The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN Review

I’ve always considered the gold standard of business credit cards to be American Express.  Pulling out the Gold or Platinum card to pay for a lunch or book a hotel while with a clients can go a long way to speaking of the quality of your business.  I personally own the Gold Business Rewards Card from American Express.  I use it in every situation I can but I wonder what would happen if instead of Gold, I pulled out Plum?

amex plum card reviewThe Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is not your typical small business credit card.  In fact, it’s not a credit card at all but a charge card. This means that every purchase you make MUST be paid off within the grace period, otherwise you jeopardize your account standing.   There is no advertised interest rate because American Express expects your balance to be paid in full each and every month.  If it’s not, the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN offers the added benefit of allowing for payment 60 full days after your billing statement.  Nearly all other charge cards require payment within the first month of the billing cycle.

The other fairly substantive benefit of the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is that if you pay your balance early, you’ll receive a 1.5% cash back bonus.  For example, if you charge $10,000 to your card in a month, and pay it off within the first 10 days your statement is due, you’ll receive a $150 cash bonus in your account.  Between days 11 – 60, no bonus will be earned.  Essentially, this means this charge card includes a 1.5% cash back bonus.  So long as you have the funds to pay it off early every time.

Additional Plum Card Benefits

Free Employee Cards – If you own a small business that has many employees, they each can get their own business card so you can track their expenditures.  The 1.5% early pay discount applies to everyone, so you can take advantage of paying back those purchases early as well.

No Foreign Transaction Fees – Any purchase made outside of the United States will be converted to the host countries currency, free of charge.  The typical foreign transaction fee is between 2% and 3% so for high dollar spending abroad, this can be a big money saver.

No Pre-Set Spending Limit – Remember that the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is a charge card, not a credit card so you have no pre-sent spending limit.  This does not mean that you can walk up to Boeing and purchase a jet, but it does mean that most high dollar transactions are approved if your account is in good standing.  And the long you maintain your good standing, the more American Express will generally allow you to charge.

Car Rental and Damage Insurance – When you use this charge card to purchase a rental car, you’ll be covered for most damage caused (should you cause damage).  I can actually speak to experience on this topic, and I incurred $4,000 worth of damage on a vehicle I rented a few years ago.  Sadly for me, I did not read the provisions carefully enough because I rented a pick-up truck and the terms clearly state NO TRUCKS.  $4,000 vanished from my wallet.

Plum Card Bottom Line

So what will all of these benefits cost your business?  The annual fee on the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is $250 but that fee is waived for the first year.  This gives anyone the opportunity to try this card for a full year.  Use it’s unrivaled purchasing power to manage your business expenses.   Then, make the decision whether or not this is the business card you’ll be using for the long haul.

The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN includes a somewhat short list of top shelf benefits.  And for a charge card to offer any kind of rewards program is unique.  An early pay bonus of 1.5% cash back puts it in line with most other cash back credit cards.   When you consider the ability to make tens of thousands in purchases each month, this is one of the strongest charge cards for small businesses on the market today.


Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Review

American Express has been a prominent member of the credit card community since it’s inception.  For years, they focused on high fee, high rewards and perks charge cards tailored to the wealthy.  Over the last decade however, American Express has made a great effort to cater to middle class income earners.  The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is their strongest offer yet for two reasons.  This card stands out with it’s cash back platform AND it charges no annual fee.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Cash Back Rewards

The everyday rewards program for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is as follows:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. Supermarkets (for the first $6,000 spent every year)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. select department stores and at the pump
  • 1% cash back everywhere else

Learn more about this and other cash back credit cards and apply online at CardRatings.com.

For the typical family of four, 3% cash back at the grocery store stands to be great savings.  $500 a month spent means $15 cash back.  Multiply that out across 12 months, and you’ll save $180 at the grocery store every year.  Tack on $2,000 spent on gas every year ($40 cash back) and 1% on everything else and you quickly save hundreds annually.

Tack on another $100 during year one because AMEX offers an up-front bonus!  All new cardmembers will receive a $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first three months.  This is a one-time bonus and the spend hurdle of $1,000 isn’t very imposing.

Blue Cash Everyday® Pricing Details

Included with everything you see is a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.  After the intro rate expires, the ongoing variable APR is 13.99%  – 24.99%.  The cash advance APR on the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is 26.24% variable.  The penalty APR (NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN) is 29.99% variable.  If you’re making a balance transfer, there is a 3% fee.

Most importantly and impressively, there is no annual fee.  The older brother of this card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express carries a $95 annual fee.  It also carries and increased rewards program.  Bigger up front bonus, 6%/3%/1% rewards platform and the same pricing details.  Depending on how often you plan to you this card, you may want to consider the Preferred version and annual fee.

Additional Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Perks

Extended Warranty – When you use your Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express to make purchases, American Express will extend your warranty.  Warranty extensions occur as follows:

  • If your warranty is less than a year, American Express will match it.
  • If your warranty is between 1 year and 5 years, American Express will add one additional year
  • If your warranty is over 5 years, American Express adds nothing.  Sorry.

In order to qualify to receive the extended warranty, your account with American Express must be in good standing.  The maximum dollar amount protection on a single purchase is $10,000 and no more than $50,000 per member per calendar year.

Accidental Damage Protection – Sometimes life sucks.  You buy a brand new computer only to accidentally drop it and crack the screen.  American Express has you covered for up to 90 days if your purchaser doesn’t cover the damage.  Same rules apply as above; you must have an account with AMEX in good standing.  The limits are also the same, $10,000 max per purchase, $50,000 max per calendar year.

ShopRunner Membership – If you’re in the mood for free 2-day shipping, then this benefit can save you a lot of wait time.  Cardmembers need to visit this link and sign-up an eligible American Express Card.  Your account and membership will always remain active so long as the card you register remains open and in good standing.

Bottom Line

Owning a cash back credit card is an essential part of a strong personal finance portfolio.  I know there are purists out there who like to pay cash for everything but to be honest, that’s foolish. Setting aside the obvious rewards benefits, a strong credit card offers protection too.  The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is one of those diamond in the rough cards that excel everywhere.  Consider it for your future purchases.


Virgin America Elevate Rewards Program Review

Can the Virgin America Elevate rewards program elevate your travel experience? This program definitely offers some tempting perks for frequent travelers on the West Coast. You may be curious about becoming a member of the Virgin America Elevate rewards program because you’ve heard that it offers a generous amount of points per dollar at its basic tier. You may also be interested in the free checked bags, complimentary upgrades, bonus points and Virgin America Loft passes that you can look forward to as you jump tiers. Take a look at the perks and drawbacks of Elevate to see if this is the loyalty program you should get off the ground with.

Three Levels of Elevation

Virgin America has three tiers in its Elevate program. Here are the three levels you can look forward to enjoying when you join:

  • Elevate Red
  • Elevate Silver
  • Elevate Gold

The nice thing about Virgin America Elevate is that you can start earning points right away. There are no special requirements to join the Elevate Red level and immediately begin earning five points for every dollar you spend on Virgin America flights. You will be bumped up to Elevate Silver status once you earn 20,000 status points in a calendar year. Elevate Gold status will be yours to enjoy once you earn 50,000 status points in a calendar year.

Virgin America Elevate Program Perks

Virgin America has crafted a very generous loyalty program that is hard to turn down. Elevate Red allows you to start earning points the moment you book a Virgin America flight. However, additional perks won’t kick in until you slide into Elevate Silver status. This is when you’ll begin to enjoy complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select, priority check-in status, priority security line access and priority boarding whenever you fly with Virgin America. You will also get one free checked bag when you fly. You can really get a taste of the good life when you use your two free passes and discounted passes for the Virgin America Loft lounge at Los Angeles International Airport.

Elevate Silver members receive exclusive deals and promotions from Elevate partners throughout the year. Things really start to glitter once you reach Elevate Gold status. All of the Elevate Silver perks carry over to this tier. The big value of reaching this tier is that you will receive a bonus of 100 percent on all points earned on Virgin America flights. In addition, your baggage perk will be bumped up to cover three free checked bags.

Pros and Cons

One of the brightest spots in the Virgin Elevate rewards program is that there aren’t any blackout dates or restrictions on reward flights. You already know what a big deal this is if you’ve dealt with the frustration of trying to redeem reward miles with airlines that do have blackout dates.

The miles you earn with Virgin America are yours to use during the hectic holiday season or the busy summer months. The downside is that you may not get a chance to use your points by the time you do have a big trip planned because they expire after 18 months of inactivity. This is definitely a factor to consider if your travel habits are sporadic. However, it won’t be an issue if you travel consistently. Something that’s easy to love about Virgin America’s loyalty program is how simple it makes earning and redeeming points. This may be the best choice out there for people who love straightforward programs that deliver what they promise without a lot of complicated calculations.

Virgin America bases rewards on spending instead of miles traveled. This means the points you earn will be based on the price of your ticket instead of how many miles you travel during each trip. This is a benefit for business travelers and people who routinely fly in premium cabins.

One other neat feature of this program is that members are allowed to transfer up to 30,000 of their reward points to another Elevate member every calendar year. The only condition is that the reward points that are transferred can’t be used as status points. The final drawback to consider is that members will only earn points on one seat per flight if they book several seats. It might be worth looking into a program that offers more flexibility in this area if you routinely book business seats for several travel companions.

Should You Consider Elevate?

Elevate is a generous and pleasantly simple rewards program. You will likely appreciate the fact that points can be earned when you use certain credit cards or book hotel stays with program partners. In addition to redeeming your points for air travel, you can also use them for cabin upgrades and hotel stays. Elevate offers a well-rounded program that doesn’t make you jump through hoops or obsess over every travel plan you make for the sake of optimizing your reward-earning potential.

One important thing to remember is that Elevate will become an arm of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan in 2018. Members can likely look forward to extra rewards and a much larger network of available global destinations when that happens. Current members of the Elevate program can receive a bonus of 30 percent on points if they start converting their points to the Mileage Plan program now.


Delta SkyMiles Rewards Program Review

You probably already know that it’s not financially wise to fly without booking your flights using a loyalty program.  This is especially true if you fly more than just a few times each year. Flying without a loyalty program means missing out on opportunities to earn free miles and enjoy perks that can make every travel experience more enjoyable. You might be having a hard time deciding which airline loyalty program to finally commit to. The competition has never been stronger when it comes to the measures airlines will take to entice new members and keep existing ones happy.

The Delta SkyMiles program is one of the top contenders out there. Does this program offer the type of perks that you can really use? Discover what you need to know if you’re thinking of committing to the Delta SkyMiles program.

What There Is to Like About the Delta SkyMiles Program

Delta offers some great perks for people who travel domestically and internationally. The SkyMiles program is a particularly good choice if you routinely go back and forth between hubs like Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York because of perks like frequent routes and state-of-the-art airport lounges. You can also get a lot out of the SkyMiles program if your travels frequently take you to cities around the world.

Delta has partnerships with popular airlines like Air France, KLM, Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic that make it possible to earn and use miles. Earning miles is pretty straightforward when you’re a member of SkyMiles. You can look forward to earning between five miles and 11 miles for every dollar you spend when you fly. How many miles you actually earn on each trip will depend on your membership level and the type of seat you book.

Delta SkyMiles Tier Levels

One interesting thing about award travel in the SkyMiles program is that it is based on ticket pricing instead of the distance that you fly. You can also earn points through SkyMiles partners simply for using your credit card or booking hotels stays. The big advantage that SkyMiles points offer over points from competing loyalty programs is that they will never expire once they’re in your account. There is also the chance to earn medallion-qualifying miles on your trips. Medallion-qualifying miles are the measured miles that can actually help you boost your membership level into a higher tier. Here’s a look at the tiers you can achieve in the Delta SkyMiles program:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Diamond

Travelers really like the fact that SkyMiles offers a generous amount of award seats at the lowest redemption levels. Points can also be used on cabin upgrades. Members in every tier enjoy waived baggage fees, priority check-in status and priority boarding. Perks like priority security screening, expedited baggage service and free access to Delta Sky Club locations kick in as you move your way up through Delta’s membership tiers. There are even crossover rewards that can help you get the white-glove treatment when you stay in select hotels or rent cars with certain rental agencies.

Delta SkyClub in Tokyo Japan

What You Might Not Like About the Delta SkyMiles Program

One of the biggest complaints that people have about the SkyMiles program is just how difficult it is to reach Platinum and Diamond status. You will really need to do a lot of traveling to accrue enough miles to enter both of those tiers. However, people who travel as part of their lifestyle actually prefer the exclusivity of these tiers because it means they get to enjoy a truly unique experience that sets them apart when they fly with Delta.

It is possible to accrue points more quickly without flying more frequently if you sign up for a credit card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card. All of these cards will award you with two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases. One other potentially big drawback of joining the SkyMiles program is that your reward miles aren’t exactly yours to use from the start. You actually need to have a minimum balance of 5,000 miles before you can use your miles to cover the cost of a flight.

Should You Be a Delta SkyMiles Member?

The Delta SkyMiles program offers a lot of attractive perks for travelers. This is a program that will benefit people who travel frequently and make a lot of purchases using their credit cards while on the road because it rewards high spending from all angles. It is almost foolish not to sign up for the SkyMiles program if you have the type of travel schedule that will qualify you for Diamond status. This tier of membership offers a long list of perks that can make every travel experience really enjoyable. You can also look forward to exclusive privileges that will save you time and spare you from hassles when you’re jetting between destinations.

People who will only reach Silver status or Gold status still have quite a few perks to look forward to. The bottom line is that the SkyMiles program is definitely one of the best loyalty programs available today. It is a good choice unless you can find another program that is offering some specific perk that fits a unique travel need that you have.


Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® $200 Bonus Review

One of the most important financial tools you have at your disposal is a strong credit card.  While the improper use of a credit card can be a detriment to your financial security, proper use of a great cash back credit card can save you hundreds of dollars each and every year.  The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® is one of those great cash back credit cards.  If you’re like me and use your credit card to buy everything, you might just save $1,000 a year.

The first big perk you’ll notice on the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® is the $200 cash back after spending $1,000 in purchases during the first three months of card ownership.  When compared with other cards, the $200 bonus is just about the best there is for a credit card that does not charge an annual fee.  The spend hurdle of $1,000 isn’t all that difficult to reach.  A few trips to the grocery store for a family of four an a utility bill or two and you’re there.

Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® Rewards

  • Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase
  • Every time you redeem, get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption
  • Redeem your cash rewards for a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a statement credit or gift cards. Redemptions start at $50
  • Cash rewards do not expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Enjoy a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers for each balance transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that a variable APR will apply, 15.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • No annual fee

Outside of the tip top bonus, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®’s biggest asset is it’s 1.5% cash back on all purchases rewards program.  In addition to that return, when rewards are redeemed, a 5% bonus is earned.  This means that you’ll earn a true rewards return of 1.575% which is a touch above most other name brand cards (Freedom Unlimited, Quicksilver).

No Interest for 15 Months

All new cardholders of the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® will also receive a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.  After the intro rate expires, the variable APR becomes 15.99% – 23.99%.

Let’s expand on the intro APR opportunity for a second.  I recently purchased a playground swing set for my children that set me back $1,500.  I used this very card to make the purchase because it carried a 0% intro APR for 15 months, and I had no intentions of paying off the balance anytime soon.  So long as I make $100 payments each month, I’ll have the balance paid off exactly after the 15 month intro offer is up.  If I had to use another card in my wallet, one that did not have a 0% offer, I’d lose a good amount of money to interest payments.

For example, let’s say I used a card with a modest 19% interest rate (which is about average in today’s credit card world).  Making the same monthly $100 payment, I would end up paying back a total of $1,712.07 in 18 payments.  That’s $212.07 in interest.   For those making larger purchases and still being able to pay the balance down to zero, the amount of savings can be even greater.

Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® Conclusion

If there’s one negative about the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®, it’s that the minimum amount of cash that can be redeemed starts at $50.  That’s pretty high when compared to other cash back credit cards.  However if you use this card even infrequently, you should be able to hit the $50 mark every so often considering the high cash back rate.

Top to bottom, left to right, this is one of the best cash back credit cards available.  So long as you don’t find yourself bleeding away interest payments, there’s good savings to be had by having the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® in your wallet.


The Best Way to Redeem Reward Points for Travel

There’s more than one way to redeem awards points for travel. Following the best strategy, however, can result in a lot more value for your miles or points. Here’s the best and worst way to use your rewards for each major travel category.

The Best Way to Redeem Award Points for Travel

Finding the right way to use your hard-earned credit card points can be an arduous task. Traveling takes many different forms: it might involve flights, hotels, rental cars, or cruise bookings. In general, flights and hotels are your best bet for earning the most bang for your buck.

Let’s walk through each of the major travel categories, highlighting popular travel chains, and showing you how to stretch your points and miles.

Flights

  • Best bet: International business and first-class flights
  • Worst case: Short-hop domestic flights in coach

Purchasing international flights with miles will generate the largest benefit. An international flight can easily run you over $1,000 just flying in coach. When you look at first-class flights, the cost can be several thousands of dollars. The cost makes them ideal for miles redemption.

One of these flights, however, is going to cost you a lot of miles. A single flight can easily run well north of 100,000 miles. Be prepared to lose a big chunk of your miles if opting for this route. The luxury provided by a first-class experience when flying for 12+ hours, however, can be worth it!

There’s still, however, an argument to be made for domestic flights as a sound redemption. While they’re not the most cost-effective use of your miles, you can stretch 100,000 miles into more than 3 or 4 domestic flights in coach. I recently booked two flights from Raleigh, NC to Miami, FL at a cost of 30,000 American Airlines miles, and return flights to the tune of 25,000 United miles. While those flights aren’t the most expensive if I were to pay in cash, I prefer using my miles for multiple different trips rather than all on one or two. This is all personal preference, and you should know that strictly from a cash value standpoint, business and first-class flights are the most optimal.

Hotels

  • Best bet: All-inclusive resorts for certain hotels, international destinations
  • Worst case: Lower tier economy bookings

Hotel redemptions are a bit trickier. They vary so much by location and amenities that comparing options is no simple matter. Even within a specific line of hotels, for example, Marriott, nights can range from 7,500 to 45,000 points based on just the location.

Some of the best redemptions can be very dependent on the hotel chain. Wyndham properties, for example, redeem at a flat rate of 15,000 points per night at any property, anywhere. Spending 15,000 on a Days Inn or Super 8 would be silly. Wyndham also has some excellent properties in locations like Boca Raton and Miami, and even all-inclusive resorts in The Bahamas.

Finding the best redemption can be tedious, but luckily most hotel chains make things pretty easy for you. Just use the brand-specific site to book and you’ll see dozens of location-based bookings and their associated rates. It might take a bit of cross-referencing with your favorite travel booking website, but you can easily find room rates and hotel reviews to line up something to your liking.

Rental Cars

  • Best bet: A credit card with primary car insurance
  • Worst case: Redeeming credit card points for a rental

Your best bet when it comes to arranging a rental car is to simply use a credit card that provides you with insurance. Specifically, you want a card that offers primary insurance, meaning direct driver coverage on rental cars. American Express cards offer this for a fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United MileagePlus® Explorer Card cards offer primary insurance for free.

Redeeming points or miles for a rental car is going to be poor value, no matter how you cut it. I’d suggest saving those points and applying them to nights or flights.

Cruises

  • Best bet: Use points to get to your port
  • Worst case: Burn points at 1x rates

When it comes to taking a cruise, your points and miles are probably best spent on flights or hotels to get to your port of call. The unfortunate reality is that redeeming miles or points for cruises just doesn’t get you great value. The best you can do would be something like booking through Chase’s travel portal at a 20% discount. This approach would barely put you at a 1.25x earning rate for your points, which is easily beaten by most flights and hotel bookings.

I would strongly recommend instead using those points to take an inexpensive flight to wherever your cruise will be departing from. Alternatively, you could book a stay the night before to make your trip easier.

Travel Partners

One final thing to keep in mind is that travel partners can make a big impact on your redemption value. Following the recent merger of SPG and Marriott, for example, you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a 3x rate. This can result in some huge values if you’ve managed to accrue significant amounts of SPG points.Other flexible programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards can provide you with significant opportunities, or at the very least, the flexibility to use the airline or hotel chain that you prefer.

Other flexible programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards can provide you with significant opportunities, or at the very least, the flexibility to use the airline or hotel chain that you prefer.


Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business $500 Bonus Cash Back Review

The very first business credit card I applied for (and was approved for) was the Capital One Spark.  In 2010 when I was approved, I used that card exclusively for all of my business needs and it did the job.  Although the card only generated 1% flat cash back, it was an important stepping stone in getting my business set up.  Now that I have a solid credit history I’m able to request an upgrade from Capital One. That upgrade is to now own a Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business credit card.

Top Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Perks

There are two terrific perks to owning the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business and many smaller perks.  The first big perk is the up-front bonus for new cardholders.  After being approved and completing a spend hurdle of $4,500 in the first three months of card ownership, you’ll receive a cool $500 cash back.  For a small business, spending $4,500 in a three month period can be difficult.  You can always time your credit card application to coincide with a high dollar purchase.  Wait until your business is looking to spend a lot, then apply to coincide with the bonus offer.

The second monster perk of the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is that it offers a flat 2% cash back on ALL purchases.  To my knowledge, there is no business credit card that does flat cash back better.  You might be able to earn 5% cash back on office supplies.  You might be able to earn 3% cash back on your phone bill.  However, the majority of small business purchases you make will always qualify in the “general” category and getting 2% back is very strong.  As an example, a business that spends $20,000 a year on their card will earn $400 in cash back.

Card Name
Initial Bonus
Rewards Rate
Annual Fee
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
$500
2%
$59 (Waived 1st year)
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
$300
5% / 2% / 1%
$0
SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
$200
5% / 3% / 1%
$0
Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi
N/A
4% / 3% / 2% / 1%
$0

Some of the additional perks of the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business are as follows:

Smaller Capital One Perks

No foreign transaction fees – If your business makes purchases outside of the United States (whether physically in another country or online with an international processor) you will NOT be charged a transaction fee.  Some credit cards charge up to 3% to exchange foreign currency from the buyer to the seller.  However, Capital One is a notorious issuer in not charging a foreign transaction fee on any of their credit cards.

Auto rental collision damage waiver – If you use your Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business to rent a vehicle, you do not have to pay for the added collision insurance because your credit card will cover it.  However, it is important to read the rules closely on which cars are covered and which are not.

Emergency assistance services – When you’re on the road, the phone number on the back of your Capital One card can be of great value.  Calling them will give you access to legal or medical referrals, assistance if you’re stuck on the side of the road or help in replacing a travel ticket you’ve lost.  Be advised that if you utilize a service such as roadside assistance, you’ll be charged from the merchant.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Interest Rate

The variable interest rate on the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is 17.99%. This is slightly above average compared to other business cards in the same class (high rewards).  The cash advance APR is 23.99% and the penalty APR is 30.4%.  Needless to say, you should never use the cash advance APR unless it’s absolutely necessary.  If you’re stuck in penalty APR hell, call Capital One and beg for their forgiveness.  There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for all cardholders in the first year.

The only negative to speak of when considering the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is that pesky $95 annual fee.  For small businesses that don’t spend six figures a year, there’s a lot of money to be saved by earning 2% cash back on every single transaction.  This business card is good enough for my wallet, I believe you should also strongly consider it for yours.

 

 


Citi Prestige Card Review – 75,000 Bonus Points LTO

Earlier this month, Citi launched a new offer on their Citi Prestige® Card that might just be the best up-front bonus offer they’ve ever had.   Other issuers like Capital One and Chase are better known in the credit card community for having big bonuses whereas Citi draws you in with a terrific ongoing offer (but little up front).  The new Citi Prestige® Card seems to have it all; big up-front bonus and a rewards program that most everyone would love to have.

For a limited time, new cardholders of the Citi Prestige® Card will earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.  If you use those points to redeem for airfare at ThankYou.com, those points can be worth in upwards of $900.

In addition to the big up front bonus, there are two additional recurring perks associated with the Citi Prestige Card.

  1. Complimentary 4th Night FREE – Booking travel through ThankYou.com, you can earn a 4th night free whenever you book three consecutive nights in your hotel stay.   You can also use the Citi Prestige® Concierge when booking.  The free 4th night is based on the average price of your first three nights so for example if the 4th night is a Saturday, you may pay a little out of pocket.
  2. $250 Annual Credit on Air Travel – Every year you renew the Citi Prestige® Card, you’ll earn a $250 air travel credit.  This means that when an expense like airfare, baggage fees, or upgrades is charged to your card, The first $250 will be credited back.  If you do not spend $250 each year in travel expenses than the difference is NOT credited to your account (and truth be told, this card is not for you).

The rewards program for the Citi Prestige® Card is straightforward.  Cardmembers will earn the following ThankYou® points:

  • 3 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on Air Travel and Hotels
  • 2 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on Dining Out and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on everything else

As if everything you read above isn’t enough to get you excited about the Citi Prestige® Card, here are a few more benefits to being a cardmember.

Airport Lounge Access – Cardmembers have access to all Priority Pass lounges in the US.  Currently, 26 airports have Priority Pass lounges (which means a lot of them do not, unfortunately) and the cardmember + immediate family or two guests gain free entry.

25% Point Bonus – When you use your points to book travel through ThankYou.com, they instantly become 25% more valuable.  This mean that 100 points (usually worth $1) are worth $1.25 in travel.  You also have the ability to transfer your points to other loyalty programs like TrueBlue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Hilton Honors (to name a few).  The minimum point transfer is 1,000 points and there is no penalty or fee to do so.

Global Entry / TSA Statement Credit – For those who benefit from using TSA Precheck, Citi will reimburse you the $100 Global Entry fee every five years.  This is the security line you see at the airport going faster than yours.  It’s renewal is required every five years, thus why Citi is offering you this $100 once every five years.

Citi Prestige® Card Pricing Details

Now that you see all of the benefits above, the question that begs itself is “How much is this going to cost?”  The annual fee on the Citi Prestige® Card is $450 and it is not waived for the first year.  If you add an authorized user to your account, they will pay their own $50 annual fee.  The standard variable interest rate for purchases is 16.74% – 24.74% and it also applies to balance transfers.   Balance transfer fee is 3% (or $5, whichever is greater).

Few cards today charge an annual fee that high, but the Citi Prestige® Card almost dares you to complain about the high annual fee.  With all of the current benefits and the 75,000 point bonus, I’m not sure you can.

  • 75,000 bonus ThankYou points
  • $250 annual travel credit
  • $100 Pre Check credit (every five years)
  • 4th night free at almost every hotel
  • Airport lounge access
  • 25% bonus on points when you book at ThankYou.com

If you find yourself traveling often, the Citi Prestige® Card has the potential to save you thousands.  If you’re a light traveler, than using this card for at least one year is a must.  After your test drive, figure out if the $450 annual fee makes sense for your budget.  Staying a 4th night at a hotel just a few times a year should pay for the annual fee and then some.

Consider owning the Citi Prestige® Card while the 75,000 ThankYou point bonus is in play.


Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Review – $150 Bonus + 6% Cash Back on Groceries

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is known as one of the highest paying cash back cards available. It offers up to 6% cash back and a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.

Blue Cash Preferred ReviewAmerican Express is perhaps best known for its travel rewards–“Don’t leave home without it.” But with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, it also offers a top notch cash rewards cards. The card has a tiered reward system ranging from one to six percent. It also has a cash bonus for new card members and a 0% introductory APR offer.

Learn more about this and other cash back credit cards and apply online at CardRatings.com.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Snapshot

  • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can start earning cash back. No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.74% to 22.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Cash Back Rewards Program

There are four components of the rewards program: (1) the $150 bonus; (2) 6% cash back;  (3) 3% cash back; and (4) 1% cash back.

  1. $150 Bonus: Spend just $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months and you’ll pocket a $150 cash bonus in the form of a statement credit.
  2. 6% Cash Back: For rewards, you earn 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). This is one of the highest cash back rewards available from any card.
  3. 3% Cash Back: You’ll earn 3% at U.S gas stations.
  4. 1% Cash Back: On all other purchases.

Now it’s not all good news when it comes to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.  There is a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived for the first year.  This means the initial $150 cash back bonus is cut by the annual fee; but when you take into account the high % cash back savings in a variety of categories, big spenders will love this card long-term.

For example, I used this card exclusively at the pump and at the grocery store.  I am the father in a family of four (only three eating solid food at the moment) and our grocery bill is a solid $450 every month.  My wife and I work from home, and with little children rarely eat out (once or twice a month if that) so nearly all of our meals occur within these four walls.  Spending $5,500 a year on groceries, we save $330 a year just on this one expenditure line.

Had we been using a very good 2% cash back credit card, that savings would only be $110, meaning were $220 to the positive.  Tack on the savings from 3% gas purchases, the initial $150 bonus and the perks that American Express can provide; the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an easy addition to our wallets.

Learn more about this and other cash back credit cards and apply online at CardRatings.com.


Discover it® Miles Review – Unlimited 1.5x Miles w/ BIG Bonus

Discover it<sup>®</sup> MilesThe Discover it® Miles credit card offers a miles based rewards program that gives you double all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. It sports no annual fee and unlimited 1.5X miles on every dollar you spend. Need Wi-Fi on the plane but don’t want to pay a crazy amount in fees? Discover has got you covered. It will pay you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees up to $30 a year with an automatic statement credit. Now you can also redeem miles in any amount toward travel purchases on your statement or even get cash as a direct deposit to your bank account with every 100 miles.

Discover it® Miles Snapshot

  • Unlimited 1.5x rewards on every purchase, every day. For every $1 you spend, you earn 1.5x Miles.
  • Get a mile-for-mile match of all the rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards in any amount for cash or a travel credit. You’ll always get $1 for every 100 Miles you’ve earned.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service. Talk to a real person any time.
  • No Annual Fee.

Rewards Program

The Discover it® Miles card offers a simple and lucrative rewards program. With the card you earn unlimited 1.5X miles on every dollar spent on purchases. You can redeem miles for a statement credit toward travel purchases. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation.

Alternatively, you can have the rewards transferred to your bank account. Every 100 miles equals $1 in value. Discover Match® is also currently offering double the miles you’ve earned at the end of the first year of your account being opened.

0% Introductory Rate

The card offers a 0% introductory rate on purchases for a period of 14 months. The intro balance transfer APR is 10.99% for 14 months

Other Perks

The Discover it® Miles card offers several additional benefits:

  • No Blackout dates, any airline, any time: Redeem Miles in any amount to credit travel purchases from your statement, or get cash at any time
  • Freeze It on/off switch for your account.: Misplaced your card? Now if you lose your card, you can Freeze ItSM to prevent new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers on your account. Freeze or unfreeze in seconds with our mobile app or website
  • Service and security built around you: Discovers 100% U.S. live service is available any time you call. Or rely on powerful, fast mobile and online service. Discover ships replacement cards overnight for free to any U.S. street address at your request—even on vacation. And Discover will never hold you responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free: Stay on top of your credit and avoid surprises. Now you can see your recent FICO® Credit Scores in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements and online. Plus see the key factors online from your credit history that affect your score the most.

More information on the Discover it® Miles