Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card Review: Up to 120,000 Bonus Points

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The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card is the IHG hotel co-branded card with a new, improved bonus offer of up to 120,000 IHG points. Here are the highlights:

  • Up to 120,000 total bonus points: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening plus an additional 40,000 bonus points after spending a total of $5,000 on purchases within 6 months of account opening.
  • Free Night award after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Valid at IHG® Hotels with a current point redemption level of 40,000 points or less. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights.
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $89 annual fee.

This is a relatively new card, but please note the following:

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

This offer is for the new “IHG Club Premier” card, so this language should mean that if you have the older and different “IHG Club Select” card, you can still apply for this card and get the sign-up bonus.

What can you get with IHG points? The best redemption value for IHG points is for free hotel nights. The other options offer significantly less value. While the points don’t translate directly to a dollar value, but overall you should expect around 0.60 cents of value per point. This would place 80,000 IHG points at a $480 value and IHG points at a $720 value. You can perform the calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and got between 0.5 cents and 0.8 cents per point equivalent value.

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites
  • Hotel Indigo
  • EVEN Hotels

IHG Rewards Club puts out a new list of PointBreaks hotels every few months where you can redeem a hotel night for only 5,000 to 15,00 points. There are some nice hotels on the list, but the locations are very specific and few people are sufficiently flexible with their travel to constantly take advantage of these deals. However, you could get value of over 1 cent per IHG point with a hotel on this list.

IHG points expire after 24 months of inactivity, so if you keep up your activity then you can save up these free nights for later. Chase Ultimate Rewards points also convert to IHG points.

Ongoing rewards structure. I might book my IHG nights on this card, but not my everyday purchases on an ongoing basis. Remember that IHG points are worth less than other points like Hyatt or Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

  • 10 IHG points total per $1 spent at IHG properties.
  • 2 IHG points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants.
  • 1 IHG point per $1 spent on all other card purchases

I would consider keeping this card if you can use the anniversary night certificate with the 40,000 point maximum value. You should be able to get $89 value out of it as long as you need a hotel night. Stay must be completed within 12 months from date of issue.

Bottom line. The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card has a current sign-up bonus of up to 120,000 total IHG points. As with most of these co-branded cards, the best value is obtained by regular IHG hotel customers. Even after the annual fee, the total first-year value of this card is still over $630 if you value IHG points at 0.6 cents per point. (Even more if you can use the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck $100 credit.)

I will be adding this new, improved offer to the Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

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Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card Review: 100,000 Point Limited Time Offer

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The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is the rebranded Chase/Marriott card after the merger of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott (formerly the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card). This card offers unique perks for regular Marriott customers, and right now there is a limited-time offer bump to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (a 25k increase to their previous 75k offer). Here are the highlights:

  • Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • An additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 6,700 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year. Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.

Keep in mind the following:

The bonus is not available to you if you:

(1) are a current cardmember, or were a previous cardmember within the last 30 days, of Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express);

(2) are a current or previous cardmember of either Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card), and received a new cardmember bonus or upgrade bonus in the last 24 months; or

(3) applied and were approved for Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM American Express® Card (also known as The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express) or Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card (also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card) within the last 90 days.

That’s a lot of long card names, but note the different 30-day, 90-day, and 24-month waiting periods that may now include Marriott business cards. (See my Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card Review.) This is why you should be looking to get the best possible bonus (like a limited-time offer) if you do apply.

The Marriott and Starwood merger is now complete, and you can use these points at either Marriott properties (Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites) or former Starwood Properties (Westin, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, Four Points by Sheraton, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Méridien, Aloft).

Here’s the new award chart information:

You could use 70,000 points on two free nights at a Category 5 hotel like the Courtyard Waikiki Beach in Hawaii on a standard date, or you could get 4 free nights at a Category 3 hotel like the Residence Inn Austin Arboretum.

You can still turn your points into airline miles with a bonus. 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 airline miles. Similar to the old Starwood bonus structure, they will add 15,000 points for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles.

Finally, Marriott points are also convertible to gift cards, but it takes 60,000 points to redeem for a $200 gift card for Marriott or retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, or Nordstrom. That ratio isn’t all that great so you’ll definitely get the most value via hotel night redemptions or airline miles transfer.

Free Night Award. At your card anniversary (when you pay the annual fee), you will receive a Free Night Award that is good for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. This excludes the very top properties, but for regular travelers it will be very easy to get your $95 value. Many W Hotels, Westin, and even some Ritz-Carltons worldwide are included. Here are some sample hotels that qualify under the 35,000 point limit:

  • Sheraton Kona Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Westin Hapuna Beach Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Courtyard Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Oahu)
  • Sheraton Kauai Resort (Kauai, Hawaii)
  • W Atlanta
  • New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile
  • W Chicago
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, China
  • The S. Regis Bangkok, Thailand

Bottom line. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (formerly the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) has been refreshed with a new limited-time offer of 100,000 bonus Marriott points. Previously, the standard offer was 75,000 points, so you may consider this a good time to apply. As with all hotel cards, the value is dependent on your unique travel preferences. If you stay at Marriott/Starwood properties regularly, the free annual night award should easily cover the annual fee.

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Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card Review – 100,000 Bonus Miles Limited-Time Offer

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The Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is the re-branded business credit card of the Marriott Bonvoy program (formed after the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest). This card offers unique perks for Marriott customers, but now through 4/24/19, there is a limited-time offer bump to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited time offer: 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months. Offer ends 4/24/19.
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. purchases on shipping, and wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. service providers.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Earn an additional Free Night Award after spending $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel.
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status. Additionally, earn Gold Elite status after spending $35,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Elite Night Credit. Each calendar year you can receive credit for 15 nights towards the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status.
  • Annual fee is $125.

Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. 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.

Welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier Business from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase, or the Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM from Chase, or the Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a new cardmember bonus in the last 24 months on the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier Plus from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase.

This is more specific than before, note the different 30-day, 90-day, and 24-month waiting periods that may now include consumer cards. American Express usually gives you a pop-up warning during the application process if you are ineligible based on their records. This is why you should be looking to get the best possible bonus (like a limited-time offer and waived annual fee) when you do apply.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and these days many people are full-time or part-time consultants, freelancers, eBay/Amazon/Etsy sellers, Uber/Lyft drivers, or other one-person business owners. 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.

Free Night Award. At your card anniversary (when you pay the annual fee), you will receive a Free Night Award that is good for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. This excludes the very top properties, but for regular travelers it will be very easy to get your $95 or even $125 value. Many W Hotels, Westin, and even some Ritz-Carltons worldwide are included. Here are some sample hotels that qualify under the 35,000 point limit:

  • Sheraton Kona Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Westin Hapuna Beach Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Courtyard Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Oahu)
  • Sheraton Kauai Resort (Kauai, Hawaii)
  • W Atlanta
  • New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile
  • W Chicago
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, China
  • The S. Regis Bangkok, Thailand

Bottom line. The Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is the new co-branded business card between Marriott/SPG and American Express. Right now there is a limited-time offer. You also get a Free Night Award at card anniversary, which can be worth much more than the annual fee.

I have added this card to the Top 10 Best Small Business Card Bonus Offers.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for supporting this independent site.”

How to Track Credit Score Changes + Free Credit Monitoring (No Credit Card Required)

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Updated 2019. As noted, the government requires the credit bureaus to provide you a free credit report once every 12 months. However, the services listed below provide you a free credit score updated throughout the year either daily, weekly, or monthly. The best ones also offer free daily credit monitoring and/or free identity protection services. As of 2019, all three major credit bureaus are covered: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

None of the services below require credit card number to sign up, so you don’t have to worry about any surprise charges. These are either ad-supported (they will pitch you stuff) and/or they are “freemium” services with a paid upgrade option (but you can stay free forever).

Credit Sesame

CreditSesame.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about Credit Sesame in my experience is that they have the most reliable credit alerts (and the free insurance which I haven’t used).

  • Free daily credit monitoring. Credit Sesame also offers free daily credit monitoring of your TransUnion data, with alerts coming via e-mail, text, or smartphone app. This service tracks more than 40 different credit activities such as a balance change, address change or when a new account is opened.
  • Free identity protection and restoration services. Credit Sesame also includes $50,000 in identity theft insurance and access to identity restoration support in their free membership level.

Credit Karma

CreditKarma.com offers you two free credit scores, based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and updated weekly (VantageScore). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about Credit Karma in my experience is that you get two credit bureaus covered in one service.

  • Free credit monitoring. Credit Karma also offers free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your TransUnion data.

FreeCreditScore.com

FreeCreditScore.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your Experian credit report (FICO 08). Score range is 300-850. They require your full Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about FreeCreditScore.com in my experience is that they are a rare free option to track changes to your Experian report.

  • Free credit monitoring. They also offer free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your Experian data.

WalletHub

WalletHub.com offers a free credit score based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore), updated daily. Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about WalletHub in my experience is that they offer daily access to your full TransUnion credit report, if for some reason you want to check your full report that often.

Note that some of the scores above are not FICO scores because Fair Isaac charges more money in licensing fees and these companies may not be able to cover those costs with their advertising. However, these services are still be very useful for tracking changes in your credit history. I enjoy getting alerts if a credit card balance is paid in full, if there is a new credit inquiry, or if my credit utilization ratio gets too high on a specific credit line. This is also a great way to get early warning of any fraudulent activity.

Bottom line. I use the services above to keep track of any daily changes to my credit reports across all three credit bureaus for free. None of them require my credit card number, and they alert me to things like new accounts, new credit check inquiries, and high credit line usage.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for supporting this independent site.”

Southwest Companion Pass: Chase Southwest Credit Card Bonuses

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Southwest now flies to Hawaii! Southwest Airlines offers a unique feature called the Companion Pass, which lets you pick one person to fly with free when you book either paid or award flights. If you either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, and you’ll earn the Companion Pass for the remainder of that year plus the following full calendar year. For example, if you earned it in February 2019, you would have the benefit for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. You can change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.

Points earned from credit cards count toward that 110,000 point requirement, including sign-up bonuses. You can often get very close to that magic number when you add up the potential miles from these Southwest credit cards:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus credit card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 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 your account is open.
  • 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 your account is open.
  • 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.

Value of Rapid Rewards points. After you earn the required 110,000 Rapid Rewards, redeeming them for flight values varies in a narrow range, but a reasonable approximation from my experience is $1,700 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. This means that Southwest points are much easier to use than a “saver award” on traditional airlines. Now, if you manage to qualify for the the Companion Pass on every trip that you book with those points, that doubles the potential value of each award redemption.

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.

Southwest still includes two free checked bags per person. The fees on the other airlines have crept up to $30 per bag, each-way. That adds up.

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 are enough to satisfy that rule, and then you can add on the potential value of the companion tickets.

Card 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.

Extending your Companion Pass with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest points on a 1:1 basis. The idea is is to book an award flight with those Southwest points while you have the Companion Pass, thus doubling the value of your Ultimate Rewards points as well.

Bottom line. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Southwest points from qualifying for just two credit card sign-up bonuses (one personal and one business), which is only 10,000 points short of qualifying for the Southwest Companion pass (and a lot of free Southwest flights!). A Companion Pass earned now would get you a free companion ticket on every flight bought with cash or points for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. Plus, Southwest still includes two free checked bags per person.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for supporting this independent site.”

ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card Review – 5X Rewards on Rotating Categories

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The ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card just got revamped to include 5X rewards on rotating categories each quarter. This card is a Mastercard issued by the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABoC), a 100+ year-old commercial bank. Right now, it is offering a $150 sign-up bonus to new cardholders (see requirements below). There are a few quirks, so read on for the details.

  • $150 statement credit after making $1,200 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Your account must be open and in good standing to get the bonus.
  • Earn 5x rewards on up to $1500 in combined purchases each quarter in popular categories such as dining, groceries, travel, and automotive.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that, your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. You must transfer your balance within 90 days of your account open date for the promotional APR to apply.
  • Late payments will not result in a higher interest rate.
  • No annual fee.

2019 ABoC Platinum Rewards Calendar

You will earn 5 points per $1 spent up to $1500 in combined purchases each quarter. Here is the entire calendar for 2019:

From April 1st through June 30th, 2019 you can earn 5X rewards on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Home Improvement Stores

You must first register each quarter at ABOCRewards.com or in your online account before you can start earning the 5X rewards.

Points redemption. You’ll note that it says 5X rewards, not 5% cash back. That is because you technically earn points, and the points can be transferred to travel, cash (in the form of a statement credit), gift cards, and merchandise at different ratios.

The best redemption rate is redeeming towards their travel portal at 1 point = $0.01 in value. There are limited details about this on their website. The key question is whether an airfare ticket or hotel night costs the same on the ABOC travel portal as on Expedia, Travelocity, etc. The cash back option is 1 point = $0.0075, which would turn the 5X rewards into 3.75% straight cash back in the form of a statement credit. The gift card redemption value is in between cash and travel credit, and may be worthwhile if its a merchant you shop at anyway.

Similar cards. I will be adding this card to my list of 5% back cards with rotating categories, including:

I would personally get the Chase Freedom and Discover it ahead of this card, if only because they offer a straight 5% cash back on their rotating categories without having to go through a travel portal. However, if you already have those cards, this card would make a nice addition as the category calendars are not exactly the same, and you will get increased spending limits even if they do happen to match up.

Bottom line. The ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus and 5X rewards on rotating categories each quarter. The 5X points can be redeemed for an effective 3.75% cash back, or 5% back through their travel portal. If you already have similar rewards in your purse or wallet, this card can be a great addition as you can achieve higher spending limits and also possibly different categories in any given quarter.

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Bank of America Free Museum Tickets 2019 Dates

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bofa_musBank of America is running their Museums on Us program again for 2019, which offers cardholders free admissions to 200+ museums, science centers, and botanical gardens nationwide on the first full weekend of every month (Saturday and Sunday). Each person just needs to show their valid Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and photo ID for free admission.

Each cardholder gets one free general admission for themselves only, so be sure everyone with their own cards brings them. If you have a BofA credit card, you may consider adding family members (of any age) as a free authorized user. Another option is to open a Kids Savings Account with no monthly fee and also comes with a debit card. You may need to open this in a physical branch.

2019 Calendar Dates (Check specific museum for hours)

  • January 5th & 6th
  • February 2nd & 3rd
  • March 2nd & 3rd
  • April 6th & 7th
  • May 4th & 5th
  • June 1st & 2nd
  • July 6th & 7th
  • August 3rd & 4th
  • September 7th & 8th
  • October 5th & 6th
  • November 2nd & 3rd
  • December 7th & 8th

Here is the full list of participating locations [pdf]. One of the available museums is the Thinkery in Austin, Texas. We found it to be a fun and interactive children’s science center. The admission was $12 per person including kids (23 months and under free), which means this could have saved our family of give between $24 and $60 for that one day. I’ve seen other museums on their list with $20 admission prices.

While I wouldn’t open a new bank or credit card account for this feature, it is a nice perk if you already have such accounts. You can also sign-up for a free text reminder before each free weekend. I signed up and haven’t gotten any spam texts from BofA, just the reminders.

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Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Unlimited 2% Cash Back + $500 Cash Bonus

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The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a rewards business card offering a $500 cash bonus in addition to ongoing 2% cash back rewards. Here are the highlights:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • One-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • $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 $4,500 spending requirement within 3 months, you will end up with $500 + $90 from 2% cash back – that’s $590 on $4,500 spending (13.1% cash back).

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 offer for 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. 50,000 miles are redeemable for a $500 statement credit towards travel. 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.

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Pay with Discover Card Points, Get $10 off $30 at Amazon.com (Targeted)

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Discover it 14 Image

If you have a Discover with cash back rewards, you can redeem them to buy eligible items at Amazon.com. The redemption rate is $1 in Cash Back Bonus = $1 to spend at Amazon, which is the same rate as their statement credit redemptions. Here is a promotion where you can get $10 off a $30 Amazon purchase when you redeem at least $0.01 in Discover cash back. The promotion may not work for everyone, but it worked for me and I’ve usually done every other promotion. Via SD:

  • Click here to link your Discover Cashback points balance to your Amazon account
  • Click here to activate the promotion on your Amazon account (eligibility will vary)
  • Add $30 or more of eligible products sold and shipped by Amazon.com to your shopping cart
  • Proceed to checkout & select your Discover Card as your payment method
  • Select the amount of Discover Cashback Bonus Points you would like to use for the purchase (must use at least 1 point or $.01)
  • $10 off $30 discount will be applied to qualifying items at checkout

This is nice perk for existing Discover cardholders, which is why I never cancel a card with no annual fee. Check out my Discover it credit card review to see how new applicants can get double cash back for the first year, meaning 10% cashback on their quarterly categories like gas, groceries, and Amazon (and 2% cash back on everything else.)

Open to purchase suggestions? I would recommend replacing the AA (and AAA) batteries in your life with Panasonic Eneloop AA (and AAA) NiMH versions. I have been trying out the various other NiMH battery brands, but while AmazonBasics and EBL get decent reviews and are certainly cheaper, they tend to go completely dead on me (won’t recharge anymore) after 10-30 recharge cycles. I have Eneloops that are years older with 100+ recharge cycles and they still work fine. Panasonic Eneloops are simply the best quality (read up on them) and the reliability and longer life is definitely worth the price premium in my opinion.

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Merrill Edge + Preferred Rewards = Free Trades and Up to $900 Bonus For Moving Assets

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Merrill Edge is the self-directed brokerage arm formed after Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merged together. They are currently offering an increased cash bonus of up to $900 for moving “new money” or assets over to them from another brokerage firm. This new bonus is linked to the BofA/Merrill Preferred Rewards program, which is another reason to consider using them as it gets you free stock trades and better credit card rewards. Here’s an overview along with my personal experience as I’ve had an account with them for a few years now.

Cash bonus. Brokerage firms love to collect assets. The good news is they don’t require cash that will be earning zero interest, and Edge has no management fees if you stick with DIY. If you are holding shares of stock, ETFs, or mutual funds elsewhere, you can simply perform an “in-kind” ACAT transfer over to Merrill Edge. Your 100 shares of AAPL will remain 100 shares of AAPL, so you don’t even have to worry about price changes, lost dividends, or tax consequences. Any cost basis should transfer over too.

This specific offer is for accounts opened by April 30, 2019 and offers the following:

  • $150 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
  • $225 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $375 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
  • $900 bonus with $200,000 or more in new assets

For comparison, here is an expired offer that was slightly better but probably the highest I’ve seen. Here is the standard offer that has been around for a while.

This offer includes both IRAs and regular taxable (CMA) accounts:

1 Offer valid for new and existing individual Merrill Edge IRAs or Cash Management Accounts (CMAs) opened by April 30, 2019. Offer is limited to one CMA and one IRA, with no more than two enrolled accounts per accountholder. Eligible Merrill Edge IRAs limited to Rollover, Traditional, Roth and owner only SEP IRA. The Merrill Edge IRA or CMA may be a Merrill Edge Self-Directed account, Merrill Edge Advisory Account or Merrill Guided Investing account. You may be eligible for a different or better offer. Please contact us for more information.

Note that last sentence! It’s not just boilerplate. After I did this bonus once with a partial transfer (just enough to satisfy the requirements), a Merrill Edge rep contacted me and offered me a custom bonus to move even more assets over. (The bonus ratios were about the same, but higher limits.) Therefore, if you are considering this and have more than $200,000 to transfer over, you may want to give them a call and see if they can offer even more money.

You can even transfer in Admiral Shares of Vanguard mutual funds that they don’t let you trade there, but you can only hold or sell them. You can’t buy more shares. You can, however, buy more shares of the corresponding Vanguard ETF if you wish.

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

At the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels, Merrill Edge will give you 30 and 100 free online stock trades every month, respectively. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be quite low, 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.

Credit cards rewards. With the Preferred Rewards boost, you can get up to 2.6% cash back towards travel on all your purchases on the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. You can also get up to 5.25% cash back (on up to $2,500 per quarter) on your choice of gas, online shopping, dining, or travel with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card.

Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the required level and officially qualify. (This may be obvious, but if you put in the minimum, it will take 3 months.)

My personal experience. In terms of Merrill Edge, I’ve had an account with them for a few years now and my lightning review is that they have a “okay/good” user interface and solidly “good” customer service. I would add that I am not an active trader and only make about 10 trades a year. I have been quite satisfied with the account. I can also move money instantly between my Merrill Edge and Bank of America checking accounts, making it easy to sweep out idle cash into an external savings account.

The biggest financial benefit to this BofA/Merrill Edge combo has probably been the 75% boost to their credit card rewards, allowing me to get 2.625% cash back on basically all my daily purchases. The second biggest benefit has probably been this cash bonus, but that’s because I don’t make 100 trades over the course of a few years, let alone a single month.

Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $900 if you move over a significant amount of assets to their self-directed brokerage. This can simply be mutual fund or ETFs shares currently being held elsewhere. When you keep enough assets across Bank of America and Merrill Edge, their Preferred Rewards program can offer nice perks like waived bank fees, free stock trades, and boosted credit card rewards.

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Discover It Card Review: Double Cashback Match Your First Year

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Discover it 14 ImageThe Discover it® card is a rewards credit card that offers 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter and no annual fee. Right now, new cardholders get double their cash back during the entire first year (“Cashback Match”). This means that their 5% cash back on specific categories each quarterly will effectively get doubled to 10% cash back. Here are the highlights:

  • We’ll double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we’ll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more—up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Freeze It on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.
  • 100% U.S.-based customer service.
  • Free FICO credit scores updates on your monthly statement.
  • No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won’t raise your APR.
  • No annual fee.

From April 1st through June 30th, 2019 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gas Stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft

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.

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.

Bottom line. The Discover it® card is a rewards credit card that offers 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter and no annual fee. It’s a little extra work to keep track of things, but it allows me to earn hundreds of dollars in extra cash each year without buying extra stuff I don’t need. New cardholders get >double their cash back during the entire first year (i.e. $100 cash back gets doubled to $200). This means that the 5% cash back on specific categories will effectively get doubled to 10% cash back.

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Fidelity Rewards Visa Review: 2% Flat Cash Back + $100 Sign-up Bonus

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Updated. Fidelity has condensed their rewards credit card line-up to a single card, the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card issued by Elan Financial Services (subsidiary of US Bank). It earns a flat 2% cash back when directed to an eligible Fidelity Investments account. Right now, there is also a $100 bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn a $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days.
  • Unlimited 2% cash back, when redeemed into an eligible Fidelity account.
  • No annual fee.
  • Visa Signature benefits, like Concierge service.
  • Chip-enabled and works with Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay.

Note that this card charges a 1% foreign transaction fee, which is less than the 3% that is standard on many other cards. This also still leaves you with a 1% cash back card on foreign purchases.

Eligible Fidelity accounts. The 2% rewards value applies only to points redeemed for a deposit into the following active Fidelity accounts:

  • Fidelity Cash Management Account
  • Fidelity Brokerage account
  • Fidelity-managed 529 account
  • Fidelity Retirement account (IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, Rollover IRA)
  • Fidelity Go account (robo-advisor)
  • Fidelity Charitable Giving Account (donor-advised fund)
  • Fidelity HSA

My favorite option is actually the 529 plan option if you have kids, because it is the perfect quiet way to rack up some cash and not just spend it away on a dinner or gadget. Instead, you are gradually building up a pile of money with tax-free earning towards your future college expenses. The IRA option is okay, but the annual limits are a lot lower so you have to be careful not to exceed those caps.

Let’s say you spend $2,000 a month on this card. 2% cash back means earning $40 a month in cash back. Let’s also say you put this into a 529 that earns 6% a year. If you started when your kid was born and waited 20 years until their senior year of college, that would amount to $18,574! I plugged it into this savings calculator.

Points redemption details. You can either choose automatic or manual redemption. With automatic redemption, once you reach $50 of rewards (5,000 points from net spending of $2,500), your balance will be automatically swept into your designated Fidelity account (or split between up to 5 different Fidelity accounts if you wish). You can also redeem your points “on demand” either by calling in or online after you reach the same 5,000 point minimum balance.

Note that the rewards value will be less than 2% cash back if you choose to redeem your points for other rewards such as travel options, merchandise, gift cards, and/or a statement credit.

Previous FIA Cardservices customers. You should have received your new Elan-issued cards by now. If you are not getting 2% cash back, be sure to contact them as ask. You may need to re-enroll your card.

Bottom line. I think everyone who can handle a cash back credit card (i.e. you carry no high interest credit debt) should have a 2% flat cash back card that applies to all purchases. The Fidelity Rewards Visa can make sense for Fidelity customers because you can set aside your rewards automatically and save money towards a 529 college savings or retirement account. I would try to apply when there is a sign-up bonus. Here are some similar competitor cards:

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for supporting this independent site.”