USAA Limitless Visa: Earn 2.5% Cash Back on Every Purchase

We all know 2% cash back credit cards exist, and rotating 5% cash back categories are also widely available, though annoying because they’re capped and only good for three months.

Maybe that’s why USAA is introducing something even better – a credit card that earns 2.5% cash back on every purchase. It’s apparently in beta right now and being sent out as a targeted offer to certain customers.

It’s clearly a better deal if you’re currently earning 2% or less on your credit card purchases, but there are some strings attached.

USAA Limitless 2.5% Cash Back Requires Direct Deposit

For one, it only appears to be available in four states at the moment, including Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

Secondly, you have to be a member of USAA with a checking account that brings in at least $1,000 per month via direct deposit from your employer, the government, or an external financial institution.

So in that sense, you might be losing out on interest if the money has to stay with USAA earning a lower yield.

I don’t know what the APY is for their checking account, but I doubt it’s as good as the 1% or more you can earn in so-called high-yield savings accounts.

I suppose you could just transfer your paychecks right out and into a high yield account each month, so it’s not a huge negative.

And if for some reason you can’t muster the recurring direct deposit, your cash back will fall to 1.5% on every purchase, which is still pretty competitive.

What Is Another 0.5% Cash Back Worth?

Now let’s get down to brass tacks and determine if you should apply for this new limitless credit card from USAA.

If you already have a 2% cash back credit card, this would give you another 0.5% cash back per purchase.

Let’s just pretend that you spend $5,000 a month using the card. I chose a large amount to illustrate the potential earnings, or lack thereof.

That $5,000 per month multiplied by 0.5% is just $25. Doesn’t sound as great now does it?

Now that’s assume you don’t charge $5,000 a month on the card because you’re a normal human being and you’ve got multiple credit cards you use for a variety of different category bonuses.

Let’s say you put a more reasonable $2,000 on the USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards credit card each month instead. That’s an extra $10 per month.

Now it’s getting way less exciting. Throw in the fact that you’ve got to maintain a direct deposit and a checking account, and likely shuffle money to a higher yielding savings account to avoid missing out on interest and it’s a lot less compelling.

One could also argue to just go after a sign-up bonus instead that gives you a couple hundred bucks for making a few hundred dollars in purchases. Or a bank account bonus that does the same.

The upside to this USAA credit card is that there’s no annual fee, and no limit to how much cash back you can earn.

Per the terms and conditions, you get 90 days from account opening to make your initial direct deposit to qualify for the 2.5% cash back.

Additionally, you can redeem the cash back for a statement credit or deposit it straight into your checking account. So redemption seems to be a breeze.

Still, as demonstrated above, you might just be better off going after credit card sign-up bonuses and/or bank account bonuses. Both would probably yield more value with similar/less work.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Review: 80k Sign-Up Bonus

News just broke of yet another new credit card from Chase, the “Chase Ink Business Preferred,” which is expected to be released later this year.

It’s a new version of the existing Chase Ink card, so nothing too mind-blowing, just some important differences to take note of.

In what sounds like an ode to the Chase Sapphire Reserve for the business-minded credit cardholder, it will come with solid multiples in a variety of new spending categories and a slightly larger sign-up bonus.

Additionally, the limits to earn points in said bonus categories will be lifted quite a bit to suit the big spenders.

80,000 Ultimate Rewards Bonus with Chase Ink Business Preferred

chase ink business preferred

First and foremost, the new business card is expected to come with 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.

This beats the current 70k bonus that you can earn via the limited time in-branch Chase Ink Plus offer, or the 60k public offer available via the Chase website.

So another 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points for the same amount of spending is the first plus to this new credit card.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Offers 3X Points in 4 Categories

Secondly, the yet-to-be-released Chase Ink Business Preferred card will come with four 3X bonus categories geared toward business owners.

They include:

  • Travel
  • Telecommunications (I’m assuming wireless service)
  • Shipping
  • Advertising on social media and search engines

Perhaps more importantly, the cap in these 3X categories will be a combined $150,000 annually. In other words, you can spend $150,000 in these categories before they revert to 1X per dollar spent.

The existing Chase Ink Plus has an annual limit of $50,000 combined in its bonus categories, which for some might seem a bit on the low end.

For the record, the Chase Ink Plus categories earn 5x at office supply stores and on wireless, landline, internet, and cable services. So maxed out you’re looking at 250,000 UR points each year.

With the categories on the new version of Ink maxed out, you’d be looking at 450,000 UR points.

Of course, it would require three times the spending to get there for less than double the amount of points…

The decision of which card to pick will ultimately (no pun intended) be dictated by which spending categories you favor.

I like the travel category because it’s pretty wide open in terms of what qualifies (e.g. Uber, Lyft, plane tickets, hotels, etc.).

And for some business owners that might be huge if they don’t want to spend $450 annually on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, though the net cost is only $150 with the $300 travel credit factored in.

For those who maximize the office supply store category by purchasing gift cards, the original Ink Plus is probably still the best card.

It will also depend on how Chase defines telecommunications…if it’s all the common utilities like wireless and internet it’ll be more lucrative.

The good news is that the same $95 annual fee applies to Chase Ink Business Preferred, and it’s waived the first year.

The only question I have now is if it’ll be plain old plastic or some kind of metal alloy. Based on them running out of materials for the Sapphire card, it’s probably the former.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Highlights

  • 80,000 UR points if you spend $5k in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived during year one)
  • 3X categories include travel, shipping, advertising, and telecommunications
  • $150,000 annual aggregate limit in bonus categories

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: Get 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points

If you’re looking to give your Ultimate Rewards point balance a serious boost, consider the red-hot “Chase Sapphire Reserve” credit card.

It’s not longer just a rumor (now it’s a fact and you can apply today!), and I’ve got all the important details you need to know about before you fill in the application.

Here’s what we know about the new iteration of Chase Sapphire so far (take with a grain of salt until confirmed). It is now confirmed!

100K Opening Bonus with Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card that comes with a staggering 100,000 Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 during the first three months from account opening.

Surprisingly, it’s not any higher than the plain old Chase Sapphire Preferred that earns just 50,000 UR points.

I was actually kind of worried it might be more than $5,000 considering the mega bonus involved, but I guess the higher annual fee makes up for it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to boost spending to hit the minimum without going broke.

I usually try to time the opening of a credit card with a big minimum spend to a large purchase I have just to make life easier.

Update: The bonus spend is only $4,000 for the 100,000 UR points, which to me is a steal. I assumed they’d ask cardholders to spend a lot more, but the pricey annual fee may be one reason why.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Comes with $450 Annual Fee

Does the number $450 ring a bell? Think American Express Platinum and you’re on the right track.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve will come with a hefty annual fee of $450 like Amex Platinum, and $75 annually for each additional authorized user card.

It kind of makes sense seeing that the Amex often floats a 100k sign-up bonus.

Now you just have to determine if you value Amex MR points more than Chase UR points.

All in all, it’s pricey and I don’t think that annual fee is waived the first year. So if you can’t hit the minimum spend you probably shouldn’t bother with this card.

If you’re patient, there might be an in-branch offer that waives the annual fee the first year, as was done with Chase Ink.

However, I don’t think I am going to hold out for something like that because I don’t want to deal with the 5/24 rule and miss out entirely.

Besides, I’ve just finished meeting the spending requirement on a new Chase Ink card that will give me 75,000+ Ultimate Rewards points and I’m ready for something new.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Has a $300 Travel Credit

You can easily offset some (or all) of the costly Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee thanks to the annual travel credit.

The good news is there’s a $300 annual travel credit that you can probably earn twice in 365 days (over two different calendar years) to more than offset the one annual fee.

The big question is what the travel credit can be used toward. If you can buy airline gift cards it’s a no-brainer.

If you can only use it for incidentals on flights it might not be as worthwhile. Still, if properly maxed out you could come out $150 ahead if you hit the credit twice in less than a year.

Update: You get a $300 credit annually for purchases in the travel category, meaning it could hypothetically be used for anything from hotel rooms to airfare to even ridesharing purchases like Uber and Lyft. If that’s the case this card is a steal!

And the statement credit will apparently post the same day your purchase posts to your account.

Over roughly two years (one annual fee charge) that equates to $150 in free travel and 104,000+ UR points, all for spending just $4,000. That’s pretty rad.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Offers 3X on Travel & Dining Worldwide

One great thing about Chase Sapphire Reserve is the bonus categories. We’re talking 3X on both dining and travel worldwide, with dining the more interesting one for me. I eat out a lot so it’d be an efficient way to earn lots of UR points.

The only easier way to earn UR points is via Chase Ink and its 5X categories on things like internet, cable, cell phone, and office supplies. But if you had both cards open you could earn a boatload of UR points in a hurry with just plain old everyday spending.

The card is also expected to come with Priority Pass Select, which is airport lounge access that competitors like Citi offer via their Citi Prestige card. And things like a rebate for Global Entry and/or TSA Pre.

So in summary, the Chase Sapphire Reserve appears to be an ultra premium travel rewards credit card with one of the highest sign-up bonuses I’ve ever seen from Chase, which could be its greatest appeal.

Should You Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve?

I don’t know if most savvy credit card churners would keep this card for more than a year, but I know a ton of them (if not all) would want to get their hands on 100,000 UR points for meeting a relatively low minimum spend.

This card is expected to be rolled out on August 21, 2016, so we should know in a few weeks if the rumors are all true. And what that pesky minimum spend is…it has been confirmed at just $4,000.

The $300 travel credit certainly makes the annual fee a lot less painful, if not icing on the cake of an already stellar deal.

I noted that I’m waiting because I’m working on a Chase Ink card spend at the moment, and also curious if this bonus could go even higher. Is it possible it could go to 150,000 UR points?

If you’re close to Chase’s 5/24 credit card cutoff, you may want to wait on applying for other credit cards to see if you can get approved for this special offer first.

My only concern in waiting is if the 100k sign-up bonus is lowered after the initial launch period. There’s no indication it will be, but we also don’t know if this is some sort of special bonus coinciding with the card’s launch.

We could find out in a few months that it was, and that the bonus is just 75,000, 50,000, or some other lower number. I wouldn’t wait if you don’t have any other cards on your radar, even if it does somehow get better. Besides, Chase is good about matching public offers.

Why I Applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve

Originally I said I was going to wait to apply, but then just bit the bullet and went for it. As I mentioned, I didn’t want to deal with the pesky 5/24 rule and keep track of what cards I could open and when.

I doubt anything new will be coming out from Chase anytime soon, other than the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which I have no interest in. So I figured I could use the last of my five applications in two years here.

Additionally, there were no other credit cards on my radar for the foreseeable future, so I decided to just get after it.

We really don’t know if the 100k bonus will stick around or not, and it’s probably not worth leaving to chance.

No sense in being greedy here if you can get approved and snag the 100k bonus. And if you have travel plans, might as well take advantage of the travel credit while you’re at it.

It appears that I’ll be using a Chase credit card for just about every purchase now, which is probably their grand plan.

For travel and dining it’ll be Chase Sapphire Reserve. For rotating categories it’ll be Freedom. For utilities it’ll be Chase Ink. Well played Chase…

A Note About the $4,000 Chase Sapphire Reserve Spending Requirement

It seems a lot of folks (including myself) want to know if the travel credit will mean you have to spend more than the $4,000 spending requirement.

For example, if you spend $4,000 during those first three months, but $300 is credited back to you via that $300 travel credit, would that mean you’d have to spend $4,300 to get the bonus?

The answer is no. I asked Chase via secure message and was told the following:

Further, let me assure you that the purchases that earn
the $300.00 travel credit will still count towards to the
minimum spending requirement of $4,000.00 to earn the
Sign-up bonus. However, please know that the $300.00
credit earned from your travel purchases would not count
towards the spending requirement.

In other words, you can hit the minimum spend even if it only costs you $3,700 with $300 being refunded via the travel credit.

I don’t think most people would take that chance though…

In general, it’s good to err on the side of more to ensure the bonus is triggered if you happen to refund something or miscalculate your spend.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students Isn’t Very Preferred

Students Should Shop Around

So Citi launched a new credit card for college students aptly named the “Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to live up to its name, and you can even blame Citi’s other credit card offerings for that.

You see, it just isn’t a very good option when you compare it to other credit cards, including other Citi credit cards.

For one, the opening bonus is a rather weak 2,500 bonus points, which is worth about $25 depending on how you redeem your TYP. And you need to spend $500 to get that measly bonus.

Take the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which offers a $150 cash back bonus once you spend $500. It also earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

With the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students, you earn 2X TYP on dining out and entertainment, but just one point per dollar everywhere else. So it’ll be tough to earn enough TYP to do anything worthwhile, especially with that weak opening bonus doing you very few favors.

For example, say you spend the required $500 in the first three months to get the 2,500 TYP bonus. And assume you spent that entire $500 in the 2X categories.

That would equate to just 3,500 TYP total, or roughly $35. It might not even be enough points for a minimum redemption at most places.

There’s No Annual Fee on the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

I guess the upside to this new credit card for college students is that there’s no annual fee. The Citi ThankYou Premier Card for adults has a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. But it also comes with additional point-earning categories and a handsome sign up bonus (when it does come around again).

The Preferred Card for College Students also offers 0% APR for seven months on purchases, which again is pretty weak and well below what you’ll find with other credit cards. Again, the Chase Freedom cards offer 15 months of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers.

For me, the Citi card is only really beneficial if you can’t get approved for a big-boy credit card and you don’t care much about earning rewards. Because chances are you’ll never earn many TYP with regular spending and a presumably conservative spending limit.

If You’re a Student, Look at Discover Instead

Instead, you might want to consider the Discover it for Students, or Discover it chrome for Students card. Both come with at least 1% cash back on all purchases, along with higher-earning multiples in certain categories like gas and restaurants.

Additionally, you might be able to get your cash back doubled the first year as a new cardmember.

In summary, there are a lot of better options floating around for college students, especially for those who want to earn cash back as opposed to gift cards and other nonsense. The last thing you need is more stuff!

Additionally, Discover doesn’t have a minimum redemption amount, so for students who generally don’t spend a lot on their cards, they can still cash in their earned rewards at any time. With the Citi card, you might not earn enough points to get what you want.

The downside to Discover is that it’s not accepted everywhere, which could be a problem if it’s your only credit card, perhaps the norm for a student. The company also tends to be pretty conservative when doling out credit lines.

Still, I think you can do better than this new Citi card.

Blispay Visa Offers No Interest and No Payments on Purchases Over $199 for 6 Months

The new “Blispay Visa Card,” issued by First Electronic Bank out of Utah, wants to completely change the credit card game. And yes, there’s only one “S” in their name, it’s not a typo.

It’s a somewhat odd proposal but one that could certainly separate the Blispay Visa from the credit card crowd. Allow me to explain how it works because it’s a bit complex.

2% Cash Back Automatically with Blispay Visa Card

First off, they’re offering 2% cash back on all purchases. This matches similar offers from Fidelity Amex and Citi Double Cash, but beats several other cards that only offer 1.5% cash back, such as the new Chase Freedom Unlimited.

However, they’re making that 2% redemption rate even better by rebating your cash back automatically in the form of a statement credit. So you don’t need to spend a minimum amount to get your cash back, nor are you required to manually redeem your cash back.

That’s the first unique aspect of the Blispay Visa Card. But there’s something even more interesting, yet potentially dangerous for cardholders.

Purchases Over $199 = No Interest + No Payments for 6 Months

If you make a purchase over $199 with your Blispay Visa, you’ll get six months of no payments and no interest if it’s eventually paid in full within six months.

In other words, if your purchases are always over $199, you get six months to pay them off each time without incurring finance charges.

They refer to this type of transaction as a “No Payments No Interest purchase” and you can view these purchases in the Promos section of your account at Blispay to ensure they qualify.

Here’s the hitch. If you don’t pay off these purchases in full within the six-month period, interest will be charged to your account at the card’s APR of 19.99% from the date it posted.

So they will essentially charge you interest retroactively at a rate of 19.99% for the entire six months if it’s not paid off in time.

Obviously this can cost you a pretty penny if you’ve got a large purchase that you failed to make a dent on.

Further complicating the whole deal is the fact that you can make normal purchases at the same time with the Blispay Visa. These are subject to the 19.99% APR as well, but don’t have the payment grace period.

The problem is that once they get commingled it could get confusing determining when each needs to be paid off, especially if you have multiple interest-deferred large purchases mixed with small everyday purchases.

However, Blispay does provide some leeway. If you happen to forget to pay off the promotional balance by the expiration date, you can still make a payment between the expiration date and the next payment due date.

For example, if one of your $200 purchases has an expiration date of June 5th and your payment due date is June 15th, you get those 10 extra days to pay it off in full without being charged the accrued interest.

This Is Getting Really Confusing…

But that leads us to payment allocation, which determines where payments you make wind up.

If you simply make a minimum payment each month it will go toward the highest interest balance first, as dictated by law.

Assuming you have a No Payments No Interest purchase on your Blispay Card, any amount above the minimum payment will go toward that balance first if it’s made during the last two months before the expiration date. Otherwise it goes toward your higher interest balances first.

Confused yet? I am, which I why I think this hybrid store card/credit card could land some less sophisticated spenders in trouble.

It’s certainly a novel idea, and one that could give consumers breathing room to make larger purchases and avoid paying interest entirely. But you need to be really disciplined to avoid any missteps here.

If I were to use the Blispay Visa, I’d probably only use it for one No Payments No Interest purchase at a time to avoid any confusion or misallocation of payments.

For me, it’s simply too confusing to use it as an everyday credit card and also a store card with special financing. I see too many potential gotchas if you’re not extremely careful.

But, as mentioned, if you use it for one purchase at a time, you essentially get 0% APR for six months and 2% cash back. That’s pretty sweet!

Two New Charles Schwab Credit Cards from American Express Now Available

Are You an Existing Schwab Customer?

Charles Schwab just released two new credit cards backed by American Express.

If you have an eligible Charles Schwab brokerage account, you can apply for their new American Express co-branded credit cards. But before you do, let’s determine if they’re even worth applying for.

For the record, an eligible brokerage account means a Schwab One Account or Schwab General Brokerage Account. This is also required if you want the Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card, which can save you money on ATM fees.

I have the debit card and it has been great for grabbing small amounts of cash when my own bank’s ATMs are out of reach. I had one hiccup while traveling in Europe, but otherwise it’s been quite handy.

Anyway, about these new Schwab credit cards. As mentioned, there are two to choose from.

Schwab Investor Card from American Express

The Schwab Investor Card from American Express is the cheaper of the two as it comes with no annual fee. However, the perks are also probably less attractive for most folks.

You can earn a $100 statement credit after making $1,000 in purchases during the first months of membership, and you earn 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases.

This makes it quite comparable to the Discover it Miles card, or the Capital One Quicksilver card.

Unfortunately, this also means it falls short of 2% cash back options like Fidelity Amex or Citi Double Cash.

So I don’t know what the draw of this card would really be other than the cash being automatically deposited into your Schwab investment account. I guess it’s forced savings.

The American Express Platinum Card for Schwab

Schwab bonus

That brings us to the the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab, which is just another iteration of the well-known and popular Platinum Card.

The bad news is that it carries the usual $450 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year. The good news is that you get 40,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $3k in three months.

Again, there are other American Express credit card offers that come with better spending bonuses and smaller annual fees or no annual fee the first year so I don’t know if this is a winner either.

It includes the usual bells and whistles tied to the Platinum Amex such as airport lounge access, credits for Global Entry, and a $200 annual airline credit for incidental fees.

What separates it from the usual Amex Platinum crowd is two special Schwab-only features.

First, you can earn a Schwab Appreciation Bonus annually if your qualifying Schwab holdings are at or above certain levels.

If you have at least $250,000, you’ll receive a $100 Card statement credit. If you have at least one million dollars invested, that’s bumped up to a $200 card statement credit. This bonus will offset the annual fee and it’s a great perk if you already have that money invested with Schwab.

The second unique draw to the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab is the fact that redemptions of MR points into your Schwab brokerage account convert at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. So 10,000 MR points equates to $125.

While this sounds great, there’s one little issue. Most people collect MR points for the sole purpose of redeeming them for travel after transferring them to frequent flyer programs. This allows cardholders to squeeze a lot more value out of the points, much more than 1.25 cents per point.

And if you were redeeming for cash, you could just go with the annual fee-free Schwab Investor Card from American Express instead, or better yet, a card that earns 2% cash back on every purchase with no annual fee.

Overall, these new Schwab credit cards leave a lot to be desired, though they could make sense for someone with lots of assets already parked in a Schwab account. For most people there are probably many better card options out there.

Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on Every Purchase

Chase Freedom Unlimited Cash Back

In an effort to match products offered by rival credit card issuers, Chase is launching “Freedom Unlimited” to compete in the 1.5% cash back space. This will complement their existing Chase Freedom card, not replace it.

The new offering will align it with the likes of Capital One Quicksilver and Discover it Miles, which both offer the exact same cash back rewards – 1.5% cash back per dollar spent.

But what about cards like Citi Double Cash, which offers 2% cash back on every purchase? Or the Fidelity Amex? You could also argue that you’re better off going with Discover it Miles and it’s 3% cash back rate during year one.

All that being said, is the new Chase Freedom Unlimited card really competitive?

Chase Freedom Unlimited Earns Ultimate Rewards Points

So we know there are cards out there that offer better rates of cash back than the new Chase Freedom Unlimited card. No one can contest that.

But if you dig a little deeper, you could argue that we’re comparing apples and oranges, or more specifically, cash back and rewards points.

For those who have the Chase Freedom Unlimited and another Ultimate Rewards earning card, such as Chase Ink or Chase Sapphire Preferred, those points can be transferred to travel partners.

As a result, the 1.5% cash back rate could actually be valued a lot higher if the points are used to purchase first class airline tickets.

So that’s the big distinction that some people may miss if they’re underwhelmed by the 1.5% cash back rate.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Math

Let’s take a minute to do some math to see if the new iteration of Chase Freedom is any better than the existing rotating category version, which offers 5% in certain categories each quarter.

We’ll assume our hypothetical cardholder spends $12,000 annually on the card.

Now remember the existing Freedom card earns 5% cash back each quarter on up to $1,500 in purchases. That’s a maximum of 7,500 UR points, or $75 if redeemed for cash, per quarter.

If we pretend that the cardholder maximizes the 5% cash back category all year round, they’ll earn 30,000 UR points. That accounts for $6,000 ($1,500 x 4) of their spending.

They’ll earn another 6,000 points for their remaining $6,000 in annual spending at a rate of a point per dollar.

In total, that’s 36,000 UR points for the person who maximizes the 5% cash back categories on the old version of Freedom.

How about the new Unlimited version? Well, the math is decidedly easier to compute. We simply multiply 1.5 x $12,000 to come up with 18,000 UR points. I figured make it an even $12,000 in annual spend for both our cardholders.

If you’re keeping track, that’s 50% fewer UR points on the new version of the card. The upside is that they can spend the $12,000 anywhere they want. And if they spend a lot more than $12,000 their UR points potential is endless.

But that’s the big question isn’t it? How many individuals will actually spend more than $12,000 on their Chase Freedom card each year?

Where Do You Win with the New Version of Freedom?

Of course, you can argue that many folks won’t maximize the 5% categories either. If we assume a slightly more realistic scenario where they spend $750 per quarter in the 5% categories, it drops to 15,000 UR points.

Let’s add the remaining $9,000 ($750×4=$3,000 in 5% categories) in spending and it’s 24,000 UR points.

That’s still 33% more points earned on the old version of Freedom.

If we drop it to $500 per quarter in the 5% categories, the total would be 20,000 UR points. (10k bonus + 10k in regular spending). That’s still better than the new card.

Ultimately, if you don’t spend more than $375 in the 5% categories, the new version is better. Assuming you do spend $375 per quarter in those bonus categories, you’ll earn 7,500 points. That would account for $1,500 of your $12,000 in spending annually.

The remaining $10,500 would earn 1 point per dollar, or 10,500 UR points. Combined with the 7,500 bonus points that’s 18,000 UR points.

Anything less than $375 each quarter and the new version is a better version.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Classic:

If $12,000 in annual spending:

Chase Freedom Unlimited = 18,000 UR points
Chase Freedom (old version)
= 36,000 UR points if you maximize 5% categories
= 24,000 UR points if you spend $750 in 5% categories each quarter
= 20,000 UR points if you spend $500 in 5% categories each quarter
= 18,000 UR points if you spend $375 in 5% categories each quarter

Barclaycard Launches Luxury Card: 2% Value When Points Redeemed for Cash Back

Barclaycard has released three new credit cards under the umbrella brand “Luxury Card.” They are, it seems, aimed at the high-end of the credit card market.

Why do I think that? Because the word “luxury” is part of it. Oh, and the annual fee on the most expensive of the three is a whopping $995. Yup, just short of a grand. Yikes!

Luxury Card Comes in Three Flavors

flavors

As mentioned, the new Luxury Card series comes in three different versions, including the:

  • Titanium Card
  • Black Card
  • Gold Card

Each has different benefits (and costs) so let’s go through each one separately to see if there’s any value here for new cardmembers.

MasterCard Titanium Card Offers 1% Cash Back

The MasterCard Titanium Card is, you guessed it, not made of titanium! Haha. Sorry. But it is made of a patented mix of brushed stainless steel and carbon. It looks pretty cool I suppose and can probably slice a piece of paper.

Anyway, this entry-level version of Luxury Card comes with 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Those 10,000 points are worth $200 if you use them for airfare, or just $100 if you opt for a cash back credit on your statement.

You also get access to the Luxury Card Concierge and the members-only Luxury Magazine. That’s a lot luxury, eh?

The annual fee is a not so cheap $195 and $95 for any additional cardmembers.

They claim this card is better than the Amex Platinum because 50,000 points is worth $1,000 in airfare, as opposed to just $500.

Thing is you can transfer Amex points to frequent flyer programs and get even more value than $1,000 if you book business class or first class tickets.

MasterCard Black Card Offers 1.5% Value for Cash Back

The MasterCard Black Card is the mid-tier version of the card that comes with all the same stuff as the Titanium Card plus a little more.

For example, you get 1.5% value for your points when you redeem for statement credits. And you get 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

That works out to $375 if you opt for cash back. It also doubles the redemption value when you redeem for airfare, so $500 on that opening bonus.

It also comes with a $100 annual airline credit for incidental airline purchases, $100 for Global Entry applications, and complimentary Lounge Club membership. Oh, and luxury gifts, whatever those are?

The downside is the $495 annual fee (and $195 for each additional cardholder). That ain’t cheap.

MasterCard Gold Card Is Actually Made of Gold

The MasterCard Gold Card is the cream of the crop, and surprise, is actually made of gold.

Yup, 24 karat gold plating and carbon. Pretty cool, right? Well, not if you pay attention to the annual fee of $995. Yes, basically $1,000 a year for this puppy.

I’ll be adding this card to my list of the most expensive credit cards.

Oh, and additional cards run $295 a piece…great deal! Just kidding!

The Gold Card comes with everything the Black Card has with a few boosts. For one, you get 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.

That’s good for $1,000 if you redeem for cash back because it doubles on this version of the card. Or $1,000 toward airfare. So you can cover your annual fee the first year with the sign-up bonus.

You also get a $200 annual airline credit. Other than that you’re paying an arm and a leg for not much else.

My Thoughts on the Luxury Cards

These new Luxury Cards seem to be more style than substance. While it may be cool that the gold-plated card “reflects your status,” you may go broke in the process with that staggeringly high annual fee.

Additionally, most if not all of these benefits are available on other cards with much lower annual fees. I’d personally opt for the Citi Prestige instead and snag the 50,000 sign-up for a much lower fee.

That card also comes with an annual $250 airline credit that can be used on actual airfare. So just running the math it’s a no-brainer to avoid these cards in favor of cheaper, yet still awesome alternatives.

If you want 100,000 points, you can sign up for both Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, with the latter having its annual fee waived the first year.

You’ll wind up with 100k points that can be transferred to leading airlines and you’ll only pay $450 the first year, less all those valuable airline credits.

Oh, and you’ll get to take advantage of bonus categories for things like travel, hotels, and so on. Meanwhile, the Luxury Cards will only give you one point per dollar no matter what you charge.

Alternatively, you could just apply for a 2% cash back credit card such as Citi Double Cash, or take advantage of double miles your first year on the Discover it Miles card.

What I’m saying here is that there are plenty of better, cheaper options to swipe with.

New Barclaycard CashForward Credit Card Offers 1.575% Cash Back

Barclaycard has launched a new invitation-only credit card known as the “CashForward World MasterCard” that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

At first glance, it’s similar to the Capital One Quicksilver credit card because that card also comes with 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

The cash back can be redeemed for a statement credit, gift cards, or be deposited in your bank account.

There’s also a $100 sign-up bonus when you spend $500 in the first 90 days.

But wait, there’s more!

1.575% Cash Back with CashForward

The one main distinction with the CashForward credit card is that you get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus whenever you redeem your cash back.

This 5% bonus can be used on subsequent redemptions. For example, if you cash in $100, you’d get $5 toward your next redemption. Cash in $300 and you’ll get $15 for the next one.

So the cash back is actually worth a bit more than 1.5%. It’s technically 1.575%.

However, there’s a hitch. You can only redeem when you’ve accrued a minimum of $50 in cash back. This differs from Discover, which allows any redemption amount, and American Express and others, which require $25.

Additionally, there are several credit cards that offer 2% cash back on everything all year long, so accepting 1.575% seems like a disservice, especially when you need to hit $50 in cash back to get your hands on it.

I think Barclaycard intentionally threw the word “forward” into the name to combat the Citi Double Cash credit card, which offers 1% cash back upfront and another 1% once you pay off your balance.

Think instant gratification, even if it’s less cash back. But if you don’t carry a balance you get your 2% cash back right away. And you shouldn’t carry a balance.

It should be noted that you cannot have an inactive account for seven straight billing cycles if you want to keep your cash back. This is defined as an account with no balance, payments, or transactions.

The CashForward World MasterCard carries no annual fee and 0% APR for the first 12 months on both purchases and balance transfers, but there is a 3% charge for foreign transactions.

My Thoughts on the Barclaycard CashForward

Overall, I’m not sold on this new offering from Barclaycard. I think they could have done better, especially with the competing offers currently available.

Why settle for 1.575% cash back when you can get 2% cash back or more? Heck, if you apply for the Discover it Miles credit card you can earn 3% cash back the first year when your miles are doubled.

There are plenty of more attractive options so you might want to give the Barclaycard CashForward a pass, especially with those hefty redemption minimums.

After all, you may never get all your cash out.

CashForward World MasterCard Features

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The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card Now Offers Two Free Stays!

If you’re looking for free nights at a luxury hotel, you might want to consider the latest offer attached to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase.

The complimentary nights have been doubled from one night to two, making it twice as nice for the guy or gal looking to stay somewhere in comfort free of charge.

The new offer requires $3,000 in spending during the first three months from account opening to get the two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel worldwide.

It’s pretty much all Ritz-Carlton locations aside from the Ritz-Carlton Reserve locations, which total six.

Obviously the value can vary quite a bit, but some Tier 4 Ritz hotels will run around $700 (or more) per night during peak periods, so you could get about $1700-$1800 in value out of the two free nights when you factor in all taxes and fees.

For example, the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay costs $765 per night during summer months on a weekend.
So if you’re looking to indulge for free, this could be the credit card for you. Other than the opening bonus, I doubt it’s something you’d want to hold for more than a year.

The downside to this offer is that there’s an annual fee of $395, which is not waived during the first year.

So your two free nights will actually cost you around $400, plus any resort fees that may or may not be included in those two free nights.

Once you spend the $3,000, the Two Free Night Stay E-Certificates will be automatically deposited into your Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. They expire 12 months after issue.

Tip: Watch out for the offer that requires $4,000 in spending. Find the $3,000 link before you apply by searching around!

How to Offset the Annual Fee on the Ritz Credit Card

Fortunately, there are several options to make that annual fee less painful.

This card provides a $100 hotel credit when you book a stay of two nights or longer at a Ritz-Carlton.

It can be used for dining, the spa, or other stuff at the hotel, though I believe alcohol is excluded, so think lunch by the pool or a discount on your expensive dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants.

There’s also a $300 annual travel credit, which can be used for a variety of things like baggage fees, seat upgrades, airport lounge fees, in-flight meals and WiFi, and Global Entry fees.

It’s obviously a bummer that you can’t just use the credit to offset straight up airfare or gift cards for airfare.

And many people probably already have lounge access and/or Global Entry credit via Citi Prestige or Amex Platinum, making this credit not as useful as it looks.

By the way, you get lounge access via the Lounge Club with this card anyway, so it’s a bit redundant unless you use an outside lounge.

Still, if you travel a lot you could probably get some use out of the $300, though it’s not a clear cut way to offset to your annual fee if you just want the free hotel nights with no strings.

What Else Do You Get with the Ritz Credit Card?

The Ritz-Carlton credit card also gives you automatic Gold Elite status during the first account year, which provides things like free room upgrades, late checkout, and exclusive point bonuses.

If you manage to spend $10,000 on purchases during your first account year, you can maintain your Gold Elite status. The same goes for years after that.

Assuming you spend money like it’s going out of style, aka $75,000+ each account year, you’ll achieve Platinum Elite status. This results in arrival gifts (think champagne and chocolates) and room guarantees, among other things.

Regardless of what you spend, you also get three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level each year, which is basically a lounge within the hotel that makes your stay at the Ritz even more exclusive.

However, both this benefit and the hotel credit are for paid stays, so I don’t know if you can take advantage of these perks while using the free night certificates.

How to Earn Points with Ritz

ritz award chart

– 5 points per $1 spent at Ritz-Carlton hotels and partner hotels (Marriott and others)
– 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets direct with airlines
– 2 points per $1 spent on car rentals
– 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants
– 1 points per $1 on other purchases

You also earn a 10% “Annual Points Premium” on points earned throughout the year. It’s like the 7% Annual Points Dividend that used to be offered on Chase Sapphire Preferred.

So you’ll earn more than one point per dollar spent, and even more if you spend a lot in the bonus categories.

The chart above details how many points you need to redeem hotel rewards. You get the fifth night free if you happen to book five nights. In other words, you can snag five nights in a Tier 1 hotel for 120,000 points.

There’s also an option to book a room using a combination of points and cash, and a PointSavers program that requires 10,000 less points in each tier.

Is the Ritz Credit Card a Pass or Is It a Go?

In summary, with that hefty $395 annual fee in place, it’d be hard to justify keeping the Ritz-Carlton credit card in your wallet year after year unless you truly love staying at the Ritz and do so often.

And even applying for it to get the two free nights might be a stretch for some unless you have specific travel plans and really want to stay at a Ritz property. It could make sense for an anniversary or another special occasion.

You could treat the free nights less the annual fee as a subsidy I suppose. Of course, you’re still paying $400 for two nights, which many folks may not be comfortable with.

A better alternative could be the Chase Hyatt credit card, which offers two free nights after spending just $1,000, and waives the annual fee the first year. And there are plenty of nice Park Hyatt hotels worldwide.

However, ~$400 might not be a bad deal for two nights at the Ritz-Carlton of your choice, just try to take advantage of all the freebies to offset that cost.

(photo: prayitno)