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Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature Card Review: 2.5% Cash Back (Up to $10k/Month)

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Updated with new spending caps. Alliant Credit Union, the 5th largest US credit union by assets, has updated the terms of their Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card. This cash back rewards card has a headline feature of 2.5% cash back. However, they have now added a spending cap of $10,000 per monthly billing cycle (i.e. you can get $250 cash back max per month). The $99 annual fee is waived during the first year (note that the 3% cash back promo during the first year is also gone). Here are all of the highlights:

  • 2.5% flat cash back with no categories to track.
  • Maximum cash back is $250 ($10,000 in qualifying purchases) per billing cycle.
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • You must be an Alliant Credit Union member to apply for this card.

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

If you have an existing Alliant credit card, you can ask for it to be converted to this card.

The $10,000 spending cap per month will also apply to existing cardholders.

Comparison numbers against a 2% cashback card with no annual fee and no sign-up bonus. Instead of a flat sign-up bonus, with this card you are basically getting a 0.5% boost to your cash back in the first year. If you charge $1,000 a month, 1% more is $60 more cash back over a year. If you charge $4,000 a month, 0.5% more is $240 more cash back over a year.

After the first year, with this card you’ll get 0.5% more cash back but also pay the $99 annual fee. That makes the breakeven point $19,800 per year in annual spending (roughly $1,650 per month). If you spend more than that, the extra cashback will offset the annual fee. If you spend less, you will have more rewards with the 2% card.

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

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

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

Bottom line. The Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card offers 2.5% flat cash back on all purchases with a $99 annual fee. As a first year promotion, the annual fee is waived. The annual fee makes it best for people that make a high amount of purchases on their credit cards, at least $20,000 a year just to break even with a 2% cash back card. Alliant Credit Union membership is open to anyone willing to donate $10 to Foster Care to Success.

Do Not Buy List: Healthcare Sharing Ministry As Health Insurance Alternative

I am creating a “Do Not Buy” list as part of my estate planning to help my family avoid potentially dangerous financial products. These things are not illegal “scams”, but may have hidden risks where it is better to simply avoid them. In addition to equity-indexed universal life Insurance, I am also including health-care sharing ministries (HCSM). The bigger names in this group include Samaritan, Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Trinity/Aliera, and Liberty.

I’ve been reading about these off and on, and they are often mentioned as a cost-saving option for the self-employed and/or those in early retirement. Read this NY Times article It Looks Like Health Insurance, but It’s Not, this Seattle Times article Washington state orders ‘sham’ health-care sharing ministries to halt, and this Consumer Reports article to get some background.

I can definitely see the appeal of the lower monthly costs and the positive feelings from being part of a cooperative community. I can accept that many (but not all) require a strong religious affiliation. I might overlook the fact that they usually don’t cover and basic preventative care like screening exams (mammograms, colonoscopies), flu shots, and other vaccines. However, I cannot accept the following:

  • HCSMs are not health insurance. This also means they are not overseen by state insurance agencies. There no government oversight, nobody to appeal to and have them say “hey that’s not right, you can’t do that”.
  • HCSMs provide no guarantee of payment. Legally, they are just a charity. The ministry looks at each claim and has sole discretion as to whether they want to provide payment.
  • HCSMs do not have to accept or cover pre-existing conditions.
  • HCSMs do not have to cover prescriptions drugs. Read their rules very carefully.
  • HCSMs can cap lifetime payments at relatively low amounts like $250,000. Read their rules very carefully. ACA-compliant health insurance plans have no lifetime limits.

The problem is that by design, yes, MOST people will be satisfied by these programs. MOST people get their bills paid. MOST people can thus leave a positive review. MOST people won’t have an extreme event that requires $500,000 of medical care over time. However, that is not the point of insurance! Insurance is there to protect you from bankruptcy due to a catastrophic event out of your control. Insurance is based on strict contracts, and you should notice that all forms of real insurance (life, health, auto, homeowners, etc) are tightly regulated. What happens if they run into some sort of financial difficulty, perhaps in a recession or from a rogue employee or executive?

Think of the importance of only putting your cash in an FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union. The vast, vast majority of the time, banks don’t fail. I’ve never had a bank fail on me. I don’t know anyone who has had money in a truly failed bank where the FDIC had to step in. But I still know that having the proper checks and backstops is important. Sometimes things are great for long time… until they aren’t.

Also, don’t forget that if a healthcare sharing ministry rejects a child’s claims and the family is bankrupt and desperate, they’ll likely end up falling back on taxpayer-funded Medicaid to cover their healthcare needs. Is this how we want the system to work?

My recommendation is to steer clear of all healthcare sharing ministries. I do not doubt that most have good intentions and happy customers, but things can happen that may even be out of their control. HCSMs are charities, not insurance. They can fail as much as any business. Yes, real insurance costs more, but at least you have a clear contract with defined rules and legal options as a backup. If you are my loved one and are reading this, please protect yourself fully and make sure you are buying true health insurance.

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Simple Bank Bonus: $300 Bonus + 1.90% APY for $20,000 New Deposit

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Investing in International Stocks: More Educational Resources

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