Blue Business Plus Card from American Express Review: 2X Points on All Purchases Up to $50k/Year

bbpamexAmerican Express has rolled out the new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express. This card is unique in that it offers double Membership Rewards points on all purchases with no annual fee. Therefore, if you can redeem for more than 1 cent per point of value, this card has the potential to beat a flat 2% cash back card. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited-time offer: Earn 20,000 extra Membership Rewards® points after you spend at least $3,000 in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 2X Membership Points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year. 1X Points on purchases thereafter.
  • 0.0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that your APR will be a variable rate, currently 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • No annual fee

Note the usual language regarding the sign-up bonus. This is a new card so nobody should have this card already, but you can only get the sign-up bonus once so try to apply during a limited-time offer.

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

Better than 2% cash back? Membership Rewards points can be converted to the following airline miles (there are more, this is just a selection):

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ANA Mileage Club (partner of United Airlines)
  • Air Canada (partner of United Airlines)
  • British Airways (partner of American Airlines)
  • FlyingBlue (Air France/KLM)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America

If you value any of these miles at more than 1 cent per mile, then you would be getting more value than a 2% cash back card. For example, this card can earn the equivalent of 2 Delta miles per dollar spent.

Unfortunately, there are many redemption options for Membership Rewards points that are worse than 1 cent per point value. Here are a few examples:

  • Shop with Membership Rewards Points (~0.5 cents per point)
  • Shop with Points at Amazon.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Use points at BestBuy.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Gift Cards (varies from 0.5 up to 1 cent per point max)

If you don’t expect to get at least 1 cent per mile value, then you should stick with a 2% cash back card. If it’s close, then I would probably lean towards simplicity. Consider the following:

Business credit card eligibility. Many people aren’t aware that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. Any individual can be a small business. Perhaps you sell items on eBay, Craiglist, or Etsy. Maybe you do some graphic design, web design, freelancing and/or consulting. If you received a 1099-MISC tax form and filled out a Schedule C, that means you have business income, you pay self-employment taxes, and you’re a sole proprietorship. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

This card will require you to personally guarantee that you’ll pay them back what you charge on the card, which means they’ll check your personal credit score like any other consumer card. However, as the card is a business card, American Express won’t have it show up on your personal credit report, so it won’t change things like your credit limits, average account age, or credit utilization ratio.

Bottom line. The new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a unique card that will be very attractive for a certain subset of travelers who know how to maximize their frequent flier miles. If you don’t know how to do this, I would stick with a 2% flat cash back card. Finally, linking this card also allows you keep Membership Rewards points earned from other AmEx cards active while having no annual fee (even if you no longer have the other cards anymore) .

Delta SkyMiles American Express Cards (Limited-Time Offer)

amexdeltaplatAmerican Express and Delta are running limited-time offers on four of their co-branded credit cards. Since you can only get the sign-up bonuses once on each of these cards per person per lifetime (each card is considered different), it’s best to wait for one of these temporary bumps to maximize your bonus miles. These offers are indicated to end on July 5, 2017.

Here are the bonus highlights for the two consumer cards and two business cards. Note that each of the offers are slightly different in terms of bonus amounts and spending requirements. I list common benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding at the bottom.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

You can find a list of all available American Express credit cards at CardRatings.com

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

The above cards all include the following benefits:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on purchases directly with Delta including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club® membership or passes, Delta Vacations® packages, seat upgrades, or in-flight purchases like food, beverages, and entertainment. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights. Savings of up to $50 on a round-trip per person. (Savings of up to $200 on a round-trip for a family of four.)
  • Priority Boarding. You can board your flight when Zone 1 priority boarding is called, so that you find room for your carry-on bag and settle into your seat sooner.

Best No Fee 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards

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Whether you need to save interest on your existing balances or you’d like an interest-free loan, many credit cards offer 0% APR balance transfers for an initial period of up to 21 months. I’ve looked at hundreds of cards online, scoured the “Terms & Conditions” fine print, and the listed ones below are the best that I’ve found with the longest 0% APR periods and the lowest fees.

It’s been harder to avoid all fees these days, but they can still be found. Also remember that stretched across a longer time period, the overall effective APR can still be very low even with a small fee. I’ve tried to include a variety of card issuers as that allows you to spread your balance across multiple cards if needed. Updated as of JULY 2017.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards – September 2017

BarclayCard Ring MasterCard 1) Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. No balance transfer fees.  All balance transfers must be made within 45 days of account opening to get the 0% Intro APR but you can make as many balance transfers as you’d like and keep the 0% rate. Unlike the other cards on this list, after the intro rate has expired this card offers a static, variable APR of 13.99%. Cardholders will also receive free online access to their FICO score. The Barclaycard Ring Mastercard does not have any annual fee.

Slate from Chase Card Art 2) Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. No balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of opening the account. Once the intro rate has expired, a variable APR of 15.74% – 24.49% applies. Cardholders will also receive a free FICO score updated monthly. No annual fee.

CitiSimplicityCard (1)3) Citi Simplicity® Card – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 21 months. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. From our partner Citi, this is an exceptionally long 0% intro terms of nearly 2 years and is three months longer than any other card on our list.  The added balance transfer time can save hundreds of dollars in interest if you aren’t able to take advantage of the fee free options and pay the full balances off in time. Additional unique features on this card include no over-limit fees or late payment fees.  The Citi Simplicity Card has no annual fee.

alliantcc4) Alliant Credit Union Visa Platinum Card – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. No balance transfer fees. After that, a variable rate applies ranging from 9.74%-21.74% APR. A small catch is that you must be an Alliant CU member to obtain this card, but membership is open to anyone who makes a one-time $10 donation to Foster Care to Success. You can also receive card approval first before joining. No annual fee.

Discover it Balance Transfer5) Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer – 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months. Balance transfer fee is 3%.  The Discover it 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer also includes a robust rewards program, that offers 5% cash back on rotating categories throughout the year (like gas, groceries and restaurants) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.  As an added bonus, for the first year, all new cardholders will receive double cashback through their Cashback Match program.  There is no annual fee, over-limit fees or late payment fees associated with the Discover it 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer and all cardmembers also receive their free FICO credit score.

ejworld 6) Edward Jones Mastercard® – 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles. No balance transfer fee on balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account. A catch is that you must be an Edward Jones client and thus talk to an Edward Jones advisor first to get this card. Watch out for high fees and hidden commissions in their investment management services. This hassle may be offset by the offer of a $100 Loyalty Invest™ Deposit after you spend $500 on your card within 90 days of opening your account. 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.”

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express Review: 6% Cash Back on Groceries

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Limited-time offer. If you apply by 5/3/17, you can earn 10% cash back on purchases at U.S. Restaurants in the first 6 months, up to $200 back. This is in addition to the $150 back after you spend $1,000 on all purchases within the first 3 months, for a total of $350 in sign-up incentives. Details below.

Full review:

Let’s get right to it. The best feature of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is getting 6% cash back at US stand-alone supermarkets, for up to $6,000 per year in purchases. That’s works out to an average of $500 a month. If you spend $500 a month on qualifying groceries at 6% cash back, that alone will get you $360 a year in rewards.

Other highlights including sign-up bonuses:

  • Limited Time Offer: Apply by 5/3/17 – Earn 10% cash back on purchases at U.S. Restaurants in the first 6 months, up to $200 back.
  • Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • 6% Cash Back at US stand-alone supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 3% Cash Back on gasoline at at US stand-alone gas stations
  • 3% Cash Back at select major US department stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.

For more information about this card and to apply online, visit CardRatings.com.

Supermarkets details. “US stand-alone supermarkets” means that superstores, convenience stores and warehouse clubs are not considered supermarkets. This means no Super Wal-Mart, no Super Target, no Costco. Examples of merchants that count (and this is not a complete list!!) are Safeway, Meijer, Vons, Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie, and online supermarkets such as FreshDirect.

Gasoline details. “US stand-alone gas stations” means that superstores, supermarkets, and warehouse clubs that sell gasoline are not considered gas stations. This means no Target, no Costco, no Sam’s Club. Examples of merchants that count (and this is not a complete list!!) are Exxon, Mobil, Hess, Shell, Gulf, Murphy USA, Murphy Express.

Major US Department stores details. These are the only stores that qualify:

• Bealls
• Belk
• Bloomingdale’s
• Bon Ton Stores
• Boscov’s
• Century 21 Department Stores
• Dillard’s
• J.C. Penney (JCP)
• Kohl’s
• Lord & Taylor
• Macy’s
• Neiman Marcus
• Nordstrom
• Saks Fifth Avenue
• Sears
• Stein Mart

Annual fee. The card has a $95 annual fee, which is not waived the first year. However, spending just $31 per week at supermarkets at 6% cash back will result in over $95 Reward Dollars per year to cover the annual fee.

If you don’t like the idea of paying an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers 3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases with no annual fee. It also has a sign-up bonus.

If you spend the max cap of $500 a month at supermarkets, at 6% back that would net you $360 cash back in a year vs. $60 at 1% cash back. Note that you can find gift cards to many popular retailers at your local supermarket these days. We usually try to max out the $6,000 annual limit. We usually spend closer to $100 a week on food groceries, or about $5,000 a year. Then the rest of the annual limit we use to buy gift cards at the end of the year for holiday presents.

There are no rotating categories, no quarterly enrollments, and no point systems to learn. Not that I would mind if they also allow me to earn more than 1%.

Intro 0% APR offer. The Blue Cash Preferred also has 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.74% to 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors. Balance transfer fee is either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Limited-time 10% offer. To get the full $200 max from the 10% cash back on purchases at U.S. Restaurants in the first 6 months, you’d have to spend an average of $334 a month at restaurants. That might be easy or really hard, depending on your spending habits. You might also spend a lot more on restaurants than you think if you haven’t been tracking it via Mint or Personal Capital.

For more information about this card and to apply online, visit CardRatings.com.

“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.”

Trim Savings: Connect Your Visa Card For $40 Cashback Towards Everyday Purchases

trimsavings0Financial chatbot Trim has a new feature called Trim Savings. (Here’s a previous review of Trim’s subscription cancellation service.) You link your existing Visa card and they will come up with cashback coupons. The offers are linked to your Visa card number so that when you swipe your card, the coupon is automatically applied as a statement credit on your account. No paper coupons. No codes to show. It sounds very similar to the AmEx Offers feature on American Express cards.

Limited-time promotion. They are currently offering $40 in cashback coupons towards “everyday purchases” like groceries, dining, shopping, and movies. While supplies last. Here’s how that $40 breaks down:

  • Groceries: $1 on any purchase > $5 (you’ll receive 10 of these–a total of $10)
  • Dining: $1 on any purchase > $5 (you’ll receive 10 of these–a total of $10)
  • Movies: $10 on any purchase > $20 (you will receive only once)
  • Shopping: $10 on any purchase > $50 (you will receive only once)

From their site:

For example: You sign up for Trim. We send you a $10 cashback coupon offer for shopping. You go to the Gap and spend $50 on your Chase Visa card. The moment after you swipe at the register, you’ll get a message saying “Trim saved you $10!” You’ll receive a statement credit for $10 on your Chase account.

Requirements. You’ll need both a Visa card and Facebook Messenger account in order to receive and activate cashback coupons from Trim Savings. When I did it, Trim only wanted access to my public Facebook profile. They say that SMS will be supported in the future. Here’s a screenshot from my Messenger account:

trimsavings1

What you’re giving up. The service is free, but you must agree that “Trim and Visa can share my card and transaction details to identify qualifying purchases, provide rewards and personalize offers based on my past and ongoing transactions.” Basically, you are signing up for targeted advertising in the form of coupons based on your spending history.

Bottom line. If you are comfortable sharing your Visa purchase history and have a Facebook Messenger account, Trim Savings seems like an easy $10-$40 bucks upfront for buying the same things you would have otherwise. We’ll have to see what other good coupons come up. Keep it afterward if you like it; unlink your card later if you don’t.

Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard Review: 1.5% Cash Back + $200 Bonus

OCB_card_rRGB_CashForward_WM (1)Updated with improved offer. Barclaycard has improved this offer by increasing the sign-up bonus to $200 after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. The $200 flat bonus makes this card work out better for those folks that don’t put a lot of purchases on their cards. For example, if you were to compare this card’s 1.5% cash back with a 2% cashback card with no sign-up bonus, you would have to spend $40,000 for the 2% card to catch up and break even. That could take years for some users. This offer now also has a 0% intro APR interest on purchases for the first 15 months.

Full Review:

Barclaycard has introduced a new cash back rewards card called the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® which earns a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no earnings cap. There is also no annual fee and an upfront sign-up bonus. Here are the highlights:

  • Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase
  • Every time you redeem, get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption
  • Redeem your cash rewards for a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a statement credit or gift cards. Redemptions start at $50
  • Cash rewards do not expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Enjoy a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers for each balance transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that a variable APR will apply, 15.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • No annual fee

I suppose the 5% cash rewards redemption bonus could be used to think of this card as a 1.575% cash back card (1.5% times 105%), but keep in mind that it is structured as an incentive to keep you using the card. For example, if you redeem $100 in cash rewards, you will get $5 added to your rewards balance good towards your next redemption. You have to reach $50 to cash out again. As noted in the comments, you could maximize your redemptions by leaving $50 in rewards so that you can cash everything out next time easily. Keep that in mind as your $200 bonus will also get that 5% bonus to become $210.

The competition. Chase and Capital One also have their own versions of 1.5% flat cash back:

These competitors have higher effective cash back rates. Some have a few additional requirements which you may or may not find too much trouble.

If you put a lot of purchases on your credit cards, the gap between a 1.5% and 2% card widens. However, if you are a relatively light spender, it can pay to focus more on the upfront bonus than the cash back rate. For example, if you were to compare a card with 1.5% cashback + $200 upfront bonus with a 2% cashback card + no sign-up bonus, you would have to spend $40,000 to earn an additional $200 in cashback (and thus breakeven with the bonus). If you only charge $500 a month, that would take nearly 7 years. If you charge $1,000 a month, that would take over 3 years.

Bottom line. The CashForward World MasterCard is Barclaycard’s entry into the “simple, no hassle cash back rewards” category. The 1.5% cash back is competitive with similar no-annual-fee offerings from Capital One and Chase (with this card offering an additional small redemption bonus on top), but I would also compare it with the offerings from Citibank and other issuers listed above (especially if you are a big spender). Keep in mind that Barclaycard is currently offering the largest sign-up bonus in this category. You also receive a free FICO score updates from Barclaycard.

Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature Card Review: 2.5% Cash Back + 1st Year Promo

alliantccAlliant Credit Union, the 5th largest US credit union by assets, has launched their new Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card. This cash back rewards card is targeted towards high spenders, with a headline feature of 2.5% cash back with a $59 annual fee. As a first year promotion, they offer 3% cash back and the annual fee is waived. Here are all of the highlights:

  • 3% cash back in year one & 2.5% cash back after.
  • No limit to the cash back awards you can earn.
  • $59 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Works with Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
  • You must be an Alliant Credit Union member to apply for this card.

Cardholders can choose to receive cash back rewards via a credit card statement credit (appearing within one billing cycle) or as a deposit into your Alliant checking or savings.

If you have an existing Alliant credit card, you can ask for it to be converted to this card. If the conversion is accepted, you will also receive the first year promotion of 3% cash back and no annual fee.

Comparison numbers against a 2% cashback card with no annual fee and no sign-up bonus. Instead of a flat sign-up bonus, with this card you are basically getting a 1% boost to your cash back in the first year. If you charge $1,000 a month, 1% more is $120 more cash back over a year. If you charge $4,000 a month, 1% more is $480 more cash back over a year.

After the first year, with this card you’ll get 0.5% more cash back and also pay the $59 annual fee. That makes the breakeven point $11,800 per year in annual spending (roughly $1,000 per month). If you spend more than that, the extra cashback will offset the annual fee. If you spend less, you will have more rewards with the 2% card.

Comparison numbers against a 1.5% cashback card with no annual fee and no sign-up bonus. Instead of a flat sign-up bonus, with this card you are basically getting a 1.5% boost to your cash back in the first year. If you charge $1,000 a month, 1% more is $180 more cash back over a year. If you charge $4,000 a month, 1% more is $720 more cash back over a year.

After the first year, with this card you’ll get 1% more cash back and also pay the $59 annual fee. That makes the breakeven point $5,900 per year in annual spending ($492 per month). If you spend more than that, the extra cashback will offset the annual fee. If you spend less, you will have more rewards with the 1.5% card.

Competition. The following cards currently offer a competitive level of cash back rewards. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

Notably, the USAA card offers 2.5% cash back with no annual fee but also adds a direct deposit requirement. Perhaps more importantly, USAA membership is limited to members of the U.S. military and their immediate families.

Alliant CU membership eligibility. If you start the online membership application, it does a good job of walking you through their various eligibility options. The good news is anyone that is willing to donate $10 to Foster Care to Success is able to join. Here are their membership groups:

  • Any employee or retiree of a Qualifying Company.
  • Any member of a Qualifying Organization.
  • Any immediate family member of an existing Alliant member.
  • Anyone who lives or works in a Qualifying Chicagoland Community.
  • Anyone who is willing to make a one-time $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success charity group.

Bottom line. The Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card offers 2.5% flat cash back on all purchases with a $59 annual fee. As a first year promotion, they offer 3% cash back and the annual fee is waived. The annual fee makes it best for people that make a high amount of purchases on their credit cards, with the breakeven being $1,000 a month when compared against a 2% cash back card. Alliant Credit Union membership is open to anyone willing to donate $10 to Foster Care to Success.

USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature Card Review: 2.5% Cash Back

usaa_limlessUSAA, which serves members of the U.S. military and their immediate families, has a new cash back rewards card called the USAA Limitless™ Cashback Rewards Visa Signature® Card. This card is currently in an online pilot program and is only available for residents in (a growing number of) eligible states. To check your eligibility, visit the USAA credit cards page and select your state of residence. If you see the card listed at the top, your state is eligible. If not, the list has been gradually expanding, so check again later.

The headline feature of this card is flat 2.5% cash back on all purchases, subject to a few hurdles. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 2.5% cash back on credit card purchases when you have a free USAA Bank checking account with a qualifying direct deposit of at least $1,000 every month.
  • No sign-up bonus.
  • Enjoy unlimited cash back on the amount you can earn.
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on credit card purchases without a direct deposit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.
  • You must be a USAA member to apply for this card.

Here’s the fine print regarding the $1,000 direct deposit requirement:

Within 90 days of opening your credit card account, you must establish a monthly qualifying direct deposit of at least $1,000 to your USAA Bank checking account. A qualifying direct deposit is a single electronic transfer of at least $1,000 that you initiate with your employer, a government entity or an external financial institution. Funds transfers between USAA accounts are not qualifying direct deposits.

USAA membership eligibility. USAA is focused on serving members of the U.S. military and their immediate families. Here are their membership groups:

  • Active Military. Individuals who are currently serving in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines or Navy.
  • Former Military. Those who have retired or separated from the U.S. military with a discharge type of Honorable.
  • Family. Widows, widowers and un-remarried former spouses of USAA members who joined USAA prior to or during the marriage and individuals whose parents joined USAA.
  • Cadets and Midshipmen. Cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies, in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, plus officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning.

List of eligible states. Here is the current list as stated on the application page, last updated in March 2017. The list has been growing slowly but steadily, so it appears the pilot program is going well and it will be available nationwide eventually. I currently count 26 states.

This product is currently available to members residing in the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, ND, NM, NV, NY, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX and WA. It will become available in additional states at a later date.

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington

Reader experience. Reader JD shares her positive experience with this card over e-mail. Note that you can redeem with just $1 in rewards.

So far, very easy to use (just started using it 2/22/17). There is a simple button you press (view and redeem rewards), which transfers you to the rewards web page. The rewards are posted almost immediately and you can redeem the rewards at any time as long as you have at least 1 dollar in available rewards. You can then transfer the money as a statement credit or into your USAA checking account (which you must open).

Bottom line. The USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards card offers 2.5% flat cash back on all purchases, which is one of the highest flat rewards percentages currently available. Note that you must (1) be a USAA member, (2) have an open USAA checking account, and (3) maintain a $1,000 direct deposit every single month to maintain the 2.5% cash back rate. If you don’t meet the $1,000 direct deposit requirement, you default back onto 1.5% cash back. USAA membership is limited to members of the U.S. military and their immediate families.

  • USAA Limitless™ Cashback Rewards Visa Signature® Card application link

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

Updated 2017. As noted, the government requires the credit bureaus to provide you a free credit report once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. Ideally, you should check in more frequently. The services listed below provide you a free credit score updated throughout the year either daily, weekly, or monthly. Most offer additional data taken directly from your credit reports, while some even offer free daily credit monitoring or free identity protection services.

As of OCTOBER 2017, all three major credit bureaus are covered: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You do not need to already have a specific credit card. Being ad-supported, they can do so without the hassle of annoying trial membership offers, requiring credit card numbers, or having to remember to cancel anything.

Credit Sesame

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CreditSesame.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore). They used Experian data in the past, but it appears that most members have been migrated over to Transunion. Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required.

  • Free daily credit monitoring. Credit Sesame also offers free daily credit monitoring of your TransUnion data, with alerts coming via e-mail, text, or smartphone app. This service tracks more than 40 different credit activities such as a balance change, address change or when a new account is opened.
  • Free identity protection and restoration services. Credit Sesame also includes $50,000 in identity theft insurance and access to identity restoration support in their free membership level.

Credit Karma

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CreditKarma.com offers you two free credit scores, based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and updated weekly (VantageScore). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The two-in-one feature is nice.

  • Free credit monitoring. Credit Karma also offers free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your TransUnion data.

FreeCreditScore.com

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FreeCreditScore.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your Experian credit report (FICO 08). Score range is 300-850. They require your full Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required.

  • Free credit monitoring. They also offer free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your Experian data.

WalletHub

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WalletHub.com offers a free credit score based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore), updated daily. They also provide access to your full TransUnion credit report daily (although it may not be updated that often). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required.

Your Existing Credit Card

I wouldn’t sign up for a new credit card just for a credit score, but if you already have one, check to see if it offers a free monthly credit score as a perk:

Some may point out that many of the scores above are not FICO scores. No, they are not FICO scores because Fair Isaac charges more money for them and these companies can’t cover those costs with their advertising. However, these free credit scores can still be very useful for tracking changes and general trends in your credit history. Free credit monitoring is also a great way to track any big changes including fraudulent activity. There is value in getting an e-mail notification whenever a new account is added to my report.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card 75,000 Point Offer Review

Citi Hilton HHonorsUpdate – This offer is now EXPIRED

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, from our partner Citi, is offering a limited-time bonus increase. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors 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.*
  • HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No annual fee.*

What can I redeem for? Hilton points redemption varies, and they have moved towards dynamic award pricing with more focus on points + cash combinations. 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.

In order to find the points-only redemption rates, you must log into your Hilton Honors account and check the “Use Points” box when running a search. Here are some sample redemptions that I just ran for mid-March, comparing Hilton points vs. Expedia pricing side-by-side:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is $501.33 ($440 + taxes) per night OR 50,000 Hilton points.
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Financial District is $418.16 ($359 + taxes) per night OR 60,000 Hilton points.
  • New York City. Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central is $358.08 ($309 + taxes) OR 70,000 Hilton points.

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)

Please note this fine print:

Hilton HHonors Bonus Points offer associated with a new card opening is not available if you have opened or closed any Citi Hilton HHonors cards in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. The redemption ratio varies and while it is still possible to get $500+ of value out of 75,000 Hilton points, I would say a more conservative range is $350 to $500. The standard bonus is 40,000 Hilton points, with 75,000 Hilton points being the highest that I’ve seen. It is relatively rare to get this size of a bonus on a credit card with no annual fee. The complimentary Silver Status is their lowest elite status and offers a few small convenience perks.

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 better ongoing perks for frequent Hilton customers. Two free weekend nights can be worth over 160,000 Hilton points. I redeemed for nice weekend 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.”

Barclaycard Ring MasterCard Review: 0% Intro APR For 15 Months + No Balance Transfer Fee

BarclayCard Ring MasterCard

Update – This offer is now EXPIRED.

Here’s a new offer for those looking to pay down debt and lower their interest rates. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® has been updated with 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases and 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. Importantly, this card also has NO balance transfer fee both during and after the intro period, which is a rare feature these days. After the introductory period, the card has an 13.99% variable APR that applies to everything – purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. Here are all the highlights:

  • 0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 13.99%
  • No balance transfer fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Free online access to FICO® Credit Score

No fee balance transfer offer. If you have an existing balance on another card that is racking up interest charges, you can transfer it to this card with no balance transfer fee and if you make the balance transfer within 45 days of account opening, you won’t be subject to any interest until well into 2018 and all of your payments during the first 15 months will go towards paying down the balance principal. You can even continue to put new purchases on the card given the simultaneous intro 0% APR on purchases.

It is very rare these days to find a no fee 0% APR balance transfer that is available to all. Make sure to keep making your minimum payments to keep that 0% APR.

In addition, this posting on the their Ring Community page suggests that you can even perform a balance transfer directly to your checking account:

Online ACH Transfers. You can use the available credit on your Barclaycard Ring account to complete a Balance Transfer to your checking account online. We carefully monitor fraud and credit risk, therefore this ACH transfer capability may not be available to all cardmembers. Also, you can only complete one ACH transfer within a 30 day period.

Free FICO Score details. The free FICO score is based on your your TransUnion credit report, and updates every 1 to 3 months. Specifically, you will get your FICO Score 8 or FICO 08 model, which is the most widely used version of FICO. You can see how your FICO changes as you pay down your balances. Here’s a screenshot from my Barclaycard account:

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Other features. This card does not have any cashback, points, or miles rewards program. There is a “Giveback program” that shares community estimated profits if you meet certain spending requirements, but there is no guaranteed amount and there is a certain hurdle that must be reached before any profits are shared. Since you have little control, I would treat any such profit sharing as a nice surprise but not as a reason to get this card.

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard is all about the low intro interest rate and no balance transfer fee (even after the intro period). If you have debt, this card can help you lower your interest rate and pay off your balance faster.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card Review: 5% Back at Amazon

primecreditChase and Amazon have rolled out the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, a new credit card (not store card) available only to Amazon Prime members. I’m surprised how much mainstream press coverage this card received. Highlights:

  • 5% back at Amazon.com for Amazon Prime members. If you stop your Prime membership, you’ll be downgraded to 3% back.
  • 2% Back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores.
  • 1% Back on all other purchases.
  • Sign-up bonus of variable amount based on each person’s account. I was offered a $70 Amazon Gift Certificate. Click on the “Apply Now” link to see your personalized offer, you’ll have time to stop the application.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.
  • Extended warranty protection. Extends the time period for the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Purchase Protection. Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Existing Amazon Rewards Visa Signature cardholder? If you have the original card and are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you should be “upgraded” to this new card automatically. You may see the change online first (your linked purchases will start earning 5% back instead of just 3% back) before you actually receive a new physical card.

Commentary. I recently did a Amazon Store Card review, about a retail card issued by Synchrony Bank that was only valid at Amazon.com. My overall opinion of this credit card is similar, except for the extended warranty protection. If you use gift cards to buy things at Amazon, you will forgo the extended warranty protection and purchase protection that many other credit cards offer. With this card, you will get the extended warranty protection and 5% cash back. How much is an extra year’s warranty worth? Depends on how many big-ticket items you buy at Amazon and how likely you’ll actually remember to use this benefit.

My rough rule of thumb is that a “hard” credit check can reliably net me at least $500 in value, usually from “try me! try me!” credit card incentives but also potentially from bank bonuses and higher interest. It is very rare that I shop at any specific retailer enough to get $500 in savings. For example, it would take $10,000 of Amazon purchases at 5% back to net me $500 in cash back. If the sign-up bonus gets high enough, then I may take another look.

(2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores only draws a yawn when I can get that much cash back on everything. 1% cash back on everything else… zzzz.)

For the casual Amazon shopper, 5% rotating category credit cards often have Amazon or a place that sells Amazon gift cards as an eligible category. Other cards like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred offer 6% back at grocery stores (that sell Amazon gift cards) or Chase Ink Business cards offer 5% back at office supply stores (that sell Amazon gift cards). Basically, there are other ways that I can stock up on Amazon gift cards at 5% off without having this card.

In the end, if you are a loyal Prime member that spends a lot of money at Amazon and prefer simplicity, then this card can make sense. Link it to your Amazon account, and don’t use it for anything else. You’ll then track all your Amazon spending on one card, and also get extended warranty protection and purchase protection. As with any rewards credit card, you should always pay off your bill in full as the annual interest rate on balances is significantly higher than 5%.