Credit Karma Offers Free Full Credit Reports, Updated Weekly

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CreditKarma.com just announced that they will now provide members a full copy of their TransUnion credit report, free of charge and updated once a week if you log in that frequently. You should see a pop-up once you log in, otherwise navigate to My Finances > Full Credit Report (Beta).

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Here’s a summary of their offering now:

  • Free TransUnion New Account credit score. Updated once a week. Not a FICO-branded score, but can still be use to track relative changes over time.
  • Free 24/7 credit monitoring of your TransUnion report. Will alert you if there are any changes, in case you’re like me and don’t really need a weekly update of your credit score. This is handy for tracking the location and timing of credit inquiries.
  • Free full credit report of your TransUnion data. Updated once a week. Nice to be able to track any changes down the smallest detail if needed.

Everything is still free with no trials and no credit card required. Either Credit Karma is making some decent money off their website advertising, or the cost of credit reports and scores continues to drop. I think the latter is definitely an overall trend.

Don’t forget the other major bureaus to get your complete credit picture. Get free non-FICO scores and 24/7 credit monitoring from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) here. I track and compare all of my free credit scores here.

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 50,000 Bonus Points + Free Night Certificate

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Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit CardAnother credit card has upped their usual sign-up bonus given all the competition recently – this time it is the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase. Thanks to reader Naveen for the heads up. The offer for new Marriott cardholder includes:

  • Earn 50,000 Points after spending $1,000 in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Receive 1 Free Night Stay after account approval in category 1-4 locations
  • Receive 1 additional free night stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, thereafter $85
  • For every $1 spent, earn 5 points at 3,800 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline ticket purchases directly with airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point everywhere else
  • Achieve Elite Status faster with Annual Credit & Everyday Purchases – 15 Elite Credits after account approval and every year after your account anniversary
  • Unlimited Point Accumulation
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees and global Chip and Signature technology

We’ve been getting the itch to travel again as a family, so I looked through Marriott’s redemption offerings. Marriott properties include Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn & Suites. You can view their redemption chart here. Hotels on their PointSavers list have temporarily reduced redemption costs. Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free.

70,000 points is enough to get you a night at any Ritz-Carlton in the world. Or, 70,000 points can get you two nights at any Category 6, Category 7, or Ritz-Carlton Tier 1 hotel. The free night award can be used for up to a Category 4 hotel. In the top right corner of the redemption chart link, you can view a comprehensive list of what hotels are in any specific category. Here are the options that caught my eye.

Ritz Carlton Tier 5 (Highest tier, 70,000 points a night)

Category 7 Hotels (35,000 points per night, 30,000 if Pointsaver)

Category 6 Hotels (30,000 points per night, 25,000 if Pointsaver)

Ritz Carlton Tier 1 (30,000 points per night, 20,000 if Pointsaver)

Category 4 Hotels (Eligible with Free Certificate or 20,000 points per night standard, 15,000 if Pointsaver)

  • Orlando: Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre
  • Orlando: Courtyard Orlando Airport
  • Orlando: Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport
  • Orlando: Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando at SeaWorld®
  • Orlando: Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village
  • Orlando: Courtyard Orlando International Drive/Convention Center
  • Orlando: SpringHill Suites Orlando Airport
  • Orlando: Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando International Drive/Convention Center

Adding up the value of two Cat 7 nights and one Cat 4 night is going to be easily over $500 of value, possibly closer to $700-$800. But as always, hotel points are only good if you can use and enjoy them. I have gotten to stay at some terrific properties thanks to such point promotions, although I tend to value location and convenience over the bling factor.

I was wrong initially as Marriott points are convertible to gift cards, but it takes 60,000 points to redeem for a $200 gift card for Marriott or retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, or Nordstrom. That ratio isn’t all that great, you’ll definitely get the most value out of your points if you stay at Marriott hotels.

The annual fee is waived for the first year. If you are regular Marriott hotel guest, then the free Category 5 night is probably worth the $85 annual fee at the end of your first year.

“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.”

Free FICO vs. non-FICO Credit Score Comparison

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Updated with new scores. There are many free credit scores are available nowadays, but how do they compare in real life? There are three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – which all may have slightly different information about you in their database. Here I keep track of all of my available “free” scores (some require specific credit card or other membership) while noting the bureau data used.

  • Discover FICO (TransUnion) – FICO score available free to Discover card holders. Based on the FICO 08 scoring model. Updates monthly. I get mine from the Discover it® card that features 5% cash back in rotating categories and no annual fee.
  • Barclaycard FICO (TransUnion) – FICO score available free to Barclaycard holders. Based on the FICO 08 scoring model. Updates sporadically, usually every 1-2 months. I get mine from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard that offers great travel rewards.
  • Credit Karma (TransUnion) – Educational credit score available free to members of CreditKarma.com. Based on the TransUnion New Account scoring model. Updates as often as once a week if you log in that frequently.
  • Capital One (TransUnion)- Educational credit score available free to Capital One card holders. Based on the TransUnion New Account scoring model, it updates monthly. I get mine from the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card, which offers a flat 1.5% back on all purchases, $100 sign-up bonus when making $500 in purchases during the first three months, and no annual fee.
  • Credit Sesame (Experian) – Educational credit score available free to members of CreditSesame.com. Based on the Experian National Equivalency scoring model. Updated up to once a month if you log in.
  • Quizzle (Equifax) – Credit score available free to members of Quizzle.com. Based on the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model. Updated up to twice a year if you log in.

Based on the data points I have collected so far, it does support that the two FICO scores provided by the Discover and Barclaycard are the same (both are part of the FICO Score Access program and use FICO 08 formula) and the Credit Karma and Capital One scores are also the same (both use TransUnion New Account formula).

As for FICO vs. non-FICO, even though they may be based on the same TransUnion credit report and are in the rough approximate range, the scores given can differ by up to 30-50 points. In this individual case, the other non-FICO scores from Experian and Equifax are actually consistently closer to the reported TransUnion FICO scores.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Free FICO Credit Score (NextGen)

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) now offers a free credit score to select members. It may be offered only to members with a credit account with them (auto, checking overdraft, mortgage, etc.). I was offered the free FICO score and only have their Thrifty Credit Service which is just a $500 line of credit in case of an overdraft from my checking account. You can find access via a banner on the main page after logging in:

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The score formula is called the FICO NextGen, which has a range of 150-950 as opposed to the traditional FICO range of 300-850. FICO tried to roll out this new “improved” score several years ago but it never really took off. So while this is a “FICO score”, the number may not be as easy to understand. However, PenFed does state that this score is the actual score that they use when making credit decisions. Also included are the top two “key factors” affecting your score:

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As usual, some of the advice these services offer don’t make much sense. So what if I don’t have an outstanding auto or student loan? I pay cash for my cars and worked hard to paid off my student loans. Why would I voluntarily go into debt again just to bump up my credit score a few ticks? They should know that my credit is already good enough that I’ve never had a problem getting any sort of loan product.

Quizzle Review: Free Equifax Credit Score and Credit Report

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Quizzle logoQuizzle.com is a website that offers a free credit score and your official Equifax credit report every six months. You can now monitor your credit scores from all three credit bureaus for free. It has been six months for me, so I just grabbed my 2nd credit report of 2014 and took the opportunity to provide a brief review of this service.

(Fun fact: Quizzle part of the Quicken Loans family and owned by Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and soon-to-be employer of Lebron James.)

Here are some website screenshots:

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Your free Equifax report lists all your credit lines including credit cards and other loans, recent credit inquiries, public records, and other personal information. This is the same report that you would get if you bought one from Equifax directly or got your free government-mandated one from AnnualCreditReport.com. Get your timing right and that is three free Equifax credit reports a year.

Your free Equifax credit score is specifically the newest VantageScore 3.0 which was unveiled in 2013 and has the same scale as FICO 300-850. A little background – VantageScore was actually created directly by the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to compete with the best-known FICO score from Fair Isaac Corporation. I don’t think they’ve overcome FICO, but it appears they are the 2nd-most widely used score out there and supported by some big bucks. Unlike some FAKO scores, it is actually used by lenders in their loan decisions. However, the numerical value will probably not map directly to your FICO score. From the Quizzle site:

Quizzle features the VantageScore credit score. The VantageScore credit score is used by thousands of lenders, including the nation’s largest banks, in their credit card, auto lending and mortgage businesses.

Some additional details:

  • Yes, it is really free. No purchase or credit card required. No trial subscriptions either.
  • There is no effect on your credit score because you are checking your own credit. It is a soft pull, not a hard pull.
  • You will see advertising of various financing offers based on your information (mortgage, auto loans, credit cards, personal loans). As part of Quicken Loans, so they will likely pitch you for a mortgage. However, they state that they don’t sell your information to others.
  • Free 24/7 credit monitoring of my Experian account was also offered to me. I am not sure if this was targeted only to select users as I had to opt in, but it was clearly marked as free. I just signed up for this so I haven’t gotten a chance to see how it works.
  • Paid upgrade options. Quizzle Pro gets you monthly Equifax credit reports and scores for $8-$11 a month. The pricing appears to be customized for each user. Quizzle Pro+ gets you all that plus $1,000,000 in Identity Theft Protection and 24/7 Victim Assistance for around $18 a month. I did not purchase either option.
  • The site states you can get a free report and score every 6 months (180 days), but I was able to get mine after just 168 days (I didn’t try every day, I just remembered today and it worked… shrug). I checked on January 27, 2014 and again on July 13, 2014. It would be more competitive with other sites if they could start offering score updates every month and keep the reports every 6 months.
  • Prior to early 2014, Quizzle used to give out Experian-based credit scores twice a year, but Credit Sesame already gave Experian-based scores for free every month so it wasn’t very appealing. The change to Equifax was a welcome one.

In summary, I am glad this service exists and I don’t mind being pitched a mortgage loan consultation every six months in exchange for a free official Equifax credit report and credit score. It is another step closer to gaining better access to what I consider our personal information. Credit Sesame and Credit Karma are similar services that use the other two major consumer credit databases:

Chase Freedom $200 Limited Time Offer

(Update: A reminder that you can now activate your 5% cash back at Amazon.com, Zappos.com and at select department stores for 4th quarter 2014. Just did mine. Don’t forget!)

Chase Freedom CardThe Chase Freedom® – $200 Bonus has a new limited time promotion offering a $200 Bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. In addition, you can earn an additional $25 bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period. This is the highest sign-up bonus I’ve seen for this “keeper” card.

As a rewards credit card it is better than plain vanilla 1% cashback cards with its 5% cashback on rotating categories, good for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Here are the categories for the rest of 2014:

From April through June 2014:

  • Restaurants
  • Lowe’s home improvement stores

From July through September 2014 (activate starting 6/15/14):

  • Gas Stations
  • Kohl’s®

From October through December 2014 (activate starting 9/15/14):

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

Activate quarterly at ChaseBonus.com or call the number on the back of the card. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards.

Keep in mind that you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold/Plus small business cards which also earn those, your Ultimate Rewards points can be combined and converted to miles like United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt hotel points. Depending on what you redeem for (i.e. plane ticket, hotel stay), Ultimate Rewards can be worth well more than 1 cent per point this way, which means you can actually get more than 5% value back.

I’ve had this card seemingly forever as the 5% rewards often come in handy, and there is no annual fee so there’s no reason to cancel it.

“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.”

Cash Is Still King, But Most People Prefer Debit Cards Over Credit Cards

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The Federal Reserve recently released a report about about consumer payments [pdf], and it had some interesting results (at least to me). Via Business Insider. Here are the distilled highlights.

Cash is still the most frequently used form of payment, as measured by number of transactions. This is partly due to the fact that cash totally dominates for payments less than $10. In terms of value, electronic payments (online billpay and ACH payments using bank account numbers) have the largest share.

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This next chart shows that debit card use is actually growing faster than any other form of payment:

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Overall, debit cards are also the most preferred form of payment… but it does vary with income. 55% of consumers with household incomes less than $25,000 per year prefer cash over anything else, while 66% of households making more than $200,000 per year prefer credit cards over anything else.

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People seem to have an either/or relationship with debit cards and credit cards. You either use one or the other predominantly.

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Initially, I was surprised by the popularity of debit cards. (I prefer credit cards and am one of those people who haven’t used a debit card in years.) My hunch is that people think of debit cards as the closest thing to electronic cash. The money gets zapped out of your checking account and your balance decreases instantly. As long as you decline overdraft “protection”, if you hit zero your purchase will be declined. I admit it does have the appeal of simplicity.

Although I treat my credit card purchases the same as cash and always pay in full each month, credit cards do come with more complexity and the knowledge that the credit card company is lying in wait in case you feel like taking on a little debt. But in return I earn cash back rewards, get better consumer protection against fraud, and enough sign-up bonuses to fly me around the world once in a while.

Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Points For Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus, $300 For Ink Cash

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myinkboldUpdate: This LTO is now EXPIRED

Chase has just boosted the sign-up bonuses on their Ink cards. The Ink Bold Card and Ink Plus Card cards now offer 60,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 within 3 months, which are worth 60,000 United miles, $600 cash, or $750 towards travel. That is 20% or 10,000 points higher than the standard offer. I believe this matches the highest bonus ever for these three cards.

The Ink Cash Card with no annual fee and 0% interest for 12 months is offering a $300 bonus (up from $200) after spending $3,000 within 3 months.

Chase Ink Bold Card bonus link

  • For a limited time, earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • No interest charges because it’s a pay in full charge card.
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs with no transfer fees.
  • Direct access to a live service advisor anytime.
  • Free Employee Cards.

The 5X rewards on office supply stores from these two cards are handy as you can buy a wide variety of gift cards at Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot from prepaid cell phone reloads to Amazon gift cards to Home Depot and other retailers. This effectively gets you back 5X Ultimate Rewards points on a lot of your everyday spending.

Chase Ink Plus Card bonus link

  • For a limited time, earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • With Ink Plus, you have the cash flow flexibility with the choice to pay over time or pay in full.
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to participating travel programs with no transfer fees.
  • Free Employee Cards.

The major difference is the Ink Bold is a charge card that you must pay in full each month and Ink Plus is a credit card where you can carry a balance. The good thing about this is that you can get both cards for the same business and thus both bonuses.

Chase Ink Cash Card bonus link

  • For a limited time, earn $300 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 in 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services.
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants.
  • 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  • No annual fee.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and you may be a consultant, freelancer, or other one-person business. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Review: Two Roundtrip Flights + Companion Pass Info

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sw50kcardSouthwest has brought back their 50,000 bonus point promo for the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. That’s worth 2 Roundtrip Flights (over $700 in airfare with no limited-capacity seating hoops or $500 in Amazon.com gift cards) after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. This is historically as high as their sign-up bonus gets and is a limited time offer (usually lasts for a couple of weeks). There is a $99 annual fee that is not waived the first year.

2014/2015 Companion Pass
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Companion Pass allows you to designate one person to fly with you for free (person can be changed 3 times). To qualify, you must earn 110,000 points in a calendar year, and yes credit card points count! If you earn the status in 2014, you can use the Companion Pass for the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. The companion pass even works on award tickets!

Besides a lot of spending or flying, the small business version of this card has a 50,000 point bonus. Spend $2,000 on each of these two cards and you’ll qualify for both the 50k bonus and 50k bonus plus the 4k from spending for a total of 104,000 Rapid Rewards points. Spend a little more on the card or take some Southwest flights to make up the last 6,000 points and you’ll have 110,000. Those 110k points will be worth over $1,400 in Wanna Get Away airfare split up into however many flights you want + a free companion pass which can effectively double the value.

More Details
The huge “2 Roundtrip Flights” banner on the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card application page is based on the fact that an “average” round-trip $357 Wanna Get Away fare would cost about 25,000 points. In reality, the value of the bonus is $714 in Southwest airfare broken up however you like. Any Wanna Get Away fare is eligible, so this bonus is very useful for Southwest fliers. If you take shorter flights or wait for a fare sale, this could easily be worth multiple roundtrip flights. 25,000 points can also be converted to $250 in gift cards to Amazon.com, Wal-mart, and other retailers.

Currently 70 points = $1 worth of Wanna Get Away airfare, which means you get 1.43 cents of value per point. Southwest is still offering two free checked bags, which can be a significant roundtrip savings. Here are the rest of the details:

  • Get 50,000 points for 2 ROUNDTRIP FLIGHTS after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. Government fees as low as $10 not included.
  • Get 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® and AirTran® Airways purchases made directly with the airlines and on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Redeem points for gift cards, car rentals, cruises, hotel stays, and international flights to over 800 Destinations on 50+ global carriers.
  • No foreign transaction fees

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

Citi Simplicity Card Review: 0% for 18 Months, No Late Fees, No Penalty Rates

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citisimplicity175I usually focus on rewards-earning credit cards, but I know many folks are still carrying some balances and thus more concerned about their whopping 15% interest rate rather than a relatively puny 2% back on purchases. The Citi Simplicity® Card is uniquely suited for those that want to transfer higher rate balances to a long 0% intro period while also offering some “accident forgiveness insurance”. The highlights:

  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening. Balance transfer fee is 3% of balance transfer amount, $5 minimum. This is one of the longest offers out there for balance transfers.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 18 months. This means you can keep charging your new purchases on this card as well and also enjoy no interest for 18 months. Also one of the longest 0% offers available for purchases.
  • No late fees. If you’re late on a payment, you won’t be dinged with a ~$40 late fee as with many other cards.
  • No penalty APR. Even worse than a late fee, a missed payment can lead to a rate hike into a “penalty” APR rate as high as 25% or more.
  • No annual fee.
  • Direct to human help. If you call in and say “representative”, you’ll be transferred directly to a human, 24 hours a day.

The Citi Simplicity card does not earn any cash back, points, miles, or free toasters; I’d open a separate card for rewards. It does include additional purchase benefits such as Citi Price Protection (price drop protection on brick and mortar purchases) and free Extended Warranty (extends manufacturer’s warranty for up to 12 months).

Alternatively, the Chase Slate® Card offers 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months with no balance transfer fee, but does not include some of the more consumer-friendly features of this card that ensure your low rates don’t get hiked.

To summarize, the Citi Simplicity® is a solid card for those in the midst of the debt payoff process looking to pay no interest for 18 months with minimal gotcha fees compared to the competition.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card – 40,000 Bonus Points

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citihilton180emvThe Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is their no-annual fee co-branded card and comes with the following perks:

  • 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of cardmembership.
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at a participating hotel within the Hilton HHonors 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.
  • No annual fee.*

This card is really only 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. You can use this search tool to see how much a hotel will cost in any specific area (i.e. Honolulu or Paris).

This card has no annual fee. If you are willing to pay an annual fee in exchange for a bigger bonus and better ongoing perks, check out the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card.

American Express AmEx Everyday and Amex Everyday Preferred Credit Card Review

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amexeverydayAmerican Express has just introduced two new rewards credit cards called the AmEx Everyday and AmEx Everyday Preferred. Note that these are NOT the same as the Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred cards. They are worth a look as they offer a unique rewards structure, although it can be a bit tricky to maximize their value. Here is my review and comparison with similar cards.

Both are credit cards that let you carry a balance, as opposed to charge cards that make you pay in full each month. However, they both earn “real” Membership Rewards points just like the traditional Gold or Platinum charge cards. This means the points can be transferred to 17 different airlines including British Airways, Delta, and Hawaiian Airlines and 5 hotel loyalty programs. Otherwise, you can get about 1 cent per point when used with their “Pay with Points” feature or if converted to gift cards (Home Depot, Gap/OldNavy/Banana, Zappos, etc). Here’s how they differ:

AmEx Everyday Credit Card

  • Sign-up bonus: 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 2x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (up to $6k in purchases per year), 1x points on other purchases..
  • Possible 20% bonus on points earned. Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases (less returns and credits).
  • No annual fee. No annual fee for additional cards.

AmEx Everyday Preferred Credit Card

  • Sign-up bonus: 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (up to $6k in purchases per year), 2x points at US gas stations, 1x points on other purchases.
  • Possible 50% bonus on points earned. Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases (less returns and credits).
  • $95 annual fee. No annual fee for additional cards.

In order to maximize your rewards earned, you’ll need to makes 20 purchases on the no annual fee version or 30 for the Preferred version. For most people, that means this card has to be your primary card. Otherwise, you may have to work a little to meet that hurdle. You might buy some small Amazon.com gift codes, take a few extra trips in that self-checkout line, spend some extra time pumping gas, or pay your cell phone bill in small chunks. The good news is that you can track your purchase count easily with the AmEx mobile app designed to work with this card.

Both cards also have a EMV smart chip, but unfortunately foreign transaction fees are not waived. I’m guessing that is because this is an “everyday spending” card and not a “travel rewards” card.

The problem is that in order to maximize the total value of this card, you’ll have to get more than 1 cent of value out of a Membership Rewards point. Because even with the boosts, at 1 cent per point the most value you could earn with the is 2.4% back on groceries (Everyday no annual fee) or 4.5% back on groceries and 3% back on gas (Everyday Preferred $95 annual fee). Yet the existing Blue Cash Everyday card already gets you 3% cash back on groceries and 2% cash back on gas with no annual fee, and the Blue Cash Preferred gets you 6% back on gas and 3% back on gas with a $75 annual fee.

However, if you can get around 1.5 cents of of value out of a Membership Rewards point by converting it to airline miles, this card becomes better than the Blue Cash cards. The numbers then work out to 3.6% back and 6.75% back on groceries, respectively. That’s pretty solid. (Break-even value is 1.25-1.33 cents per point.) So while it is not marketed as a travel rewards card, it is really only best for people who can redeem their points efficiently via airline miles. Make sense? :)