Discover Apple Pay 10% CashBack Bonus – Up to $2,000 Value!

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover credit cards will work with Apple Pay starting on September 16th, 2015. But the big news is that per this press release, those who pay with their Discover card using Apple Pay from 9/16 to 12/31/15 will automatically earn an extra 10% Cashback Bonus on up to $10,000 of in-store purchases. (Discover it Miles, Miles and Escape cardmembers will earn an extra 10 miles per dollar on up to $10,000 of in-store purchases.)

“We are excited for Discover cardmembers to have the ability to use Apple Pay. Rewards have always been important to our cardmembers, and we want to make sure they receive a generous offer for shopping with Discover and Apple Pay,” said Heather Roche, vice president of rewards at Discover. “We want to encourage new and existing Discover cardmembers to add their Discover card to Apple Pay with a few simple clicks using our mobile app, take advantage of this 10% Cashback Bonus, and experience the ease and convenience of using Apple Pay.”

Works with Double Cashback promotion! 10% of $10,000 of purchases is $1,000. But it gets even better for those already people signed up for Double Cashback in 2015, because Discover has confirmed multiple times via their official Twitter channel that it will double this as well! That makes it up to $2,000 in total extra bonuses, on top of the normal cash back of 5% in rotating categories and 1% on everything else (which will also be doubled at the end of the year). If you want to triple-confirm, click here and start a chat session direct with Discover.

Don’t have a Discover card yet? It’s not too late. The promo lasts until the end of 2015, so there is time to apply. New applicants of the Discover card through this referral link can get both a a $50 Cashback Bonus after you make your first purchase within 3 months and get the Double First Year Cash Back promotion. The $50 will then be doubled at the end of the year, so if you keep the card open it becomes effectively a $100 bonus. Click on the application link and then on the “See rates, rewards and other info” link and look for the following details in the fine print:

TERMS OF CASHBACK BONUS OFFER: Get a $50 Cashback Bonus after you make your first purchase within 3 months of being approved. Promotional award will be applied within 8 weeks. The promotional award is in addition to the Cashback Bonus earned on all purchases.

Double First Year Cash Back: After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will double all the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the next billing cycle. You’ve earned rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. You will not receive Double Cash Back if your account is closed or no longer in the cash back reward program as of the award date. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

Additional information.

  • Here are all the physical stores where Apple Pay is accepted. It’s too long to copy-and-paste here, but notable ones include Apple Stores (how about 20% off Apple products?), Babies R Us and Toys R US (stack with their own coupons), BJ’s Warehouse, Chevron (20% off gas!), Sports Authority, Staples, Walgreens, and Whole Foods.
  • The quick and direct method on this would be to purchase gift cards in-store, as this will allow you to time-shift your purchases if you didn’t plan on spending $10,000 at those merchants otherwise.
  • According to the official Discover Twitter account, the 10% bonus will post within two statement cycles.
  • Apple Pay works in physical stores with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch, as well as iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus when they come out. You will need to upgrade to iOS 9 (will be released 9/16) and add your Discover card to the Wallet app.
  • This promotion is so potentially valuable, people without iPhones are trying to figure out if it is worth to buy one just to get in on this promotion. You could also use it as an excuse to upgrade your older iPhone. :) I have read reports that Apple Pay does not require cellular service to work if you have WiFi available, but I haven’t yet done the research myself.

This should be quite a profitable promo, will update after I make my first few purchases. I’ve never used Apple Pay before, I should probably make a practice purchase so I don’t mess things up. 😉

Fidelity 2% Cash Back Credit Cards At Risk?

fidoamexOne of my long-time favorite credit cards is a grandfathered Fidelity College Rewards MasterCard that gives me 2% flat cash back on all purchases. I’m not sure exactly when I first applied for this card, but it was in the early 2000s. The current Fidelity line-up as of September 2015 is still pretty good (if you have a Fidelity account):

All three of these cards, including my legacy MasterCard, are issued by FIA Card Services, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank of America.

But watch out, this Bloombers article says that Fidelity Investments is considering dropping AmEx, BofA as partners:

Fidelity Investments is considering dropping American Express Co. and Bank of America Corp. to find new partners and better terms for one of the top-rated cash-back credit cards in the U.S., according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. are in talks with Fidelity, vying to replace AmEx on a card that’s been amassing customers for more than six years, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because negotiations are private. AmEx is parting with Costco Wholesale Corp. and JetBlue Airways Corp., and losing the Fidelity deal would affect a key area of growth: facilitating transactions in which another bank is the lender.

Here’s my previous post on how Costco dropped American Express for its future co-branded credit cards.

Does dropping FIA as an issuer mean the Fidelity 2% cash back cards will also get the axe? The 2% cash back graveyard already includes Schwab, Priceline, and Sallie Mae co-branded cards. I’ve racked up thousand of dollars in 2% cash back rewards from Fidelity, which have grown even more my sitting in a tax-deferred Fido 529 account. I think this shows that the co-branding has encouraged me to keep assets with Fidelity, but if they kill the card I will probably roll my 529 funds into another plan like Utah.

Does “better terms” mean better for Fidelity’s profit margin, or better for their customers? By ending the relationship entirely, perhaps that would make it easier for Fidelity to say “sorry, we broke up, all existing cards must go”. On the other hand, maybe Fidelity has the negotiating power to get another issuer on board with 2% cash back? I really can’t see it going any higher than 2%.

If it does end, there will still be cards that can get you 2% in value, but as the article notes the only remaining 2% flat cash back card with no annual fee will be the Citi® Double Cash Card (review). I applied for this new Citi card is a back-up play, in case Citi also closes it to new customers but grandfathers existing users into the 2% cash back. After I paid my Citi bill using my bank account online twice, I can now get the full 2% cash back by requesting my rewards to be sent online back to that same bank account.

Free FICO Score from Chase Credit Cards

fico_chase_slate0This post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to select Chase credit card holders.

Background. Chase started offering free FICO® scores to select US cardholders in March 2015. In addition to your FICO® Score, their Credit Dashboard will provide a score history as well as detail the factors that go into calculating your score. Currently, only their Chase Slate® card offers this feature. There have been no announced plans to expand this feature to other Chase cards.

FICO Score details.

  • FICO Score version: FICO Score 8, or FICO 08. This is the most widely used of the many FICO flavors. Score version is based on various reports and their participation in the FICO Score Open Access Program.
  • Credit bureau: Experian
  • Update frequency: Monthly
  • Limitations: Available only to select Chase credit cards. The current list is only one card:

How to find the score. You can find the free FICO score on your online account access. If you cannot find it and you opened your account prior to April 2015, you may need to contact Chase Customer Service (secure online message is recommended) and specifically request access to the FICO score and Credit Dashboard feature. This feature was first rolled out to new customers and later existing customers.

I don’t have this card myself (anymore), but I did find some images provided by users on the myFICO forums. After logging in, look on your right sidebar for information regarding your “Credit Dashboard”. See screenshots below (click to enlarge):

fico_chase_slate1

You will be shown your current FICO score, a historical score chart, and key factors impacting your score (click to enlarge):

fico_chase_slate2

You will also be shown more detailed information based on your Experian credit report, such as your current credit utilization ratio:

fico_chase_slate3b

Fine print:

Your FICO® Score displayed is for your educational purposes and based on data from Experian. It may be different from other credit scores used by Chase and other lenders in making credit decisions. This information is available online only at Chase.com to primary cardmembers with an open account, provided Experian has sufficient credit history in a credit file for a FICO® Score to be generated. Once approved for the Slate card, it may take up to seven days for your FICO® Score and related information to be available on Chase.com. Chase reserves the right to make changes or discontinue this feature at any time. FICO® is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Free FICO Score from Barclaycard Credit Cards

fico_barc1This post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to Barclaycard US credit card holders.

Background. Barclaycard started offering free FICO® scores to select US cardholders in late 2013, gradually increasing the rollout over time. In addition to your FICO® Score, you’ll also see up to 2 factors affecting your score and a historical chart tracking your score after 3 months of history.

FICO Score details.

How to find the score. You can find the free FICO score on your online account access and via the Barclaycard mobile app. You must enroll by visiting the Account Summary page and clicking on the Tools link. You will be prompted to view some information about the complimentary program, and if you are okay with the terms click the “Accept” button. See screenshot below (click to enlarge):

fico_barc2

Here is the latest score, a score meter, and the top two factors impacting your score (click to enlarge):

fico_barc3

They also provide a score history. You can see that the score is not updated every month, but instead the update interval varies between approximately a month and three months (click to enlarge).

fico_barc4

Here is a screenshot from the Barclaycard smartphone app (click to enlarge):

fico_barc5

Fine print:

Barclaycard offers FICO® Score access at its own discretion. FICO® Score access is not a permanent feature of your account and may be removed at any time. To view your FICO® Score, your account with us must be open and active (having activity within the past 150 days). Not all accounts will have a FICO® Score to display including but not limited to, accounts without a United States address, accounts without charging privileges, and accounts opened for 30 days or less.

Your FICO® Score falls into a range from 300 to 850 and is calculated based on TransUnion credit data. Your FICO® Score is not an endorsement or a determination of your qualification for a loan or credit. Credit score models and score ranges may differ by lender.

Free FICO Score from Citi Credit Cards

citidouble200This post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to Citibank credit card holders.

Background. While their plans were announced in late 2014, Citi started offering free FICO scores to select cardholders in January 2015.

FICO Score details.

How to find the score. You can find the free FICO score on your online account access. According to a January 2015 press release, you can also request them to mail it to you. After logging in, look for either the “View your FICO Score” link or click on the “Card Benefits” tab. See screenshot below (click to enlarge):

fico_citi_1

Here are some example screenshots of what information is provided. Here is the latest score, a score meter, and the top two factors impacting your score:

fico_citi_2

They also provide a score history:

fico_citi_3

Here is a visual of the score range to help understand what each range means to lenders:

fico_citi_4

Fine print:

Your FICO® Score is calculated based on data from Equifax using the FICO® Bankcard Score 8 model and may be different from other credit scores. FICO® Scores are intended for and delivered only to the Primary cardmember and only if a FICO® Score is available. Disclosure of this score is not available for all Citi products and Citi may discontinue displaying the score at our discretion.

Free FICO Score from Discover Credit Cards

Discover it 14 ImageThis post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to Discover credit card holders.

Background. While a pilot program started in late 2013, Discover started offering a free FICO score to all cardholders in early 2014.

FICO Score details.

  • FICO Score version: FICO Score 8, or FICO 08. This is the most widely used of the many FICO flavors. Score version is directly from TransUnion representative.
  • Credit bureau: TransUnion
  • Update frequency: Monthly
  • Limitations: Available to all Discover consumer cards. This includes:

How to find the score. You can find the free FICO score on your online account access, your paper statements, and the Discover mobile app.

Here are some screenshots from the website (click to enlarge):

fico_discover1

fico_discover2

Here is a screenshot from the Discover app (click to enlarge):

fico_discover3

Here is a sample picture of a paper statement with the FICO score on it (click to enlarge):

fico_discover5

Fine print:

FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score and key factors are based on data from TransUnion and may be different from other credit scores. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary cardmembers who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score is provided on the statement for individual accounts and on Discover.com with key factors for individual and joint accounts. You will see up to a year of recent scores starting when you become a cardmember. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as a FICO® Credit Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Free FICO Score from American Express Credit Cards

amex_spgThis post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to American Express credit card holders.

Background. In late 2014, American Express started piloting free FICO scores to select cardholders. In late August 2015, American Express has rolled out the free FICO scores much more widely. See additional information below. In previous years, AmEx cardholders could view their Experian PLUS credit score and credit report once every 12 months.

FICO Score details.

  • FICO Score version: FICO Score 8, or FICO 08. This is the most widely used of the many FICO flavors. Score version is directly shown on the website.
  • Credit bureau: Experian
  • Update frequency: Monthly
  • Limitations: Available to all American Express consumer credit and charge cards. See details below.

How to find the score. You can find the score after logging into your online account access. In order to see it, you must be viewing the American Express website in its “new” design layout (see screenshots below). If you are still on the “old” layout, try to unlink any cards for which you are the authorized user. In many cases, this will let you revert to the new design layout. Here are some screenshots.

Look for the “My Free FICO Score” link on your sidebar (click to enlarge):

fico_amex1

You will have to opt-in:

fico_amex3

Here’s what your score report looks like (click to enlarge):

fico_amex2

Fine print:

The FICO® Score we provide is the FICO® Score 8 based on data from Experian and may be different from other credit scores. FICO® Scores and educational content are delivered only to Primary card members who get a monthly statement and have an available score. This information is intended only for the Primary card members own review purposes. American Express and other lenders may use different inputs like a FICO® Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. Because it is continuously updated, your FICO® Score may not reflect the most current data on your credit report. This benefit may change or end in the future.

The Many Flavors of FICO Credit Scores

fico_brEvery week it seems there is a new way to get a free FICO score. Over the last 10 years, I’m pretty sure I’ve only paid for a FICO score once when I was paranoid about my first mortgage application. Why aren’t they charging us $15 a pop anymore? My opinion is that FICO realized that:

  1. If they didn’t start making FICO scores more accessible, the government would force them offer free FICO scores to everyone like they did with free annual credit reports. Nowadays, I think we take for granted that we get a free credit report every year. Before the 2003 FACT Act, we had to pay to view our own credit report data.
  2. The alternative free credit score providers were getting very cozy directly with the credit bureaus, and their free FAKO scores and partial reports were getting good enough and popular enough that people might stop caring about FICO scores if they didn’t start marketing directly to consumers. Nowadays the FICO brand has much more publicity.

Anyhow, I was doings some research on their website when I noticed that they provided the following chart about the various versions of FICO:

fico_flavors

While these flavors have been around for a long time, they’ve only been well-known to industry insiders (and credit card afficionados). I had never seen FICO actually share all of these versions in the name of “consumer education”. If people actually knew there were so many different credit score flavors, they would have been less willing to pay big bucks for a single score that their lender may not even use. I guess now the game is that you get a single free “vanilla” FICO score from select credit cards, but you can buy all 19 FICO flavors for a $60 one-time snapshot from all 3 bureaus, or $30 a month for an ongoing subscription. If you get all these scores, you’re at least likely to see what the lender sees. Nicely done.

My own scores always hover in the upper 700s but rarely goes far above 800 because I am constantly “using” them to try out new credit card perks and take advantage of attractive sign-up bonuses. There is definitely a happy range where I can do this while not experiencing any ill effects like a higher auto insurance premium. However, I still don’t see the need to pay $360 a year to track my FICO scores. I’d rather spend my money at Baskin Robbins and pick from their 31 delicious flavors.

Expedia+ Voyager Card from Citi Review

expediaplusvoyagerExpedia.com has revamped their in-house loyalty rewards program. Citi and Expedia have partnered on a new set of co-branded credit cards. How does the combo work out for us travelers? This review covers the Voyager version, which is the premium card for the frequent Expedia user.

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®+ Voyager Card from Citi is meant to help regular 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 25,000 Expedia+ bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening*
  • Points redeemable for $350 towards your stay at a +VIP AccessTM hotel
  • 4 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and travel packages*
  • 2 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on dining out and entertainment*
  • 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on other purchases*
  • Enjoy Expedia+ gold status each year of cardmembership*
  • $100 Annual Air Travel Fee Statement Credit can be used toward airline incidentals or for either the Global Entry or the TSA Pre ?® application fees*

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, such as using their mobile apps.

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

  • 30% bonus on your base points earned with +Gold status (+Gold is free with this card)
  • +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per booking at a +VIP Access™ hotels.
  • 4 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages*
  • 2 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on purchases for dining out and entertainment, including tickets to concerts, movies and sporting events*
  • 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent 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.

expedia_redeem_reg

expedia_redeem_vip

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:

expedia_hotel_reg

expedia_hotel_vip

In general, +VIP Access™ hotels tend to be more luxurious, although not always. 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 +Gold status as long as you are a cardmember. If you didn’t have this card, you would either have to book 15 nights or spend $10,000 in calendar year to achieve +Gold status.

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

expedia_tiers_small

I would say the primary benefit is that with +Gold you get a 30% bonus on your base points earned on travel booked through Expedia. Also, only +Gold members can get free room upgrades at +VIP Access™ hotels (based on availability). Another benefit is “exclusive perks” at select ++VIP Access™ hotels, such as a free mini-bar access, free parking, or resort credits. Finally, +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per +VIP Access booking.

Final Thoughts

The Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi is best for people who already use Expedia regularly for booking travel (or another price comparison site and are willing to switch to Expedia). The strength of this card is similar to Expedia itself – faster rewards while picking the cheapest hotel and flight every time, instead of sometimes paying a premium because you want to maintain loyalty or “status” perks.

Here’s an example of using the card to accelerate your Expedia rewards. If you used this card to pay for a $550 hotel booking on Expedia, you could earn the base 2 Expedia+ points per $1 spent, plus another 0.6 points per $1 spent from Gold+ status (30%), plus 4 Expedia+ points from the credit card. That adds up to 6.6 points per dollar spent, or 3,630 points. That is already enough to get you a $50 +VIP Access™ hotels coupon (3,500 points). $50 is over 9% of $550.

In addition to this card, there is also a no-annual-fee version called the Expedia®+ Card from Citi. I would lean towards this Voyager version because it comes with an $100 annual air travel fee credit good towards checked bags and either the Global Entry or TSA Precheck® application fee. That $100 can be used to offset the $95 annual fee. Once you cancel those two out, you’re left with a bigger sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and the better ongoing perks of +Gold status.

However, if you do keep to a specific chain of hotels (i.e. Hilton, Marriott, Starwood) then your net rewards may work out better if you have the chain-specific cards. Personally, I just don’t use Expedia enough to justify getting this card. If 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.”

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 15,000 Expedia+ bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening*
  • Points redeemable for $200 towards your stay at a  +VIP AccessTM hotel*
  • 3 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and travel packages*
  • 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on other purchases*
  • Enjoy Expedia+ silver status each year of cardmembership
  • 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*

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.

expedia_redeem_reg

expedia_redeem_vip

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:

expedia_hotel_reg

expedia_hotel_vip

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:

expedia_tiers_small

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:

aprhistory

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

0aprcredit2

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.

aprhistory2