8 Ways to Redeem Amex Membership Rewards – Beginners Guide

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What are the cards that earn Membership Rewards?

American Express Membership Rewards is the rewards program offered by American Express. Membership Rewards Points (MR points) is the currency of this program and is also called flexible currency program due to the wide range of redemption

There are several cards available that offer Membership Reward Points as the rewards. Here is a summary of all the cards and a short summary of its benefits

Card NameAnnual FeeKey Features
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card$95Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits

3X at US Supermarkets

2X at US Gas stations

1X on all other purchases
Amex EveryDay Credit Card$0Make 20 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period and earn 20% extra points

2X at US Supermarkets

1X on all other purchases
American Express Gold Card$2504X at US Restaurants and Supermarkets

3X on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com

$120 Dining credit

$100 Airline fee credit
Platinum Card from American Express$5505X on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel and on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com


$200 credit towards incidental expenses with chosen Airline.

$200 in Annual Uber Credits

Access to Amex Centurion Lounges
Priority Pass Select Membership
Delta Skyclub (When flying Delta)

$100 credit towards GlobalEntry
American Express Green card$0 for first year and $95 afterwards2X at Amextravel.com

1X on all other purchases
American Express Business Platinum Card (From Feb 01, 2019)$5955X on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com

1.5X on purchases above $5000

$200 credit towards incidental expenses with choosen Airline.

$200 in statement credits towards Dell Purchases

Access to Amex Centurion Lounges

Priority Pass Select Membership

Delta Skyclub (When flying Delta)

Get 35% of the points back when you book flights through amextravel.com and pay with Membership rewards

Hilton Honors and Marriott Gold status

One year Complimentary Access to Weworks
American Express Business Gold Card$2954X points on 2 select categories where you spend the most each month

Get 25% points back, after you book a flight using Pay with Points

Upto one year of free G Suite Basic

Upto one year free of Zip Recruiter Standard
American Express Blue Business Plus credit card$02X on all purchases (Upto $50,000 in purchases each year)

There are lot of ways one could earn Membership Rewards, thanks to the whole array of cards (Personal & Small business) available.

Let us review the options available to redeem them.

  1. Transfer to Airline Partners

American Express membership Rewards can be transferred to 15 Airline partners. Here is a summary of all the transfer partners and the ratios that you could transfer MR Points.

These partners span across all major airline alliances along with the independent airline loyalty programs like Etihad Guest and Emirates Skywards. There are occasional transfer bonuses as well, which will further enhance the value of your Membership Reward points

Transferring to Airline partners and redeeming for premium cabins gives best value for your MR points.

Here are a few examples:

Sydney – Abu Dhabi in A380 First Apartment for 135K Etihad Guest Miles
Los Angeles to Singapore for 118K Krisflyer Miles in First Suites

2. Transfer to Hotel Partners

You can also transfer MR points to 3 hotel loyalty programs. Here is the summary

This is a good way to top up your account if you are short of few points for an award or depending on the redemption value, you could transfer the points needed for an entire award.

Enjoy an Overwater Villa for 95,000 Hilton Honors Points (47,500 MR Points) at Conrad Maldives

3. Get 1.25 cents per point with American Express Platinum Card for Schwab

If you hold a Schwab brokerage account, you could get a different version of the American Express Platinum card exclusive for Scwab account holders. Annual fee is $550 with the same benefits like Airline fee credit, Uber credit . You are still eligible for this card, even if you hold regular american express platinum card.

The beauty of this card, is the ability to redeem your MR points at 1.25 cents/point in to your Schwab account. Since Amex pools all the MR points in to one place, you could redeem your MR points across all cards at 1.25 cents per point.

Fancy another sign up bonus?

4. Book Travel

You could use MR points to book travel with Amextravel.com, you need a minimum of 5,000 MR points to redeem for travel.

You could book flights and hotels through Amextravel.com at 1 cent per point

Use Amex points for flights and hotels

Tip: if you hold American Express Business Platinum card, you get 35% points back when you pay with MR points.

Just 28.6K MR Points(after 35% points are refunded) for Mint Business class seat in Jet Blue from Las Vegas – Boston.

5. Redeem against Charges:

You could use your Amex MR points to redeem against your purchases, however, it is not the best value. You get only 0.6 cents

6. Redeem for Gift cards

You could use MR points to redeem for gift cards. Again, you will not best value from this option. It is probably one of the last thing you should consider, especially considering that there are ways to buy discounted gift cards. You would get anywhere between 0.7-1 cents/MR point

7. Redeem for Merchandise

You could redeem towards merchandise aswell from a wide range of products offered by Membership Rewards portal.

Get an Iphone XR for 118,471 MR points @ .65 cents/MR Point

8. Redeem at Checkout with Select Merchants

You can use MR points when you are doing shopping with Select merchants. Amazon is one such popular option. When redeeming at Amazon, you get 0.7 cents per MR point

Conclusion:

Amex Membership Rewards is one of the most valuable flexible currency in the market. There are wide range of redemption options available, however the best value can be had when redeeming for travel by transferring to Airline Loyalty programs or redeeming with Amextravel.com along with combination of Business Platinum card

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Comparison of the Premium Rewards Cards

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There are a lot of premium cards available in the market now and they carry a hefty price tag. For starters, the annual fee may be over-whelming. To Justify the annual fee, each card is packed with a wide range of benefits . With a little effort, it is possible to enjoy benefits that can outweigh the annual fee.

In this post, we will compare the key features of the following cards

The Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Business Platinum

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Citi Prestige

US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

CNB Crystal Visa Infinite

United MileagePlus Club card

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Delta Reserve

SPG Luxury Card

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Annual Fee: Annual fee is key factor when choosing the premium cards and there could be additional fee for authorized users.

Card NameAnnual fee Fee for Authorized
Users
The Platinum Card from
American Express
$550 $175 (For upto three
additional card holders)
American Express Business
Platinum (Effective from Feb 01, 2019)
$595 $300
Chase Sapphire Reserve$450 $75
Citi Prestige$495 $75
US Bank Altitude Reserve
visa Infinite Card
$400 $75
CNB Crystal Visa Infinite$400 $0 for up to three additional card holders
United MileagePlus Club
card
$450 $0
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard$450 $0 for upto 10 additional card holders
Delta Reserve$450 $0
SPG Luxury Card$450$0
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card$450$0

Rewards & Annual Credits:   Each card offers a variety of rewards and the annual credits plays a key role towards offsetting the annual fee.

Card NameRewards Annual Credits
The Platinum Card from
American
Express
5X on airfare
booked
directly with the
airline or through
Amex Travel and
on
prepaid hotels
booked through
amextravel.com
$200 credit towardsincidental expenses with
chosen Airline.

$200 in Annual
Uber Credits
American Express Business Platinum (Effective from Feb 01, 2019)5X on airfare and prepaid hotels
booked through
amextravel.com

1.5X on
purchases above
$5000
$200 credit
towards incidental
expenses with
chosen Airline.

$200 in statement
credits towards Dell Purchases
Chase Sapphire
Reserve
3X on Travel
and Dining
$300 towards Travel expenses
Citi Prestige5X on Air Travel
and Dining

3X on Cruise
lines and Hotels
$250 Travel Credit 
US Bank Altitude Reserve
Visa Infinite Card
3X on Travel
and purchases
made through
Mobile Wallets
$325 in travel
credit towards
purchases made
directly with
Airlines,
Hotels, Cruises,
Car rental etc..
CNB Crystal Visa
Infinite
3X on Gas,
Grocery, Travel & Dining
$250 towards
Domestic
Airline Incidental
credit per card
(even for
Authorized users x 3)
United MileagePlus Club
card
2X on United
Purchases and 1.5X on all other purchases
None
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard2X on American
Airlines Purchases
None
Delta Reserve2X on Delta
Airlines Purchases
None
SPG Luxury Card6X on Marriott Purchases
3X on US restaurants and travel purchases made directly with Airlines
2X on all other purchases
$300 credit towards eligible purchases at Marriott Hotels
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card14X on Hilton Purchases

7X on flights booked directly with Airlines or Amextravel.com; US Restaurants or select Car rental companies

3X on all other purchases
$250 credit towards Airline Incidental purchases

$250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit

$100 Hilton On-property credit

Other Key Benefits: All cards offer No Foreign transaction fee as one common benefit. Apart from that, you could get Airport lounge access with limited options to vast options.

Card NameAirport Lounge
Access
Other Key Benefits
The Platinum
Card from
American
Express
Access to Amex
Centurion Lounges

Priority Pass Select Membership

Delta Skyclub
(When flying Delta)
$100 credit towards
GlobalEntry 
American
Expresses
Business
Platinum (Effective from Feb 01, 2019)
Access to Amex
Centurion Lounges

Priority Pass Select Membership

Delta Skyclub
(When flying Delta)
Get 35% of the points back when you book flights through
amextravel.com and pay with Membership rewards

Hilton Honors and Marriott
Gold status

One year Complimentary
Access to Weworks


Chase
Sapphire Reserve
Priority Pass Select Membership $100 credit towards
GlobalEntry or TSA PreCheck
application
Citi
Prestige
Priority Pass Select Membership Fourth night hotel free
( limited to twice per calendar
year)

$100 Global Entry
application fee
US Bank
Altitude
Reserve
Visa
Infinite
Card
Priority Pass Select
Membership
(Complimentary for
first 4 visits)
12 Go-go Inflight Wifi Passes

$100 towards GlobalEntry or
TSA PreCheck application
CNB
Crystal
Visa
Infinite
Priority Pass Select
Membership with Unlimited Guests
$100 towards Global Entry (X4 including three AU’s.)

12 Gogo inflight wifi passes per
card
United
Mileage
Plus Club card
Full United Club
Membership
Baggage Fee waived (Up to
2 bags) for you and a
companion when flying with
United

No fee on Close-in award
booking and expanded access
to United Saver awards
Citi/AAdvantage
Executive World
Elite
Master
Card
Admirals Club
Membership
(Access to AA Lounges even
when not flying with AA)
$100 towards Global Entry

Earn 10,000 EQM’s when you
spend $40K in a Year
Delta ReserveDelta Sky Club
lounge access for
card member only
Annual Companion Certificate
for flying Domestic

15,000 MQM’s when you spend 30K in a year and an additional 15,000 MQM’s when you spend an additional 30K in an year
SPG Luxury card
Priority Pass Select Membership 

Marriott Gold Elite Status

1 Free night award (Redeemable up to 50,000 points/night)


100 towards GlobalEntry or
TSA PreCheck application
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Priority Pass Select Membership 
Hilton Honors Diamond Status

1 Free weekend night award at participating hotels in Hilton Portfolio


Other Key Points to Consider: There are also other benefits like Concierge, Purchase protection etc.. which could further enhance the value if used appropriately. You may get a lot of value from the credit card the first year especially with the sign-up bonus. If you do not see much points earning benefit the next year you could always downgrade the card to a no fees card. This helps you establish a long credit history and you don’t come across as someone who just gets credit card for sign-up bonuses.

Conclusion: Several Premium cards are now available in the market and competing for your business. Even though these cards come with a huge annual fee, it is easy to reap huge value with little planning and execution.

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All You Need To Know About Southwest Companion Pass…

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Who doesn’t like Buy One Get One, especially an Airline Ticket?  This is what exactly a Southwest Companion pass means, a really lucrative benefit offered for the loyalty towards Southwest airlines.

What is Southwest Companion Pass?

Southwest Companion pass is a benefit offered by Southwest Airlines for its Rapid Rewards members. This benefit allows you to choose a person to fly with you at no airline cost (Taxes and fees have to paid for the companion ticket) when you purchase a ticket or redeem points for a flight.

How to qualify for Southwest Companion Pass?

To qualify for Southwest Companion pass, you need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights on southwest or earn 110,00 qualifying rapid rewards points in a Calendar year. Companion pass will be valid for the following full calendar year plus the rest of the calendar year, which means if you could earn the companion pass during the start of calendar year, that will be close to 2 years of flying with the Buy One Get One (You will still have to pay the Taxes and fees for the companion)

Can you Change the name of the Companion?

Southwest allows you to change the name of the companion for up to 3 times during a calendar year. Note that you must fly along with the companion to be able to make the ticket free

How to earn Southwest Companion Pass?

Flying 100 qualifying one way flights on Southwest is a lot of flying and is not a possible feat for most folks. Thankfully, there are ways to earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Reward points with a little effort

1. Southwest Credit Cards

Southwest co-branded credit cards offered by chase are probably the easiest way to earn Companion pass. The best part is Signup bonus and the regular spend on the card are counted towards the 110,000 rapid rewards points requirement for earning Southwest Companion pass.

Southwest

There are 4 versions of credit cards available

  1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premium Credit Card
  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit card
  3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit card
  4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

As on the day of writing this post, there is an increased signup bonus for all the 4 cards offering 60,000 points. With personal cards, you could earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening and earn an additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.

With business credit card, you could earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Note that Chase allows only one personal and one business Southwest credit card per person. Southwest credit cards falls under the 05/24 rule, so use caution before applying for these cards. By signing up for one personal and one business credit card and completing the minimum spend requirement, you could earn enough points for a companion pass.

The potential challenge here is spending $12,000 to earn that 20,000 bonus points. But you could supplement with the other methods to earn the remaining points

Important Note: To maximize the Companion pass, you should aim at getting the companion pass as early as possible in 2019, so you could enjoy for the rest of 2019 and the full 2020. Ensure that you complete the minimum spending requirement on your credit cards, such that the signup bonus posts only in the new year – 2019.

2.  Referral bonus points for Southwest Credit cards:

Chase frequently runs promotions for referring your friends or family members to sign up for the Southwest credit cards. Referral points earned counts towards the Southwest Companion pass requirements.

3. Shop & Dine

Apart from the signup bonus from credit cards, regular spend on the credit cards & points earned through travel, you could also earn qualifying Rapid Rewards points through the Rapid Rewards shopping & Rapid Rewards Dining.

Rapid Rewards Shopping: Just like any portal, you could earn rapid rewards points for shopping at your merchants through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.

You could earn Rapid Rewards points at over 850+ stores and occasionally, there are bonus points offered.

Rapid Rewards Dining:     You dinner at your favorite restaurant could earn you Rapid Reward points.

  1. Enroll for Rapid Rewards Dining program
  2. Register up to 12 credit cards to track your purchases
  3. Locate Participating restaurants, dine and pay with one of the registered cards
  4. You could earn 3 points per dollar spent, as long as you opt in for email communications

Note that the points from Rapid Rewards Dining and Shopping may take up to 6 weeks to post to your account. Bonus points do not count towards the companion pass requirement.

3. 1-800 flowers

You could order gifts from  www.1800Flowers.com/rapidrewards and earn 1000 points for every order of $29.99 or more.

It may take up to 8 weeks for points to post to your account

4.  Home & Lifestyle

You could also earn Rapid Rewards Points with participating Home & Lifestyle partners. Note that these partners may change over time. At this time, you could earn points with the following partners.

NRG

Reliant

Makeitcount

 

Next Steps:

Once you met the requirements for the companion pass, you can login to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and add a companion of your choice.

With in few days, you should get an envelope with your actual Companion pass

Note that a person can have only one companion pass. When you are ready to travel, you must book your reservation first and then add a companion by going to the “My Trips” tab or you can also call 1-800-248-4377 to complete the booking

Tips & Strategies:

You can change your companion up to 3 times in a calendar year. Note that, per the terms, it may take up to 21 days to process the companion change request.

You will not be able to add new companion, until all the travel with previous companion is complete. You could still book the ticket for yourself , but add new companion after completing the travel with previous companion

If you are a family of 4,  Wife and husband get companion pass each and add their kids as companions or  wife and husband could companion pass alternately and maximize the travel.

Conclusion:

Southwest Companion pass is arguably the best perk in the  travel industry. with a little planning and effort, one could get a companion pass valid for close to two years. With Companion pass, you just need to pay the taxes and fees for your companion – which is $5.60 for a one way ticket within USA.

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Earn Elite Status With These Credit Cards

When it comes to Credit cards, the first thing that gets attention in this hobby is the sign up bonus.  Other benefits offered by these credit cards are often overlooked and one such benefit is the opportunity to get “Elite Status” with the Airline and Hotel Loyalty programs.

In this post, we will review the credit cards that would help you accelerate towards the Elite status with Airlines and Hotel Reward Programs

1. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard:

 

AAdvantage Executive card

 

Apart from the signup bonus and other benefits. You could also earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) when you spend $40,000 or more in eligible purchases with in a calendar Year.

This card comes with an Annual fee of $450.

Here is a summary of requirements for various levels of AAdvantage elite status.

AA

Summary of AAdvantage Requirements

 

2. Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit card

 

Delta Platinum Card

 

Through 04/11/2018, there is an improved signup bonus of 70,000 miles with the Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card.  You can also earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. This card comes with an annual fee of $195.

you can also earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

Here is a summary of elite status requirements.

Delta Elite Status

MQD requirement is waived, if you spend $250,000 or more in a Calendar year with Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit card.  In theory, you could earn Delta Silver status with just credit card spending.

3. Amex Delta Reserve Credit card

Delta Reserve

American Express offer 3 variants co-branded Delta credit cards.  Another card that helps you earn elite status is Delta Reserve Credit card. You can earn 10,000 MQM’s when you spend $3,000 or more in eligible purchases with in first 3 months.

This card carries a hefty annual fee of $450.

You can also earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $30,000 on purchases on your Delta Reserve Credit Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs and an additional 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your Delta Reserve Card in a calendar year.

This card also waives MQD requirement, if you spend $250,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year.

 

4. United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Credit card:

 

United MileagePlus

You can earn 1,000 Flexible Premier qualifying miles (Flex PQM) for each $5,000 you spend on your Card. You can use these Flex PQM to help maintain your Premier status or elevate it, up to Premier Platinum. Flex PQM earned through credit card spending is valid in the calendar year they are earned and an additional 39 months before they expire.

Here is a summary of the requirements for United Premier status.

United Elite

United Premier Status Requirements

 

5. Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard:

Barclays AA Business

 

Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year. This card comes with an annual fee of $95.

6. AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard:

Barclays AAdvantage Silver

You could earn 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) for every $20,000 you spend annually (up to 10,000 miles each year)

You could also earn  $6,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars when you spend $50,000 on purchases each calendar year. You’ll earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000, and another $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $50,000

This card comes with an annual fee of $195. This card can not be applies directly, but only available as upgrade to Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard.

With all the 3 variants of AAdvantage cards, you could potentially earn 20,000 EQMs  and $9,000 EQDs after a combined total spend of $115k in eligible purchases across the 3 cards, which gets you Gold status comfortably and well on the way towards Platinum status.

 

With Hotel Reward programs, it is fairly straight forward. In most instances, you get the status just for holding the card. Here is the summary

Credit Card Annual Fee Elite Status offered
Amex Platinum Charge Card $550 SPG Gold Status
Hilton Honors Gold Status
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card $95 SPG gold status with $30,000 spending in a Calendar year
Hilton Honors Amex Aspire Card $450 Hilton Honors Diamond Status
Hilton Honors Amex Ascend card $95 Hilton Honors Gold Status
Hilton Honors Amex card $0 Hilton Honors Silver Status
Hilton Honors Amex Business card $95 Hilton Honors Gold Status
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit card $0 for first year and $85 afterwards Receive 15 Elite night credit enough for Marriott Silver status and an additional 1 Elite night credit for every $3,000 spend
Chase IHG rewards Club select Credit card $0 for first year and $49 afterwards IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite
Chase Hyatt Credit Card $0 for first year and $75 afterwards Hyatt Discoverist Status
Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit card $450 Ritz Carlton Gold Elite status for the first year. Spend $10,000 your first year and each subsequent year to maintain your Gold Elite status.
Elevate to Platinum status when you spend $75,000 or more in an account year
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature card $75 Radisson Rewards Gold Status
Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Credit card $50 Radisson Rewards Silver Status
Barclays Wyndham Rewards visa card with no annual fee $0 Wyndham Rewards Gold Membership
Barclays Wyndham Rewards visa card with  annual fee $75 Wyndham Rewards Platinum Membership

 

What is your favorite card and the elite status?

 

 

 

Here Are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards And How To Maximize Their Benefits

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No matter how much we love the rewards from Airlines and Hotel programs, “Cash is King”. There are many cards in the market that offer Cashback as a reward for your spends.

Here is a quick comparison of all the popular Cashback credit cards available.

Cashback on purchases 5% Rotating Categories? Annual Fee Redemption Options
Consumer Cards
Citi Double Cash 2% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Chase Freedom 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it Miles 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
American Express Blue Cash Everyday 3% cash back at US supermarkets,
2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $0 Statement Credit
American Express Blue Cash Preferred 6% cash back at US supermarkets,
3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $95 Statement Credit
Bank of America Cash Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Bank of America Premium Rewards 1.5 – 3.5% No $95 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Capital One Quick Silver card 1.5% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card 3% First year, 2.5% after No $0 for first year and $59 after that Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Small Business Cards
Capital One Spark Cash 2% No $0 for first year and $95 after that Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Cash Select 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Classic 1% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services.
2% cashback at Gas Stations and Restautants
1% cashback on other purchases
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards, Better value by redeeming for Travel
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at Restaurants and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card 5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose and 1% on all other purchases No $0 Statement Credit
  • Citi Double Cash Credit card:

Citi DoubleCash

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback when you buy and an additional 1%  cashback when you pay for the purchases.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited:

Freedom Unlimited

$0 Annual fee and earns 1.5% cashback on all purchases.

  • Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback on all purchases. You can also earn 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in combines purchases.

chase 5%

5% Cashback calendar for Chase Freedom card holders

  • Discover it:

Discover it

$0 Annual fee and earns 1% cashback on all purchases. You could also earn                         5% cashback on purchases when you activate and spend at different places that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in purchases.

Discover 5%

Discover 5% Cashback calendar for 2018

For the first year of card membership, Discover will match the Cashback.

Also, when redeeming your cashback, Discover offers the option of buying various merchant Gift cards at a discounted price.

Discover_Gift_Cards

Some of the gift cards you could buy with your Discover Cashback

  • Discover it Miles:

Discover it Miles

Even though this card is called as Miles card, it is effectively a cashback card that 1.5% on all purchases.

Similar to Discover it card, your rewards will be matched by Discover at the end of your first year membership.

  • American Express Blue cash Everyday:

Blue Cash Everyday

3% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  • American Express Blue cash Preferred:

BLuecash Preferred

6% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$95 Annual fee

  • Bank of America Cash Rewards:

BankofAmerica Cash Rewards

1% cash back on purchases everywhere, every time, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/ wholesale club/ gas purchases each quarter.

No annual fee

Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

  • Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card:

BofA Premium Rewards

2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

$95 Annual fee

Preferred Rewards customers get an additional 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase

BofA Preferred

Three tiers of Bank of America relationship

If you could maintain a balance of over $100K+, you can enjoy 75% rewards bonus for being a Platinum Honors member. That means you could earn up to 3.5 % per $1 on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 % per $1 on all other purchases.

Remember this is tax season, you could pay taxes using credit card using services like Pay1040.com for a fee of 1.87%. When you compare 1.87% fee with the possibility of earning of 2.62% cashback, you could make money on your tax payments.

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card:

Cash Wise

Unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on net purchases

$0 Annual fee

  • US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card:

US bank Cash+

5%cashback on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose.

2% cashback on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% on all other net purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  •   Capital One Quicksilver card
   Capitalone Quick Silver

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

$0 Annual fee

  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit card:

Alliant

Earn 3% cashback on all purchases during the first year of membership and 2.5% after that

$59 annual fee, waived for the first year

 

Small Business Credit cards

If you own a small business, you could get one of the small business credit cards that earns Cashback.

 

  • Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

There are three variants of this card and offers varying amounts of cashback.

Capitalone business

Three variants of Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

  • Chase Ink Business Cash Credit card

chase Ink

Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.

Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn

No Annual fee

 

  • American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit card

Amex Business card

5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose. On purchases up to $50,000 at 5% and 3% per calendar year, then 1%

No Annual fee

 

How to maximize the benefits?

All the above mentioned cards offer cash back on all purchases ranging from 1-3.5% on all purchases. However, there are a few cards that offer additional cashback on purchases that falls in specific categories like Gas stations, Grocery stores etc..

For example, Discover it and Chase Freedom card offers 5% cashback on rotating categories that change every quarter. You could earn 5% cashback on  up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate.

Here are a few tips you could consider to maximize the

  1. Purchase Gift cards – Many Grocery stores sell gift cards of various merchants like Restaurants, Gas stations, Amazon, prepaid visa/Master gift cards etc. You could purchase gift cards and buy stuff from that merchant, effectively earning 5% cashback on that purchase.
  2.  Many gas stations also sell gift cards and could be a great opportunity to maximize your purchases.
  3. If you purchase regularly, you may consider stocking up the gift cards of that merchant for future use or you could buy items in bulk for future use.

Which cashback credit card do you hold and how do you maximize the benefits?

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Comparison of Amex Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards vs. Citi ThankYou Points.

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It is a known fact that Amex, Chase & Citi are big players when it comes to issuing credit cards. These banks not only have co-branded cards but also issue cards under their  proprietary rewards program. These are considered as flexible currency as they offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how we can spend these points.

Here is a comparison of all the features of the three programs – Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi ThankYou points.

  Amex Membership rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards Citi ThankYou points
Cards that will earn the reward points
  • Amex Platinum Card
  • Amex Business Platinum
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold card
  • Amex Business Gold Rewards Card
  • Amex Everyday
  • Amex Everyday Preferred
  • Amex Blue Business Pus Credit Card
  • Amex Green Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Ink business preferred
  • Chase Ink business cash
  • Citi ThankYou Premier
  • Citi Prestige
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred
  • AT&T Access Card From Citi
  • AT&T Access More Card from Citi ( possible with product conversions only)
Airline Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • AeroMexico Club Premier: 1,000 MR points =  1,600 Premier points
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al: 1,000 MR points = 20 Matmid points
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • TrueBlue points (250 MR Points = 200 TrueBlue Points)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • United MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Flying Blue
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: 1,000 TY points = 800
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Miles
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca Life Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Eva Air
  • Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Privilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotel Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • Choice Privileges
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (1000:333)
  • Hilton  Honors (1000:1500)
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • World of Hyatt
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards
None
Cash Redemptions 0.6 Cents per point towards Statement Credit 1 Cent per point towards statement credit or ACH transfer 1 Cent per point towards statement credit
Redeem towards travel (Air travel, Hotel and Car Rental on the respective portal) 1 Cent per point. (Get 35% of the points back if you hold Business Platinum card and booked with qualifying airline) 1.5 Cents/Point with Sapphire Reserve or 1.25 Cents/Points with Sapphire Preferred 1.25 cents per point (with Prestige or Premier card)
Points Sharing Points Sharing not allowed Points can be shared with another household member Can be shared with anyone holding ThankYou card. Transferred points expire after 90 days of transfer

 

Key Things to note:

Some of the cards offer all the features when combined with a premium card. For example, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited alone can not unlock the full potential of Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but when combined with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve. Similarly, Citi ThankYou preferred offers full value when combined with ThankYou premier or Prestige card

It is generally not a good idea to redeem points towards Merchandise or gift cards

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club & KLM/Airfrance – Flying Blue are common transfer partners for all 3 reward programs – so you could pool points from the three rewards programs for something big.

Which rewards program is best?

The true answer is “It depends“.  Each program has its own advantage depending on your requirement and type of cards held. For example, if you have Chase Sapphire Reserve card – you get more value when redeeming towards travel rewards like flight, hotel & car rentals.

You should also consider that the card issuers have recently tightened the rules around the new card approvals, so it may be worthwhile to invest in all the 3 programs.

But, here are some of the strong aspects of each program in different scenarios:

Best program for transferring points to Hotel loyalty programs:

World of Hyatt is associated with Chase Ultimate Rewards and could offer great value when redeemed thoughtfully.  Transferring to Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards and IHG Rewards Club is not generally NOT recommended as it is very easy to earn these  points at less than 1 cent/point.

Best program for transferring points to Airline loyalty programs:

This is very tough one, as there are sweet spots with each airline loyalty program. But, here are our recommended Airline transfer partners for each program that could offer great value

Amex Membership Rewards: Air Canada -Aeroplan, Delta Sky Miles, British Airways Executive Club, ANA Mileage Club, Singapore Krisflyer, Asia Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards: United MileagePlus, British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Rapid rewards, Singapore Krisflyer

Citi ThankYou points: Avianca Life Miles, Singapore Krisflyer, Etihad Guest, Asia Miles

Best Program for Travel rewards:

All three programs allowing Flight, Hotel & Car rental bookings through their respective portal. In this case, the best program would be Chase Ultimate Rewards (If you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve – 1.5 cents/points) or Amex membership Rewards  (If you hold Amex business platinum cards – 1.54 cents/point).

If you do not hold the premium cards, then Citi ThankYou Points (1.25 cents/point) and Chase Ultimate Rewards (1.25 cents/point) offer great value.

What is your favorite program and your consideration for choosing that program?

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Chase 5/24 Rule, Cards Exempted And Exceptions

UPDATE : Now every card from Chase falls under the 5/24 rule

Every bank has a set of unpublished rules when it comes to approving for credit cards. It is always important to know these rules so we could maximize the return of the hard pulls in the credit pulls.

What is Chase 5/24 rule?

Around 2 years ago, Chase  tightened rules when it comes to approving for certain credit cards in their portfolio. With this 5/24 rule, a credit card application will not be approved if the applicant had opened more than 5 new cards in the last 24 months from not just Chase but ANY bank.

Even Authorized User (AU) cards could impact your ability to get the new card as this also shows up as a new account in your credit report. However, there may be a chance that this can be pleaded and your application may be approved if you are over 5 account due to AU cards

This rule does not account for the number of hard inquires on the credit report, but the number of new accounts (across all banks) added to the credit report in the last 24 months, which means that this new rule is intended to limit the number of sign up bonuses received.

How to Check your 5/24 status?

There is an easier way to check, if you have opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months.

Step 1: Login to Credit karma

Credit karma is free service which provides credit monitoring and credit scores from your Transunion and Equifax.  If you dont have an account yet, you could sign up in a few minutes.

1.login

Step 2:  View Score details

Once you login, you would be able to see a Dashboard showing your TransUnion and Equifax credit score details.  Click on the “View Score details” on the bottom of either score.

2.Dashboard

Step 3:  View “Credit Usage”

On this page, you will see all the factors impacting your credit score.  Click “View Details” below the credit usage section.

3.Details

Step 4: Count the number of accounts in the last 24 months

Here you could see all the open credit card accounts. You could count the number of cards opening in the last 24 months.

4. Count the numbers

If you have 5 or more cards opened in the last 24 months, you could not get selected Chase cards.

One more thing you could notice is that business cards are not reported to the credit bureaus. This is true with most business cards and business cards would not impact your 5/24 status as long as it is not showing up in your credit report.

Which Business cards do not show up on credit report?

Several banks do not report business cards in your credit report unless there is an issue with your business card account.  As of the day of writing this post, only CapitalOne and Barclayard (conflicting reports) seem to report business cards to credit bureaus.

Here are a couple of flyertalk threads for more information and datapoints

A list of Business cards which earns miles and points

5/24 – Chase  & non-Chase churning strategy

If you had applied for business cards in the last 24 months, you could exclude the business cards, when you count your 5/24 status as mentioned above.

Which Chase cards are exempted from this rule?

Thankfully, there are several Chase cards that are not covered by the 5/24 rule.  This flyertalk thread has all the current updates and data points. As of today, the following Chase travel rewards cards are exempted from this 5/24 rule.

British Airways Visa Signature card

The Hyatt credit card

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit card

Ritz-Carlton rewards credit card

Marriott Rewards Premier Business credit card

If you are less than 5/24, you should focus on other chase cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred etc.. before applying for the above listed cards.

What are the potential exceptions to this rule?

Note that the below listed options are not guaranteed to by-pass this 5/24 rule, but will improve your chances significantly.

  • The most probable approach for by-passing the 5/24 rule is, if you are pre-approved for a card. This is usually informed by the  the teller during the branch visit.
  • If you are 5/24 due to Authorized user cards (AU) in the last 24 months, it may be a good idea to ask the primary card holder to cancel these AU cards issued against your name and request these bank to notify the bank to remove these cards
  • If you received a targeted mailer with an exclusive invitation code, you could potentially get away with the 5/24 limitation
  • In the past,  having Chase Private Client status used to by-pass the 5/24 rule, as the relationship manager used to work with the credit analyst and get you approved. However, recent data-points suggest that it does not work any more.

Conclusion:

Chase has  an unpublished rule, which is famously called 5/24 rule. As per this rule, a Chase credit card will not be approved if the applicant has opened 5 or more cards with any issuer (according to the credit report) in the last 24 months.

There may be limited exceptions to this rule, if you apply for pre-approved offer in the branch or through a targeted mailer.

If you have opened less than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, you may want to prioritize Chase cards before getting other cards.

Credit Cards With Lounge Access Benefit

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During Air travel, there are instances beyond our control where we end up with a long layover or the flight gets delayed at the last moment and we end up having to wait for a long duration at the gate.

To ease the discomfort, Lounge access could come to the rescue. While US domestic Airline lounges may not offer huge value, there are several lounges that offer attractive amenities including complimentary drinks, snacks, food, showers etc..

Unless we are an elite member or flying in business/first  class, access to lounges is not complimentary and the cost multiplies when we are traveling as a group. Fortunately, there are several credit cards that offer complimentary lounge access as one of the benefit. This benefit is often offered through Priority Pass membership. For starters, Priority Pass does not own lounges, but is affiliated with over 1,000+ lounges across the globe and provides you complimentary access or negotiated rates depending on your plan.

If you were purchase Priority Pass membership on your own dime, here is what it would cost you. There are several types of membership you could get with Priority Pass depending on your requirements.

Priority Pass Memberships

Standard membership costs you $99 per year, then you could enjoy a flat fee of $27 for every visit, while the Prestige membership costs $399 per year and would get you unlimited free visits to its affiliated lounges. Note that none of the plans offer complimentary visits for our guest.

The cost effective option would be to get the lounge access through these credit cards. There are several cards that offer premium membership plan Priority Pass Select as one of the benefit. We will discuss the details and the weigh the cost of the card membership fees when compared to the Priority Pass Membership fees. A few airport restaurants recently got added to Priority Club – Corona Beach between Gates D23 and D24 at Miami Airport, Timberland Steaks and Grill at Denver Airport , Capers Cafe Le Bar, Capers Market , House Spirits Distillery and Alaska Lounge at Portland Airport.

Citi Prestige Card:

Citi Prestige card is one of the premium travel credit card in the market with several benefits and one of the key benefit is the Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that offers unlimited access to its affiliated lounges including 2 guests or immediate family members.

Other key benefits of the card include $250 travel credit every year and 4th Night free. This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and each authorized user card will be an additional $50. If any of your friends, family member needs lounge access, you could add them as an authorized user and simply share the Priority Pass Select card only. The lounge access benefit for the authorized user would be same as the primary card holder, which means one could get lounge access at $50 per year.

HK

Plaza Premium Lounge – Hong Kong

American Express Platinum Card:

American Express Platinum card revamped its benefits recently and one of the key change is the enhancement to lounge access benefit. You now get Priority Pass Select membership which gives unlimited lounge access to the primary card holder and 2 additional guests.

The other feature of this card is the access to Amex centurion lounges that are probably one of the best domestic lounges you could find in the US. You get great food, drinks and facilities.

As of today, Centurion Lounges are currently at the following US Airports

  1. Las Vegas (LAS)
  2. Dallas (DFW)
  3. Houston (IAH)
  4. New York (LGA)
  5. Miami (MIA)
  6. San Francisco (SFO)
  7. Seattle (SEA)

You could find Centurion Lounges outside of US as well,

  1. Mumbai (BOM)
  2. Delhi (DEL)
  3. Buenos Aires (EZE)
  4. Mexico City (MEX-3)
  5. Monterrey (MTY-2)
  6. Sydney (SYD)
  7. Toluca (TLC)

The next upcoming locations are Hong Kong (HKG) and Philadelphia (PHL)

Centurion Lounge

Centurion Lounge – Las Vegas

You also get access to the Delta sky club lounges when flying with Delta.  The annual fee for the card is $550 as it offers several other benefits like $100 incidental travel expenses like Baggage fees, seat selection fees etc. and $200 in Uber credits and more…

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

In the past, Chase used to offer co-branded premium credit cards only. About a year ago, this has changed with the introduction of Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The annual fee for this card is $450 and one of the key benefit of the card is the $300 in travel credit.

This card also offers Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which grants lounge access to you and your guests. As per the terms, there seems to be no set limit on the number of guests that could accompany you.

Siem Reap

Plaza Premium Lounge – Siem Reap

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card:

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card also offers Priority pass select membership that grants complimentary lounge access to you and its guests. The annual fee of this card is $450 and offers $300 towards incidental travel credits like baggage fees, seat selection fees. You could even purchase lounge access passes towards this travel credit.

KAL Lounge

KAL Lounge – LAX

US bank Altitude Reserve card:

This card is probably the newest card in the premium cards segment. Currently, this card is available for the current US bank customers only. This card offers priority pass select membership which gets you 4 complimentary visits and an additional 4 visits for your guests at participating lounges.

Given that this card comes with a $400 fee, Lounge access benefits is mediocre. But there are other card benefits like up to $325 annual travel credit that may be interest a few.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard:

This card is for someone, who primarily travels with American Airlines and have access to more than 50 Admirals clubs across the globe.

This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and gives unlimited access to Admirals club to the primary card holder and up to 2 guests or immediate family members. Authorized users also get unlimited access to the Admirals club.

United MileagePlus Club card

This card offers United MileagePlus club membership as the key benefit that lets you , as the primary card member, and your eligible travel companions will enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.

Annual fee for this card is $450.

Crystal Visa Infinite Card

This is probably the least known credit card issued by City National Bank.  getting this card is through a paper application and may not be straight forward, you may check this flyertalk thread for more data points. Annual fee for the card is zero for first year and $400 from the second year of membership

This card offers lounge access through Priority Pass Select Membership. Card holder can choose up to 2 members that can get Priority Pass Select membership and there seems to be no restriction on the number of guests each member can take as long as the  specific lounge accepts.

 

Conclusion:

There are several premium  cards in the market that offer lounges access as one of the key benefit through the Priority Pass Select membership or membership to the respective lounge club.

It may be tough to rank the best card with respect to the lounge access benefit as the individual circumstances may vary. Which card would you like to hold for the lounge access?