Expedia+ Credit Card from Citi Review

expediaplusExpedia.com has revamped their in-house loyalty rewards program. Citi and Expedia have partnered on a new set of co-branded credit cards. What does the combination mean for the frugal traveler? This review covers the standard, no annual fee version.

Why use Expedia in the first place? If you book all of your travel through a travel shopping engine, that most likely means you would rather have the lowest price than be loyal to any specific chain. You might stay at a Holiday Inn, then a Hilton, and then a Sheraton. Or fly on American, then Delta, then United. Indeed, Expedia even offers a “Best Rate Guarantee” against booking elsewhere, for which I have successfully claimed the $50 travel coupon in the past:

Find a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise or activity within 24 hours of booking and we’ll refund the difference, plus give you a $50 travel coupon for future travel. For hotels, we go even further: If you find a cheaper rate on your hotel reservation up to two days before your check-in, we will refund the difference and give you a $50 travel coupon for future travel. If you’re an Expedia+ rewards member, we’ll match your hotel price until midnight before check-in.

The Expedia®+ Card from Citi is meant to help Expedia users earn and redeem travel rewards faster Although it doesn’t show on the front of the card, it is a MasterCard. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn a $50 statement credit after your first eligible Expedia purchase greater than $50 within 3 months of account opening*
  • PLUS, earn 10,000 Expedia+ rewards bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening*
  • Points redeemable for $100 in coupons at +VIP AccessTM hotels or $50 at other hotels*
  • 3 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages*
  • 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on other purchases*
  • Expedia+ silver status is complimentary for as long as you are a cardmember*
  • Earn one Elite Qualifying Hotel Night towards Expedia+ gold status for each increment of $2,500 in purchases made on the card between your January and December billing statements*
  • No annual fee.

Expedia+ points fuel the revamped free rewards program available to all Expedia customers. To apply for this credit card, you must first sign in or register for a rewards account at Expedia.com.

How do you earn Expedia+ Points?

When you book eligible travel on Expedia (including vacation packages, hotels, flights, cruises, and activities), you earn points. Note that when you book flights, you still earn frequent flyer miles as well as Expedia+ rewards points. For hotel stays, double-dipping ability varies by the chain. The following earning methods are open to all Expedia users:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on hotels or Vacation Packages that include a hotel.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on activities or select cruises.
  • 1 point per $5 spent on flights.
  • Other special, limited-time promotions, for example using their mobile apps.

By using this credit card and/or attaining elite status, you can get the following boosts:

  • 10% bonus on your base points earned with +Silver status (+Silver is free with this card)
  • 30% bonus on your base points earned with +Gold status
  • Both +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per booking at a +VIP Access hotel.
  • 3 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on this card, on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages*
  • 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on this card, on other purchases*

Since you earn based on your total amount spent, this works out well for people booking for entire families or other groups of people.

How do you redeem Expedia+ Points?

Here’s a breakdown of the redemption options for Expedia+ points. There are no “blackout dates”.

Discounted hotel stays. 3,500 points will get you a $25 hotel coupon valid at any Expedia Rate hotel. Alternatively, 3,500 points will get you a $50 coupon valid at +VIP Access hotels. So the conversion rate is either 0.7 cents per point or 1.4 cents per point. The minimum redemption is 3,500 points, but you can do multiples of it up to a $1,000 coupon.



To get an idea of what the hotel types mean, you can run any search on Expedia and look for “Expedia Rate” or filter by “+VIP Access” under the More button. Here are some results for Honolulu, HI on a random date:



In general, +VIP Access hotels tend to be more luxurious, although not always. Finally, here are the common rules for both Expedia Rate and VIP Access coupon types:

Coupons can be used once. Any leftover value is void. A coupon can be applied to only one hotel room per booking. Coupon values don’t apply to taxes or fees. Once a coupon is claimed, it can not be refunded. A coupon is valid for one year from the date you create it. Coupons can only be used on reservations paid for at time of booking.

Free flights. You can redeem your Expedia+ points for any flight on Expedia. Just search for flights and it will quote you the price in points. In general, you will receive a value of approximately 0.6 cents per point when redeeming for flights.

Charitable donations. You can donate your points to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Every 3,500 points you redeem equals a $25 donation, 100% of which Expedia gives to St. Jude. That is a rate of 0.7 cents per point.

What does Expedia+ Silver and +Gold Status include?

With this card, you automatically have +Silver status as long as you are a cardmember. If you didn’t have this card, you would either have to book 7 nights or spend $5,000 in calendar year to achieve +Silver status. This is upped to 15 nights or $10,000 for +Gold status.

Here’s a big chart that outlines the benefits between all three tiers:


I would say the primary benefit is that with +Silver you get a 10% bonus on your base points earned on travel booked through Expedia (+Gold gets a 30% bonus). Another benefit is “exclusive perks” at select +VIP Access hotels, such as a free mini-bar access, free parking, or resort credits. +Gold members can get free room upgrades at +VIP Access hotels, but +Silver members do not. Finally, +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per +VIP Access booking.

Final Thoughts

The Expedia®+ Card from Citi is best for people who use Expedia regularly for booking travel, but don’t want to pay an annual fee. The strength of this card is the same as Expedia itself – you get to pick the cheapest hotel and flight every time, instead of sometimes paying a premium because you want to maintain loyalty or “status” perks. In order to maximize your value, you should redeem your points for +VIP Access hotels at 1.4 cents per point value, which means you mostly like to redeem for “nicer” hotels. The other redemption options are okay in a pinch, but nothing special at 0.6-0.7 cents per point value.

But wait, there is also a Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi that has a bigger sign-up bonus and better ongoing perks (and an annual fee). I can understand not wanting to pay an annual fee, but if you really are a serious Expedia user, at least consider it because there is an $100 annual air travel fee credit than can offset its $95 annual fee. The Voyager version also has bigger sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and the better ongoing perks of +Gold status.

If you do keep to a specific chain of hotels (i.e. Hilton, Marriott, Starwood) then your net rewards will probably work out better if you have the chain-specific cards. Personally, I just don’t use Expedia enough to justify getting this card. If instead you are looking for simple, cash back rewards in a Citi card, I would recommend checking out the Citi Double Cash Card.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Data Breach Counter Tool: Exactly What Personal Information Has Been Exposed?

The New York Times has come out with another neat interactive tool that provides a sobering count of both how many and what types of your personal information has been exposed to hackers. I like that they break things down as exposing your e-mail address is very different than your Social Security Number.

Half of American adults had their personal information exposed to hackers last year alone. In a recent attack at the federal Office of Personnel Management, hackers stole the most sensitive personal data for 21.5 million people.

I took the quiz and here are my results:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.06.39 PM

All in all, I would say it could be worse. My credit and debit cards all have “zero fraud liability” and I carefully go through each statement every month. The scariest part is that the worst data breaches will probably occur where you couldn’t do anything about it. For example, the recent governmental database breach involved every single person given a government background check for the last 15 years. That hack exposed Social Security Numbers, financial histories, employment records, and fingerprints.

The advice that the NYT gives is to make sure you have different passwords for every website, and to turn on two-factor authentication whenever possible. As I’ve noted, I use 1Password and I definitely love the feature set but admit it is somewhat expensive. All my accounts now have passwords that look like “j6VQDqa$oE2zYa” and I can access them with a thumbprint on my iPhone. The website TwoFactorAuth.org is a useful database of which sites offer two-factor authentication (2FA). There are still many financial sites that don’t support 2FA.

History of 0% APR Interest Rates + Who’s Carrying a Monthly Balance?

From 2005 to 2007, a peek at my credit report might have revealed that I had over $30,000 in credit card debt. The good news is that I borrowed it at 0% APR and then immediately stashed it in an FDIC-insured bank account earning 6% interest at times. Just recently, a US presidential candidate disclosed an “up to $15k” credit card balance at 27% APR, which prompted Quoctrong Bui of NPR Planet Money to research how interest rates on credit cards have changed over time. I converted the interactive chart into an animated picture which cycles you from 2001 to 2013:


There’s also a chart showing the percentage of cardholders who pay off their balance in any given month, based on their FICO score.


Some observations:

The rise of 0% APR interest rates. In 2001, nobody was getting 0% APR interest rates. In 2004, there was a huge spike and that was basically “Peak 0% APR”. Since then, 0% rates have stayed around, gradually decreasing in popularity, until 2013 when there was again a slight uptick.

This doesn’t account for the changing length of 0% APR promotional periods. In 2005, there were a lot of 0% APR offers but they were usually for 6 to 12 months. As overall interest rates have remained very low across the board, there aren’t quite as many 0% APR offers available, but the best ones are for longer terms – up to 24 months.

Right now, you can get 0% APR for 15 months with no balance transfer fee, or 0% APR at 21 months with a balance transfer fee.

The big difference between the average cardholder with a 700 FICO and a 800 FICO score. I’ve always felt that anything above roughly 700 to 740 FICO was a “good enough” score with which I was rarely, if ever, denied credit. From the second chart above, you can flip the numbers to state that:

  • 77% of folks with a 700 FICO carry a balance each month.
  • 64% of folks with a 740 FICO carry a balance each month.
  • 27% of folks with a 800 FICO carry a balance each month.

On the other hand, even 27% is higher than I though it would be. A lot of people with “good” and even “excellent” credit carry balances each month.

How many people are carrying balances after the 0% introductory period ends? Obviously, there is a reason that 0% APR offers are still around. But that reason isn’t completely explained above. Does 0% APR encourage “new” debt from people who wouldn’t otherwise carry a balance? For example, is it possible to look at 6 or 12 months after the 0% intro period ends, and see if that marks an increase in balances? Or are 0% APRs mainly a tactic to attract balances already held at other card companies?

If you DO pay your balances in full, you can still reap the benefits of your good credit score without paying interest. It’s now been a while since I was earning thousands of dollars in “free money” from 0% balance transfers. But the silver lining is that back in 2007 a “good” sign-up bonus was $100 while nowadays you can easily find credit card bonuses with $500 value. I would say it is even less work to manage a few new cards a year vs. juggling 0% balance transfers which required making last-minute payments to maximize interest earned, and thus worrying about missing a payment deadline.

A quick smartphone snapshot of credit cards in my wallet shows well over $2,000 of accrued bonus value – 2 free nights at any Hilton hotel for which I got over $1,000 value, $800 in American Airlines airfare (separate $500 in airfare credits offset the annual fee), 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points good for $500 in travel, and 40,000 American miles (former US Airways card). This is addition to any cash back/miles/points for purchases, free checked bags, or extended warranty perks.


Consumer Reports on Auto Insurance: Watch Your Credit Score, Shopping Behavior

cr_auto0Consumer Reports (CR) has released a multi-part Special Report on Auto Insurance, included in their September 2015 print issue but also available online without a subscription (at least for now). They analyzed over 2 billion quotes from over 700 companies across 33,419 zip codes. Here are some highlights of what they found.

First, here’s a big picture view of which major car insurers are more expensive on average.


The biggest individual factor in your premium may be your credit score. Clicking on your state on this 50-state interactive map will give you an idea of the effect of having a “poor” or merely “good” credit score as opposed to an “excellent” one. California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are the only states that prohibit insurers from using credit scores to set prices.

Often, having a poor credit score with clean driving record is more expensive than having an excellent credit with a DUI/DWI! Here’s a screenshot for Florida:


Another important factor is your loyalty and tendency to comparison shop other items like cable TV. You often think “Loyalty Discount”, but often there is a “Loyalty Penalty”. If you don’t shop your auto insurance, some companies don’t see something to be rewarded; they see a sucker. In my limited experience, the companies with the lowest quotes to entice you from another company are also the ones to hike up the rates every year afterward. Here’s what CR found:

Geico Casualty gave us whiplash with its $3,267 loyalty penalty in New Jersey and its $888 discount just across the state line in New York for longtime customers. State Farm Mutual consistently provided discounts of a couple of dollars up to a few hundred dollars; Allstate Fire and Casualty and Allstate Property & Casualty tended to prefer penalties.

As noted in a previous post, Big Data knows if you’re comparison shopping or not. Such “price optimization” occurs when they find out you could have saved money somewhere else like broadband internet, but didn’t. Not a price-sensitive shopper? You may get the higher rates. Even states that officially ban the practice don’t really have any foolproof way to know if it’s happening. Here’s what CR found:

Amica Mutual and State Farm told us they don’t use price optimization. Representatives from Allstate, Geico, Progressive, and USAA declined to discuss price optimization.

Here’s the general conclusion:

What we found is that behind the rate quotes is a pricing process that judges you less on driving habits and increasingly on socioeconomic factors. These include your credit history, whether you use department-store or bank credit cards, and even your TV provider. Those measures are then used in confidential and often confounding scoring algorithms.

What can a consumer do about all this? Consumer Reports wants you to write to your state’s insurance commissioner, and they have a petition template ready for you. David Merkel of The Aleph Blog says you should simply fight back the market-based way: comparison shop your personal insurance lines every 3 years.

Bid it out. Bid it out. Bid it out. What do you have to lose? If loyalty means something to the insurer, they will likely win the bid. If it doesn’t, they will likely lose. Either way you will win. If you have an agent, they will note that you are price-sensitive. The agent will become more of an ally, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

[…] You don’t need transparency, or more regulation. You don’t get transparency in the pricing of many items. You do need to bid out your business every now and then. You are your own best defender in matters like this. Take your opportunity and bid out your policies.

I tend to agree with Mr. Merkel. However, I am still a long-time customer with State Farm. I’m happy to see that State Farm was found to consistently providing loyalty discounts and claims not to engage in price optimization. I shopped around for auto quotes in 2013 and GEICO was cheaper by about $372 a year. However, I had to balance that with the knowledge that GEICO will probably hike my premiums every year and also I’ve had excellent claim service from State Farm. Perhaps it is time for another comparison shop.

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

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

  • Limited Time: Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 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 month of June:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Waikiki Beach is 40,000 points. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is 50,000 points.
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Union Square is 50,000 points.
  • Orlando, Florida. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando is 20,000 points.
  • London, UK. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Tower of London is 60,000 points.

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

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

There is also another card called the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which has a $95 annual fee, but has better ongoing perks. I personally have the Reserve, but I can understand that some people prefer no annual fee.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 50,000 Bonus Points Review

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit CardMost travel cards offer an ongoing sign-up bonus, but it’s even better when you snag them during a limited-time bump-up – this time it is the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase. The last time I wrote about their  offer was a year ago. The highlights for new Marriott cardholder include:

  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
  • For every $1 spent, earn 5 points at 4,000 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline ticket purchases directly with airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point everywhere else
  • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards points towards free nights
  • No limit to how many points you can earn
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees and enjoy wider acceptance when you travel with your embedded chip card and you make purchases at chip-enabled card readers
  • $0 Introductory annual fee, then $85

We’ve started traveling 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. Redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free. Hotels on their PointSavers list have temporarily reduced redemption costs.

50,000 points is enough to get you a night at any Category 8 hotel in the world. Or, 50,000 points can get you two nights at any Category 4 hotel plus a little left over. Or, it could get you five nights at a Category 2 hotel. The free night award can be used for up to a Category 5 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 some options that caught my eye.

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

Category 8 Hotels (40,000 points per night, 35,000 if Pointsaver)

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 Cat 1-5 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

As always, hotel points are only good if you can use and enjoy them. Poke around their award listings – Marriott has a lot of different hotel brands to choose from. The Courtyards I’ve stayed in have been modernized and updated, while SpringHill Suites are nice for families. I’ve also gotten to stay at some terrific properties thanks to such point promotions, although I tend to value location and convenience over the bling factor. There is an $85 annual fee that is not waived the first year.

If you’ve gotten a bonus from this Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card within the last 2 years, please note the following:

This 50,000 bonus point offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months.

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.

On your account anniversary, you’ll get a certificate for a free Category 1-5 night which you can weigh against another $85 annual fee. As long as you can use that certificate for a decent hotel, getting $85 value is certainly achievable. For example, a random night at the (Category 4) Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre was $115 when including taxes.

“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.”

Discover it Card Double Cash Back For 12 Months Promotion

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover has announced a new promotion for their Discover it Double Cash Back your first year. In addition to all the existing perks like 5% cash back categories and free monthly FICO score outlined in my Discover it Double Cash Back your first year review, they are also adding “Double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your 1st year—automatically.” for new applicants.

That means you would effectively earn 2% cash back on all purchases and 10% cash back on their rotating bonus categories during the first year of card membership. Here’s what we know about the bonus categories for the rest of 2015:


  • April through June 2015 is Restaurants and Movies. “Discover Cardmembers are signing up to get 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $1,500 in Restaurant and Movie purchases from now through June 2015.” Restaurants include full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias and fast food locations. Movies includes movie theaters, video rental stores, and online movie ticket services.
  • July through September 2015 is Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com. “Discover Cardmembers will sign up to get 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $1,500 in purchases in Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com from July through September 2015.”
  • October through December 2015 is Holiday Shopping. “Discover Cardmembers will sign up to get 5% Cashback Bonus when they shop for the holidays. Exciting program details, including the maximum you could earn, are coming August 2015.”

I know I certainly wouldn’t mind getting 10% back at restaurants, Home Depot, and Amazon.com. Gas stations were the rotating category from January to March 2015, so hopefully that will come back again early next year as well.

(Note: Depending on your usage of the 5% (again, doubled would be 10%) categories, you should also consider the Discover it Miles Card which also has a doubling offer for new applicants that works out to 3% cash back for the first 12 months.)

Discover also has a new feature called “Freeze It” that allows you to stop any new purchases in seconds by “freezing” your account via mobile app or website.

When you freeze your account, Discover will not authorize new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers. However, some activity will continue, including bills that merchants mark as recurring, as well as returns, credits, dispute adjustments, payments, Discover protection product fees, other account fees, interest, rewards redemptions and certain other exempted transactions.

There is also 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months (then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% – 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance).

I have a Discover it card as a “keeper” card as it has no annual fee and I can enjoy the 5% bonus categories and free FICO score whenever it suits me. Discover’s policy in the past had been to only allow one card per person, but now you can have two (i.e. you can have both a Discover it and a Discover it Miles.)

  • Discover it® Double Cash Back your first year Application

Citi Prestige and Global Entry Application Fee Reimbursement Experience


After researching the details for my Citi Prestige Card review, I went ahead and applied for one since I felt I could get over $1,400 of value in exchange for the $450 annual fee. Part of that would come from the $100 application fee credit they give you when you apply for the Global Entry Program.

(Side note: I applied for the card and actually got an instant rejection online. Naturally, I was disappointed and planned on calling their reconsideration line in a few days. But before I got the chance, I was sent the card in a fancy welcome package via Next-Day Air. Curious!)

Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check Highlights. Here is a brief description of the Global Entry program from the Citi Prestige page:

Global Entry Membership allows international travelers expedited entry upon arrival in United States, by using automated kiosks when entering the United States. Once approved, Global Entry members can use automated kiosks in most major U.S. airports, rather than having to go through the traditional arrival process. There is a $100 application fee payable to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which administers the program. As a benefit of the Citi Prestige Card, Citi will provide one statement credit for this $100 application fee, once the fee is charged to the account. The $100 application fee credit will reset once every 5 years.

Global Entry automatically includes membership to TSA Pre-Check, which provides expedited security screening at participating airports in the US for eligible travelers. If in the (ideally shorter and faster-moving) TSA Pre-Check line, you won’t have to remove your belt, shoes, light jacket, or take out your your laptop from carry-on. See this Trusted Traveler Program comparison chart for details. TSA Pre-Check is open to U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.

You can also just apply to TSA Pre-Check separately, but that costs $85 on its own and also only lasts 5 years. Considering it would be reimbursed either way, it was a no-brainer for me to just apply to Global Entry for $100. Here is a brief summary of the qualification criteria for Global Entry:

To qualify you must be a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent residents of the U.S., and citizens of certain other countries are eligible for Global Entry membership provided that they:
*Have never been convicted of a criminal offense in any country
*Have never been found in violation of customs, immigration or agricultural laws
*Do not provide false or incomplete information on their application
*Are not the subject of an investigation by any Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency.

Global Entry Application Process. I applied on 5/6 and was given “conditional approval” on 5/10. That meant that I was allowed to go online and schedule my in-person interview at my nearest Global Entry Enrollment Center, which for me (and probably most people) was at the US Customs and Border Patrol office at an international airport. I could have gotten a spot in under a week, but based on my availability the best time was 8 days later on 5/18.

The interview involved bringing my passport and one additional form of identification, answering some brief interview questions, standing for a mugshot and thumbprints, and finally watching a short 5-minute video on the rules of Global Entry. It took about 30 minutes including wait time.

That same day, I was notified online that I was approved and given my Global Entry membership number which can be used as part of the Trusted Traveler Program. I quickly typed this number into my frequent flier accounts in the hopes of getting expedited TSA Pre-Check lines for my upcoming travel. A few days later I received a physical membership card via US postal mail. The Global Entry card can be used for border crossing by car or boat.

Citi Prestige Fee Reimbursement Timeline. The terms and conditions state the following:

Citi Prestige® account cardmembers are eligible to receive one (1) statement credit per account, every five (5) years up to $100, for either the Global Entry or the TSA Pre Check® application fee. Cardmember must charge the application fee of at least $85 to their Citi Prestige® Card to be eligible for the statement credit. Cardmembers will receive a statement credit for the first program (either Global Entry or TSA Pre Check®) to which they apply and pay for with their eligible card, regardless of whether they are approved for Global Entry or TSA Pre Check®.

The one (1) statement credit every five (5) years for the application fee charged to the Citi Prestige® credit card account is applied by Citi directly to the card account. Please allow 1-2 billing cycles after the qualifying Global Entry or TSA Pre ? ® is charged to the eligible account for the statement credit to be posted to the account.

Even though the terms tell you to allow 1-2 billing cycles, I was credited the $100 right before the close of the statement cycle in which I made the $100 application fee charge (along with my $450 annual fee). For example, my first statement cycle closed 5/18 and here is a screenshot from my account:


People with kids should note that while TSA Pre-Check allows children 12 and under to go with you in line without separate membership, Global Entry requires every single person (no matter the age) to have their own separate Global Entry membership in order to use the special kiosks.

Capital One Spark Business Credit Cards: $500 or 50,000 Miles Bonus

sparkyLooks like the small business credit card competition is heating up. Capital One has temporarily upped the sign-up bonus on both of their small business cards:

Capital One Spark® Cash for Business is offering a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months. There is a $59 annual fee that is waived for the first year. “Existing or previous Accountholders may not be eligible for this one-time bonus.” Note that there is also a Spark Select for Business and Spark Classic that are different cards with lower sign-up bonsues but no annual fee.

The Spark Cash for Business offers 2% cash back for all purchases, which is strong, but you have to weigh that against the $59 annual fee after the first year. If it was 2% with no annual fee, that would be keeper business card for sure. Just comparing the two CapOne cards head-to-head, you have to spend more than $11,800 every year to make the 2% back and $59 annual fee (Spark Cash) pay out more rewards than 1.5% back and no annual fee (Spark Cash Select).

Capital One Spark® Miles for Business is offering one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel- once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months. There is a $59 annual fee that is waived for the first year. “Existing or previous Accountholders may not be eligible for this one-time bonus.” Similar to the offer above, the Spark Miles offers 2 miles per dollar with the $59 annual fee but there is also a Spark® Miles Select for Business that offers 1.5 miles per dollar with no annual fee.

As far as “normal” small business spend, I usually don’t charge more than $12,000 a year on my small business. My primary expenses are web hosting, cell phone, internet, and office equipment. But if you spend a lot on stuff that doesn’t fit in the 5%/2% bonus categories of the Chase Ink Cash or Chase Ink Plus cards (office supply, internet, cell phone, cable TV, gas stations, restaurants), then these cards may be a good fit as a primary small business card.

Here are some selected quotes from the fine print for the Spark Cash card (not Miles):

How does my spend bonus work?
You will earn a $500 bonus if you spend at least $4,500 within 3 months of your rewards membership enrollment date. Once you qualify for this bonus, we will apply it to your rewards balance within two billing cycles. Existing or previous Accountholders may not be eligible for this one-time bonus.

How do I redeem my rewards?
You can get your cash back upon request in the form of a statement credit or a check. You can also set up an automatic redemption preference; options include: (1) at a set time each calendar year or (2) when a specific threshold ($25, $50, $100 or $200) has been reached. Just go online to capitalone.com or contact our Rewards Center. […] Until you set up an automatic redemption preference, you will receive your cash back each year in the form of a check issued in your rewards membership anniversary month.

I’m not sure why someone would pick the miles over the cash, since the miles are restricted to use over travel. My theory is that some businesses like that the miles aren’t cash because then they can be given out as a non-taxable perk like other frequent flier miles?

Note: I do not receive any referral fees for the application links above. They are the best publicly-available offers that I could find. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

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

Updated with new sites and screenshots. Here’s how to grab a free credit score without the hassle of annoying trial membership offers, providing credit card numbers, or having to remember to cancel afterward. The government allows you to get a free credit report once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. But what about tracking your numerical credit score?

There are three major credit bureaus, each with their own information about you: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. Besides just a score, many offer data taken directly from your credit reports like account balances, credit inquiries, and any negative marks. Some even offer free daily credit monitoring with e-mail alerts.

Credit Sesame


Credit Sesame offers you a free credit score every month, either based on your Experian or TransUnion credit report (VantageScore). It appears that some older members (like myself) still get the Experian data, but newer members tend to see TransUnion-based data. Range is from 300-850. They also offer free daily credit monitoring, either via e-mail alerts or smartphone app. They make money with ads on the site.

No trial or credit card required. You will need to provide your personal information and Social Security number to some of these companies, naturally, so be comfortable with that. None of these methods by themselves will affect your credit score as you are requesting them for yourself.

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



Quizzle.com offers a free credit score based on your Equifax credit report (VantageScore), updated once every 6 months. They also provide a free, full copy of your Equifax credit score once every six months. No trial or credit card required. The score scale is also 300-850. Quizzle is also ad-supported, they are under the same umbrella as Quicken Loans so don’t be surprised if they offer you a mortgage quote.



CreditKarma.com offers you two free credit scores, based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and updated weekly. Range is 300-850. You can also opt-in to free daily credit monitoring based on your TransUnion data. No trial or credit card required. Credit Karma is ad-supported; I’m usually pitched various credit cards.



LendingTree.com offers a free credit score based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore), updated once a month. Range is from 300-850. LendingTree is a mortgage broker, so they will likely try to pitch you a mortgage quote.



Credit.com offers a free credit score based on your Experian credit report (VantageScore), updated once a month. Range is from 300-850. Credit.com is ad-supported; I’m usually pitched various credit cards.

Free Monthly FICO Score

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


Discounted One-Time FICO Score

Finally, if you want a discounted FICO score without having to sign up for a new credit card, you’ll need both a credit card and sign up for a trial. This should be saved for cases where you really want your FICO score. You can sign up for a month of ScoreWatch at MyFICO.com for $14.95. You’ll get an instant free Equifax credit report and Equifax FICO credit score. The regular price for a FICO score is $19.95 so you’ll be saving 25%. You must call 1.888.577.5978 to cancel but will be charged each month you renew.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card Review

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card is now offering 30,000 United miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months.  A card specifically designed for those who fly United, and fly them often.

Here are the highlights for the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card:

  • Start with 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per roundtrip
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Your miles don’t expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

All in all, a good card for regular United fliers with the free bags and priority boarding. Every year you spend $25,000 in purchases using your United MileagePlus Explorer Card, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles. That means at 25k of spending, you’ll be getting 1.4 miles per dollar on all purchases.

Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

“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.”

AT&T Access More MasterCard from Citi Review – GSM Phone Offer (Up to $650)

accessmore180Our partner Citi has launched yet another new card, AT&T Access More MasterCard® from Citi. This AT&T co-branded card obviously targets a niche, but read on if you will be in the market for a new GSM phone in the next year ($650 is the full price of a new iPhone 6). As such, this card took a little extra research and analysis. Be sure to read all the details before applying, so you understand how to get everything possible out of this offer.

“Exclusive New Phone Offer” details. Yes, the offer screams “new phone”! But lots of ads say that. What kind of new phone? Does it include iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6? What strings are attached? Do I need to sign a contract?

  • You must spend $2,000 in purchases with your AT&T Access More Card within 3 months of account opening. As with other sign-up bonuses, this is the spending hurdle. The application page also says “If you buy a new phone now it will count toward the $2,000 in qualifying purchases!”. At first, I read this to mean “buy a phone and you don’t need to spend $2,000 anymore”. Nope. It’s just reminding you that if, for example, you buy a $650 phone on this card, then you’ll only need to spend another $1,350 on the card to meet the $2,000 threshold.
  • You can get any new phone on the AT&T website. Apple iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung S6, Samsung S6 Edge, flip phone, whatever.
  • They’ll give you up to $650 back towards a new phone bought full price with no annual contract… At first this may seem like a negative, man I have to buy it at full price? But that’s actually a good thing when the credit is for up to $650! For example, an iPhone 6 starts at $649.99 and Samsung S6 starts at $684.99. (Taxes, shipping, fees, and wireless service not included.)
  • … which also means lower monthly bills! When you essentially bring your own device (BYOD) buy buying the phone outright, AT&T will give you lower bills in the form of $15 to $25 off each month on their Mobile Share Value plans. Also, the $40 per-line activation fee is waived when you buy the phone at full price (and is not waived for 2-year contracts). More details on this below.
  • Since you own the phone and are not on a contract, you can also unlock it for use on any carrier. You can find unlock instructions at att.com/deviceunlock. are the AT&T unlock instructions [pdf]. Postpaid customers have an active account for at least 60 days, with no past due or unpaid balance. Non-AT&T customers can request a phone unlock before activating the phone on an AT&T plan. After submitting your request, the unlock should be done within 48 hours.
  • You must buy the phone using their special link. After you buy the phone, then activate it on an AT&T monthly plans of you choice for at least 15 days. Remember, you’re not bound to a contract after that. It’s easier just to quote from their Terms and Conditions:

    You must purchase an eligible phone from AT&T with your AT&T Access More Credit Card from Citi (the “Card”) using the Phone Offer Link created individually for you. This link may be accessible to you in several locations including, but not limited to, your approval screen at the time you apply, an email welcoming you to Access More Card membership (if you provide a valid email address) and through your Online Account at citi.com/att. You may redeem the Phone Offer using the link at any time after your Card account opening. Once you have made $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your Card account opening, and purchased and activated your eligible phone, Citi will credit your account for the cost of the eligible phone you purchased up to $650 (exclusive of taxes, fees, shipping and wireless service) within 1 to 2 billing cycles. If you choose to purchase an eligible phone which costs more or less than $650, your credit will equal the cost of the phone or $650, whichever is less.

Side question: How does paying full price for a phone compare with the subsidized 2-year contract or the AT&T Next plan? Most people don’t pay full price for a phone. It’s a lot of money. AT&T Next is basically like agreeing to pay full price for a phone but they let you pay in monthly installments instead. So the $650 iPhone 6 would $21.67 for 30 months (multiply that out and you get $650.10.) Nothing really special there. The traditional alternative is that you get a subsidized phone but you enter a 2-year contract at a higher monthly bill. Here’s how the two options compare:

  • The phone subsidy with a 2-year contract is $450, but you have a $40 activation fee. So the $650 iPhone 6 would only cost $200, plus a $40 per-line activation fee.
  • The monthly bill subsidy with a full price phone adds up to either $360 or $640 over 2 years. With the full price phone, there is no activation fee. If your Mobile Share Value plan comes with 6GB of data or less, you get a $15 discount per month per line. $15 times 24 months = $360. If your Mobile Share Value plan comes with 10GB or more, you get a $25 discount per month per line. $25 times 24 months = $600.

So if you compare the savings between the full price plan as 2-year contract, you’re either behind by $50 over two years, or ahead by $190 over two years. So worst case you’re behind by $50 at the 2-year mark, but if you kept your full price phone and cheaper-by-$15 plan for just an extra 4 months past the contract end date, you’d be ahead again.

Ongoing card rewards program highlights. This card also has a unique rewards program using Citi ThankYou points:

  • 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 you spend on purchases made online at retail and travel websites*
  • 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 you spend on products and services purchased directly from AT&T*
  • 1 point earned for every $1 you spend on other purchases*
  • 10,000 Anniversary bonus points after you spend $10,000 in prior cardmembership year*
  • $95 annual fee.

Here are snippets from the fine print that I think are helpful:

Retail websites are websites that sell goods directly to the consumer through an online website and include department store websites, specialty store websites, warehouse store websites and boutique websites. Travel websites are websites that allow you to book travel and include online travel agencies, hotel websites and airline websites.

AT&T purchases are AT&T consumer products and/or services purchased directly from AT&T. AT&T consumer products and services must be purchased from www.att.com, www.telephones.att.com, AT&T owned stores or AT&T customer service centers. Purchases from independent wireless dealers or AT&T resellers are not eligible, unless they are for payment of AT&T service.

That means you can get 3 ThankYou points per $1 of purchases at Amazon.com, Costco.com, Apple.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Expedia.com, and so on as well at your AT&T monthly service bill. Please see my Citi ThankYou Premier card review for details on redeeming your ThankYou points for at least $100 value per 10,000 points, but note that the special 25% bonus on travel redemption only apply if you also hold the ThankYou Premier card (you can redeem points earned from this card). Throw in the even-more special American Airlines flight awards from the Citi Prestige card and those 3X ThankYou categories start looking even better.

Bottom line. This is a niche card for folks that will soon be in the market for a new GSM phone, especially AT&T customers. (Non-AT&T customers can request a phone unlock before activating the phone on an AT&T plan, after which you’ll have an unlocked GSM phone that can be used on another GSM carrier. Afterward, you’ll still need to activate an AT&T plan for 15 days to get the credit.) If that’s you, then the sign-up bonus is very generous – up to $650 towards a full-price, no-contract AT&T GSM phone. Looking at all the scenarios above, even in the worst case you’d be behind $50 after two years vs. buying new AT&T phone via 2-year contract. There is also the $95 annual fee. That’s still a net benefit of over $500 and thus one of the top credit card sign-up bonuses currently available. The card then offers you ongoing bonus rewards on AT&T service as well as an interestingly broad category of “retail websites”. However, that $95 annual fee is rather high unless you spend $10,000 annually on the card and get the 10,000 ThankYou point anniversary bonus to offset 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.”