premium Citi co-branded credit card. To get access to United lounges, you need the premium co-branded Chase card. And so on. AmEx even started building their own airport lounges, but so far there are only four of them. Nowadays, unless you redeem Membership Rewards for frequent flier miles and use them wisely, it is hard to get even 1 cent of cash for 1 MR point these days. Even a plain-vanilla rewards card will pay you 1% cash back and more importantly their direct competitor Chase Ultimate Rewards will get you 1 cent back or 1.25 cents towards travel.

Here’s the Bloomberg graphic of credit cards that cater to “affluent consumers”:

amexmil_small

I want to point out that the graphic is misleading because the AmEx gives a $200 travel credit every year while the Barclaycard $400 statement credit is one-time only. I do agree the Barclaycard at 2.2% back towards travel is good if you have travel charges that you redeem against, and the $400 upfront bonus counters the $89 annual fee.

Not mentioned in the article are two cards that I think are solid no-brainer cards for anyone. Both earn double the cash back from ordinary 1% cards and have no annual fee. Unless you are redeeming frequent flier miles for business class tickets or hotel points for luxury stays (which I try to do with part of my credit card rewards), it is unlikely you are getting more than 2 cents a point.

If you charged $100,000 a year, getting 2% instead of 1% would be an extra $1,000 a year back. Even if you charged $10,000 a year, that is an extra 100 bucks. You don’t need to be wealthy to appreciate simple cold, hard cash. Because there is no annual fee, I think everyone, including millionaires, should have one of these in their wallet.

Costco No Longer Accepting American Express in 2016

Starting in early 2016, you will no longer need an American Express card to pay with a credit card at Costco. Not earth-shattering news (although I do buy a lot of stuff at Costco), but as a credit card geek I thought some of the details that came out were interesting:

  • American Express and Costco are ending their 16-year partnership when their current contract ends on March 31, 2016. After that, American Express will no longer be accepted at Costco wholesale stores.
  • The relationship accounted for 8% of AmEx’s revenue last year, 20% of its worldwide loans, and 10% of its cards in force. That’s a pretty sizable chunk of their business, but American Express had to offer deeply-discounted transaction fees to get it. I guess they didn’t think it was worth it anymore.
  • In Canada, Costco has already dropped AmEx and replaced them with Capital One and Mastercard. Reportedly, Costco is also in talks with CapOne and Mastercard for their US stores as well (though they state they are also talking with other issuers).
  • The co-branded Costco TrueEarnings American Express card is expected to be discontinued, and American Express will probably be offering cardholders an alternative card. It really wouldn’t make sense to keep it around if you couldn’t even use it at Costco.

Sources: WSJ, AP, Marketwatch

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Review: Limited-Time 60,000 Rewards Points Bonus

Chase Ink Plus Card ArtUpdated with new limited-time bonus bump to 60,000 points = $600 cash value = $750 towards travel. $95 annual fee. Expires 3/1.

Chase’s newest small biz credit card is called the Ink Plus® Business Card. It turns out to be very similar to the Chase Ink Bold Business card, but with the important difference that the Ink Plus is a credit card where you can carry a balance and the Bold is a charge card that you must pay in full each month. The current APR for both purchases and balance transfers is 15.24%.

This means that the Ink Plus is a separate card with its own sign-up bonus, currently a limited-offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after your after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months your account is open. You can read about my Ink Bold bonus experience here.

Ultimate Rewards points are very flexible:

  • Cash. 1 point = 1 cent in cash, so 60,000 points = $600 cash.
  • Travel. 1 point = 1.25 cents towards travel, so 60,000 points = $750 towards travel at the same prices at Expedia or Travelocity (no % markups), split up however you like into multiple tickets, down to the penny. Good for people who don’t like to bother with miles.
  • Frequent flier miles and hotel rewards points. Transfers directly to United miles, British Airways miles, Hyatt hotel points, and Marriott hotel points. Best for folks that are willing to research and maximize their miles. Top up your account to reach an award, an transfer over only what you need.

Here are the important features of this card:

  • LIMITED TIME BONUS OFFER: Offer Ends 3/1/2015.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Chip-enabled for enhanced security at home and abroad.
  • $95 Annual Fee.

You can buy Amazon.com gift cards at Staples and OfficeMax and get the 5x points, effectively discounting them 5% in cash (6.25% in travel), which may also help you with the spending requirement. Based on past experiences, you should be able to get this card and bonus in addition to the Ink Bold card as they are different cards. I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred personal card and the Ink Bold card, so I’ll probably wait for a bit and then try out this new card as well for my business. Gift cards purchases are also useful for satisfying the spending requirement for the bonus.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and these days many people are full-time or part-time consultants, freelancers, or other one-person business. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID. This is how I got all my cards before incorporating, and how my wife gets her business cards for her small side business.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

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Citi Credit Cards: Free FICO Score from Equifax

After announcing their plans last year, Citibank has starting giving out free FICO credit scores. Available to “Citi-branded consumer credit cardmembers”, visit citi.com/creditscore and log into your account to view your score. You should also find it under Card Benefits. The FICO scores will be updated monthly and are based on your Equifax credit bureau data. According to the press release, you can also request that the score be mailed to you by contacting customer service. You’ll also get:

FICO® Score with two key factors impacting their score
FICO® Score Meter to show cardmembers where they fall within the credit score range
A visual of the score range to help them understand what each range means to lenders
A breakdown of the factors that contribute to FICO® scores

For those curious about the specific score model (range 250-900):

Your FICO® Score is calculated based on data from Equifax using the FICO® Bankcard Score 8 model and may be different from other credit scores.

That means this is a industry-specific FICO score, but not a “classic” FICO. From their FICO Score FAQ:

The classic FICO® Score which is in use today by the vast majority of lenders fall within the 300-850 score range. This score range was introduced to establish an easy-to-understand, common frame of reference for lenders and consumers. Industry-specific FICO® Scores, such as those for auto lending or credit card lending, were developed to accommodate the unique characteristics of their respective industry and range from 250-900. Some lenders also use FICO® Score NG, which ranges from 150-950.

As always, checking your own score will not affect the score itself. Reports are that Citi American Airlines consumer cards are included, in addition to Double Cash, Dividend, ThankYou, Forward, Prestige, Simplicity, etc. You may find yourself having to wait a bit (maybe as my cards are new?) as this is what I got:

No score is available for us to provide to you right now. Please check again later.

Screenshot (click to enlarge):

citificosmall

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2015

1st quarter activation for 2015 now open for all cards. The credit cards below offer a hefty 5% cash back on certain categories that rotate each quarter. It takes a little extra attention, but I also rack up over a hundred dollars in additional rewards per year without changing my spending habits. None of these have an annual fee, so it costs me nothing to keep them all around. New cardmembers often also get an initial sign-on bonus.

Chase Freedom® – $100 Bonus
Chase Freedom ImageFrom January 1st through March 31st, 2015 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Grocery Stores
  • Movie Theaters
  • Starbucks

Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com, it’s quick and as long as you activate by the end of the quarter the rewards are retroactive. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards. Currently, the Chase Freedom® card is offering $100 bonus cash back if you sign up and make just $500 in purchases in your first three months and a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period. No annual fee.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa CardCiti® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
From January 1st through March 31st, 2015 you can earn 5% cash back from Citi on eligible purchases at:

  • Macys
  • Home Furnishing stores

Log into your online account or call 1-800-231-0891 to activate the rewards each quarter (starts upon activation, not retroactive). The total cash back earned with the card is $300 per calendar year.  See Citi Dividend Card Reward Program Information for details. Full 1% cash back on all other purchases and eligible cash advances and rewards do not expire as long as you have activity once every 12 months.

Discover it® CardDiscover it 14 Month BT (RED)
From January 1st through March 31st, 2015 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gasoline
  • Ground Transportation

Login into your online account to activate the rewards each quarter (starts upon activation, not retroactive). The new Discover it® card now has a flat 1% cash back (no more tiers), free FICO score every month, late-payment forgiveness, and direct-to-human, 100% US-based customer service reps. No annual fee. (If you have an old Discover More card, you should call in and convert it to a Discover It card for free and get the new perks.)

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Slate from Chase: 0% APR For 15 Months + NO Balance Transfer Fee for 60 Days!

Slate from Chase

Looking to pay down debt in 2015? Transfer your balances to the Chase Slate Card and get 0% APR For 15 Months and pay NO BALANCE TRANSFER FEE if done within 60 days of account opening. You won’t pay any more interest until 2016, and all your money will go towards paying down the balance principal. Detailed review below.

The Chase Slate® is now available with 0% introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months, and the best part: $0 balance transfer fee! You can literally borrow money or transfer existing balances for free and pay it back in 15 months with no interest (keeping in mind you’ll still need to satisfy the minimum payment each month until then). $0 annual fee.

It is very rare these days to find a no balance transfer fee 0% APR offer that is available to all (as opposed to being targeted only to specific customers). You can verify in the Pricing & Terms section of the application, down in the Fees box:

None on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. All other transfers: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Make sure you initiate that balance transfer within the first 60 days.

Lower your interest on balances!
This is a great opportunity for those people with good to excellent credit but are still working hard to lower their debt payments, as now you can have all your money applied directly into cutting down your principal instead of having it go towards interest and/or fees. The 0% APR applies to new purchases as well, so your balance owed will go down that much faster and you won’t have to worry about interest until well into 2016.

Chase Blueprint is a free feature on select cards that lets you break down your balances into things that you want to pay in full each month and bigger purchases that you wish to pay off over time. A gadgety feature, but if at all possible I say nuke those balances completely!

If you wish to get cash from this balance transfer offer without it being classified as a “cash advance”, one option that has worked for me is to ask for the balance transfer as a check or electronically transferred to your bank account. Just call the number on the back of your card after you get it and tell them you’re trying to pay down debt that’s not on another card.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Citi® Double Cash Card Review: 1.99 or 2% Cash Back Credit Card

citidouble200Citi has an all-new cash back credit card and it is actually quite compelling. With the Citi® Double Cash Card, as the name suggests you earn cash back twice:

  • 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make
  • An additional 1% unlimited cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time.

This all comes with no caps, no tiers, no category restrictions, no quarterly enrollment hoops, no rotating categories. All with no annual fee. The only way you don’t get your 1% + 1% total is if you default on your bill and don’t even make the minimum payments. You can redeem your cash rewards in full as soon as it totals $25 or more, via check, direct deposit, or statement credit (i.e. if you have $31.44, you can get a check for $31.44).

You say that if pay your bill, then this is either a 1.99% or 2% cash back card. Why? Imagine you put $100 on the charge, 1% is earned so you have $1. Then you redeem that $1 (ignore minimums for this example) for a statement credit (as opposed to paper check) which means Citi actually “paid” for $1 of the $100. So you pay the remaining $99 and get an additional 1% or $0.99 back. Final tally: $1.99 back on $100 in purchases, or 1.99% back.

  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of an electronic funds transfer into a linked bank account, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back. The bank account can be a checking account from any bank from which you have paid a Citi Credit Card bill at least two times, or any Citi savings/checking account.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of a check, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form if a statement credit, you’ll get 1.99% effective cash back.

If you charged $1,000 per month, the difference between 1.99% and 2% per month would be a whopping 10 cents per month, or 1.20 per year.

There have been flat 2% cards in the past (Fidelity Mastercard, Sallie Mae, Priceline) but they are all no longer open to new applicants. However, most existing cardholders were grandfathered in, so based on that precedent you may want to get this card while it is still offered. According to varying reports, certain cardholders can call in and try to convert their existing Citi cards over, but you may or may not be successful. Converted cards are not eligible for the 0% interest for 15 months mentioned below.

Obviously, you’ll want to pay in full every month (unless taking advantage of the 0% APR promo rate on purchases) as to not rack up interest charges which can quickly offset your cashback rewards.

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%, 15.99%, 18.99%, 20.99%, and 22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Bottom line. Given the combination of the ability to get 2% flat cashback on all purchases, no annual fee, and the fact that it is a Mastercard which has the widest acceptance, the Citi Double Cash is a great rewards card to keep in your wallet, both for those who prefer simplicity and just want one card and for those who like optimizing multiple cards and can now establish a 2% minimum on everything. I don’t know of any other card that offers this combination of features.

Citi Double Cash Leaderboard

Five Ways To Get a Free Credit Score (No Trials!)

Updated for 2015. I always check all of my credit reports at the beginning of the year, but I also track my credit activity year-round with free credit scores from all 3 bureaus for free.

The government allows you to get a free credit report once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. But what about your numerical credit score? Here is a compilation of different ways to grab a free credit score without the hassle of annoying trial offers or providing a credit card. The goal: No free trial membership required, no credit card number required, nothing to cancel. Here are the best options I could find.

Remember, everyone has three credit scores, one from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.

Credit Sesame

Credit Sesame is an ad-supported site that offers you a free credit score based on your Experian credit report. Updates once a month. Range is from 300-850. They also offer free credit monitoring of changes to your credit report.

You will need to provide your personal information and Social Security number to some of these companies, naturally, so be comfortable with that. None of these methods by themselves will affect your credit score as you are requesting them for yourself.

And now, for a limited time, Credit Sesame is offering $50,000 in identity theft insurance and access to identity restoration help for FREE.

Credit Concierge LogoCredit Concierge

Credit Concierge is another ad-supported site that is specific to credit card education, rewards and applications.  Signing up for their free credit score and report is a breeze (standard personal information, and a couple of questions to verify identity) and both the credit score and report comes from TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus.

Under the credit report tab, all information about you, your credit accounts and your creditor contacts can be found.  Make sure to check this information for accuracy, and report any errors to the major credit bureau.  Incorrect information in any capacity can lead to declined loan and credit account applications, so check, double check, then triple check.

CompareCards Credit Concierge

Quizzle logoQuizzle

Quizzle.com is an ad-supported site that offers a free credit score based on your Equifax credit report, called a VantageScore credit score, updated once every 6 months. You also get a free copy of your Equifax credit score once every six months. Twice a year is less often than other services and makes it harder to track credit improvement, but hey it’s still free. The score scale is also 300-850.

CreditKarma

CreditKarma.com is an ad-supported site that offers you the ability to check your credit score based on your TransUnion credit report, updated every week for free. The score range is the same as FICO, from 300-850. They offer insights into improving your credit score, and you can also opt-in to free daily credit monitoring.

Discover it 14 Month BT (RED)Free TransUnion FICO from Discover it Card
The new Discover it® Card offers you a free FICO score based on your TransUnion credit report once every month with your statement. The card has no annual fee and includes features like 5% cash back on rotating categories and no foreign transaction fees. A good rewards credit card with no annual fee, plus a free FICO score baked in.

Cheap Equifax FICO from myFICO
Alternatively, if you want an official FICO score on the cheap, you can sign up for a month of ScoreWatch at MyFICO.com for $4.95. You’ll get an instant free Equifax credit report and Equifax FICO credit score. You’ll need a credit card. You must call 1.888.577.5978 to cancel within that first month, although you may be able to do it online as well. My recommendation is to get your credit report and credit score, print or save to PDF, and then cancel immediately afterward on the same day so that you won’t forget later. Hours (PDT) M-F 6am-6pm, Sat 7am-4pm, Sun Closed.

Chase Freedom $100 Bonus + 5% Categories for 2015

Chase Freedom Image

Future 5% categories for all 2015 announced. The Chase Freedom® – $100 Bonus is a solid all-around rewards card with 5% cash back in rotating categories, all with no annual fee. Here are the highlights:

  • For a limited time, earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn an additional $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99-22.99%

5% cash back rewards program details. As a rewards credit card it is better than plain vanilla 1% cashback cards with its 5% cashback on rotating categories, good for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Here are the categories through the end of 2015.

From October to December 2014:

  • Amazon.com
  • Zappos.com
  • Select Department Stores

From January to March 2015 (activate 12/15):

  • Grocery Stores
  • Starbucks
  • Movie Theaters

Here is the preview for the rest of 2015. Q2 is Restaurants, Q3 is Gas Stations, and Q4 is Amazon.com. That’s pretty solid, and they usually will add few additional retailers or minor categories.

freedom2015

Activate quarterly at ChaseBonus.com or call the number on the back of the card. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards.  Keep in mind that you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold/Plus small business cards which also earn those, your Ultimate Rewards points can be combined and converted to miles like United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt hotel points. Depending on what you redeem for (i.e. plane ticket, hotel stay), Ultimate Rewards can be worth well more than 1 cent per point this way, which means you can actually get more than 5% value back.

I call this a “keeper” card as there is no annual fee, the rewards never expire, and the 5% rewards have been pretty solid historically. So there is reason to cancel, you can just use it when the rewards work for you.

Chase Freedom® – $100 Bonus application

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Chase Freedom 100 Banner

US Airways Premier World MasterCard Review: 50,000 Mile Bonus (Updated)

Bonus improved from 40k to 50k miles for limited time. American Airlines and US Airways have announced new details about their upcoming merger. As expected, the two frequent flier programs will merge and all the miles will become American AAdvantage miles in 2015. (US Airways Dividend miles will convert at a 1:1 ratio.) Along with that, they have updated both the Citi American Airlines card and Barclaycard US Airways card slightly.

Here are the updated features of the US Airways Premier World MasterCard®. I got the bonus myself (unfortunately at only 40k miles) and have posted details on that below as well.

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee
  • First checked bag free on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights only.
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees.
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights only.
  • Redeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • New! Receive a 25% savings on eligible US Airways and American Airlines in-flight purchases
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Again, the unique thing about this card is that American Airlines and US Airways are merging and these bonus miles will become American miles. You can already book reward flights on American with US Airways miles. That also means this Barclaycard-issued card will no longer be accepting applications and you won’t be able to get its sign-up bonus or other unique perks ever again. It is reported that this card will eventually convert essentially into a Barclaycard American Airlines card. So these are miles I didn’t want to leave on the table.

Note that 50,000 mile bonus does not require any minimum purchase amount and that there is an $89 annual fee that is not waived for the first year. 50,000 miles for example is more than enough for a roundtrip from the US to Hawaii or even two roundtrips within the continental US, so that is worth it for me. The US Airways companion certificate is also a unique feature which would be awesome if it eventually applied to American flights (though it probably won’t).

My bonus experience. Applied on 7/14. Approved on 7/21. First statement closed on 8/12, in which I charged $10 and also paid the $89 annual fee. I read some stories about other people making only a single purchase (the minimum technically required) but having to call in about the bonus. Thus, I put on another 4 small charges during the second statement period which ended 9/12 totaling about $49. My 40,000 bonus miles posted 9/13, one day after the closing of my second statement period. Here is a screenshot:

usair40k

The card is issued by Barclaycard, which means you also get a free FICO score every couple months.

Citi Prestige Card Review

citiprestigecardfrontCiti has revamped the Citi Prestige® Card, which is their high-end ThankYou point rewards card. (You can tell, because the fancy cards are too cool to have your name printed on the front!)

You may be scared away by the $450 annual fee, but the card does include an $250 air travel credit every year good towards any airfare, American Airlines airport lounge access, improved rewards value for ThankYou points, and more. Can it really be worth it?

Here is the current sign-up bonus as well as one-time perks:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $2,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Citi will cover the $100 application fee on a one-time basis when you charge it to the card. Global Entry allows you to get through international customs faster when entering the US.

Here are the ongoing highlights of the card:

  • $250 Statement Credit for Air Travel each year. Unlike other cards, airfare counts as well as baggage fees, lounge access, and other incidental purchases. This renews every calendar year, so it can be used to help offset the annual fee every year.
  • Complimentary access to nearly 40 American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges, plus hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass Select. Valid for you and your entire immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age) or up to two companions. Citi and American are tight these days; the competing American Express Platinum no longer offers American Airlines lounge access at all. Priority Pass lounges tend to be at international airports.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels.
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment.
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • Includes chip technology which increases acceptance overseas.
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay. This could be nice, but your stay must be booked through their designated travel agent, so I’m not sure if that means the rates will be the same as say Expedia or Travelocity.
  • Complimentary greens fees at more than 2,400 public and private golf courses around the globe. The terms specify that you get 3 complimentary rounds of golf through the Citi Prestige® Golf Portal (provided by GolfSwitch, Inc.) each calendar year.
  • $450 Annual Fee. Not waived for the first year.

The Citi Prestige is most attractive for people who fly on American Airlines. First of all, as long as you spend $250 a year on air travel, the $450 annual fee would be effectively reduced to $200. If you fly on American a lot, the airport lounge access alone might be worth $200 a year.

In addition, the ThankYou point rewards are now more valuable than in past years. With this card, you can redeem 1 ThankYou point to get 1.6 cents worth of American Airlines and US Airways airfare. So if you redeem your points towards American Airlines or US Airways airfare, you’ll get 1.6% back standard while the 2X and 3X categories turn into 3.2% back at restaurants and 4.8% back on airfare and hotels. (If you have CitiGold checking account or Citi Private Banker, you’ll get an additional 15% or 25% bonus respectively on ThankYou points earned.) You can also get 1.3 cents per point value by redeeming towards airfare on all other airlines.

The sign-up bonus of 30,000 ThankYou points is thus worth $480 in American/US Airways airfare, $399 in other airfare, or $300 in gift cards to various retailers. Along with the $100 Global Entry statement credit, you could view the initial sign-up perks as a way to offset the annual fee during the first year (as the annual fee is not waived).

Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.

Citi Prestige® Card application

American Express Small Business Saturday 2014 – $30 Total Bonus Per Card

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Reminder: Registration is now live on Shopsmall.com. You will get e-mail confirmation. I would highly recommend registering sometime on Sunday to guarantee your spot, as the number of registrations is limited. The actual day that you must make your purchases is Saturday, Nov 29, 2014. Details are below.

Have you made your SBS Game Plan? Remember that authorized users of eligible cards are also eligible for this promotion. Given that it is three separate $10 credits per card, it’ll make your live easier if you plan out your purchases ahead of time. Here’s my list:

  • Local grocery stores. There’s one where I can find the sunflower seed butter for my kid, and the one with the good raw lasagna.
  • Local restaurants and coffee shops. Just make sure they take AmEx!
  • Local doggie bakery. Usually too pricey for me, but a good place for gifts!
  • Local sporting goods stores and bike shops. Buy some tennis balls, some little things for my bike, etc.
  • Local hardware stores. These are a dying breed, but there are still some non-Home Depot small business hardware stores in my area.
  • Local bookstore. Another rarity, but there happens to be one next to a local restaurant we like!

If they sell gift certificates, buy them! If you only want to spend $10, you can say those can make good stocking stuffers. If you would otherwise buy a $25 certificate for a gift, hey that’s still 40% off what you would have paid. Also don’t be shy about using more than one card at a place. AmEx is paying those $10 credits, not them, so the merchants should still appreciate your patronage.

Original Small Business Saturday 2014 post:

American Express has confirmed that they will bring back Small Business Saturday (SBS) on Saturday, November 29th – two days after Thanksgiving.

The significant change this year is that now it is up to three separate $10 statement credits, for a total of up to $30 per eligible card. Details from the Official Terms and Conditions [pdf]:

  • Limit three (3) $10 statement credits per eligible American Express Card. To receive the offer, Card Members must register any eligible American Express Card for this offer. Corporate Cards and all prepaid Card products (other than American Express Serve® and Bluebird®) are not eligible.
  • The number of registrations is limited. Registration opens at 12:00 A.M. MST (“Mountain Standard Time”) on Nov 16, 2014 and will continue until 11:59 P.M. MST on Nov 29, 2014, unless the registration limit is reached sooner.
  • To receive the $10 statement credit, the Card Member must use his or her registered Card to spend $10 or more in a single, in-store transaction at a qualifying small business location on Saturday, Nov 29, 2014.

Other important terms and tips:

  • Qualifying small business locations appear on the Shop Small Map.
  • If you don’t have anything specific in mind, even gift cards to a local non-chain restaurant, grocer, hardware store, or clothing boutique count.
  • In all previous years, additional authorized user cards have been eligible for their own $10 credit. (Authorized user cards with AmEx get their own unique card number.) I see nothing that changes that in this year’s rules. Many American Express cards offer additional cards for free to authorized users like your spouse, partner, or older children.
  • Most prepaid cards are not eligible, but American Express Bluebird and Serve cards are eligible. Given that these cards are free to obtain (officially you can only have one or the other, though) this is another path to an additional free $30 of small business patronage in 2014.

Small Business Saturday remains a very creative way for American Express to tell the public that they’ve greatly increased acceptance of their cards at small businesses, which has always been their relative weak spot due to their slightly higher fees for the merchant. (It also makes small business that aren’t accepting AmEx to think twice…)

This is a great perk for American Express cardholders. With a little advance planning multiple credits are very easy to get… I’ve gotten them every year without issue.