Choosing YOUR Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

If your goal for your credit card rewards is to earn free travel, you may be wondering where to start. With so many excellent-looking travel rewards credit cards out there, which one is best?

Some cards definitely are better than others. They may offer more bonus rewards, or make it easy for you to cash in your rewards for airline tickets. But which card is best for you depends on factors like current sign-up bonuses, your spending patterns, and if you prefer a certain airline.

So when it comes to choosing a credit card for earning airline miles, do your research. Take a look at the top-rated airline miles credit cards out there, and then decide which card will work best for you. The internet is chock full of tools that can help you make this decision.

Online Calculators Make it Easy

The key to successful credit card use is to not rack up huge balances in order to get rewards. This will just land you with excessive interest charges, which will far outweigh any rewards you’ll gain. So instead of overspending to earn extra rewards, start with a credit card that suits your current spending patterns.

Credit Card Tune Up Find the best credit cards rewards for you 2014

For instance, if you spend next to nothing on office supplies, don’t choose a credit card with major bonuses in that category. If you spend an arm and a leg every month to feed your family of five, choose a card with great grocery rewards.

Luckily, credit card companies make it easy to find out exactly what spending habits they reward most. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for instance, offers 2 points per $1 spent on travel-related purchases. And the US Airways Premier World MasterCard offers 2 points per $1 spent with US Airlines. It’s great if you travel with US frequently.

But you don’t need to go research every single travel rewards credit card to choose one that will work for you. Instead, use an online calculator to help you decide. Calculators like Credit Card Tune-Up and MileCards stay up-to-date on the latest credit card rewards offerings. You just put in your typical monthly spending in various categories, and the calculator will tell you which credit cards fit your lifestyle.

Bonuses Aren’t the End-All, Be-All

When you’re choosing the best mileage credit card for your needs, the everyday, long-term rewards you’ll get from a card should usually outweigh the up-front bonus. Some of those 40,000 mile bonuses are really tempting! And they’re great – if they’re for a credit card that will work well for you on a daily basis.

But unless you’re planning to really pay attention and get good at the credit card churning game, you’ll benefit most from a card’s long-term benefits.

Some Cards to Check Out

Now that you know how to choose a good airline rewards credit card, here are a few options you might consider:

Chase Sapphire PreferredThis popular credit card offers up to 45,000 bonus points (which can be redeemed for miles), plus an automatic 7% Annual Points Dividend on all new points you earned that year – even if you redeemed them. The card offers 2 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurant dining, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases, making it a flexible way to earn everyday rewards.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®If you have excellent credit and you’re looking for great overall rewards, this card is a good option. It offers 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases. It also offers a unique 5% miles back when you redeem your miles for travel, which makes each mile redeemed more valuable.

Priceline Rewards Visa: If you already travel a lot and use Priceline, this is a good travel card to have. It gives you 5 points per $1 spent on all Priceline purchases. It also offers 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.


New Uber Category Bonus for AmEx Members

Uber is a fast-growing company that lets you get a ride through a mobile app. It’s kind of like a taxi service, except more personal and modernized. And it’s really been catching on recently.

In fact, Uber has gotten so big that they’ve launched a brand new partnership with American Express. Originally, this partnership simply allowed AmEx cardholders to use their points to pay for Uber rides. Under this deal, one point equals one cent towards your Uber ride, and you can transfer your points for your ride right through your Smartphone.

Uber Blog – Rewards for Rides

More recently, AmEx and Uber announced that the deal is going the other way around, too. Now, all AmEx cardholders (current and future) get a brand new category for bonus points. When you pay for Uber rides using your AmEx card, you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on Uber.

Membership Rewards Lincoln

Interestingly enough, these points can stack with other AmEx points, depending on your card. For instance, the American Express Everyday Preferred Card gives you a 50% bonus on points as long as you make 30 transactions on it in a month. And the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns double points on travel – which includes Uber purchases.

Bottom Line: If you find yourself in need of a ride often, check out Uber. It might be cheaper and faster than a local taxi service. And if you use Uber often, consider carrying an AmEx card – especially one that will give you even more points on top of the 2X points you’ll automatically get on Uber purchases.


Earn 3,000 Bonus Points with Rocketmiles

Rocketmiles is a hotel booking service you can use to rack up airline miles. It’s been around for a while, and it’s now starting to offer some great bonus promotions through various affiliate partners.

We recently found a link for up to 3,000 bonus miles through MaltaPoints on BoardingArea.com. To take advantage of the points, you’ll need to book through the affiliate link before July 4th. The page also includes an indefinitely valid affiliate link for 1,000 bonus points.

So what is Rocketmiles, and is it worth your time?

Rocketmiles is basically a hotel booking service. It doesn’t give you deep hotel discounts, but it does let you earn miles when you book a room in top-quality hotels. Those miles can then be transferred on a 1-to-1 basis to popular airline rewards programs, like these:

Rocketmiles   Book Hotels Earn Thousands of Frequent Flyer Miles1

As we noted earlier, Rocketmiles isn’t a hotel discount site like Hotwire or Orbitz. The lowest you can set your per-night price on their advanced search is $100. You can get some refundable hotel deals there, but it’s going to give you mostly access to very high-end (read: expensive) hotels. And according to some internet sources, sometimes Rocketmiles charges a bit more in daily rates than you’d get from the hotel itself.

Rocketmiles   Book Hotels Earn Thousands of Frequent Flyer Miles

Still, though, if you already plan to book a high-end hotel, it may be worth paying a small premium for the up to 5,000 miles per night that you’ll earn through Rocketmiles. Plus, you could double dip on your rewards if you book a hotel using a credit card that offers rewards for any hotel booking – or for any purchases at all.

The best part of Rocketmiles may be that its miles are transferrable to so many programs. So if you’re planning a swanky vacation, booking a good hotel room for a business trip, or paying for someone else’s hotel stay (for a wedding or graduation gift this summer), Rocketmiles could make it more worth your while.


4 Credit Card Companies That Offer FREE Credit Monitoring

Monitoring your credit report is one of the best ways to catch identity thieves in their tracks. And staying on top of your actual score helps you be prepared to apply for loans and credit cards as you need them.

Keeping track of your credit can get expensive, though. Sure, plenty of websites and identity theft protection companies offer monthly monitoring. But these services can cost upwards of $20 a month, and those costs add up.

But now consumers have more access than ever to free credit score information. Websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame offer free (and fairly accurate!) credit monitoring for consumers. But if you want to see the actual credit score potential lenders see, you may want to check your credit card statement.

More and more credit card issuers are helping consumers stay on top of their credit by offering free credit monitoring. With many of these issuers, you just log into your online credit card account to check your updated credit score for that month. Here are just X credit cards that are currently providing this service:

BarclayCard offers basic FICO scores to its customers, as well as a month-by-month tracker that shows you how your credit score is rising or falling. Right now, the service is only available if you log in online, but the company may provide credit score information on paper statements in the future.

Barclaycard FICO

 

Discover also offers a free credit score tracking program with certain cards, including the Discover More, Discover Open Road, Discover Motiva, Miles by Discover, and Escape by Discover cards. For these cards, the free scores can be accessed online or on paper statements, and they’re based on a customer’s latest TransUnion score.

Capital One offers a great Credit Tracker program, which shows not only your current credit score, but also information on how you can bring it up. It could be a helpful program if you’re trying to build your credit score – or rebound from some credit dings – especially.

Capital One   Credit Tracker

Capital One   Credit Tracker1

Target recently started offering credit score monitoring to its credit card users, mostly as a response to the well-published security breach a few months ago.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

All these free credit monitoring services are great, especially if you’re working to improve your credit score. But beware of using only these free credit monitoring services.

For the most part, free credit monitoring services like these only track your credit file with one of the three main credit bureaus. Discover and Capital One, for instance, use just your TransUnion file. And Target only uses Experian.

In reality, your credit file and resulting credit score from each agency can be very different. So you’ll still want to track the other agencies a few times a year, just to be on the safe side. But, still, if you want a monthly credit score tracking service, the offers from these credit cards could be worth checking out.


A Review of the Sallie Mae MasterCard for College Students

If you’re a college student signing up for your first credit card, be smart about what you choose. With all the rewards cards out there, your options are endless – even if you’re just starting to build credit. One option among the many is the Sallie Mae MasterCard, which could help you pay down your student loans using your credit card rewards!

Here are the details:

  • Get 2,500 bonus points ($25 statement credit) when you use your card within 90 days of opening
  • Get 5% cash back on the first $250 you spend each month on eligible gas and grocery purchases
  • Get 5% cash back on the first $750 each month you spend on eligible book purchases
  • Get 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Use your rewards to pay down eligible Sallie Mae student loans
  • Rewards don’t expire

This could be a great credit card for you if you plan to pay down the balance each month. If you use the card to spend only what you can afford that month, you can use your rewards to make extra payments on your student loans. Like so:

Let’s say you spend $350 on groceries and gas in the first month of school. You also need to pick up your books, which cost $500. Then, you splurge on an outing with friends that costs $50. You have the money for all of these things in your checking account, but you charge them to your Sallie Mae card to earn rewards.

At the end of the month, you’ll have earned approximately  $39 in cash back rewards. It’s not a ton, but it could make the interest payment on your Sallie Mae student loan. And if you pay off the card in full when you get the statement, you don’t lose any of that reward to interest charges.

Bottom line: The Sallie Mae Rewards MasterCard could be a good option if you’re a student (or recent graduate) with Sallie Mae student loans, and if you plan to pay down your card in full each month.


MasterCard to Increase Fraud Protection on Its Credit AND Debit Cards

Fraud protection has long been a major selling point for credit cards over debit cards. The FDIC limits consumers to paying $50 worth of fraudulent credit card transactions, so long as they promptly notify the card issuer of the problem. Debit cards, on the other hand, have historically had much fewer fraud protections.

Ever since the FDIC introduced the fraud protection laws, credit card companies have tried to one-up each other. Now, it’s common for card companies to offer $0 fraud protection to accounts in good standing.

But now MasterCard is upping its game once again. The company recently announced that it will be expanding is zero-liability policies, and making it easier for consumers to take advantage of them.

Expansions for Credit Cards

MasterCard used to offer zero-liability fraud protection only if your account was in good standing and you had less than three previous fraud problems in the past year. If you didn’t meet those qualifications, you could pay the federal maximum on the fraudulent transactions.

Now, you no longer meet those rules to qualify for MasterCard’s zero-liability program. Instead, you just have to show that you did take “reasonable care” to safeguard your car from loss or theft. In other words, don’t leave your MasterCard lying around. If you’re a victim of fraud anyway, you won’t pay any of the fraudulent transactions, as long as you report them in a timely manner.

Expansions for Debit Cards

Most banks and credit card issuers have looser rules for debit card and PIN-based credit card transactions. Fraudulent activity on your debit card number could easily cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

But MasterCard announced that starting in October, it’s expanding its $0 fraud liability program to debit cards, ATM transactions, and PIN-based transactions, too.

For a long time, the company has offered credit-card-like protection for signature-based debit card transactions. In other words, run your debit card as a credit card, sign the receipt, and you’re good to go. But now, this same protection will apply to all other debit card transactions, as well.

This is an important transaction because recent studies show that fraud on PIN-based transactions and debit cards is on the rise. The 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study showed that PIN-based card fraud is the least common type of fraud. But it’s on the rise thanks to high-tech theft options like skimming.

Automatic Protection

If you’re already a MasterCard member, you don’t have to do a thing. These new fraud protections will kick in automatically on October 1st of this year. If you’re not a MasterCard member but are shopping for a new credit card, this is something to consider when shopping different card providers.


Earn Bonus Airline Miles with Dining Programs

There are more ways to earn airline miles than just using your credit card and traveling. In fact, one easy way to earn miles is to join a dining program. Several travel rewards programs and credit cards offer them. Here are a couple of programs to check out:

SkyMiles Dining Program

The SkyMiles Dining program is free to sign up, and you can link an existing credit – or even a debit – card to your account. When you use your card at participating restaurants, you automatically rack up miles. You’ll get up to 5 miles for every $1 you spend at over 10,000 restaurants, bars, and clubs nationwide.

The nice thing about programs like this is that you don’t have to keep track of any extra cards or pieces of ID. Just link your credit or debit card to the program, and you’re good to go. You’ll also want to sign up to receive the SkyMiles Dining emails. If you sign up with your email address, you’ll get 3 or more miles per $1 spent. If not, you’ll only earn 1 mile per $2 spent.

SkyMiles® Dining Bonuses

Right now is a particularly good time to sign up for the SkyMiles Dining Program, since new members can earn up to 2,000 bonus miles. To earn those miles, just spend at least $30 in any participating restaurant in the first 30 days of sign up. Log in to review your dining experience, and be awarded an extra 2,000 bonus points.

AAdvantage Dining Program

The AAdvantage Dining Program works very similarly to the SkyMiles program. You sign up for the program, and link a credit or debit card to track your restaurant spending. With this program, you’ll earn 3 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent at participating restaurants.

AAdvantage Dining SM Bonuses

Just like with the SkyMiles program, this one requires you to spend $30 or more on a single meal at a participating restaurant within 30 days of signing up. Then, review the restaurant online, and you’ll receive 2,000 AAdvantage bonus miles.

Double Dipping

The great thing about these and other dining programs is that you can double dip. Link the dining program to your most-used credit card with its own great dining-out rewards, and you’ll get even more benefits from dining out. Since the dining program has nothing to do with the rewards program, you can double dip on those points or miles every time you dine out.

Really, these programs are so easy to use that all of your cards should be linked with a dining program like these, especially if you dine out often. You might stop for a quick bite to eat and then get miles unexpectedly added to your account because the restaurant happened to be a participating one.


Walla.by Financial: A Great Tool to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

The world of mobile apps has opened up great avenues for credit card rewards. There are apps to track your rewards on individual cards. Apps to manage your credit card accounts and payments. And now there’s even an app to help you make the most of your rewards programs from  various credit cards.

The Walla.by Financial app links all your credit cards together. Then, the app keeps track of your rewards for you. Which card should you use for groceries? Can you take advantage of any special offers on a credit card while shopping at a home improvement store or buying back to school clothes? Walla.by will tell you!

Mobile App   Wallaby FinancialWhenever and wherever you’re shopping, you can open your Walla.by app to figure out which credit card will give you the best rewards. It’s a great way to maximize your rewards – without having to guess or look up individual rewards programs every time you’re going to get gas, pick up groceries, or shop for other essentials.

Bottom line: the Walla.by Financial app, which works on iPhones and Android, is a great way to be sure you’re always making the most of your credit card rewards.

But There’s More

More recently, Walla.by has come out with its Wallaby Card. It looks like a traditional credit card, but it’s far from it.

The Wallaby Card actually links all of your credit cards to one single piece of plastic. With this card, you don’t even have to look at the app to find the best rewards. Instead, you just swipe your Wallaby card, and it’ll automatically allocate your purchase based on parameters you set.

The Wallaby Card   Wallaby Financial (1)

The Wallaby Card will give you the best rewards – whether it’s mils, cash back, gift cards, or whatever – from each of the cards in your wallet. Link your other credit cards to your Wallaby Card (which isn’t actually a separate credit account), and then leave them at home. All you’ll need is your Wallaby Card to make purchases.

The Wallaby Card   Wallaby Financial

This card doesn’t just give you the best rewards, either. It’ll also let you limit your spending by balance, card date, and other parameters that you can set and change easily.

Is It Right for You?

The Wallaby app and card can be great if you’re the type to juggle several rewards credit cards in hopes of always getting the most rewards for your spending. When you’re dealing with three, four, five, or more credit cards, the Wallaby app and card can make it easier to keep track of all those rewards programs. Instead of just guessing which card to use where, you’ll always know which one is best. Or with the Wallaby Card, you can have your spending assigned automatically, based on where you’ll get the best rewards.

If you only have a couple of credit cards, you may not need an app or cloud-based credit card like this. But for those who are juggling a variety of cards and rewards programs, this is definitely something worth checking out.


Chase Ink Business Credit Card Review

Chase is currently offering some great sign-on offers on its Ink business card line, partially in honor of last week’s Small Business Week. These cards can be a good option for small business owners anyway, but these deals are making it even better.

Business Credit Cards Chase.com (1)Here’s what you can get from Chase Ink right now:

For the Chase Ink Plus® Business Card:

Chase Credit Card Application (1)

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months (a value of $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 on the first $50,000 per year spent at office supply stores and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on the first $50,000 per year spent at gas stations and on direct hotel purchases
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Points have no expiration date
  • 1:1 point transfer to frequent flyer programs, with no transfer fee
  • $0 introductory annual fee (then $95 per year)
  • Can pay in full or carry a balance from month to month
  • Free employee cards

For the Chase Ink Cash® Business Card:

Chase Credit Card Application

  • Earn $200 in bonus cash back when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • Free employee cards

So which of these offers is best for you? That depends on what you need.

If you’ll spend $5,000 within three months, the Ink Plus card will give you a better deal with the 60,000 bonus points. Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel with those points, and you’ll essentially break even on almost 8 more years of annual fees. If you’re not sure how often you’ll use the card, or don’t plan to spend that much off the bat, the Ink Cash is probably your better option. You’ll still earn the same cash back, but you won’t have to worry about that $95 fee from year 2 onward.

Either way, if you’re in the market for a business credit card right now, both of these Chase offers are worth checking out.

 


5 Things to Know About Getting a Chase Ink Retention Offer

If you’re a frequent user of your Chase Ink credit card, and you’re a customer in good standing, you may be able to get a retention offer from Chase. Retention offers are less valuable than they used to be, but they can still be a good way to get bonus points with your credit card – especially if you’re seriously considering switching cards, anyway. Before you call Chase, though, understand these 5 things about your typical Chase Ink retention offer:

Business Credit Cards Chase.com

1. It’s probably dependent on spending

It used to be that banks would periodically offer customers retention offers. Or they might just give you bonus points for threatening to cancel your card. Once you got the points, you could cancel the account, anyway.

But it didn’t take long for banks to catch on to this strategy. So most retention offers today are spending-dependent – just like many bonus offers.

Some sources, including RunningwithMiles and Fishing4Deals have noted that Chase typically offers around 10,000 bonus points for something like $5,000 of spending over 90 days.

Bottom line: if you aren’t willing to spend, you probably won’t qualify for a bonus offer.

2. You should call after you get hit with the annual fee

You might try to call Chase before you’re charged that year’s annual fee. After all, the goal is to avoid the fee. You can always threaten to drop the card if they don’t give you a decent retention offer.

But you’ll probably get better results if you call after the annual fee has hit your account. Chase may agree to refund part of the fee, or may give you rewards that will wind up canceling out the fee all together. But you’ll have more luck if you call just after the fee hits, instead of before.

3. What you see is probably what you get

Bloggers familiar with this territory note that with Chase, the customer service reps are given an offer that they can offer you, and that’s that. You may be able to escalate the call to a supervisor, but chances are that the first deal you’re offered is the best deal you’ll get. It never hurts to ask, but it’s good to know this going in.

4. Your offers may vary

The offers you get on your Chase Ink card will vary, depending on how much you’ve spent, your current balance, and more. If you spend a lot of money on this card, you could get a really great offer. Spend a moderate amount, and you probably won’t get as many bonus points or as big a statement credit.

5. It’s not necessary to threaten to cancel the card

It may seem like a good idea to threaten to cancel your Chase Ink card if you don’t get a good retention offer. But this probably won’t do you any good. Instead, just be honest with the representative.

If you really are considering canceling the card because of its relatively high fees, then say so. But if you just want to see if you can get a good deal, say that, too. The offer that’s attached to your account should pop up the same either way, and could save you some money whether you’re ready to cancel your account or not.

Before you call, do some consideration on your part. Is the Chase Ink card right for you at the moment? Are the everyday rewards attached to your card enough? If so, just ask for a retention offer. If not, consider shopping around for another business card that might have a great introductory deal for you.