Get Up to 70k Ultimate Rewards Points When You Apply for Chase Ink

It’s time for another credit card review, this time I’ll be looking at the Ink cards from Chase.

This is actually a new credit card line from Chase reserved only for business owners, which the company says comes with business-sized credit limits.

That means credit limits large enough to take care of major business purchases, or alternatively flexible spending capacity that may grow as needed with your business.

This is especially important for small business owners right now with all the credit lines being cut in the wake of the ongoing credit crisis.

Employers can get additional Ink credit cards for their employees for free that earn points in the associated Ultimate Rewards program.  Individual spending limits can also be set for each employee, and spending reports can be generated.

Two Ink Credit Cards to Choose From, Both with Great Sign-Up Bonuses

There are two different versions of the Ink card available, including Ink Cash, Ink Plus, and Ink Bold; annual fees range from $0-$95 (first year free for those with fees).

Ink Cash is a no annual fee credit card that offers a 2% cash back rebate for purchases made at gas stations and restaurants. You also get 5% cash back on cable TV, internet, landline, and cell phone services, along with purchases at office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot (on the first $25,000 spent annually).

For all other eligible purchases you’ll also earn 1% cash back.  At the moment, you can also earn $200 cash back if you spend $3,000 during the first three months from account opening. With no annual fee, that’s money in the bank.

Ink Plus is a little different.  Instead of offering cash back, it offers bonus points in select categories.  For example, you can earn 2X points at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel (on the first $50,000 spent annually).

Additionally, you get 5X points on cable TV, internet, landline/cell phone, and office supply purchases (same $50,000 annual limit), and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Ink Plus doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees either, and comes with a very handsome 60,000 bonus point sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.

There used to be an Ink Bold, which featured everything Ink Plus does aside from the fact that it was a charge card, not a credit card. That meant it had to be paid off in full each month. You cannot carry a balance. If you do, you’ll be subject to late fees and penalties. However, it also came with a flexible spending limit.

That being said, Ink Bold is best reserved for the business owner who plans to pay off their card in full each and every month.  It’s a good alternative to American Express charge cards because Ink cards are issued by Visa/MasterCard, meaning they’re accepted pretty much everywhere.  We all know Amex is not…

For the record, the points earned with Ink Plus and Ink Bold can be redeemed for cash back as well, or used for gift cards, travel, etc. And you get 20% off travel when you book via Chase Ultimate Rewards, so those 60,000 bonus points are really worth 75,000 points.

Alternatively, you can transfer the points to leading travel partners on a 1:1 basis with no fees.

Travel programs include: British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus®, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, Korean Air SKYPASS, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards®, Hyatt Gold Passport®, Marriott Rewards®, IHG® Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.

This is probably the best use of your Ultimate Rewards points if you like to travel. I’ve used the big sign-up bonuses with Chase Ink to book transatlantic first-class flights for free. Can’t beat that!

And because the points never expire, you won’t have to worry about redeeming them if you’re not quite ready to use them. So you can easily see where it’d be pretty easy to rack up a ridiculous amount of points in a hurry if you use your credit card for your business frequently.

The downside to Ink Plus and Ink Bold is the $95 annual fee, which can be waived the first year. The $5,000 spending requirement for the bonus may be difficult for some cardholders as well, so make sure you’ve got plans to meet the spending requirement before applying.

With all the Ink cards, you used to get complimentary membership to the Lounge Club, which provided access to over 350 airport lounges worldwide. Your first two visits each year were free, after which the cost was $27 per visit, per person.

How Many Points Can I Earn with Ink from Chase?

Let’s look at a real-world example.  Say you apply for the card and meet the $5,000 minimum spend on the Ink Bold or Ink Plus card.  You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points plus another 5,000 regular points (minimum) for spending $5,000.  So you’re already at 65,000 for doing the bare minimum.  If you use the card primarily in the 5X bonus point categories, you’d be looking at 85,000 points after spending just $5,000.

If you transfer the 85,000 points to an airline rewards program on a 1:1 basis, you should easily have enough for a transatlantic flight, possibly even in business or first class if you find a good deal.  Or you could transfer the points to the Southwest Airlines program and take a handful of shorter flights for free.  Think flying from LA to Phoenix or Vegas over and over again, for free.  Or from LA to NYC.

Assuming you max out their $50,000 limit in the 5x bonus categories, you’re looking at 250,000 points annually.  That’s enough to fly around the world a couple times.

Wondering why someone would use points for travel as opposed to cash back?  Well, if you do it right, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck.  Cash back is redeemed at a ratio of one cent per point.  In other words, 100 points = $1.  And 10,000 points = $100.  But if you redeem points with airlines, hotels, etc., you can get a much better return, something like 3-5 cents per point in value.

So if you do start earning a massive amount of points, make sure you maximize their potential too.  Don’t just assume cash back is the best redemption method.

50,000 Chase Ink Cash Bonus (Targeted)

There have been sightings of a 50,000 bonus tied to the always annual fee-free Chase Ink Cash card. That’s 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you’re keeping track.

You have to make $3,000 in the purchases during the first three months to get those points and they can’t be transferred to airlines/hotels unless you also have a premium Chase card such as Sapphire or Ink Plus.

This is definitely a good deal because the spending requirement is lower than the alternatives and there’s no annual fee to worry about.

And you still get 5X UR points in the same categories, just with a $25,000 annual limit as opposed to $50,000.

70,000 Chase Ink Plus Sign-Up Bonus (Annual Fee Waived)

If you’re lucky, you might get targeted for the 70,000 point sign-up bonus in the mail. Even if you don’t, you can go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the Chase Ink Plus card to get 70k points for a limited time.

It’s unclear how long this offer will last, but it might be worth your while to go into a branch as opposed to signing up online because it’s another 10k bonus points. Just watch out for the cross-selling once you enter the bank.  Focus on getting the card and moving on.

You still have to spend $5,000 in the first three months, but you get points valued at $875 (if used for travel rewards). Or $700 if you want straight cash back. Even better, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, so what’s not to like. You’ll get at least 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you hit the $5,000 bonus spend requirement.

Tip: I recently took advantage of the Chase Ink 70k in-branch offer and was approved right on the spot. That’s another benefit of applying at a Chase branch. You find out if you’re approved immediately. And my Chase banker who is now my buddy gets a commission.

100,000 Chase Ink Plus Bonus (Targeted Mailer)

There was recently chatter regarding a 100,000 Chase Ink sign-up bonus, which was apparently targeted via a mailer to some select (lucky) individuals.

It doesn’t appear to be a widespread offer, though if you did receive it you should probably take Chase up on it.

Aside from coming with a staggering 100k points when you spend $5,000, the annual fee is also waived the first year. Kind of hard to pass that up.

The only card that matches the 100k bonus comes via the new Chase Sapphire Reserve, though that card also has a hefty $450 annual fee. So it’s not quite apples to apples.

There have been mixed reports of Chase matching the 100k offer. If you recently got approved for Ink with a lower opening bonus, a secure message or phone call to Chase might be a wise move to ask for the higher bonus.

However, you might need to provide a unique invitation code to get the match approved. You could also try contacting your personal Chase banker to see if they can get the 100k offer matched.

Why I Have Chase Ink Bold and Plus in My Wallet

I actually applied for both versions of Chase Ink to get two sign-up bonuses. Because why settle for 60k points when you can get 120k points instead?

Additionally, I like the fact that I earn 5x bonus points in categories I constantly use like phone, cable, and internet. I wish they’d give me 5x points on my web hosting, but I guess that falls outside the definition.

The redemption options are also awesome for the Ink cards so I can move the points to Southwest for free flights, or to an international carrier to fly around the world for free. Hotels are also a rewards option, meaning I can book complete vacations for free, using mainly the sign-up bonuses.

Below, I’ve grouped the benefits by type of Ink card. Bold and Plus are basically the same, despite one being a charge card and one being a credit card, so the benefits are pretty much the same.

Benefits of Chase Ink Cash


  • $200 bonus when you spend $3k in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 5% cash back on the first $25k spent in combined purchases at office supply stores, and on cell/landline, internet and cable TV each year
  • 2% cash back on the first $25k in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases with no limit
  • No annual fee
  • Rewards do not expire


Benefits of Chase Ink Plus/Bold


  • 60k-70k bonus points when you spend $5k in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 5X points on first $50k spent in combined purchases at office supply stores, and on cell/landline, internet and cable TV each year
  • 2X points on the first $50k in combined purchases at gas stations and hotels each year
  • 1 point on all other purchases with no limit
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent flyer and hotel reward programs
  • 20% off travel redemption via Ultimate Rewards
  • $95 annual fee possibly waived the first year
  • Rewards do not expire
  • No foreign transaction fees


Tip: If you’re not a business owner, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers similar rewards to Chase Ink Plus/Bold.

(photo: Michael Pecirno)

What Credit Score Do You Need to Buy a Car?

More fundamental credit Q&A: “What credit score do you need to buy a car?”

When it comes to buying or leasing a car, good credit is often a necessity, as most of us can’t just mosey down to the car dealership and buy a car outright.

But there isn’t a specific credit score that you need in order to get financing, as that can vary from dealer/financier; not to mention other factors that come into play.

Credit Score Isn’t Everything

For example, you may have a relatively light credit history, but nothing derogatory dragging you down, so your credit score may be quite high.

However, at the same time, if you’ve never supported a large amount of debt, such as an auto loan, car lease, or a mortgage, the dealer may be hesitant to offer you a loan.

This is actually a pretty common scenario. A consumer may think they’ve got excellent credit because they have a high Fico score, but if the only thing they’ve got on their credit history is a few credit cards, auto lenders may balk when it comes to issuing a loan.

So if this sounds like you, it may be in your best interest (or a necessity) to get someone with more established credit to co-sign on the new auto lease or loan.

Past Auto Loan History a Plus

Conversely, a consumer with less than stellar credit may get approved with little difficulty for the same auto loan you wanted just because they have past auto loan history on their credit report.

The way dealers see it, even though that three digit number isn’t quite as high as they’d like, the consumer displayed the ability to repay an auto loan in the past, so a subsequent loan seems reasonable.

However, keep in mind that the lower your credit score, the higher the interest rate will be on the auto loan or lease. So you’ll still want to make sure your credit score is as high as possible to get the best deal.

And many car dealers only pull a credit score from a single credit bureau, such as Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, instead of using a tri-merge credit report, which uses the median score from all three bureaus.

For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your credit is ship shape with all three credit bureaus, as you’ll never know which one may be called upon for your loan approval.

Tip: The credit score they use may have a special range used exclusively by auto dealers and their associated financing companies.

If your credit isn’t sufficient to get that new car, the dealer will usually work with you to ensure that a sale/lease is completed.

This could involve bringing in a co-signer, such as a parent or spouse with more established credit, or charging a higher interest rate to offset risk.

It’s probably wise to consider a co-signer if the lender/dealer wants to charge you a premium based on your credit alone, or hold off until your credit score improves.

Remember, you can obtain auto loan financing via a bank or a dealer, so shop around.

No More American Express Gift Card Inactivity Fees

Here’s some good news if you happen to have American Express gift cards in your purse or wallet.

The credit card issuer said it will no longer charge the monthly service fees associated with the gift cards going forward.

This includes those already purchased, those in stores now, and those headed to market for the upcoming holiday season; unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’ll be reimbursing those of us that got hit with the fees in the past.

American Express used to deduct $2.00 per month a year after purchase for inactivity and $5.95 to replace a lost or stolen card.

The company says it’s now the only major issuer of universal or “general purpose” gift cards to eliminate all fees after purchase.

American Express gift cards now have no fee for activation, checking a balance, monthly servicing, or for card replacement; and the funds never expire.

However, the company does charge anywhere from $2.95 to $6.95 to purchase a gift card, which is still a bit of a downer.

It seems American Express made the move to connect with the top mall retailer, Simon Property Group, in order to be their primary gift card provider.

American Express gift cards will be available for purchase at 70,000 retailers in the U.S., including supermarkets, shopping malls, drugstores, and also online.

Sales of American Express gift cards have already exceeded $1 billion; imagine what all those inactivity fees amounted to…

Credit Card Defaults Hit Record High in August

The credit card carnage is far from over, as evidenced by a recent report from credit rating agency Moody’s.

Credit card defaults rose to a record high in August and delinquencies increased for the first time since March.

Early-stage delinquencies, defined as those 30-59 days late, jumped to 1.65 percent from 1.41 percent.

Loans at least 30 days late increased to 5.8 percent from 5.73 percent, while charge-offs climbed to 11.49 percent from 10.52 percent.

Credit card defaults have been on the rise thanks to surging unemployment and the diminished benefits tied to tax returns, which have since come and gone.

Moody’s expects the credit card sector to begin to recover in mid-2010 when charge-offs peak between 12 and 13 percent.

Banks and card issuers typically charge-off (write it off as a loss) credit card debt after six months without collection.

Credit card issuers have been closing millions of accounts since the crisis got underway a couple years ago; credit limits have also been slashed for millions of card holders to mitigate risk.

This has led to a great deal of concern over whether cut credit lines lower credit scores, though a recent study by FICO found that those who had lines cut at no fault of their own didn’t see a related drop.

Those with negative information tied to a credit score cut were more likely to see a decline in their credit score; makes sense.

Tip: How to avoid late credit card payments.

Chase Slate Credit Card Review – Get a No Fee Balance Transfer!

The “Chase Slate” credit card is popping up a lot on the Internet, so I thought I’d take a look at what this new credit card actually offers.

It’s branded as a type of credit management card, using Chase’s Blueprint technology, which allows cardholders to manage financing terms on their own.

Cardholders have the ability to pay certain items (like everyday bills) in full each month, while splitting off more expensive one-off purchases like appliances, TVs, computers, etc.

These high-ticket items can be separated on your statement so you know the associated balance; you can also set a time frame for paying them off by using a goal date or specified monthly payment.

For example, you can pay off groceries and gas in full each month, while putting $50 towards your new plasma TV each billing cycle.

The same can be done for you entire account balance; if you want it all paid off by a certain date, Chase will do the math for you to ensure you stay on track.

These features obviously don’t make much sense for the cardholder who makes payments in full each month, and if anything, may promote carrying a balance.

The APR is the same for all purchases so it’s somewhat arbitrary, but I suppose a breakdown of what you owe could motivate cardholders to tackle debt faster and/or make a better plan.

It also provides a daily snapshot of your purchases so you know where you’re spending the most money.

Chase Slate Offers 0% APR for 15 Months on Purchases & Balance Transfers

The Chase Slate credit card comes with 0% APR fixed for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, assuming you qualify for elite and premium pricing.

After the initial promotional period, APR ranges from 13.24% to 22.24%, depending on your level of credit.

There is no annual fee associated with the Chase Slate credit card, and you can execute balance transfers for free!  The only notable charge is a $39 over-the-limit fee.

“Chase Blueprint” is available at no charge for all Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, Slate from Chase (formerly Chase Platinum), Ink from Chase, and other business cards.

To sum it up, paying credit card debt in full each month is optimal, but this credit card assumes you’ll carry a balance.

If you have trouble managing your debt and must carry a balance, it could be a good option, though you’ll have to compare the APR and associated finance charges with other credit cards as well.

This is probably an effort by Chase to both promote carrying a balance while also pushing the cardholder to pay it down, a tricky endeavor to be sure, but a profitable one assuming it works.

Chase Slate No Fee Balance Transfer!

A huge credit card deal just got released today. For a limited time (it’s unknown how long), you can get your hands on a no fee balance transfer credit card via Slate from Chase.

As long as you transfer your existing high-rate balances during the first 60 days your account is open, you will pay NO balance transfer fee! That’s right! Zero dollars to transfer an existing credit card balance.

(After the 60 days are up, the balance transfer fee rises to the industry standard 3%, with a minimum charge of $5.)

And yes, this Chase Slate offer comes with 0% APR on balance transfers (and purchases) for a full 15 months. This makes it the only 0% APR no fee balance transfer on the market at the moment.

There are a few other no fee balance transfer credit cards out there, but they don’t come with 0% APR, which kind of defeats the purpose of executing a balance transfer.

So if you’ve got high-APR credit card balances, this deal can save you a ton of money on costly credit card finance charges. It’s a great way to get out of debt quickly at the lowest cost, zero.

Once the 0% APR period ends, the APR will rise to a variable 11.99%, 16.99%, or 21.99% rate. So it’s best to pay off the entire transferred amount during the 0% promotional APR period to avoid interest altogether.

Quick example to highlight the potential savings of Chase Slate’s No Fee BT offer:

Existing credit card debt: $5,000 @19.99% APR
Balance transfer fee: $0
Balance transfer APR: 0% for 15 months

In the first year alone, you’d save roughly $1000, or $83 a month by going with this balance transfer deal. So it’s pretty much a no-brainer if you’ve got existing credit card debt. And there’s no annual fee! Try saving that much by clipping coupons…

If you don’t know what a credit card balance transfer is, learn more about them by clicking the preceding link. They’re simple to execute and can save you a ton of money, while simultaneously getting you out of the credit card debt cycle for good.

Back in the day, I didn’t know what a balance transfer was, and approached them very cautiously. I always figured they were just another scam that credit card issuers tried to force down our collective throats.

But I quickly discovered that it was a great tool to pay off my credit card debt (yes, I racked up a lot of debt after college) and avoid paying interest without any funny business.

Tip: The average credit score approved for the Chase Slate No Fee offer is 730, which is considered great credit. The lowest score approved was 566, all according to stats from Credit Karma. In other words, you’ll want to have good credit prior to applying for this offer.

So there it is. If any other Chase Slate special offers pop up, I will be sure to add them here for all to see.

(photo: mikewilson)

More Credit Cards Going to Consumers with 760+ Credit Scores

So far this year, newly issued credit cards have increasingly been going to consumers with the highest credit scores.

According to credit bureau Equifax, two in five new credit cards issued in 2009 went to consumers with credit scores of 760 or higher, which is considered excellent to most financial pundits.  In fact, Suze Orman kind of called this a few years back.

While still not the majority, it’s up from one in five new cards back in 2007, meaning credit card issuers are raising standards for prospective card holders.

Equifax found similar trends in other types of lending, including auto loans; and we all know mortgage lenders have raised minimum credit requirements as well.

Over the past year, credit card issuers have cut the number of outstanding cards by 82 million, or 19 percent, while reducing credit limits by $721 billion to a collective $3.6 trillion.  Talk about some spring cleaning and then some.

This illustrates the importance of good credit going forward, which may make you wonder what credit score you need to get a credit card these days.

Keep in mind that though standards have risen, the average credit score of Americans has dropped thanks to all the financial turmoil, so don’t fret too much.

If you continue to practice healthy credit habits, such as paying bills on time, keeping balances low, and applying for new credit in moderation, you should be just fine.

For the record, a 760 credit score is well short of the highest credit score, which is 850 for Fico scores.  Learn more by taking a look at my credit score range.

Tip: How to raise your credit score.

Absolutely Free Credit Report with No Trial Required

If you’re looking for an “absolutely free credit report with no trial required,” there’s really only one place to go.

The credit bureaus offer this type of free credit report with absolutely no strings attached at, as required by federal law.

I say no strings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bombard you with advertising once you do order your free credit report.

Picture e-mail after e-mail urging you to buy a credit score from them. Pretty clever how they created a great marketing channel for themselves after they were forced to hand out free credit reports to consumers.

Credit Report Sans Credit Score

Okay, enough of my rant. While it is absolutely free, no trial, no sign-up, no credit card needed, no nonsense, it doesn’t include a free credit score, so it may not be what you’re looking for.

Most consumers don’t even know how to read a credit report, so their interest lies in that ever-powerful three-digit credit score.

But having free access to your credit report, even if it doesn’t include the credit score, isn’t a bad thing.

You get all the information you’d get on a typical credit report that you’d have to pay for (or at least sign up for via a free trial) without all the hassle.

With, you’re limited to one credit report from each of the 3 major credit bureaus once per year, so you can order all three at once, or spread it out through the year so it’s staggered.

Keep in mind that information is reported differently amongst bureaus, so be sure to track all three if you want the complete picture.

Start with the Free Credit Report

Personally, I like to start with a free credit report to determine if a paid or trial credit report complete with credit score is actually necessary.

If I don’t see anything derogatory or fishy on the initial credit report ordered, I can get a fair estimate of my credit score using my handy credit score range as a barometer (what is a good credit score?).

Warning: When signing up for the absolutely free credit report via the government website, watch out for attempts by the credit bureaus to charge you for a credit score or “more access.”

Be sure to click on the “no thanks” tabs when prompted, usually below the oversized print telling you to sign up for full access. =)

Update: You can now gain free access to your credit report (based on TransUnion data) via Credit Karma. The company that brought you free credit scores now offers free credit reports as well, which are currently in beta.

Their so-called “full credit report” displays an overview of your credit profile, along with your open and closed accounts, balances, payment history, and more.

You’ll also be able to view employment history and any public records, as well as recent credit inquiries and collection activity, if applicable.

Overall, it’s a nice tool to go along with the federally mandated free credit report. I like that I can check it periodically throughout the year as opposed to ordering one free report annually, or every 4 months via the three different bureaus.

When it comes to credit reports, it’s important to get timely information. The downside is that the data only comes from one credit bureau, so it could still miss some things.  But then again, the credit reports via are also per bureau as well, it’s just that you can order all three.

For the record, my full credit report from Credit Karma seems to be pretty accurate. All my accounts are listed, even fairly new ones. Check it out if you’ve got a CK account.

What Credit Card Has the Best Rewards?

Here’s a bit of a subjective question: “What credit card has the best rewards?”

The answer to this question is easy. Drum roll please…

The best credit card available is…the one that provides you with the most benefits. That’s it. We’re done. See you later. You can stop reading this now.

Okay, I’m being dramatic, but honestly, there isn’t a single “best credit card” out there.  You see, like many other things in the world, the “best” of something is very often subjective, meaning it depends on who’s asking and who it’s for. Timing is also a concern.

For me, the best credit card is generally one that provides me with the most cash back. Why? Because I want cash back above all else. I don’t care about travel rewards or any other specialty rewards most of the time, though the Chase Ink sign-up bonus and redemption options are pretty stellar (and I’ve taken advantage of them).

I also don’t need a 0% APR credit card because I pay my credit card balance in full each and every month. So the credit card APR has no bearing on my decision.

Additionally, I have an excellent credit score, so I can apply for whatever credit card I want and actually get approved!  Also, because I have good credit and don’t need a specialty rewards card, I don’t need to pay an annual fee.

My Personal Favorite Rewards Credit Card

Without thinking for more than a second, I can tell you that the original Blue Cash card from American Express has the best ongoing rewards (in my opinion). And that’s the kicker.  It has the best rewards for me.  And perhaps you, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.

You see what I’m getting at? I found a credit card that was tailored for my needs, with my best interests in mind.  I didn’t just Google “best credit card” and make my decision based on some top 10 list or what someone else said.

When deciding for yourself, first determine what you need most out of your credit card. Is it cash back, customer service, a low interest rate, a specific rewards program, a balance transfer credit card? What is it!

Once you’ve got that narrowed down, you can begin your credit card search.  The second step should be determining what credit card you’re actually eligible for. In other words, what is your credit score and is it high enough to successfully apply for the credit card you’ve got your eye on?

It is recommended that you check your credit scores before applying for a credit card to determine your chances (It won’t hurt your credit score).

After all, if your FICO score is sub-600 and the credit card in question calls for “good credit,” there’s not much reason to apply.

You’ll simply be adding a credit inquiry to your credit report, which will likely push your credit score even lower, at least short term.  So see where you stand, determine what you need, and keep narrowing it down.

It Has No Annual and Offers 5% Cash Back All Year Long

Most importantly, the Amex Blue Cash is a cash back credit card with no annual fee, so you don’t have to pay to get those so-called rewards that you may never earn or use.

Secondly, you get cash back, so your rewards are guaranteed not to go to waste; if you opted for an airline miles rewards card, such as the Capital One Venture Card, or a basic rewards credit card, the related rewards could expire or you could be forced to use them for something you’re not really interested in.

Additionally, the cash back card from American Express can be used to offset your credit card balance, meaning redemption is hassle-free. Every year I convert my points to statement credits and enjoy a really cheap monthly credit card payment.

Other rewards programs require you to redeem your points for merchandise or travel, and may have blackout or expiration dates; you’re usually also paying for those rewards annually, so whether they make sense financially is questionable as well.

Aside from the benefits of the automated system, the Blue Cash card comes with the best cash back rates to boot; 5% cash back on groceries, 5% cash back on gas, 5% at drugstores, and 1% cash back everywhere else.

There’s also no limit on the amount of money you can earn, so the savings can be pretty substantial if you’re a big spender.

One final thing I’ll say on this subject is that while I feel the Blue Cash Everyday Card has the best rewards, a combination of credit cards could prove more beneficial.

Do You Need More Than One Rewards Credit Card?

For example, certain credit cards offer higher cash back rewards in certain categories, such as travel, gas, groceries, entertainment, and so forth.

The Costco American Express card gives you 3% back on gas and 2% cash back at restaurants, so it may be wise to have that as well if you’re a Costco member and you eat out often (there’s no annual fee, just the standard Costco dues.)

By carefully choosing which credit card to use in specific situations, you may actually be able to maximize your rewards; this of course, takes a bit more legwork.

Remember, the credit card with the best rewards may be unique based on your own situation, so consider what you want/need personally before making a choice. What works for one person may be not work for another based on personal spending habits.

After all, a gas rewards credit card is useless for someone without a car.  And travel rewards won’t do anything for someone who hates to travel.  So find a credit card that matches up with you!

Upfront Bonuses May Trump Standard Rewards

Lastly, an upfront bonus may outweigh the longer term benefits of a certain rewards credit card.  Case in point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, which comes with $400 cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Or $500 towards travel if you use it for such. Some tailored offers even come with 75,000 bonus points upfront, which is worth as much as $900!

Most rewards credit cards would require you to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000 to $90,000 to earn that much cash back.  For most people, that’s probably much more than their budget allows, and not a wise spending plan to earn a little cash back.

There’s also the Chase Freedom $300 cash back offer, which you can earn after spending just $500.  That’s a great deal, especially because there’s no annual fee.

So be sure to look all available credit card offers to see which is the best fit.  You may find that the combination of an upfront bonus, along with two other credit cards for specific rewards may be better than just one all-purpose rewards credit card.

All that said, there isn’t just one single credit card that offers the best rewards. It’s kind of like when you order a hamburger or a pizza and all your favorite toppings are spread among three different options, forcing you to add the items you want for an additional charge or miss out entirely.  Usually I add bacon.

Fortunately, you can hold several credit cards at once and take advantage of the many rewards programs that exist.  Just be sure to manage your cards properly so you don’t miss a payment.

Read more: Check out what I think about all the major credit card companies.

Which Credit Card to Pay Off First?

And now the age old question. “Which credit card to pay off first?”

Pay the Credit Card with the Highest APR First

Well, the short and obvious answer would be to pay the credit card with the highest interest rate (APR).

After all, your credit card with 21.99% APR is costing you more than your credit card with 9.99% APR, so it’d be wise to dedicate more money to the former one.

Again, it’s best to pay off the credit card with the highest APR, not the highest balance; don’t get these two confused.

There seems to be a lot of debate over this seemingly simple question, and that has more to do with emotions than math, because it’s always going to be the higher APR credit card first. Period. End of story!

However, for some people, it may be easier to compartmentalize debt into different buckets and pay it off accordingly. The general idea is to set a goal to pay off one account by “X” date, then tackle a subsequent account once that’s done.

This is fine if you want to pay more interest, or if you think it’ll help you reduce your debt quicker and thereby translate to less interest paid, but it relies on psychology over logic.  So beware.

Snowballing Debt

Another method, popularized by financial “guru” Dave Ramsey, is known “debt snowballing.” The idea here is to pay off smaller debts first, and then work your way to the bigger debts.

So if you have three credit cards with outstanding balances of $500, $1,000, and $2,000, you’d make minimum payments on the two larger balances, and devote as much as possible to the smallest balance.

Using this method, you should be able to eliminate the smaller debts quicker, which provides some sort of psychological resolve, thereby making it easier to manage your outstanding debts.

Apparently this motivates the individual to keep paying off debt thanks to the short-term “wins” associated with paying off a credit card.  But again, this is all mental, and not necessarily the most cost-efficient way of getting it done.

Create a Plan

So the solution to our question may be a relatively easy one, but getting out of credit card debt isn’t, so you need a plan.

The best way to tackle credit card debt is to make a list of all your credit cards, balances, APRs, minimum payment amounts, and so forth.

Then tally up all the minimum payments so you know exactly how much is due each month (this can fluctuate).

Without question, you must make at least the minimum payment on each credit card, as you won’t want any extra fees added on or related credit score dings for failing to make on-time payments.

[How are credit card payments applied to balances?]

Once all the minimum payments are accounted for, use whatever extra money you have available (for the purpose of paying down debt) to make a larger payment on the credit card with the highest APR.

This way you focus on the card that is contributing the most to your debt burden, while keeping the rest at bay.

It’s not wise to pay each card down by the same amount or attempt to pay off the entire balance on a card with less debt and a lower APR just because you want to “get it out of the way.”

Some “experts” seem to think this is a good way to deal with debt from a psychological standpoint, but in reality you’re simply throwing away your money.

A better recommendation would be to ask for interest rate reductions. You’d be surprised what simply asking will get you these days…if you can lower the APRs on your credit cards, you’ll be even closer to being debt-free.

Also, if you don’t have too many open credit cards with large balances, you may be able to open a new credit card and consolidate the balances on a low APR credit card.

A credit card balance transfer could help you move that high-interest debt over to a 0% APR credit card or a low fixed rate credit card. It’s a simple way to reduce finance charges significantly and get out of debt a whole lot quicker.

In summary, instead of relying on emotion, take the time to do the math so you wind up making a wise decision that will put your emotions at ease.

Read more: How to calculate credit card interest.

Are Credit Card Cash Rewards Taxable?

Another frequently asked question that comes up in the credit world: “Are credit card cash rewards taxable?” Often, this question heats up around April, right before taxes are due.

And with all the cash back rewards credit cards around these days, it’s no wonder consumers are concerned that they may be taxed for things like free airline tickets and cash back rewards.

Credit Card Rewards Aren’t Income

When it comes down to it, you are taxed on income you make. But credit card rewards aren’t considered income, and are in fact a type of rebate; the credit card issuers even refer to them as such.

American Express lists their cash back reward under fees and adjustments, so again, it doesn’t appear to be income.

If you think about it, by electing to use your credit card to make purchases you could be making with cash or a debit card, you are receiving a price reduction or discount from the card issuers.

While it’s not as direct as normal rebates or coupons, which typically come from the manufacturer, it draws enough parallels to be treated similarly.

Additionally, the cost of the items we buy is higher because of the existence of credit cards.  If it weren’t for credit cards, everyday goods would be cheaper because merchants could charge us less.  Why? Because merchants pay costs involved with accepting credit cards, and that cost gets passed on to consumers.

So we’re essentially just getting our money back by using credit cards.  And not even all of it, just some of it. Those who pay with cash instead of credit card simply lose out as a result of the higher prices.

So you shouldn’t worry about paying taxes on credit card rewards, as they’re just a discount/rebate you receive for using your credit card.

Unfortunately, the IRS hasn’t made it 100% clear if this is indeed the case, so questions and worries still persist.

I did a search over at the IRS website and couldn’t find anything that addresses the question specifically.

Upfront Credit Card Bonuses Aren’t Taxable Either

While that’s all good and well (for the most part), there are different types of rewards offered to cardmembers. For example, a big thing these days is the opening bonus used to lure in new customers.

Take the $100 welcome bonus offered to new Blue Cash Everyday cardholders, or the big bonuses offered to Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders. Because these are “sign-up bonuses,” and not traditional credit card points or rewards, the tax rules get even more murky.

But again, these opening bonuses are treated as rebates because the consumer must spend money to obtain them. For example, both opening bonuses cited above require a minimum spend in order to receive the cash bonus.

If you don’t meet the spending requirement, you don’t get the bonus, i.e. rebate. Also note that many credit cards accompanied by big upfront cash back bonuses carry annual fees.

So again, you’re paying a fee to get the rebate in the first place, and the credit card issuer probably expects you to pay them more than they pay you in the long run via fees and interest.

The IRS Wants You to Earn Credit Card Points!

Funnily enough, the IRS actually promotes the use of a credit card to file taxes electronically, and notes that you could even earn miles, points, rewards or cash back from card issuers!

Heck, if they’re saying so, it must be a safe tax-free move.

That’s the way I’m treating it unless I hear otherwise, though I would expect an advisory regarding the topic in the near future as rewards become bigger and more commonplace.

As always, it is recommended that you consult your accountant or tax advisor to be 100% certain any and all credit card rewards aren’t taxable to avoid any surprises.

Charitable Donations Using Credit Card Points Aren’t Tax Deductible

One more thing while we’re on the subject of taxation.

Some of the major credit card issuers such as American Express, Bank of America, and Citibank now offer donations to charity as a way to redeem points earned through the use of their credit cards.

While this sounds like a very humane and generous option for credit card holders, it should be known that the contributions made to charities using credit card points cannot be deducted from your taxes.

Unfortunately, by law it is the credit card issuer who is deemed the one donating, and thus only they can deduct the tax. If you’re looking for a way around it, exchange your credit card points for cash value, then write a check to the charity of your choice.

Aside from losing out on the tax-deductible benefit of donating via credit card points, you’ll also be paying an arm and a leg to donate a small amount. A simple $50 donation will cost anywhere from 5,000-6,000 points.

And if you use your own money, you’ll get a wider selection of charities to choose from, as opposed to the relatively small number offered by the credit card issuers.

Related: Paying your taxes with a credit card.