How to Find Hidden Citi Credit Card Cash Back Offers

So Citi finally started offering cash back deals with select merchants you may visit, but they sure aren’t making them easy to find.

For example, those with an American Express card know where to find Amex Offers. They’re right there on the main page when you log in to your credit card management page.

The same goes for Bank of America users. There are easily accessible cash back offers you can load to your BankAmericard to save 10% or more at places like Starbucks, AT&T, Bristol Farms, Red Robin, etc.

I use the Bank of America cash back deals all the time…in fact, it’s probably the only reason I use the card to begin with since I earn more cash back with other cards I carry. So it’s a good thing they make their deals easy to find.

Citi Smart Savings Deals

citi smart savings

Now let’s talk about Citi and their seemingly impossible to find “Citi Smart Savings” offers.

Once you log in to the Citi credit card website you won’t see anything about any cash back offers. Instead, you’ll see your credit card(s) listed, the balance(s), minimum payment(s), etc.

You’ll also see your ThankYou Points balance off to the right. That’s great but where are the cash back offers?

Well, if you scroll down below the fold (depending on screen size and number of Citi cards you have open), you’ll see a section titled, “Get the Most From Your Cards.”

If you click on “View More Offers” from within this section, you’ll be taken to the Citi Smart Savings area of the site, as pictured above in the screenshot.

From there you can add targeted cash back offers to your Citi credit card(s) similar to the offers at Amex and Bank of America.

I currently have Citi cash back offers for Red Robin, Five Guys, Panera, and some other spots tied to my Citi ThankYou Premier card. They’re all 10% cash back. Obviously these offers make your Citi card(s) much more attractive if you already shop at the merchants listed. It’s pretty hard to beat 10% cash back.

By the way, if you don’t see the Get the Most From Your Cards section on the landing page once you log in at Citi, you can also find the Citi Smart Savings by clicking on “Card Benefits” on the menu at the top of the page.

Once you click that you have to scroll down and click on “Offers For You” on the right sidebar. That link will take you to same place, the Citi Smart Savings dashboard. I don’t know why they make them so hard to find?

Get Savings via the Citi Mobile App Too!

If you’re using the Citi mobile app, they’ve now added an “Offers for You” link at the top of the screen once you’re logged on.

It’s a lot more straightforward than the website but wasn’t visible until recently. You’ll see the same cash back offers there, but they’ll also tell you how far they are from your current location and allow you to map them.

So if you’ve got a 10% cash back offer for Panera and want to use it, it’ll show you the nearest one relative to your present location.

It took Citi a little bit longer than others in the industry to get these commonplace cash back offers going, and they’re still doing a decent job hiding them, but they’ll likely make them a lot more visible over time.

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

I Netted About $1,600 with Discover and Apple Pay

When the Apple Pay and Discover promotion first surfaced I got super excited. It was a chance to earn 23% cash back on virtually all shopping for a limited time.

If you don’t remember or happened to miss it, the deal was basically 10% cash back or 10 miles per dollar spent when you used a Discover it card via Apple Pay in physical stores.

To make the deal much sweeter, Discover offered to double your cash back or miles the first year, assuming you were a new cardholder.

Since I already had Discover it, I applied for Discover it Miles, which incidentally offers 1.5 miles per dollar spent, meaning once you add the 10 bonus miles and double it, it equates to 23% cash back.

$800 Times Two

While there was plenty of controversy over the promo, mainly because Discover changed the terms shortly after launch by explicitly excluding gift cards, many folks were still able to cash in.

There was a limit of $10,000 in spending, and because the promo only lasted about three months, it was difficult to fully exploit it. Oh, and did I mention Discover credit limits are painfully low?

All in all, I was able to spend about $7,000 via Apple Pay. I may have been able to spend more, but two things held me back.

One, I didn’t buy a new iPhone 6s until October when my 24-month contract clock reset. And two, my credit limit was low so I had to keep paying it off and wait for it to refresh, which happened to take several days. In the end, I was fine with what I spent.

I purchased a laptop and a desktop Mac from the Apple Store, along with lots of food from Trader Joe’s, plenty of gasoline, and hit various other purchases along the way where Apple Pay was accepted. Some restaurants I regularly dine at had Apple Pay.

My wife also got a new laptop with her own Discover it card, and I made some purchases with her card on my own phone (she didn’t have a compatible phone so she wasn’t able to maximize this offer).

Out of an abundance of caution, I avoided the gift card game because I didn’t want to deal with a dispute to get my miles/cash back. And I actually needed new computers and the food and gas, so it wasn’t mindless or unnecessary spending.

Now the beauty of all this is that the ~$800 or so I already earned will double in a year. I already received $800 and direct deposited it to my checking account.

In 12 months, I’ll get another $800 that I can deposit into my account, meaning I’ll walk away with some $1,600. If you factor in other purchases made on the card, that effectively earn 3% cash back for the first year, I may wind up with around $2,000 in cash back.

That’s pretty good considering I didn’t need to do much nor alter my normal spending much. Sure, I had to buy a new iPhone, but I needed that too. And it was subsidized by AT&T.

The real savvy players coupled this promo with the AT&T Access More Card from Citi to snag a free phone and take advantage of 23% cash back. I couldn’t be bothered with all that, but I’m still happy with my haul.

How’d you do? We’re you able to earn the maximum $1,150, which doubles to $2,300? Or in the case of the regular Discover it card, $1,100, which doubles to $2,200.

Remember, the double cash back applies for the first year so you may still want to use your Discover card, especially if you can double the portal bonuses and the quarterly bonuses with the standard Discover it card.

My Credit Score Got Pummeled

dropped

Oh, one last thing I wanted to mention. As a result of this promo, my credit score took a huge hit, per data from Credit Karma.

I had a $5,000 credit limit on my Discover card and was up to $4,850, using roughly 97% of my total available credit.

That sent my credit score down about 50 points, from excellent territory to just very good territory.

Now this doesn’t matter because I’m not applying for any new credit in the near future. But for those who were/are, it could present a problem, at least in the near-term.

Of course, I expect my score to jump back to where it was once the credit bureaus see that I paid my high balance back down to zero.

I’ve never really maxed out a credit card before so it was interesting to see the high impact. Had Discover just given me a decent credit limit this wouldn’t have happened. Yet another reason to ask for a higher limit folks…

Can You Can Add Someone as an Authorized User Who Already Has the Same Credit Card?

There are a variety of reasons why a credit cardholder would want to add an authorized user.

For some, it’s a means to a better credit score thanks to the piggybacking that takes place if the person authorizing the user has good credit.

For others, an authorized user could open the door to more cash back rewards if their significant other uses the card. My wife is an authorized user on my Old Blue Cash Amex because it earns 5% back on gas, groceries, and at drugstores.

Obviously I don’t want to have to be there all the time for her to earn 5% at the pump, or 5% while shopping at the grocery store. Essentially our cash back earnings get multiplied by her having access via the authorized user account.

Yet another reason to add an authorized user is for things like Amex Offers, where you can earn cash back savings for buying certain stuff.

Before our wedding, I signed up all of our authorized user accounts to that awesome Smart and Final deal where you received $25 back for spending $50. Most people just bought gift cards.

For us, it meant nearly all of our booze for the wedding was half price. We had about ~10 cards that we were able to load the offer to so it paid major dividends.

Get Bonus Points for Adding an Authorized User

That brings us to the final reason (that I will mention in this post) to add an authorized user. Many credit card companies, especially Chase, will offer a bonus if you add an authorized user to your new card account within a specified period of time.

For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points if you add an authorized user within three months of account opening and make a single purchase.

So on top of whatever bonus you get for opening the card yourself, you can snag another 5k points for simply getting a card for your spouse or sibling and making any small purchase.

Those 5k points can certainly come in handy if you need them while transferring points to a frequent flyer program. They’re also worth $50 if you redeem them for cash. So it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

But suppose your spouse/sibling already has the Chase Sapphire card. Can you still make them an authorized user on YOUR Chase Sapphire card and earn the 5k bonus?

The answer is yes. The idea being that authorized and primary cardholders are different and both may add their own value to the individual user and card issuer. After all, two people with one card means a greater chance of spending.

Get the Opening Bonus Despite Being an Authorized User

Additionally, someone who is an authorized user but never primary should also be able to get the bigger opening bonus if they were to apply for a primary card for the first time as well.

So if someone were only an authorized user on a Chase Sapphire card, but later wanted their own card, again, because they may want to control their own account for whatever reason, they should be treated as a new cardmember and entitled to the opening bonus.

Between two people, they should be able to earn nearly 120,000 UR points if they both add one another as authorized users and meet minimum spend when the 50k offer is in effect.

It breaks down as:

  • 50k bonus for spending $4k (x2) = 108,000
  • 5k for adding authorized user (x2) = 10,000
  • *5k for referring that person = 5,000
  • 118k-123k Ultimate Rewards points

You could potentially earn 123,000 points together if one person refers the other and gets another 5,000 bonus points. That 123,000 points would be good for $1,230 in cash or a whole lot of free travel.

Note: Just be careful of the 5/24 rule that applies to Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards. Adding someone as an authorized user may push them over this limit, though I’ve heard you can ask for an exception if this is the case.

How to Get an Amex Credit Card Without a FICO Score

If you know anything about American Express, you know they require excellent credit to get approved for their credit and charge cards.

They are perceived as a top-tier credit card issuer so only the best applicants can typically apply and get approved for their cards.

But now there’s an option for those who are lacking in the credit department.

A pair of co-branded Amex cards from BBVA don’t use FICO scores to determine approval. Instead, the bank uses your “AMP Credit Rating,” which apparently doesn’t even correspond with FICO.

You Create Your Own Credit Score

The AMP Credit Rating comes from a credit reporting agency called “eCredable” that lets you build your own credit report and subsequently generate your own credit score.

The angle here is that you can add bills that aren’t typically reported by the big three credit bureaus, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

So even if you eschew credit, you can get approved for an American Express credit card.

With eCredable, you can add bill payment information for a number of bills not found on a standard credit report, such as utilities, insurance, cable and cell phone bills, rent, and more.

In other words, those with no credit who are living “debt free” (I’m looking at you Millennials), or those with limited credit history, can build a report and show creditors like BBVA they are worthy of holding an Amex card.

Apparently some 26 million adults lack a credit file and 19 million don’t have enough credit to generate a credit score using traditional models. These folks are known as “credit invisibles.”

The downside is that it costs $19.95 to get your bill accounts verified. Obviously lenders can’t just take your word for it, and verifying takes time and manpower, so it costs money.

It’s unclear how many accounts you’ll need to verify (if any) to get approved for an Amex (it will depend on your unique credit profile), but it could be worth it. You can use a simulator on the eCredable website to determine what you’ll need for a certain score.

BBVA Compass NBA Credit Card Uses AMP Credit Rating

BBVA NBA

There are a pair of BBVA Compass Amex credit card offers that pull your AMP Credit Rating. They seem to be exactly the same other than the fact that one calls for excellent credit and the other good credit, per AMP’s scale.

Both offer 0% APR for the first six months on purchases before jumping to a variable APR between 9.49% and 29.49%.

The credit limits will range from $500 to $2,000, which is quite low but expected for someone lacking traditional credit.

The good news is there’s no annual fee, a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, and a decent rewards structure.

You get 5X points on all purchases during NBA All-Star Weekend and the two weeks of the NBA finals. This is presumably when you’d want to hammer your card hard to earn 5% cash back on everything.

The rest of the year you earn 3X points on NBA tickets, at NBA arenas, and at NBAStore.com.

You also earn 2X points at gas stations and at supermarkets, along with one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

So it’s certainly not a bad starter card…it actually stacks up pretty well. And if you take advantage of the many Amex Offers available you should be able to generate hundreds in savings the first year alone.

That should be more than enough to offset the fees to generate your AMP Credit Rating.

Ideally, you should attempt to build credit the normal way so you have a FICO score (and a VantageScore) so you can avoid paying to create a credit score.

But this is one way to get around that pesky requirement and still end up with a decent credit card.

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.

Fidelity Amex Switching to US Bank Issued Visa Credit Card

For those who hold the quite lucrative Fidelity Amex credit card, changes are a coming.

Starting in July of this year, existing customers will have their FIA Card Services (a Bank of America company) issued Fidelity Amex replaced with a U.S. Bank-issued Visa credit card.

In short, this means you won’t have the perks of an American Express card anymore, though apparently nothing else is changing.

So you will continue to receive 2% back on all purchases, which you can redeem into your Fidelity account and put toward retirement. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s not going to be an American Express card anymore, which presents some challenges.

I’ll get to that in a minute. As for why the change was made, Fidelity reportedly chose their new partners because of “improved technology options and customer service.”

Last I checked, Amex customer service was pretty good, though you can’t use an Amex everywhere. Not really a tech issue, more an inconvenience. Visa is, after all, accepted everywhere.

Bank of America said it was mutual, noting that they’ve been terminating many of their co-branded relationships since it doesn’t get customers into Bank of America branches in order to cross sell.

The Drawbacks to the U.S. Bank Issued Fidelity Visa

Let’s talk about those drawbacks now. For one, it’s not an Amex, meaning you won’t be able to take advantage of the awesome Amex Offers constantly being churned out (no pun intended).

This could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost cash back, especially if you had lots of authorized users.

Secondly, for those who use Fidelity Amex to load Serve each month, this option will be gone unless you have the old, grandfathered version of Serve.

This obviously doesn’t affect everyone, but for those who are affected, they’ll need to find a new card that earns 2% cash back (or better).

I happen to have the old Serve account and was loading with Fidelity Amex. But I got the Discover it Miles card that earns 3% cash back the first year so I switched to that anyway.

But after a year, if Serve credit card loads still work, I’ll need to find a new alternative to maximize my cash back.

Why the U.S. Bank Issued Fidelity Visa Might Be a Good Thing

For one, it’s a Visa. So you won’t have to worry about merchants accepting it or giving you grief when you ask if they take Amex. You know the grief I’m talking about…

That’s the biggie. Secondly, you will still get the 2% cash back on all purchases, and there’s still no annual fee.

Another potential plus is that it’s being issued by U.S. Bank. Why is that a plus? Well, to me, it doesn’t get much worse than FIA. The FIA website is a joke and their customer service is questionable if not nonexistent.

I’ll be happy to partner up with any other card issuer aside from FIA, and I’m looking forward to having an app to track my spending and make payments as opposed to using the archaic FIA website.

All in all, this change shouldn’t bother too many folks, which is a good thing.

photo: Marcin Wichary)

Please Don’t Get an Alumni Credit Card

Go State! Sure, maybe while you’re attending university and watching their football games on the weekend.

But when it comes to your precious financials, you might want to keep them out of your wallet for good.

Don’t be fooled. When we’re talking about money, loyalty generally doesn’t pay. And secondly, you graduated. It’s time to grow up and throw away your old Ohio State t-shirt. I know it’s a lucky charm but you’re an adult now.

The bad news is the alumni association has your address, even if you move, and tend to always have your address no matter where you go. It’s kind of incredible how they track you.

This means you’ll probably receive all sorts of mailers, and eventually a cool credit card with your school’s logo on the front.

But if you take them up on their offer, chances are you learned nothing during the four or six years it took you to graduate.

Why? Because university credit cards are notoriously crappy. They might have annual fees, sky-high APR, or a poor rewards program (if any at all).

One alumni credit card I came across even rewards you with points for every dollar in interest you accrue! Are you kidding me? The last thing you want to do is carry a balance and pay interest.  Pay it off if you can!

They’re basically banking on your love of the university because they know there are always going to be much better offers out there.

You Probably Got Your First Credit Card on Campus

Let’s rewind for a moment. There’s a high probability you applied for your very first credit card on your college campus.

You know the booths they put out there in the quad with free t-shirts and Snickers bars used as bait.

Well, I’m hoping you learned something during your college years. Things like reading the fine print and shopping around. And while you’re at it, learning how credit cards work to avoid costly finance charges.

If you didn’t bother figuring all that out, maybe the alumni credit card is just the ticket for you. They may even throw in a new sweater you can proudly don on game day.

But I’m hoping you’re smarter than that, despite our lackluster education system that teaches kids and young adults very little about money.

I never learned about credit cards or anything else about personal finance in school. I had to learn as I went and deal with the many pitfalls encountered along the way.

So why would I want to stay loyal to my college and swipe with a credit card with poor terms to boot? That makes no sense.

Plus, as I mentioned, you’re an adult now, so no need to show everyone where you graduated from every time you purchase groceries or start a bar tab.

Besides, your school probably already made enough money off you, what with ridiculous tuition costs and the kickbacks they may have already received for your earlier credit cards.

Look for Something Better Than What the Alumni Association Is Offering

Most of the time, the best offers won’t come to you. Sure, there are targeted credit card offers that do arrive in the mail and they’re certainly worth a look.

But always compare the incoming offers to what’s out there as well. There’s a good chance you’ll do better by seeking out an offer instead of going with what falls in your lap (or out of your mailbox).

I highly doubt there is any alumni credit card in existence that has better terms than most other halfway decent credit cards.

These days, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card seems to be the card of choice for universities. It’s not terrible, which makes me feel a little better, but it’s certainly not the best card out there, not by a long shot.

And let’s face it; you’re going to need a better rewards program to get out of all that debt.