Bank of America Cash Rewards Card Review: Choose Your 3%-5.25% Cash Back Category

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Updated. Bank of America announced some new changes that will take effect January 14th, 2019. Cardholders will be able to choose their 3% cash back category from one of these 6 options: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings. Before it was only gas. You can change your category once each calendar month in-app or online. Do nothing and it will stay the same. Stays the same: The fixed 2% cash back on grocery and wholesale clubs and the limit to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter.

The full review:

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is the no-annual-fee “cash back” credit card in the Bank of America line-up. 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. Here are the highlights:

  • $200 cash rewards bonus after $500 in purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% Introductory APR offer. See link for details.
  • 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%. See details below.
  • No annual fee.

Preferred Rewards bonus. 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 result in earning less interest on your cash deposits. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. The sweet spot is if you have brokerage assets like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. In this case, 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. Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “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.

If you are opening a new Merrill Edge account, check out the current Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus. As of this writing, it is up to $1,000.

Cash Back Rewards after Preferred Rewards bonus:

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 (choice category after 1/14/19) 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% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Platinum: 1.5% cash back on every purchase, 3% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 4.5% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Gold: 1.25% cash back on every purchase, 2.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3.75% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) 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 means that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

For my personal spending, I like the idea of getting up to 3.5% cash back at Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs wholesale clubs. Costco only takes Visa while the current application picture indicates a Mastercard (past versions have been Visa). If you have a Mastercard, you could try and call them and request to switch to a Visa version of the card instead of a Mastercard. If the customer service rep says they don’t do that, hang up and call again. Alternatively, you could apply for the Susan G Komen or World Wildlife Fund versions of this card, which do show a Visa.

I also like the idea of getting up to 5.25% cash back on “online shopping” assuming that includes Amazon, although Amazon’s own card already offers 5% back.

This is finally a case where bundling services actually worked out for me. 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 Bank of America credit card.

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. The Travel Rewards credit card is actually a better everyday card in my opinion (assuming you have at least some travel purchases to offset), but this card exceeds that card in the special categories.

Bottom line. The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is an “okay” cash back rewards card with a 1/2/3 structure, but turns into an “excellent” rewards card if you can take full advantage of their Preferred Rewards program. If you transfer $100,000 of existing brokerage assets over to Merrill Edge, you can qualify for the highest Platinum Honors tier. This won’t be a good option for everyone, but something to be aware of if you can swing it.

Top 10 Best Small Business Credit Card Bonus Offers – December 2018

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Do you have small business income or work as an independent contractor? Uber/Lyft, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Airbnb? You are eligible to open a small business credit card, which keeps your personal and business expenses separate. If you are not a corporation or LLC, you can apply as a sole proprietorship, with your name as the business name and your Social Security number as the Tax ID number. I did this for years successfully before incorporating my business.

Small business credit cards are offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to try out a new card. Below are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for (or have applied for already) as of December 2018. Recent changes:

  • Updated Alaska Air card offer.
  • Updated Capital One Spark for Business – New limited-time bonus up to $2,000 bonus cash back or 200,000 bonus miles.
  • Updated Hawaiian Airlines Business card – Bonus increased to 60,000 miles.
  • Removed American Express Business Gold card 50k offer.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers for personal cards. Notice that small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

  • 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,000 towards travel!) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.
  • Primary rental car coverage when renting for business purposes.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited Card

  • $500 bonus cash back after $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit.
  • No annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Ink Business Cash Card

  • $500 bonus cash back after $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • No annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Card

  • Up to $2,000 cash bonus. Earn a $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. In addition, you can earn an additional $1,500 cash bonus if you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months. See link for details.
  • Flat 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card

  • Up to 200,000 bonus miles. Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. In addition, you can earn an additional 150,000 bonus miles if you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months. 200,000 miles is redeemable for $2,000 towards travel. See link for details.
  • Flat 2X miles per dollar on all purchases with no limit.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

  • 60,000 Rapid Rewards points (redeemable for $900+ in Wanna Getaway airfare) after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $99 annual fee.
  • Combine with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Consumer Card to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

American Express Plum Card

  • $600 cash back. Earn a $200 statement credit after each $10,000 you spend in purchases, up to $30,000, within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 1.5% early pay discount on all purchases which stacks on top of the bonus above.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $250.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card

  • 75,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Points can be used towards Starwood and Marriott hotel stays, or converted to select airlines miles.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95. Receive free night award (up to 35,000 points) upon card anniversary.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard

  • 70,000 American Airlines miles after $4,000 in purchases in the first 4 months. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic flights perk ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard (Barclaycard)

  • 60,000 Hawaiian miles after $1,000 in purchases with the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • One-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and the Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card (Bank of America)

  • 30,000 Alaska miles + BOGO Companion Fare Voucher after $1,000 in purchase within 90 days. See link for details.
  • Companion fare voucher is “Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees” ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22).
  • Free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
  • $50 annual fee for company, plus $25 per card.

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – December 2018

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Updated December 2018. That space in your wallet or purse is more valuable than you think. Credit card companies are fighting it out, offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to encourage you to apply and try it out. These are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for in November 2018, if I didn’t already them. Recent changes:

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus – new limited-offer bump to 70,000 miles (worth $700 towards travel).
  • Chase United Explorer – new limited-offer bump to 65,000 United miles.
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards- now to up 60,000 Rapid Rewards points.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel budget with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Business Card Offers. Small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

  • 70,000 points (worth $700 towards travel) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee. See link for details.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $89.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2X points on Travel and Dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. More rewards, more perks including lounge access, $450 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

  • Up to 60,000 Southwest points. 40,000 Rapid Rewards points (redeemable for $600+ in Wanna Getaway airfare) after $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, another 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year. See link for details.
  • $69 annual fee.
  • Combine with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase United Explorer Card

  • Up to 65,000 United miles. 40,000 bonus United miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles
    after spending $10,000 total in the first 6 months. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your United ticket.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

American Express Pink Gold Card

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points (flexible, worth 50,000 miles at various airlines) after $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $100 dining credit. 20% back (up to $100) on dining purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first 3 months.
  • $120 in Grubhub and Seamless credit. $10 in statement credits each month when you pay with this card at participating partners – Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.
  • $100 airline fee credit. Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits towards checked baggage fees and inflight meals.
  • $250 annual fee.

Citi Premier Card

  • 50,000 ThankYou points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points on Travel, including Gas Stations
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card

  • Up to 50,000 American Airlines miles. 40,000 miles after $2,000 in purchases in first 3 months, plus another 10,000 after making a total of $6,000 in purchases in first 12 months of account opening. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic flights perk ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • Up to 60,000 Hyatt points (enough for two nights at any Hyatt). 40,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 20,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • NOT subject to 5/24 rule.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • Up to 100,000 Avios points. 50,000 Avios after $3,000 in purchases within first 3 months. Additional 25,000 Avios for $10,000 in purchases within first year. Additional 25,000 Avios for $20,000 in purchases within first year. See link for details and redemption tips.
  • Free Travel Together companion ticket when you spend $30,000 in calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • NOT subject to 5/24 rule.

Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express

  • 125,000 Hilton Honors points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • Free Weekend Night Reward certificate after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Review: $700 Towards Any Travel + Annual Fee Waived First Year (Limited-Time Offer)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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Limited-time offer; Highest bonus ever! The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that has just increased their sign-up bonus to 70,000 points (worth $700 towards any travel), and the annual fee is also waived for the first year ($89 annual fee after that). This is the highest total incentive ever for this card. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited Time Offer: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Annual fee waived for the first year ($89 annual fee after that).

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. You can redeem towards any airline on any date.

To redeem, visit any booking site (Delta.com, AA.com, Southwest.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Hilton.com, Hotels.com, etc) and buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this is more complicated than just spending less points, you can calculate that getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel. Everything else (gift cards, merchandise) offers a significantly worse redemption ratio, so I wouldn’t bother.

During the first year, the $89 annual fee is waived. However, in future years it comes back. So I would take the first year and see how you like it. You would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver) when compared to a 2% cash back card. That’s a big number.

Another option is that you are allowed to use 8,900 miles to offset the $89 annual fee. (Minimum increment is 2,500 points for $25 against annual fee.) Finally, you can also ask them to downgrade your card into the “plain” Arrival card with no annual fee (and no 2X miles).

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that earns double miles on all purchases (even more with the 5% rebate). The sign-up bonus has been raised to 70,000 points – worth $700 in travel statement credits – the highest ever for this card. The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year, but applies in subsequent years. This is a very strong offer as there is a $700 net value over the first year.

Even one or two of these limited-time offers can cover a huge chunk of your annual vacation travel budget. I have added this limited-time offer to my list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Chase United Explorer Card Review – Limited-Time 65,000 Mile Offer

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

United Mileage Plus Explorer CardThe United Explorer Card is a co-branded credit card between Chase and United Airlines. This card offers unique perks for regular United customers including free checked bags and expanded award seat availability for redeeming miles. Right now, there is a limited-time offer boost until 1/8/19.  Here are the highlights:

  • Up to 65,000 bonus United miles. 40,000 bonus United miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles
    after spending $10,000 total in the first 6 months.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Priority boarding + 2 United Club one-time passes every year.
  • 2X miles at restaurants and on hotel stays.
  • 2X miles per on purchases from United.
  • 25% Back on United inflight purchases (Wi-Fi, Food and Drinks).
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 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.

Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

This product is available to you if you do not have this Card and have not received a new Cardmember bonus for this Card in the past 24 months.

This card is very focused on rewarding you for being a United customer. Before you board, you might use one of your free United Club lounge passes. You have the first checked bag for free on United flights, both for your and a companion traveling on the same reservation. The fee is usually $30 per person, each way, so that this how they get the value of $120 each roundtrip. You also get Priority Boarding, which helps you find space for your carry-on. While onboard, you get 25% back on your inflight purchases of WiFi, food, and drinks.

Expanded award availability. You earn United miles for all your purchases (double miles on restaurants and hotel stays), but then they also make it easier for you to redeem those miles on Saver level tickets with no blackout dates. Expanded award seat availability is another of the top perks from this card, and it is actually a significant difference. Saver Award ticket redemptions start at 12,500 miles one-way within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Another unique feature of this card is that it offers primary coverage on the Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. On most other consumer cards, this coverage is offered as secondary coverage, meaning it only kicks in after your personal auto insurance has been exhausted.

Bottom line. The United Explorer Card offers great perks for folks that fly United even just once or twice a year. The card provides lounge passes, a free checked bag, priority boarding, and inflight discounts. There are bonus categories to earn more miles, and special expanded award seat inventory for credit card holders to make it easier to actually redeem those miles for flights. Since you can only get this bonus at most once every 24 months, it is best to apply during a limited-time offer.

I have added this limited-time offer to my list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Southwest Companion Pass via Chase Southwest Credit Card Bonuses (Now 60,000 Points Each)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Updated Southwest card info to add +20,000 point offer. Southwest Airlines offers a unique feature called the Companion Pass, which lets you pick one person to fly with free when you book your own paid and/or award flights. If you either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in a calendar year, you’ll earn the Companion Pass for the remainder of that year plus the following full calendar year.

Right now might actually be a great time to apply, because if you manage things to earn the points in January 2019 (or anytime in early 2019), you would have the benefit for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. You would just want to make sure you don’t reach the spending hurdle until 2019 to be safe, even though the points probably won’t post until sometime after the billing cycle ends. You can change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.

Points earned from credit cards count, including sign-up bonuses. You can earn very close to the 110,000 points required by signing up for Southwest co-branded consumer and/or business credit cards. In addition, the points are easy to redeem for “Wanna Get Away” airfare without having to worry about blackout dates or seat availability. There are some slight variations between them:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus credit card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 3,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $69 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 6,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $99 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 7,500 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on inflight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list status.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $149 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card

  • 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 6,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $99 annual fee.

60,000 Rapid Rewards points redemptions vary in a narrow range, but a reasonable approximation from my experience is $900 in Wanna Get Away airfare (you are still liable for taxes and fees from $5.60 one-way). Importantly, Southwest does NOT have blackout dates or seat restrictions when you redeem with points. These points are much easier to use than a “saver award” on the traditional airlines.

Restrictions. All of these Southwest credit cards are subject to “5/24” restrictions, which means that your application will be automatically denied if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months (check your credit reports). Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. There is also this language on the consumer card:

The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.

Basically, you can get one sign-up bonus from a Southwest consumer card once every 24 months. You can also get one sign-up bonus from a Southwest business card once every 24 months. (Previously, you might apply for both a Plus and a Premier close together for example.)

If 110,000 Rapid Rewards points would have theoretically covered 16 free one-way flights, then with the Companion Pass you’d now be getting 16 free one-way flights for two people! You also can’t forget that Southwest still has the customer-friendly perk of two free checked bags per person. That’s a lot of free and flexible travel.

Another option to consider is gift card redemptions. You can still redeem 5,000 points for a $50 a Amazon.com or Wal-Mart gift certificate. That makes 50,000 points still worth $500 in Amazon or Walmart gift cards.

Our family policy is to not try out a new credit card unless it offers us $500 in total value. Just the free award flights from the points from any one of these cards is enough to satisfy that rule, and then you can add on the value of the companion tickets.

Bottom line. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Southwest points (or more) from just two credit card sign-up bonuses, which is very close to the 110,000 points needed to qualify for the Southwest Companion pass (and a lot of free Southwest flights). This would get you a free companion ticket on every flight bought with cash or points for the rest of 2018 and all of 2019. Southwest also still includes two free checked bags per person.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business: $2,000 Bonus Cash Limited-Time Offer

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Limited-time offer. The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a rewards business card offering a big early spend bonus offer in addition to ongoing 2% cash back rewards. They’ve just added a limited-time offer for businesses with sizable spending, boosting the total bonus value to $2,000. Here are the highlights:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • Up to $2,000 cash bonus. First, earn a $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. In addition, you can earn another $1,500 cash bonus if you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months. This is a limited-time offer.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee after that.
  • Cash back rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Free additional employee cards.

Consider that if you meet the $5,000 spending requirement within 3 months, you will end up with $500 + $100 from 2% cash back – that’s $600 on $5,000 spending (12% cash back). If you do meet the $50,000 spending requirement, you’ll earn the $2,000 cash bonus from the limited-time offer and 2% cash back for another $1,000. That is a total of $3,000, amounting to a rate of 6% cash back on $50,000.

Note that “Existing or previous Accountholders may not be eligible for this one-time bonus.” For comparison, there is also a Spark Select for Business and Spark Classic that are different cards with lower sign-up bonuses but no annual fee.

The 2% cash back for all purchases is a strong rewards structure, and you get no annual fee during the first year as well. From the second year onward, you’ll have to weigh that against the $95 annual fee after the first year. The math says that you would have to spend more than $19,000 every year ($1,583 a month) to make the 2% back and $95 annual fee (Spark Cash) pay out more rewards than 1.5% cash back and no annual fee (Spark Cash Select).

Here is some info taken from the Terms and Conditions regarding rewards cash back redemptions:

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. You can also redeem for credits for previous purchases, gift cards, and more. Rates for these redemption options may vary and are subject to change without notice.

Alternatively, the Capital One Spark® Miles for Business has a limited-time offer now up to 200,000 miles – redeemable for $2,000 statement credit towards travel. That is broken down into 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months, and then another 150,000 miles when you spend $50,000 within the first 6 months. The travel can be booked directly through airlines and hotels, and there are no blackout dates or award seat limits to worry about. $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee after that. No foreign transaction fees. Similar to the offer above, the Spark Miles offers 2 miles per dollar with the $95 annual fee but there is also a Spark Miles Select for Business that offers 1.5 miles per dollar with no annual fee.

Capital One now allows you to transfer your “miles” into select airline miles programs as well, on a 2:1.5 ratio (ex. 20,000 Capital One miles = 15,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles). Here are the 12 transfer partners:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France/KLM
  • Alitalia
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • EVA
  • Finnair
  • Hainan
  • Qantas
  • Qatar

Unless you know how to leverage one of these international airline miles programs, I would prefer earning cash rewards over the “miles”, since these Capital One “miles” only get their maximum value when redeemed against a travel purchase.

If you are looking for a comparison with other strong business cards, check out my updated list of Top 10 Best Small Business Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express – 60,000 Miles Referral Offer ($600 in Delta Airfare)

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The Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express Credit Card has a limited-time offer if you are referred. It’s a lot better than the standard offer, but it ends very soon on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018. Highlights:

  • 60,000 bonus Skymiles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 4 months. Limited Time Offer ends 11/7/2018. The standard offer is 30,000 bonus miles + $50 statement credit.
  • That’s worth $600 in Delta airfare minimum. With this card, you get a minimum value out of your Skymiles via the “Pay with Miles” option. 60,000 Skymiles can reduce the price of your Delta ticket by $600 at the very least. (5,000 mile = $50 minimum redemption.) You can still book the traditional award tickets and possibly get better value.
  • First checked bag free. Delta now charges $30 for the first checked bag, each way. That means this perk is worth $60 per person each roundtrip. For a family of four, this perk is worth $240 per person each roundtrip.
  • Priority Boarding. Get a good chance of there being room for your carry-on in the overhead bins.
  • Annual fee is waived for the first year, then $95.

Here is my link for the Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express referral offer. Thanks if you use it. There is also a Gold Delta Skymiles Business version with a similar limited-time offer.

Citi Simplicity Card Review: 0% for 21 Months (1.75 Years), No Late Fees, No Penalty Rates

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CitiSimplicityCard (1)

Interest rates are rising, and that applies to credit cards as well. Our partner Citi has updated the Citi Simplicity® Card with an extended 0% intro period for balance transfers while also offering some “accident forgiveness insurance”. Do you have a balance that you are finally ready to pay off? The highlights:

  • The ONLY card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee… EVER
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.99% – 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 15.99% – 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say “representative”
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month

No late fees, no penalty rate details. On most other credit cards, if you make a late payment, you’ll first be charged a late payment fee of about $35. On top of that, your super-low interest rate disappears and instead gets jacked up to something called their “default rate” or “penalty rate”. This could be over 30% APR! The Citi Simplicity card adds a bit of flex in that they do not charge penalty rates or late fees.

Note that if you are 30 days late on this or any credit card, Citi will still report this activity to the credit bureaus. This card may be forgiving but you should still keep your credit score as high as possible.

The strongest part of this card is the long 21 month period, so you can spread out payments over 1.75 years and ideally pay it all off by the end. There is a 5% balance transfer fee ($5 min). However, 5% works out to just 3 months of interest at 20% APR. Transferring a balance to this card from a 20% APR card would be the equivalent of paying 3 months interest at 20% APR and then having 18 months with 0% interest. Once the intro period on all 0% cards expire, the rates will go right back up. You’ll either need to pay it off or transfer your balance again if you need more time. With this card, you’ll have a full 21 months to spread your payments out.

Alternatively, if you know you will pay it off within a shorter time period, look for a card with no balance transfer fee. Compare with other low fee 0% APR balance transfer offers.

This card does not earn any cash back, points, or airline miles. I’d open a separate card for rewards after your balances are paid off and you join the “Paid in full every month” club.

Bottom line. The Citi Simplicity® Card is best for folks that are serious about paying off their balances. You get a long 0% introductory period of 21 months on balance transfers, with a one-time 5% balance transfer fee ($5 min). The card includes consumer-friendly features that help ensure your low rates don’t get hiked with a single late payment. If you do the math and can make adequate payments to pay down your balance over a 1.75 year span, this card may help get you debt-free with minimal gotchas. 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.”

American Express Pink Gold Card: New 50,000 Point Offer + $100 Dining Credit

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American Express is trying to shake off its stodgy image – with a new Pink card! They prefer Rose Gold. The new American Express Pink Gold Card has a 50,000 bonus point offer if you apply via a referral link (that’s mine). Here are the highlights:

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Up to $100 dining credit. 20% back (up to $100) on dining purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first 3 months. They are “picking up the tip”. That means spending $500 over 3 months will max out the $100 dining credit.
  • Up to another $120 in Grubhub and Seamless credit. Up to $10 in statement credits each month when you pay with The Gold Card at participating partners – Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.
  • $100 airline fee credit. Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your AmEx Gold card. Examples are checked baggage fees and inflight meals.
  • 4X points at US restaurants.
  • 4X points at US supermarkets, on up to $25,000 per year.
  • 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $250 annual fee. Additional cards (authorized users) are free.

The Pink card color and limited-time welcome offer is available through January 9th, 2019. They are treating this as a rebrand of the Premier Rewards Gold Card, so you can’t have gotten that bonus already:

Welcome Offer not available to applicants who have or have had this card or the Premier Reward Gold Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

Membership Rewards points can be converted to the following airline and hotel programs (there are more, this is just a selection):

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • ANA Mileage Club (partner of United Airlines)
  • Air Canada (partner of United Airlines)
  • British Airways (partner of American Airlines)
  • FlyingBlue (Air France/KLM)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Rewards (Starwood)

The bonus math depends on a few factors. I’m going to be conservative and value the 50,000 Membership Rewards points at $500. (There are a lot of mileage transfer bonuses so you could value them much higher.) If you spend $500 in any US restaurant over 3 months, you’ll be able to get the full $100 statement credit. Spending $10 a month at Grubhub and Seamless will depend on if you’ve become addicted to these hyper-convenient food delivery apps. The airline fee credit will depend on how much you travel, but checked bag fees are everywhere (and rising). Minus the $250 annual fee. If you max out all the perks, the first year value is $570 without taking into account the 4X and 3X bonus categories. I don’t think it’s a perfect fit for me, but worth a look.

Bottom line. The new American Express Pink Gold Card has a bunch of new features more targeted at the young, urban traveler. There is also a limited-time 50,000 point + dining credits offer if you apply via a referral link.

5% Cash Back Cards: Amazon, Wholesale Clubs (Costco) and Chase Pay – October to December 2018

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5percentback4th Quarter 2018 registration is now open. The credit cards below offer up to 5% cash back on specific categories that rotate each quarter. It takes a little extra attention, but it can add up to $100+ in additional rewards per year without changing your spending habits. You can also buy gift cards with the 5% back now but spend the gift cards later. New cardmembers may also get an upfront sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom VisaChase Freedom – $150 Bonus

From October 1st through December 31st, 2018 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Wholesale Clubs (Costco/Visa, Sams Club, BJ’s in-store and online)
  • Department Stores
  • Chase Pay – Try at Shell gas stations, Walmart.com.

Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com. As long as you activate by the end of the quarter the rewards are retroactive. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards. Technically, you earn Ultimate Rewards points which can also be converted to frequent flier miles instead of cash. Currently, the Chase Freedom card is offering $150 bonus cash back if you sign up and make $500 in purchases in your first three months. No annual fee.

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover it Card

From October 1st through December 31st, 2018 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Amazon.com
  • Wholesale Clubs (Sam’s Club, BJ’s in-store. You can also buy Costco gift cards online with a Discover card.)

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Enroll after logging into your online account (look on the right-hand side). 5% rewards won’t apply until after you activate your rewards, so it is best to activate now before you forget. No annual fee.

New cardmember bonus details. If you are a new applicant and sign up via my Discover Card referral link, you will get a $50 Cashback Bonus after your first purchase within 3 months of being approved. You will also get Cashback Match for an entire year – a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. During those 12 months, your $50 Cashback Bonus becomes $100, your 5% cash back rewards becomes 10% cash back, and your 1% cash back rewards become 2% cash back. You can verify this on the application by clicking on “See rates, rewards and other info” and searching for this text:

Cashback MatchTM: : No purchase minimums. After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods. If your account is closed or no longer in the cash back reward program at the time we calculate your potential award, your cash back will not be matched. You’ve earned cash back rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

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.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. This card earns 6% cash back at US supermarkets all year long (on up to $6,000 per year) and 3% cash back at US gas stations. I use this card all year long for groceries, and then in December use up the $6k annual limit on gift cards bought in the supermarket aisle. New cardholders are also eligible for a $200 statement credit after $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. $95 annual fee. See details in link.

Amazon Prime Rewards Card. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods all year long. Prime membership required. 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores (yawn… see below). New cardholder bonus varies by person. No annual fee.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. You get to choose the two 5% cash back categories every quarter, out of a preset selection of niche categories like “Fast Food” or “Department Stores”. Unfortunately, you can’t pick a broad category like gas stations, restaurants, or grocery stores. You have to manually choose your categories each quarter, even if you want it to stay the same. If you do not choose your categories, all purchases revert to only earning 1% cash back for that quarter. No annual fee.

Citi Dividend Card. This card is no longer available to new applicants, but if you still have the grandfathered card you can activate to get 5% cash back at Best Buy and Department Stores from 10/1 to 12/31. You are capped at $300 cash back for the calendar year. No annual fee.

Don’t settle for the “1% on everything else” that these cards offer. Get 2% cash back or higher. The following cards currently have the ability to offer cash back rewards as high as 2% or even greater. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

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

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bbpamexThe Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a business rewards card that features double Membership Rewards points and no annual fee. Therefore, if you can redeem for more than 1 cent per point of value, this card has the potential to beat a flat 2% cash back card. Here the highlights:

  • 2X Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year. 1X Points on purchases thereafter.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • No annual fee.

Note the usual language regarding the sign-up bonus. This is a newer card, but you can only get the sign-up bonus once per lifetime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you don’t expect to get at least 1 cent per mile value, then you should stick with a 2% cash back card.

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

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

Bottom line. The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a unique small business card in that it earn 2X Membership Rewards points on ALL purchases up to $50,000 per year with no annual fee. The ability to transfer to miles means that you’re effectively earning 2X miles per dollar spent with no annual fee. Finally, linking this card also allows you keep Membership Rewards points earned from other cards active while having no annual fee.