Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Review: 100,000 Points Bonus = $1,500 in Travel, $450 Annual Fee

chasereserve200newChase has a new ultra-premium credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which has headline features of Visa Infinite benefits, 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points sign-up bonus, and a $450 annual fee. That’s a huge sign-up bonus and a big annual fee. Is this expensive travel-focused card designed to compete with the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige worthy of your attention?

Card highlights:

  • 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • $300 annual travel credit. Each year, automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card.
  • Up to a $100 statement credit towards your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • Priority Pass Select membership. Provides free access to 900+ VIP lounges in over 400 cities worldwide.
  • Earn 3X points per $1 spent on travel & dining worldwide.
  • Earn 1 point for every dollar in other purchases.
  • 1.5 cents per point value when redeemed towards travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 points transfer to various frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Annual fee is $450, not waived the first year. Additional cards are $75 per year, each.

Details on Ultimate Rewards points redemption:

  • Cash rewards. Cash redemptions are a bit ordinary but easy… 100 points = $1.
  • Points redeemed towards travel are worth 1.5 cents when applied towards any hotel, flight, car rental, or cruise available on their travel portal UltimateRewards.com. Redemptions can also be maximized because you can book wherever you want and simply pay the difference. For example, 25,000 points can be used for any ticket up to $375, but if say you wanted a $400 ticket you could just pay the $25 difference. You’re able to use every last point on this program, and you don’t have to worry about room or flight availability.
  • This means the 100,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,500 towards any travel booked through Chase.
  • This also means your existing Ultimate Rewards points balance could be increased in value by getting this card.
  • This also means that if you also have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you’d be getting 2.25% back on all purchases when redeemed towards travel through Chase.
  • This also means that if you also have the Chase Freedom card, you’d be getting 7.5% back on the quarterly rotating categories when redeemed towards travel through Chase.
  • Points can be converted to frequent flyer miles a 1:1 basis to the following airlines: United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France.
  • Points can be converted on a 1:1 basis to the following hotel loyalty programs: Hyatt, IHG, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott
  • Sharing points. Ultimate Rewards points are instantly transferable to other accounts like family members, as long as they have their own Chase card with Ultimate Rewards as an authorized user (free with Chase Freedom). This way, you can pool points together for transfers and redemptions if you like.

Other card benefits:

  • Dedicated customer service line with a live person that answers the phone 24/7. No waiting or complicated phone trees.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver insurance. Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Most other cards only offer secondary coverage that kicks in only after the deductible of your individual insurance policy is used.
  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket
  • Enjoy special car rental privileges from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar when you book with your card.

This is still a new card, but there is reported success in people “upgrading” their existing Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards to this new Sapphire Reserve card. If you convert, you will not be eligible for the 100,000 point sign-up bonus, but you will still get the standard card features like the $300 calendar year travel credit which can still offset the $450 annual fee.

Note that Chase has a widely-reported but unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years (aka the 5/24 rule). This rule is designed to discourage folks that apply for high numbers of sign-up bonuses.

As for the $300 annual travel credit, “annually” means the year beginning with your account open date through the first December statement date of that same year, and each 12 billing cycles starting after your December statement date through the following December statement date. So it’s not exactly by calendar year, but roughly close and you can likely get this twice under the first year’s annual fee.

In terms of first-year value, this card is probably one of the highest in recent memory. You get 100k points worth $1,500 towards travel booked through Chase, $300 in travel credit that can be used once in 2016 and again in 2017, Priority Pass Select membership, up to $100 Global Entry application credit, and more…. all for $450 annual fee. Your potential net value for the first year is easily over $1,650. If you spend enough to trigger the sign-up bonus and the annual travel credit, can redeem the points for something you want, and haven’t racked up 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months, this is quite a deal.

Pay Your Rent with Credit Card With No Fees With RadPad and Android Pay

radpad0With a new promotion by RadPad and Android Pay, you can pay your rent with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) and earn points/miles/cash rewards through the end of 2016. Your landlord will simply receive a check on your behalf from RadPad.

Android Pay requires an NFC-enabled Android device running KitKat 4.4+ and the Android Pay app. A partial list includes LG G4, LG G5, HTC One M9, HTC 10, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, and Moto X. Here is a 3rd-party list of NFC-enabled phones.

You must log into Pay with Radpad from an Android device or use the RadPad app, and then pay using Android Pay.

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If you have a compatible phone, this promo seems like an easy way to rack up some extra frequent flier miles or satisfy a bonus requirement. You can schedule payments ahead of time if you wish. The standard fee is otherwise 3.49% for credit cards and free for debit cards. (You can now search for an apartment, sign your lease using Docusign, and pay rent using your debit card for free, all through Radpad.)

New Fidelity Rewards Visa Credit Card Review: 2% Flat Cash Back

new_usbank_fido_visa_200Updated with new info for both new and existing customers. Fidelity has (mostly) converted their rewards credit card line-up to a single version – a Visa Signature issued by Elan Financial Services (subsidiary of US Bank). For new customers, the new Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card will receive a flat 2% cash back when directed to an eligible Fidelity Investments account. Here is a different link which includes a $100 bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Here are the new card highlights:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back, when redeemed into an eligible Fidelity account.
  • No annual fee.
  • Visa Signature benefits, like Concierge service.
  • Chip-enabled and works with Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay.

Eligible Fidelity accounts. The 2% rewards value applies only to points redeemed for a deposit into the following active Fidelity accounts:

  • Fidelity Cash Management Account
  • Fidelity Brokerage account
  • Fidelity-managed 529 account
  • Fidelity Retirement account (IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, Rollover IRA)

Rewards value will be less than 2% cash back if you choose to redeem your points for other rewards such as travel options, merchandise, gift cards, and/or a statement credit.

Points redemption details. You can either choose automatic or manual redemption. With automatic redemption, once you reach $50 of rewards (5,000 points from net spending of $2,500), your balance will be automatically swept into your designated Fidelity account (or split between multiple Fidelity accounts if you wish). You can also redeem your points “on demand” either by calling in or online after you reach the same 5,000 point minimum balance.

Previous FIA Cardservices customers. You should have received your new Elan-issued cards by now, and been told what the new rewards structure is. There is no new credit check. Your credit card number will be different, but the credit card history (like age of account) should continue as before on your credit reports. Your existing rewards balance will be moved over. Re-enroll your card for online account management at FidelityRewards.com. Re-enroll your cards for rewards redemption after logging into your account at Fidelity.com / Credit Card Snapshot / Manage Rewards Points. You will need your Fidelity account numbers.

There was (understandably) some angry existing customers when they were told they would only start at 1.5% cash back and not the 2% cash back offered to new customers. Some reps told existing customers that they would have apply for a new card in order to get the 2%. However, it appears that Fidelity has softened that decision. If you call up the number on the back of your card and ask them, they should upgrade you to 2% cash back without hassle. But it won’t happen automatically; you must call.

Commentary. Overall, this move makes complete business sense. They negotiated terms that could offer a Visa card with 2% cash back without any tiers. Fidelity uses this card to encourage customers to keep all their assets within Fidelity-branded accounts. You could theoretically now have your checking account, credit card, brokerage account, IRA, 401(k), all with Fidelity.

Their previous issuer, FIA Cardservices was owned by Bank of America, which is essentially a direct competitor. You could also have a Bank of America checking account, BofA credit card, Merrill Edge brokerage account, and Merrill Lynch wealth management account under their umbrella. In fact, I recently opened up a Merrill Edge account and moved over $100,000 of assets and received (1) 100 free stock trades a month and (2) an effective 2.625% back towards any travel with the Bank of America Travel Rewards card (my review). I pay no annual account fees on either product.

Elan Financial Services is a subsidiary of US Bank, but they are less of a direct competitor. You won’t see “US Bank” mentioned anywhere on this card. Elan quietly co-brands with many other financial institutions (over 1,400) who want a credit card but don’t want to handle the back-end details.

Bottom line. I believe it remains a solid cash back card for existing Fidelity customers (or those willing to open a Fidelity account). As a self-directed investor, I also like to keep my options open. I have this new Fidelity card, but I don’t use it. I use the Bank of America card mentioned above because it offers higher rewards for my situation. I also have (but don’t currently use) the Citi Double Cash card (my review) because it is a similarly solid card with no annual fee (and doesn’t require any companion account).

Why do I have all three? My experience is that good credit cards may stop taking new applicants with no prior notice, but as an existing customer you can often continue to receive grandfathered benefits for a long time. I’ve had some version of this Fidelity co-branded card earning 2% cash back since 2004. They also all have no annual fee.

Citi Prestige Card Review: New 40,000 Point Offer, Feature Changes

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Our partner Citi has relaunched the Citi Prestige® Card, their premium ThankYou point rewards card. The sign-up bonus is now 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Here are the updated highlights:

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre ?®
  • 4th night hotel benefit for any hotel stay at hotels booked through the Citi Prestige® Concierge.
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for a $532 flight on any airline or $400 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • 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.
  • $450 annual fee, not waived the first year.

What’s different than before? While many features remain, there are a few notable changes from the previous offer.

  • The sign-up bonus was previously 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases.
  • Citi and American Airlines connection appears to be going away over time. For example, the application does not mention the previous ability to redeem at 1 ThankYou point = 1.6 cents in American Airlines airfare. There is now only the claim that you can redeem 1 ThankYou point = 1.33 cents in airfare from any airline. Thus, 40k ThankYou points are redeemable for a $532 flight on any airline or $400 in gift cards.
  • Existing Citi Prestige cardholders have been told that the ability to obtain complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges will be ending July 23, 2017. Free access to the Priority Pass Select program and its affiliated airport lounges will remain.

What’s the same as before?

  • $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. Specifically, “This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.”
  • Citi ThankYou points also transfer directly 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.
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit details. 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. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck as well. The $100 application fee credit will reset once every 5 years.

My personal bottom line. As an existing cardholder, there is no doubt the card has lost some important features. I’ve gotten my $100 Global Entry credit and $250 annual airfare credits without issue. But my most often-used feature, the Admiral Club lounge access will last until July 2017 but will disappear after that. Unless the annual fee drops significantly, that single change will probably make it not worth paying for another annual fee.

Overall bottom line: This card still offers a pretty good package during the first year of cardownership. Assuming you fly enough on any airline to make the airfare purchases, you can redeem the $250 annual airfare credit in both later 2016 and again in early 2017, for a total of $500 statement credit. (The $250 annual credit resets every December billing statement.) Then you have the $532 in airfare redemption value from the 40,000 ThankYou points, good on any airline. That’s $1,032 of flexible value, minus the annual fee of $450, for $582 minimum net value in the first year. Then you add in whatever value you place on the other perks like $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement, 3/2/1 rewards tiers, and the 4th night free benefit.

In addition, if you have a big stash of Citi ThankYou points, getting this card could increase the value of your existing point balance due to the special 1.33 cents per ThankYou point conversion rate towards airfare.

“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.”

Ally CashBack Credit Card Review: 2% Cash Back on Gas and Groceries + 10% Relationship Bonus

allycbccIf you have an Ally Bank savings or checking account, you’ve likely been pitched their new Ally CashBack credit card recently. Here are the highlights:

  • $100 bonus when you make $500 in eligible purchases during the first 3 billing cycles.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No limits on rewards categories.
  • 10% boost on earned rewards when you deposited into an eligible Ally Bank account.
  • No annual fee.
  • Intro 0% APR for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers. (No 0% APR on purchases.) Balance transfer fee is either $10 or 4%, whichever is greater.

As with all the big banks, Ally is working on their cross-marketing. They want you to keep your checking, savings, IRAs, brokerage, and credit cards all at the same place. Ally’s strong in the online banking side (named best online bank by Money Magazine for the fifth year in a row). Credit cards are here, and a brokerage arm is just around the corner (TradeKing). I am personally interested in such convenience, as for years Ally Bank has been my primary checking, savings, and CD accounts.

Including the 10% relationship bonus, this Visa Signature card would get you 2.2% cash back on gas stations and grocery stores and then 1.1% on all other purchases. While this structure is better than the traditional 1% flat credit cards, the competition has heated up in the last few years. Consider:

The best program to compare against is Bank of America. The BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and now at wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. Bank of America also offers a 10% bonus on rewards earned when you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account. However, they also have premium relationship tiers that offer up to a 75% bonus on rewards that would work out to 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. To me, this made it worth it to build up a “relationship” with them, including opening up a new brokerage account and new credit cards.

Ally touts this new card as “simple”, but what would have really been simple is a flat 2% cash back card on everything and then a small relationship bonus on top of that. That way, when taken together with an Ally Bank account, the card would have been the best in many respects. Combined with their high-interest deposit accounts, you’d have a combo that could shake up the industry. The weakest point of my Bank of America combo is their piddly 0.05% APY on savings accounts and sad CD rates, whereas one of the strongest points of Ally is the 1.00% APY of their savings account and highly-competitive CD rates.

Bottom line. The rewards are above-average overall, and might be worth a look for Ally-centric customers. However, there are top cards in the marketplace that offer close to a flat 2% on everything, and better gas and grocery-specific cards as well. I personally prefer to pick things à la carte unless the sum is greater than the parts, as is the current situation with Bank of America.

Chase Freedom 10% Back on Hotels and Car Rentals via Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Freedom credit card has a new special promotion offering 10% cash back on up to $2,500 in combined hotel and car rental purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards in July. Details:

  • The purchases must be made July 1–31, 2016.
  • Your actual travel dates can be any time.
  • Applies only to hotels and car rentals booked through ChaseUltimateRewards.com.

In general, ChaseUltimateRewards.com offers prices that are comparable to Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. Hotel prices do vary more than airfare, so I would still comparison shop side-by-side. Note that their hotel room quotes include taxes, which some other sites (like Expedia) add in very late in the checkout process. Also, I found how they listed rooms by TripAdvisor rating to be interesting.

This is addition to the quarterly 5% cash back category, which currently includes Restaurants and Wholesale Clubs (Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s).

FreeCreditScore.com Review: Free Experian FICO Score, Credit Report, and Credit Monitoring

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The URL is suspiciously generic and raised my scam radar, but Experian-owned FreeCreditScore.com has been revamped to offer a pretty good package – a free FICO score, full credit report, and free credit monitoring based on your Experian credit report data. (Continue to be wary of other less-credible sites.) Like most of its competitors, “free” means that you agree to let them market products to you based on your personal information. This post provides additional details regarding this service.

FICO Score details.

  • FICO Score version: FICO Score 8, or FICO 08. This is the most widely used of the many FICO flavors. Score version is directly shown on the website.
  • Credit bureau: Experian
  • Update frequency: Every 30 days or when you log in, whichever is longer.
  • Limitations: Available to everyone. No specific credit card required.

How to get your score. Here’s a preview of the application and approval process:

  1. You must provide personal information, including Social Security Number. Name, address, etc. This is required for any service that checks your credit score.
  2. You must agree to their Privacy Policy and Ad Targeting Policy. Basically, they will give your free access to your credit score and other credit information, and they will also collect personal information to market products and other services to you. Your information may also be shared with their affiliates.
  3. Identity verification questions. They will ask you some multiple choice questions based on your Experian credit report data in order to verify your identity. If you don’t pass this quiz, I would go over to AnnualCreditReport.com and get a copy of your report to scan for errors.
  4. Set your personal security questions. At this point, you are approved. You just need to set up the standard security questions like “Who was your 2nd grade teacher?”

What kind of information do you get? The score model is FICO Score 8, based on your Experian credit report. This is the same score model and credit bureau offered by American Express and CreditScoreCard by Discover, and is within a few points for me (the check dates are slightly off). The other two major bureaus are TransUnion and Equifax.

The major difference is that FreeCreditScore.com offers your full Experian credit report and ongoing credit monitoring of your Experian credit data. This includes any new credit inquiries, new accounts, pubic records, fraud alerts, and other personal information updates to your Experian credit report.

How often is it updated? As often as every 30 days, but only if you log in to the website. Many sites operate this way, as it reduces their costs of grabbing your score if you are no longer interested. Also, they want you to log in so that they can show you advertisements.

Screenshots. Here’s a look at my sign-up process and account page:

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Bottom line. Experian owns FreeCreditScore.com and has jumped in fully into the “free score for showing you ads” business model. As they aren’t a credit card issuer, they can feel free to open it up to everyone. They offer the full Experian package of free FICO score, full credit report, and free credit monitoring based on your Experian credit report data. Most other Experian-based providers only offer one out of these three.

There are a lot of options out there now, but if you wanted to cover the other two bureaus efficiently, consider that CreditKarma.com offers free weekly updates of both your TransUnion and Equifax credit report factors in one site. You also get free weekly non-FICO credit scores and free automatic, daily TransUnion credit monitoring.

Related: Here are major credit card issuers with free FICO programs:

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card Limited-Time 75,000 Point Offer

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Limited-time 75,000 point offer. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, from our partner Citi, is their no-annual fee co-branded card featuring a new limited-time offer with the following perks:

  • Earn 75,000 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*. This is the highest bonus that I have seen on this no-annual-fee card.
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton portfolio.*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.*
  • Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases.*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No annual fee.*

This card is ideal for people who at least occasionally stay at Hilton hotels (as this card is also giving you a bunch of points and complimentary Silver status to try and get you to become more loyal). Hilton HHonors points are worth the most when redeemed for a hotel stay, as there aren’t really that many great cash-equivalent redemption options.

Silver Status perks include:

  • 15% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
  • 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
  • Complimentary in-room and lobby Standard Internet access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Canopy™ by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels)

Hilton points redemption varies from month to month. You can use this search tool to see how much a hotel will cost in any specific area (i.e. Honolulu or Paris). Here are some example redemptions for the months of April, May, and June:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Waikiki Beach is 40,000 points. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is 50,000 points.
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Union Square is 50,000 points.
  • Orlando, Florida. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando is 20,000 points.
  • New York City, NU. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York – Times Square South is 70,000 points. Hilton Times Square is 80,000 points.

This Citi Hilton card is the version with no annual fee, the first year or any future year. If you have this card and are looking to sign-up again, please note this fine print:

Hilton HHonors Bonus Points offer not available if you have had a Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card account that was opened or closed in the past 18 months.

There is also another card called the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which has a $95 annual fee, but has better ongoing perks. I previously applied for the Reserve version and enjoyed nice stay in Hawaii with it, but I can understand that some people prefer no annual fee.

“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.”

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card Review: $100 Bonus, Preferred Rewards Bonus

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Updated. As of June 1st, 2016, the 2% cash back includes both grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to 3.5% with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards), with the spending cap raised to $2,500 in combined gas, grocery, and wholesale club purchases per quarter. This is a permanent (non-rotating) category addition that includes Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs wholesale clubs.

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card is the mainstream “cash back rewards” credit card branded by Bank of America. In this review, I’ll cover the basic card features but also focus on a lesser-known opportunity – if you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. For such “relationship” customers, the bonus can change this card from good to great. Read on for details.

Here are the highlights of this card:

  • No annual fee.
  • $100 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and now at wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 13.24% – 23.24% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers.
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25%-75%. Click “Apply Now” to learn more about Preferred Rewards.

The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge® online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

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Let’s consider the options. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may reduce your interest earnings. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. However, if you have brokerage assets like mutual funds and ETFs, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

I recently moved a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. I realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, but if you do then it is worth considering. Also, I later realized that it will take a while for my “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. After that the 25% – 75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

Cash Back Rewards Tiers for Preferred Rewards

Recall that the basic structure is “1/2/3”; you get 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter (1/2/3). Here’s how the bonuses work out:

  • Platinum Honors 1.75/3.5/5.25: 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Platinum 1.5/3/4.5: 1.5% cash back on every purchase, 3% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 4.5% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Gold 1.25/2.5/3.75: 1.25% cash back on every purchase, 2.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3.75% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Note that the terms state “The Preferred Rewards bonus will replace the customer bonus you may already receive with the card.”, which I interpret to mean that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

Well, I wish my cable company would offer such nice “bundling” incentives, as now Bank of America has managed to convince me to go from only having a checking account with them to now also having a Merrill Edge brokerage account with 100 free trades per month and a new Bank of America credit card.

(Side note: Stack this offer with the separate Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus.)

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card. I initially picked the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card myself, but will probably add this card now for the potential to get 3.5% cash back on all my Costco wholesale club purchases. Also, this card gives you cash while the Travel Rewards card rewards must be redeemed against travel purchases.

“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.”

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2016

Updated June 2016. Activation for 3rd quarter now open. Chase Freedom 5% back on Wholesale Clubs (including Costco, Sams Club, and BJs) extended until September 30th. Other notable 5% categories include restaurants, home improvement stores, and Amazon.com.

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.

Side tip: Sometimes I even load up on gift cards so that I can get the 5% back now but spend the gift cards later.

Chase Freedom VisaChase Freedom® – $150 Bonus 

From July 1st through September 30th, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Wholesale Clubs (includes Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club)

q3_2016_chasefreedom

Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com. 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 $150 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.

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover it® Card

From July 1st through September 30th, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Amazon.com

q3_2016_discover

Enroll after logging into your online account (look on the right-hand side). 5% rewards won’t apply until after you activate your rewards, so it is best to activate now before you forget. New applicants can get their earned Cash Back doubled at the end of the first year.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa CardCiti® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card (Existing cardholders only) From July 1st through September 30th, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories: (calendar):

  • Hilton Portfolio of hotels and resorts
  • Car Rentals

This a grandfathered card that is no longer available to new applicants. 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 limit is $300 earned per calendar year.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. What makes this card unique is that you get to choose the two 5% cash back categories every quarter, out of a preset selection of niche categories like “Fast Food” or “Sporting Goods Stores”. You also get to choose a single 2% cash back category from a preset selection of broader categories like “Gas Stations” or “Grocery Stores”. 1% cash back on everything else. No limit on total cash back earned.

As you’ll see below, getting 2% is not that special, so this card is best if you spend significantly in the available niche categories. Also, you must remember to choose your categories each quarter! If you do not choose your categories, all purchases revert to only earning 1% cash back for that quarter.

Finally, get a better “Everything Else” card! Don’t settle for the “1% on everything else” that these cards offer. The following cards currently have the ability to offer cash back rewards as high as 2% or even greater. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

“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.”

New Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi Review

citicostcoconsumer

Updated June 2016; Now open to new applicants. Citi and Costco have released the details of their new co-branded credit cards, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi and the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi. Here’s a quick overview of the details for each card.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi highlights: (For Personal Use)

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Costco, for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter. You will not get 4% cash back for gas purchased at superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and warehouse clubs other than Costco.
  • 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases worldwide
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Worldwide Car Rental Insurance and Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance.
  • Damage & Theft Purchase Protection is included, which may cover you for repairs or refunds for items you purchased with your Costco Anywhere Card that are damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents).
  • No annual fee (with paid Costco membership).
  • Will also serve as your Costco membership card.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi highlights:

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Costco, for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter. You will not get 4% cash back for gas purchased at superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and warehouse clubs other than Costco.
  • 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases worldwide
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Worldwide Car Rental Insurance and Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance.
  • Damage & Theft Purchase Protection is included, which may cover you for repairs or refunds for items you purchased with your Costco Anywhere Card that are damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents).
  • No annual fee (with paid Costco membership).
  • Will also serve as your Costco membership card.
  • Visa SavingsEdge eligibility. Receive automatic savings after enrollment on qualifying purchases at participating merchants.

Had the Costco American Express? You did not need to apply for a new card. You should have already received the new card in the mail to your registered address. After June 20, 2016, you can start using it. At that time, any cash rewards and/or debt balance will be transferred over to the new card, and your Costco American Express will be closed automatically. You should not have closed your Costco American Express on your own, or you wouldn’t have received the benefits of this automatic transfer.

The rewards will accrue in the form of “Costco Cash Rewards”. This means you’ll get a paper coupon snail-mailed to you once every year in February based on your previous year’s spending, which you can either (1) use as payment for goods directly at the Costco cash register or (2) convert to cash or check at a Costco customer service desk. You may also do a partial redemption at a cash register and they’ll give you the remaining balance in cash. Coupon must be redeemed in person on or prior to its expiration date of December 31 in the year in which it is issued.

Commentary. Here is an overview of the competition:

  • The new Fidelity Rewards Credit Card is another Visa card that should get you 2% back on your Costco purchases.
  • The Citi Double Cash Card exists both a Visa and Mastercard, but reports are you cannot switch to a Visa if you have a Mastercard.
  • The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card is a Visa and has the potential to earn you up to 2.625% back at Costco in the form of statement credits towards travel (see review; additional requirements apply).
  • The BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card is a Visa and has the potential to earn you at least 2% and up to 3.5% cash back at Costco on up to $2,500 in purchases per quarter (see review; additional requirements apply).
  • Through the end of 2016, the Chase Freedom Card will earn you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter. You can even stock up on Costco gift cards bought at Costco.com if you want to max out this limited-time promotion.

This card maintains the overall simplicity of the old consumer card, while slightly improving the rewards percentages. The bonus category percentages went up (new Visa is 4/3/1, old AmEx was 3/2/1). The improved 2% cash back at Costco and Costco.com (formerly only 1%) is significant, as it means that you finally won’t be as tempted to use a non-Costco-branded card at Costco! I was hoping for 5% back on gas to match the Sam’s Club card, but I suppose we’ll have to settle for 4%. I would also note that both the personal and business cards now have the same rewards percentages.

Big List of Bank / Credit Card Privacy Opt-Out Links

If you have any sort of financial account, you’ve probably gotten one of these privacy forms in the mail:

optout_chase2

The information they are talking about can include:

  • Social Security number
  • How much you make (Income)
  • How much money you have (Balances)
  • What you buy (Transaction history)
  • How much you borrow (Credit and payment history)

The amount of sharing varies widely:

  • For our affiliates to market to you = We can share with companies who are under the same ownership or control.
  • For non-affiliates to market to you = We can sell your information to anyone! They don’t even have to be financially-related companies.

These companies lobbied heavily to make these forms work on an Opt-Out basis instead of Opt-In. That means that unless you tell them not to, they can share however they want. The fact that you are busy with your own life benefits them by default.

It is just so tempting to not bother, but if you can commit a chunk of time, I’ve tried to collect the information for most of the largest financial institutions below. That way, you can knock them all out at once, and hopefully be done for a few years at least. You’ll often need the bank account or credit card number to complete the form.

* If you are really short on time: At the time of writing here are the companies that share with non-affiliates: Ally, Capital One, Chase, Citibank (bank and credit cards), Discover, FIA Cardservices. Opt out of these first, if applicable.

Ally Financial

American Express

Bank of America

Barclaycard US

Capital One

Charles Schwab

Chase

Citibank (Bank Accounts)

Citi Credit Cards

Discover Card

FIA Cardservices

US Bank

Wells Fargo

  • Privacy Notice
  • Online: Log on to wellsfargo.com, and choose Change Privacy Preferences under the Account Services tab.
  • Phone: 1-888-528-8460