Citi Prestige Card Review: New 40,000 Point Offer, Feature Changes

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card Art

Our partner Citi has relaunched the Citi Prestige® Card, their premium ThankYou point rewards card. The sign-up bonus is now 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Here are the updated highlights:

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre ?®
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay at hotels booked through Citi Prestige® Concierge
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for a $532 flight on any airline or $400 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • $450 annual fee, not waived the first year.

What’s different than before? While many features remain, there are a few notable changes from the previous offer.

  • The sign-up bonus was previously 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases.
  • Citi and American Airlines connection appears to be going away over time. For example, the application does not mention the previous ability to redeem at 1 ThankYou point = 1.6 cents in American Airlines airfare. There is now only the claim that you can redeem 1 ThankYou point = 1.33 cents in airfare from any airline. Thus, 40k ThankYou points are redeemable for a $532 flight on any airline or $400 in gift cards.
  • Existing Citi Prestige cardholders have been told that the ability to obtain complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges will be ending July 23, 2017. Free access to the Priority Pass Select program and its affiliated airport lounges will remain.

What’s the same as before?

  • $250 Statement Credit for Air Travel each year. Unlike other cards, airfare counts as well as baggage fees, lounge access, and other incidental purchases. This renews every calendar year, so it can be used to help offset the annual fee every year. Specifically, “This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.”
  • Citi ThankYou points also transfer directly to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit details. Citi will cover the $100 application fee on a one-time basis when you charge it to the card. Global Entry allows you to get through international customs faster when entering the US. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck as well. The $100 application fee credit will reset once every 5 years.

My personal bottom line. As an existing cardholder, there is no doubt the card has lost some important features. I’ve gotten my $100 Global Entry credit and $250 annual airfare credits without issue. But my most often-used feature, the Admiral Club lounge access will last until July 2017 but will disappear after that. Unless the annual fee drops significantly, that single change will probably make it not worth paying for another annual fee.

Overall bottom line: This card still offers a pretty good package during the first year of cardownership. Assuming you fly enough on any airline to make the airfare purchases, you can redeem the $250 annual airfare credit in both later 2016 and again in early 2017, for a total of $500 statement credit. (The $250 annual credit resets every December billing statement.) Then you have the $532 in airfare redemption value from the 40,000 ThankYou points, good on any airline. That’s $1,032 of flexible value, minus the annual fee of $450, for $582 minimum net value in the first year. Then you add in whatever value you place on the other perks like $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement, 3/2/1 rewards tiers, and the 4th night free benefit.

In addition, if you have a big stash of Citi ThankYou points, getting this card could increase the value of your existing point balance due to the special 1.33 cents per ThankYou point conversion rate towards airfare.

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

Comcast Internet Essentials Review: Affordable Internet Access For Low-Income Households

comcastieComcast offers an affordable internet access program called Internet Essentials that provides high-speed internet service for $9.95 a month + taxes, a subsidized $150 computer with Microsoft Office, and free digital literacy training to eligible groups. Over time, they have expanded their eligibility rules and also added new features. Specifically, you now get:

  • XFINITY Cable Internet Service
  • 10 Mbps download & 2 Mbps upload speeds
  • No credit check
  • No activation or installation fee
  • No contract
  • Free modem + WiFi router rental

Here are the current ways to qualify for this program.

Low-income Families. You are eligible if you have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. If I read the income guidelines for the NSLP correctly, a family of 4 within the contiguous 48 states can’t make more than $31,590 a year to get free lunches during the 2016-2017 school year.

HUD Housing Assistance Households. You are eligible if you receive HUD housing assistance such as Public Housing, Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8 Vouchers) or Multifamily Vouchers (Project-Based Section 8).

Seniors Pilot Program. You must be 62 years old and live in one of the current eligible areas. You must also be enrolled in an eligible state or federal public assistance program. As of mid-2016, the list includes Boston, Palm Beach County, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Community College Student Pilot Program. You must be enrolled in an eligible community college, and also be a Pell Grant recipient. As of mid-2016, the list includes select community colleges in Colorado and Illinois.

In addition, for all groups, you must not have any outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than a year old. Families with outstanding debt more than one year old may still be eligible. You must also live in an area where Comcast Internet Service is available but have not subscribed to it within the last 90 days.

Problems and controversy. If you are already a low-income family that stretches to pay for Comcast internet access, you would need to cancel your existing service and then wait for a full 90 days before signing up for Internet Essentials. If the idea is to give your children the educational benefit of internet access, then it may be difficult to go without internet for 90 days.

This program is not supported with government taxes. Instead, it is a way for Comcast to make happy with various government regulators when they want to merge with another huge company. Indeed, Comcast as a monopoly or part of a duopoly in most areas may be the reason why average people are being charged $40 or $60 a month for basic internet access in the first place.

In any case, it exists, millions more households are eligible that aren’t signed up, and I think it is worth spreading the word. Apply online at internetessentials.com or over the phone (1-855-8-INTERNET or 1-855-846-8376).

Ally CashBack Credit Card Review: 2% Cash Back on Gas and Groceries + 10% Relationship Bonus

allycbccIf you have an Ally Bank savings or checking account, you’ve likely been pitched their new Ally CashBack credit card recently. Here are the highlights:

  • $100 bonus when you make $500 in eligible purchases during the first 3 billing cycles.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No limits on rewards categories.
  • 10% boost on earned rewards when you deposited into an eligible Ally Bank account.
  • No annual fee.
  • Intro 0% APR for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers. (No 0% APR on purchases.) Balance transfer fee is either $10 or 4%, whichever is greater.

As with all the big banks, Ally is working on their cross-marketing. They want you to keep your checking, savings, IRAs, brokerage, and credit cards all at the same place. Ally’s strong in the online banking side (named best online bank by Money Magazine for the fifth year in a row). Credit cards are here, and a brokerage arm is just around the corner (TradeKing). I am personally interested in such convenience, as for years Ally Bank has been my primary checking, savings, and CD accounts.

Including the 10% relationship bonus, this Visa Signature card would get you 2.2% cash back on gas stations and grocery stores and then 1.1% on all other purchases. While this structure is better than the traditional 1% flat credit cards, the competition has heated up in the last few years. Consider:

The best program to compare against is Bank of America. The BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and now at wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. Bank of America also offers a 10% bonus on rewards earned when you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account. However, they also have premium relationship tiers that offer up to a 75% bonus on rewards that would work out to 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. To me, this made it worth it to build up a “relationship” with them, including opening up a new brokerage account and new credit cards.

Ally touts this new card as “simple”, but what would have really been simple is a flat 2% cash back card on everything and then a small relationship bonus on top of that. That way, when taken together with an Ally Bank account, the card would have been the best in many respects. Combined with their high-interest deposit accounts, you’d have a combo that could shake up the industry. The weakest point of my Bank of America combo is their piddly 0.05% APY on savings accounts and sad CD rates, whereas one of the strongest points of Ally is the 1.00% APY of their savings account and highly-competitive CD rates.

Bottom line. The rewards are above-average overall, and might be worth a look for Ally-centric customers. However, there are top cards in the marketplace that offer close to a flat 2% on everything, and better gas and grocery-specific cards as well. I personally prefer to pick things à la carte unless the sum is greater than the parts, as is the current situation with Bank of America.

Google Fi: Simple, Pay As You Go Cell Plan With High-Speed International Data Included

filogoWe recently returned from a family trip to Europe, and I found myself missing my data plan more than ever before. I kept thinking about the slow 2G data that T-Mobile includes in their postpaid plans and how it might power data-light apps like maps, weather, Uber/taxi, and public transit “when is the next one coming?” apps. (Oh, how it would have helped in the pouring rain in the middle of the city with a 1 and 3-year old…) Why couldn’t this be offered to the rest of us for a half-decent price? I didn’t even consider surfing the web fully, watching a video, or streaming GPS directions due to the fear of a huge bill.

If you are a regular international traveler, you may have heard of the Google Project Fi cell phone plan. Here are the basics:

  • $20 a month flat for unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, and tethering. Non-WiFi international calls can get a bit expensive, $0.20 per minute inside the UK for example.
  • $10 a month per gigabyte of data used, either domestic or international. You pay only for what you use, down to the penny! So if you use exactly 1.4 GB of data, you end up paying $14.
  • No annual contract.
  • Taxes and fees not included, as with other postpaid plans.
  • You must use an approved Google phone. The new ones on sale are the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X (starts at $199 with activation). The older Nexus 6 is also an option.
  • Once you have activated service, you can add additional tablets like select iPads using their data-only SIM card, all while sharing the same data plan.

In the United States, your phone will switch between Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular networks based on which has the best signal. You have full access to the fastest 4G LTE networks where available.

Previously, international data was throttled to 256 kbps, which is roughly 3G speed. On July 12th, 2016, Google announced that due to an agreement with Three, those speed caps will increased “10-20X faster than before”. That means you’d be getting close to full 4G LTE speeds for international data. They also announced a limited-time offer of $150 off the Nexus 6P, bringing the base model down to $349 with activation.

There are some cons. If you are a big domestic data user and/or you have a family plan, Google Fi can end up being more expensive than existing plans from the major providers. There also doesn’t appear to be any plans to support other phones like Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.

Bottom line: Although it won’t work out as the cheapest for everyone, the simple elegance of this plan is the most intriguing feature. For you “digital nomads” out there, recent changes now make Google Fi one of the best plans for frequent international travelers that want high-speed smartphone data wherever they go.

UberPool vs. Public Transportation: New York City Promotion

It’s no secret that Uber wants to take over the world… or at least replace individual car ownership. Uber just announced a New York City UberPool promotion that offers unlimited rides this July and August:

  • Two-Week Unlimited Commute Card (July or August) for $49
  • Four-Week Unlimited Commute Card (July or August) for $79
  • Eight-Week Unlimited Commute Card (July and August) for $159

Trips must begin and end in Manhattan below 125th Street. Valid Monday–Friday from 7–10 AM and 5–8 PM. Valid for both new and existing Uber riders. A quick view of how UberPool works:

uberpool2

Quartz ran some rough numbers that found that this promotion can make with UberPool cheaper than taking the New York City Subway:

uberpool1

For now, this is a limited promotion. But I wonder about the future. Even as someone who lives in the suburbs, I have enjoyed the convenience and savings of Uber.

Amazon Prime Day 2016 Deals, Wal-Mart Free Shipping

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(Amazon Prime Day was July 12, 2016 and is now over. Some of the related deals below may still be live.)

Last year, Amazon made up it’s own Black Friday-esque holiday and called it Amazon Prime Day. It was mostly disappointing, but this year they have promised to do better and said that any marked deals will be at least a 20% discount from the previous 90-day average price. Hopefully, it will be worth a look and you’ll be able to save money on things you’ve been looking to buy anyway.

You must be an Amazon Prime member to get in on the deals, but free 30-day trial members also count. If you have a .edu e-mail address you can get a 6-month Amazon Student trial and $10.

Here are all the Amazon Prime Day deals, which will last until the end of July 12th 11:59pm Pacific. Selected ones below:

Other Amazon deals that are available:

  • Alexa users can get a $10 discount on their first Amazon order using Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Amazon Tap. Talk to your cylinder to find out more.
  • You can buy an Amazon Dash button for 99 cents and get $4.99 credit towards your first purchase. These WiFi-connected buttons can be hacked to do other things.
  • Free gift if you buy something $50+ from your Amazon baby registry.
  • $10 off your first Amazon PrimeNOW order of $20 or more with coupon code 10PRIMENOW. Do this by 7/12 and you’ll get another $10 off coupon on 7/13 that will be valid through 7/31.
  • Get 20% off Amazon Warehouse (open box and/or used items) with promo codes WDEARLY20 or WDEARLY.

I’ll try to update if anything interesting comes up. Note that other merchants will be piggy-backing on the publicity bandwagon. For example, Walmart.com is offering free shipping with no minimum purchase size through 7/15. Stack this with limited-time 5% cash back + $10 new user bonus from eBates, or the free 120-pack of water balloons from Wal-Mart offer ($14.43 value) for new TopCashBack members.

AmEx Special Offers: Home Depot, Sam’s Club Membership

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Updated. Two targeted offers that I have found on my account are:

  • $45 off new Sam’s Club membership. Get a 1X $45 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend $45+ in a single transaction in-Club on a new Sam’s Club Membership at any Sam’s Club location in the 50 U.S. states by 9/30/16. Valid on new memberships only.
  • 5% back on $100+ purchase at Home Depot. Get 5% back as a statement credit by using your enrolled Card to make eligible purchases of $100+ in a single transaction in-store at The Home Depot by August 31, 2016, on up to $2,000 in total purchases.

American Express cardholders can participate in “AmEx Offers” which offer discounts to various merchants. These promotions often offer the opportunity for easy savings without changing your spending habits. For places that I shop at regularly, I can often buy a gift card to lock in the savings.

Each separate card, including authorized users, may have different offers available to them. In addition, adding an offer to one card may remove the same offer from another card. Although as commenter Oleg notes “If you have multiple cards and you activated for an offer on one of them, this offer may disappear from others. You can open several [web browser] tabs, retrieve each card separately and apply for an offer.”

Here are the various ways to access these offers:

  • Log into your AmEx account online and scroll down until you see the “Amex Offers For You” tab.
  • Use the AmEx smartphone app.
  • Access via social media at AmExOffers.com – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.
  • Not everyone can access every offer, but the ones on Twitter tend to be available to everyone. You can track these on their Favorites page.

There are many different American Express cards today, but these two are my current favorites:

Chase Freedom 10% Back on Hotels and Car Rentals via Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Freedom credit card has a new special promotion offering 10% cash back on up to $2,500 in combined hotel and car rental purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards in July. Details:

  • The purchases must be made July 1–31, 2016.
  • Your actual travel dates can be any time.
  • Applies only to hotels and car rentals booked through ChaseUltimateRewards.com.

In general, ChaseUltimateRewards.com offers prices that are comparable to Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. Hotel prices do vary more than airfare, so I would still comparison shop side-by-side. Note that their hotel room quotes include taxes, which some other sites (like Expedia) add in very late in the checkout process. Also, I found how they listed rooms by TripAdvisor rating to be interesting.

This is addition to the quarterly 5% cash back category, which currently includes Restaurants and Wholesale Clubs (Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s).

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

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Limited-time 75,000 point offer. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, from our partner Citi, is their no-annual fee co-branded card featuring a new limited-time offer with the following perks:

  • Earn 75,000 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*. This is the highest bonus that I have seen on this no-annual-fee card.
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton portfolio.*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.*
  • Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases.*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No annual fee.*

This card is ideal for people who at least occasionally stay at Hilton hotels (as this card is also giving you a bunch of points and complimentary Silver status to try and get you to become more loyal). Hilton HHonors points are worth the most when redeemed for a hotel stay, as there aren’t really that many great cash-equivalent redemption options.

Silver Status perks include:

  • 15% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
  • 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
  • Complimentary in-room and lobby Standard Internet access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Canopy™ by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels)

Hilton points redemption varies from month to month. You can use this search tool to see how much a hotel will cost in any specific area (i.e. Honolulu or Paris). Here are some example redemptions for the months of April, May, and 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.
  • New York City, NU. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York – Times Square South is 70,000 points. Hilton Times Square is 80,000 points.

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

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

There is also another card called the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which has a $95 annual fee, but has better ongoing perks. I previously applied for the Reserve version and enjoyed nice stay in Hawaii with it, 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.”

JetBlue Will Match Virgin America Points For Potential $1,000 Airfare Value

jetblueva0Earlier this year, JetBlue wanted to merge with Virgin America, but Alaska Airlines ended up winning the bidding war. Now they are just fighting over potential customers, which means some interesting things for us!

The newest promotion offers to match your Virgin America Elevate points subject to certain conditions:

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How good is this deal? If you have 50,001 Virgin America points and fly one roundtrip on JetBlue by 8/31, you can get 75,000 free JetBlue points. 75,000 JetBlue points will vary in value, but a reasonable estimate is $1,050 in airfare. This is based on 1.4 cents per JetBlue point as calculated in my JetBlue credit card review. Assuming you live near a JetBlue-served airport, a roundtrip will cost a minimum of $68 to $200. Therefore, there is a lot of room for “profit” on this deal.

Additional details:

  • Elevate® members must email a screenshot of their account dashboard to pointsmatch@jetblue.com by 7/4/2016. Screenshots must include first name, last name, and points balance. Please include your TrueBlue number in the email. If you are not a TrueBlue member yet, sign up now.
  • Once we assess your balance and eligibility, we’ll email you to let you know if you’re officially registered for the promotion.
  • Then book and fly one roundtrip JetBlue flight by 08/31/16.

How do I get Virgin America Elevate points?

  • You might already have some from being a Virgin America customer.
  • You can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points on a 1:1 basis. If you transfer a minimum of 20,000 points, you’ll get 25,000 Virgin Elevate points. Thus, if transfer 40,001 SPG points, that would give you exactly 50,001 Virgin Points.
  • You can transfer Citi ThankYou points on a 2:1 basis. So 10,000 Citi ThankYou points would be 5,000 Virgin Elevate points.
  • You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points on a 2:1 basis. So 10,000 AmEx MR points would be 5,000 Virgin Elevate points.

Reality check. This is possibly a great deal for a net “profit” of $900+ of free JetBlue airfare, but there are a lot of moving parts:

  • You’ll need a plan to get 50,001 Virgin points. Are you willing to give up 40,001 SPG Starpoints to get there? This isn’t a big hurdle, considering that you can simply buy 30,000 Starpoints per account for $735 right now, and you can combine Starpoints from multiple accounts.
  • You’ll need to have a plan to redeem those Virgin America Elevate points, so hopefully you live next to an airport served by Virgin America or partner airline like Hawaiian and want to fly somewhere on their route map. If you’re patient, Alaska Airlines. Based on previous calculations, 50,000 Virgin America points can buy roughly $800 to $1,300 in airfare. Virgin America route map.
  • You’ll need a plan to redeem those JetBlue points, so you should also live near an airport served by JetBlue and want to fly somewhere on their route map. Again, 75,000 JetBlue points is worth roughly $1,050 in economy airfare. JetBlue route map.
  • You’ll need to buy a roundtrip ticket on JetBlue and complete your flight by August 31st. Fares start at a little under $100. Some people will just do a “mileage run” and effectively spend a day flying around in a circle to qualify. If you needed to fly anyway, that would be even better.

Costco Members: Free Sam’s Club Access Through July 4th

samslogoSam’s Club must be tired of Costco getting all this free publicity from them switching from American Express to Visa. Their Twitter account just announced that showing your Costco Membership card will get you a free day pass to any Sam’s Club location through July 4th, 2016.

They really want you to know that Sam’s Club accepts all major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. (Of course, you know that Costco negotiated some really low credit card processing fees from Visa, so hopefully that results in lower prices.)

I’m a Costco regular myself, but Sam’s Club does offer a different selection and I like to visit them from time to time. For example, back in the Spring I bought a large amount of organic gardening soil at Sam’s for a good price, while the same weekend Costco had no soil of any type available at all.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card Review: $100 Bonus, Preferred Rewards Bonus

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Updated. As of June 1st, 2016, the 2% cash back includes both grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to 3.5% with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards), with the spending cap raised to $2,500 in combined gas, grocery, and wholesale club purchases per quarter. This is a permanent (non-rotating) category addition that includes Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs wholesale clubs.

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card is the mainstream “cash back rewards” credit card branded by Bank of America. In this review, I’ll cover the basic card features but also focus on a lesser-known opportunity – if you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. For such “relationship” customers, the bonus can change this card from good to great. Read on for details.

Here are the highlights of this card:

  • No annual fee.
  • $100 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and now at wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 13.24% – 23.24% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers.
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25%-75%. Click “Apply Now” to learn more about Preferred Rewards.

The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge® online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

bofa_pref1

Let’s consider the options. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may reduce your interest earnings. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. However, if you have brokerage assets like mutual funds and ETFs, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

I recently moved a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. I realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, but if you do then it is worth considering. Also, I later realized that it will take a while for my “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. After that the 25% – 75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

Cash Back Rewards Tiers for Preferred Rewards

Recall that the basic structure is “1/2/3”; you get 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter (1/2/3). Here’s how the bonuses work out:

  • Platinum Honors 1.75/3.5/5.25: 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Platinum 1.5/3/4.5: 1.5% cash back on every purchase, 3% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 4.5% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Gold 1.25/2.5/3.75: 1.25% cash back on every purchase, 2.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3.75% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Note that the terms state “The Preferred Rewards bonus will replace the customer bonus you may already receive with the card.”, which I interpret to mean that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

Well, I wish my cable company would offer such nice “bundling” incentives, as now Bank of America has managed to convince me to go from only having a checking account with them to now also having a Merrill Edge brokerage account with 100 free trades per month and a new Bank of America credit card.

(Side note: Stack this offer with the separate Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus.)

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card. I initially picked the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card myself, but will probably add this card now for the potential to get 3.5% cash back on all my Costco wholesale club purchases. Also, this card gives you cash while the Travel Rewards card rewards must be redeemed against travel purchases.

“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.”