What Cards Are In My Wallet? 2006 vs. 2016 Flashback Edition


What’s in my wallet? Besides trying to land at least $500 on new sign-ups, which cards do I end up using on a regular basis? Apparently, the last time I answered this question was in 2006, more than a decade ago?! Let’s see if I have made any improvements since then. These are the cards that work best for my spending patterns and redemption preferences.

All-around cash back rewards card.

  • 2006: MBNA/Fidelity Investments 529 College Rewards Card. I still have this card, although it is in sock drawer mode now. This Fidelity-branded card went from being issued by MBNA, to FIA Cardservices (subsidiary of Bank of America), now to Elan Financial services. The 2% rewards did help me rack up over $8,000 in tax-deferred college savings (including appreciation from investments).
  • 2016: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card. After moving over $100,000 of existing index funds from Vanguard and qualifying for their Platinum Honors tier, this enabled me to earn 2.625% cash back on all my purchases – redeemed as a statement credit offsetting any travel purchase. That’s a 31% improvement on 2% rewards. If you don’t have $100k in assets to move over, 2% is still double the 1% many cards give on all purchases – I have the Citi Double Cash card as backup.

Category-specific rewards credit card.

  • 2006: Citi Dividend Platinum Select Mastercard. This card is no longer available to new applicants, which is probably why the 5% categories got rather stale. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I stopped using it so long that Citi closed it due to inactivity. Whoops! It was one of my older cards, but not a big loss as I have so many other cards to contribute to my “average age of accounts” stat.
  • 2016: Chase Freedom Visa and Discover It Card. This quarter, the Chase Freedom is giving 5% cash back at Costco, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, and CVS ($1,500 total). The Discover It card is giving me 5% cash back at Amazon.com. Overall, I think recent competition has made the 5% categories more useful. Note that Chase Freedem technically earns Ultimate Rewards points, which can provide even higher value when redeemed for points/miles (see below).

Points or miles rewards card.

  • 2006: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card. Still a good card overall (we’ll see how the merger changes things). If you redeem in 20,000 point increments, it will provide 1.25 miles per dollar spent for a variety of airline programs. However, I don’t travel as much as I used to, and even at a 2 cents per mile valuation, that’s only 2.5% back on value (more than 2%, but less than the 2.625% above). SPG does not transfer 1:1 to United. I don’t travel for business much these days so I can’t rack up SPG points for hotel stays as quickly anymore, and I also don’t need this card to keep my stash of SPG points active and useful.
  • 2016: Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This card gives 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining out. Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to both United and Hyatt, for some solid redemption value. If you value at 2 cents per UR points, that’s 4% back value. I also need this card to keep all of my Ultimate Rewards stash active and available to transfer to the various airline and hotel partners. (I also earn UR points elsewhere from Chase Freedom, Ink business card, and their shopping portal.) If you haven’t had 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months, you should check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve card as well.

ATM Debit card.

  • 2006: Bank of America ATM card. I still have this account, but got tired of how BofA pays no interest and charges you money to initiate a transfer out. If I have to use a online bank as a transfer hub all the time, I’m just going to make that hub my primary account.
  • 2016: Ally Bank ATM card. These days, it’s a lot easier to do all of your banking at an online bank with no branches. Mobile deposit with smartphone camera is much easier than scanner. ATM rebates allow me to use any ATM, and up to $10 per statement cycle in rebates is enough for me (Allpoint ATM network is free and doesn’t count towards limit). 1% APY on savings account, which serves as free overdraft source for checking. Their app is solid, I can easily imitate interbank funds transfers (and I can login with just my thumbprint).

So the overall theme of what goes in my wallet has stayed the same, but the players have around changed a bit.

Navy Federal Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Credit Card: 30,000 Bonus Points, 0% APR No Balance Transfer Fee Offer


NavyFed Credit Union has brought back the sign-up bonus on their premium rewards credit card, the Navy Federal Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Credit Card. Taken altogether, the sign-up bonus and the low intro balance transfer rate are quite competitive. The highlights:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening a new card. 30,000 points can be redeemed for a $300 statement credit towards the purchase of any flight on any major airline.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months with no balance transfer fee. After that, a variable APR between 10.24% and 18% applies.
  • Earn 2 points per net dollar spent.
  • No limit on the points you can earn; points never expire.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee for the first year, $49 thereafter.

The “catch” is that in order to apply, you must first become a credit union member. Membership eligibility for NavyFed is primarily restricted to those who currently or have ever been affiliated with the Armed Forces, DoD, Coast Guard or National Guard, those with a family member who has those affiliations, or those with a family or household member who is a NFCU member.

This is a solid offer as it has been harder to find a no fee 0% APR balance transfer offer these days even though interest rates are still relatively low. (Other NFCU cards have no balance transfer fee, but only at a much higher APR, not 0% interest.) For example, doing a balance transfer of $10,000 with a 3% balance transfer fee would add up to $300 already. Add in the $300 value sign-up bonus, and you’re already up to $600 total value in the first year. Transfer a higher balance, and the benefit increases further. NavyFed has a reputation for being generous with credit limits, with $50,000 or $80,000 limits not out of the ordinary.

In terms of competition, the Slate Card from Chase is also currently available with a 0% intro APR for 15 months with no balance transfer fee on both balance transfers and purchases and no annual fee. You must initiate your balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account.

Both cards are good opportunities to lower the interest rate on your existing balances and accelerate any debt payoff plans. You can even pay off student loans.

Plastiq: Pay Tuition, Rent, or Taxes With Credit Card or Debit Card


New promo. Plastiq has a new promotional rate if you schedule at least six rent or mortgage payments with American Express (2.25%) or Mastercard (1.75%). You must schedule them by October 31, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Schedule 6 or more payments, and schedule them as far into the future as you’d like.
-Remember to click “Set Payment Schedule” and not “Review & Pay Now”
-The only limit is your credit card’s expiration date
Make sure those payments are for rent or mortgage
Use a MasterCard OR American Express
Do it before October 31, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. PT

The rates aren’t awesome, but some of you may eek out some gains, especially if you need help with a sign-up bonus hurdle. This is likely in response to their competitor RadPad abruptly ending their rent processing system with no warning (boo).

Original post:

Plastiq.com lets you pay bills and invoices with a credit or debit card, even if they don’t usually accept them. The standard service fee is 2.5% for credit cards and 1% for Visa and MasterCard debit cards. However, they run limited-time promotion with lower fees. They will charge your card and send out a paper check to the payee (direct bank transfers to a few), so you’d want to plan ahead for any snail mail delays. They recommend 10 business days to be safe. More ideas from their site:

  • Rent or Mortgage
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) dues
  • Tuition
  • Childcare costs
  • Buying a car, RV, or ATV
  • Income or business taxes


(Note: This was only an example given during a 1.5% fee promotion. The current fee may be higher or lower.) Why would I want to pay a 1.5% service fee?

Sign-up bonus spending requirements. Sign-up bonuses often having spending requirements. For example, you might get a $500 value bonus but need to spend $5,000. Well, that’s effectively 10% back so if you need a little help to get over that hurdle, it’s okay to pay a 1.5% fee. Here are some recent cards with big $500 value bonuses but also spending requirements:

2% cash back credit cards, or similar. If you have a rewards credit card that offers 2% cash back (or equivalent value in points), then you can still make a slight profit by putting them on your credit card. A current example is the Citi Double Cash Card. For example, if you have a tuition bill or tax bill of $5,000 and you earned 2% cash back while paying a 1.5% fee, your net 0.5% is $25.

Combine a rewards card + 0% APR on purchases. Many credit cards offer 0% APR on purchases for an introductory period of 12 months or longer. If the card also has a half-decent rewards program on purchases, the combination of purchase rewards and spreading out the payments over a year at no interest could be attractive.

Platinum Delta Skymiles American Express Companion Certificate

amexdeltaplatThe Delta American Express card line-up has some limited-time bonus bumps going on right now. Offer ends 11/9/16. In particular, I noticed that the Platinum Delta American Express is offering:

  • 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. If you care about elite status, you’ll get 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) as well (not actual redeemable miles).
  • In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • First bag checked free.
  • Enjoy a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card.
  • $195 annual fee, not waived the first year.

As with all American Express cards, the sign-up bonus is now only one per card per lifetime. If you’ve ever had this card, you can’t get the sign-up bonus again:

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

The companion certificate as deal-maker and deal-breaker. Frequent fliers often complain about Delta’s poor selection in international business-class redemptions, but some people (like me) just want economy seats to a Delta-served airport. If you regularly travel as a couple or otherwise buy two cross-country domestic economy tickets together on Delta, this companion certificate will easily offset the $195 annual fee all by itself. If you are wasting this free companion ticket, then this card probably won’t be worth keeping around. The paid tickets earn miles, MQDs, and MQMs, but the free ticket does not.

Note that you only earn the certificate upon renewal, so you won’t get it the first year and that means you’ll have paid $390 in annual fees by then. So the first year’s annual fee of $195 must be offset by the sign-up bonus. The limited-time offer of $100 statement credit + 70,000 Skymiles should do the trick, assuming you make decent use of the miles. With the Pay with Miles options, you should get at minimum a 1 cent a mile value. That would make it $100 + $700 – $195 annual fee = $605 value in the first year. For future years, you’ll need to get $200 value out of that companion certificate.

Geographical restrictions. If you live in the contiguous 48 states, you must travel roundtrip to/from the contiguous 48 states. If you live in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), then you can originate there to the contiguous 48.

You must pay applicable taxes and fees, which vary and depend upon the number of flight segments included in the itinerary. They will be no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments).

You can book your Delta flights using the certificate online without having to call in. In my experience, the class restrictions on the certificate have not prevented me from getting the lowest fare available, although it can happen. If I can get a $300 ticket for $25 in fees, then I still consider this card worth it given the other perks like one free checked bag per person. If I don’t use it myself, I can also book a flight for a friend/relative and have them pay me back in cash.

Example with screenshots. I have a live companion certificate in my account right now, and I just ran a test flight. Atlanta (ATL) to San Francisco (SFO), 11/23 to 11/30 roundtrip, flights DL 1401 outbound and flight DL 939 return. If I just searched for a single cash ticket, it would have cost $318.70. Two tickets would be $637.40. If I apply the companion certificate, the first ticket again costs $318.70 and the second ticket costs $0 + $28.20 in fees. The first paid ticket costs the exact same amount as it would have otherwise. Thus, my total savings with this certificate is $318.70 – $28.20 = $290.50. See screenshot below for details:


Here’s a copy of the terms and conditions regarding the companion certificate:

Delta Platinum Companion Certificate at Renewal
Taxes/fees/restrictions: Companion Certificate is valid for one round-trip Main Cabin Companion ticket with the payment of applicable taxes and fees detailed below and the purchase of certain adult round-trip fares on published routings within the 48 contiguous United States. Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) must originate from there to the 48 contiguous United States and have an address on their SkyMiles account in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the USVI. Each year, the Companion Certificate will be made available for redemption on delta.com in your renewal month. Applicable government imposed taxes and fees vary and depend upon the number of flight segments included in the itinerary and are no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Basic Card Members (not Additional Card Members) with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Delta Reserve Credit Card, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card are eligible to receive the first checked bag fee waiver on Delta and Delta Connection carrier tickets. $35 fee for second checked bag. These allowances are subject to size/weight limits. Contact a Delta agent or visit delta.com for details. Taxes and fees are subject to change, are the responsibility of the passenger and must be paid at the time the primary ticket is purchased and the Companion ticket is issued. All fare rules, restrictions, advance purchase requirements, and availability are per rule of primary ticket fare purchased. Seats are only available in L,U,T,X,V classes of service and may not be available on all flights or markets. Companion tickets are not transferable once issued. Companion certificate cannot be combined with another offer or discount including, but not limited to, web fares, sale fares and eCoupons. Primary ticket and Companion ticket must be purchased with your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. Both passengers must be booked on the same flights and dates, at the same time. Travel for Companion certificate must be booked and completed by the date on the front of certificate. Validity is not based on the calendar year. Redemption is available only on delta.com. Certificate terms and conditions may vary each year of Card Membership. Additional restrictions apply. See Companion Certificate for details.

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

citi-hilton-hhonors-75kLimited-time 75,000 point offer. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, from our partner Citi, is their no-annual fee card featuring a new limited-time offer. Highlights:

  • For a limited time, earn 75,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • 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 October through December:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Waikiki Beach is 40,000 points. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is 50,000 points. (Cost may be higher from 12/20 to 12/31.)
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Union Square is 50,000 to 60,000 points.
  • Orlando, Florida. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando is 20,000 to 30,000 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 a bigger upfront bonus and ongoing perks. As you can see above, two free weekend nights can be worth over 160,000 Hilton points. I redeemed for nice stay in Hawaii myself, but I know that some people prefer the simplicity of having 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.”

Marriott / Starwood Hotels Merger: Status Match, New Points Transfer Options

mr_spg2Marriott completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels last week, and has already started the merging process for their loyalty rewards programs. Both programs will essentially be run separately for a while, but you can now match status and exchange points. The new name is Marriott International, although a full merger will not be completed until sometime in 2018. Here’s a quick summary of your options:

Manually link your Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott Rewards (MR) accounts at this Starwood page or this Marriott page. They will not be linked automatically. You can only link one MR account to one SPG account (and vice versa), so you’ll need to merge any duplicate accounts first.

If you are an elite member of one program, your status will be matched in the other program. SPG Preferred Plus = Marriott Silver. SPG Gold = Marriott Gold. SPG Platinum = Marriott Platinum.

You can transfer points both ways with no fees. 3 Marriott points = 1 SPG point. You can transfer up to the full balance of your account in increments of 1,000 points into the linked account. Ex. 1,000 Marriott points = 333 SPG points. 1,000 SPG points = 3,000 SPG points. Transfers should be instantaneous.

Points transfer and expirations. Transferring into Starwood will help extend your Starwood points expiration, but transferring into Marriott will not help your Marriott points expiration. If your Marriott points are really going to expire soon, just move them all over to Starwood? Taken directly from their Frequently Asked Questions:

If I transfer points from my Rewards account to SPG, does it count as activity against points expiration?
Transfers don’t count as a qualifying activity in the Rewards program, so transferring points won’t keep your points balance from expiring.

If I transfer points from my SPG account to Rewards, does it count as activity against points expiration?
SPG Starpoints don’t expire as long as your account remains active. Linking and transfers count as activity.

Possible new transfer options. You can now mix and match the various external partners to get improved or previously-impossible transfer options, including:

  • 60,000 Marriott points = 20,000 SPG points = 25,000 American, Hawaiian, Delta, or Alaska Airlines miles.
  • 18,667 Starwood points = 56,000 Marriott points = 25,000 United Airlines miles.
  • 90,000 Starwood points = 270,000 Marriott points = 120,000 Southwest points and 7 nights in a Marriott category 1-5 hotel. Why is this handy? Earning 110,000 Southwest Airlines points in one year will get you the Southwest Airlines Companion pass which lets you choose a friend to fly with you for free – for this year and the next! – your paid or points-redemption tickets. (If you want to do this, do it quickly, as this option may end prematurely…)

Credit card considerations. Given the 3:1 ratio, Chase Marriott card now has bigger relative sign-up bonus, but SPG American Express has earns more rewards on all everyday purchases.

  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card can get you 80,000 + 7,500 Marriott points if you meet the purchase hurdle. 87,500 Marriott points = 29,166 Starwood points.
  • Starwood Preferred American Express can get you 25,000 Starwood points if you meet the purchase hurdle. You’ll also get 1 Starwood point per dollar spent = 3 Marriott points per dollar spent on all purchases.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 50,000 Points = $500 Limited-Time Bonus

BarclayCard Arrival World MasterCard

Limited-time bonus bump, updated review. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that has opened up to new applications again, now with a limited-time sign-up bonus worth at least $500 and the annual fee is waived the first year. Here are the card highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise.  Redemption values vary.
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, currently 16.24% or 20.24% or 23.244%, depending on your creditworthiness.  Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score
  • $89 annual fee waived for the first year

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. That means you have the flexibility to redeem towards any airline purchase to any destination with no seat restrictions and no blackout dates.

So basically you just visit Delta.com or Expedia.com or Hilton.com and go buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. (Accruing those 25,000 miles would have taken $12,500 in accumulated purchases, if not part of sign-up bonus or other incentive.) I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. (The rebate was once 10% but has since been reduced.) So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this adds a layer of complexity, you can calculate that technically getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel.

Everything else (cash credits, gift cards, merchandise) offers a worse redemption ratio. Don’t bother. If you were going to bother, you shouldn’t get this card.

Comparison with alternatives. 2X miles is nice and the rebate adds a bit extra. However, this card also has an $89 annual fee that is waived for the first year. So for the first year you’re good, but the competition offers multiple cards earning close to 2% cash back with no annual fee at all. I’ll list them again below; see the card-specific reviews for details.

Doing the math, you would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver). That’s a big number. Now, Barclaycard did offer me a second fee-free year when I called in to cancel the card a couple years back (your results may vary). This bought me enough time to spend all my miles. A backup option is to downgrade the card to the no annual fee version after a year. Barclays does offer instant approval; if you don’t get it call their credit analyst line at 1-866-408-4064.

Bottom line. Solid sign-up bonus. Flexible travel rewards card. Annual fee too high after the first year. Long-time readers know that I want to see a $500 net value over the first year before I try out a new credit card. Given the limited-time 50,000 miles/points is worth $500 on any travel purchase and the annual fee is waived during the first year, this card satisfies that hurdle. 2X miles on all purchases is also quite competitive. However, past the first year of ownership, I do not like the idea of eventually paying an $89 annual fee with a theoretical max of 2.11% back when I can get 2% back with no annual fee from other cards.

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2016

Activation for 4rd quarter is now open! Do it now before you forget.

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 may also get an initial sign-up bonus.

Side tip: You can load up on gift cards to get the 5% back now but spend the gift cards later.

Chase Freedom VisaChase Freedom® – $150 Bonus 

From October 1st through December 31st, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Wholesale Clubs including Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club
  • Department Stores including but not limited to JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, Sears
  • Drug stores including Walgreens, CVS, Duane Read, and Rite Aid


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 October 1st through December 31st, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Amazon.com
  • Sam’s Club
  • Department Stores


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):

  • Best Buy
  • Department Stores

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.”  

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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

Update: This offer was ended early, basically saying they had to break their word because they were faced with huge losses. Not a well-run promotion.

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.


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

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card Art

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.”