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Review of American Express Blue Cash Everyday rewards Card with Tina Fey

Haven’t you always wanted to be shrimp-rich? How about high-end doggie toys? Or have enough cheesies to ride out any storm? Well, all of these desires can come true while you can earn between 1 and 3 percent cash-back on them, just likely the hilarious Tina Fey. Fey is featured in a series of ads for American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Rewards card showing how you can earn cash-back in some delightfully funny everyday ways.

AMEX Blue Cash with Tina Fey

Earning Cash Back

Although you may not be as indulgent or as quick-witted as Fey, this American Express card will also allow you to enjoy earning money back on your regular purchases. The biggest winner is at the supermarkets. You can earn 3% cash back at certain U.S. supermarkets such as Stop and Shop, Foodtown and Whole Foods. Just like Fey, you can earn 3% on your food bill up to $6,000 annually, after $6000, your earning goes down to 1%. Next up are the gas stations. Earn 2% on your gas station purchases. There’s no limit, but the stations must be on an approved list, such as Gulf and Shell. Purchases at at grocery store gas stations, like Costco don’t make the 2% cut though. The 2% also applies to certain department stores, like J.C. Penny, Sears and Saks Fifth Avenue. For anything else you put on your card, you’ll receive 1% cash-back. With these categories and the range of eligible stores, you’ll easily be able to quickly earn cash-back. Plus, all of these earnings are available for a $0 annual fee.

Spending Your Cash-Back

Once you earn $25 in cash-back, you can start spending it. You put any special item or travel you’re interested in on your Amex card, and you can pay it off using your Cash-Back account. You can apply the cash in increments of 25. There are a couple downsides of the Blue Cash Everyday Cash Back. Unlike some other cash-back systems, you cannot get cash in hand. Cash back is only applicable to purchases on your card. There’s no way to retrieve the money from your account except as credit. In addition, you can’t use this Cash-Back for your Minimum Due payment.

Sign-Up Bonus and Annual Percentage Rate

If you’re signing up for this card for the first time, you can take advantage of their welcome bonus. If you spend $1000 in the first three months of your account approval, you’ll receive 10% back in cash. And you can earn cash-back on purchases made on your card and any additional cards associated with your account. That $100 can be spent on any purchase you make. Perhaps an even better introductory offer is the 0% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for new purchases. This intro APR is also charged on balance transfers requested within 30 days of opening your account. You could move a balance and pay it off over those first 12 months, which saves you the interest that you would pay elsewhere. The first 12 months are a very inexpensive time to borrow money. After that, the APR will go up to somewhere between 13.24% and 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.

Travel Perks

American Express is generally a great travel card. The insurances that come with the card are handy, though, with the Blue Cash Everyday card you receive cash-back for everyday purchases, not for those when you’re traveling. Though you may encounter lots of points for shopping at the approved list of retailers during domestic travels, you won’t be earning 2 to 3% cash back on those purchases.

You can use your cash-back for booking trips and cruises through American Express Travel and its partners. You also receive the range of travel benefits and insurances that come along with the card. When renting a vehicle, your AMEX card covers your Loss and Damage insurance. Heaven forbid something happens on the road, but if it does, your card provides a roadside assistance hotline. Call them to organize a boost or a tow, and they’ll coordinate it. If you’re near home, it’s likely not that useful of a service, but when traveling, it can be a huge relief to let someone else take care of all those calls. But remember, you’re responsible for all charges. Worse, imagine if you’re abroad and your passport gets stolen. Or you catch a severe flu and you need to find an English-speaking doctor. The Global Assist Hotline will direct you in your emergency if you’re traveling more than 100 miles from home. You are also responsible for any fees for the services arranged. The card also includes a travel accident insurance, which I hope you will never use.

Shopping with Protection

You can do your shopping with a bit more peace of mind because of the extended warranties and purchase protection. Purchases made on your card with between 1 and 5 year warranties get an automatic additional year of coverage. If that new shiny item gets stolen or damaged within the first three months, you’re also covered. If those new kicks that arrived in the mail don’t fit and the shop wouldn’t allow you to return them, you can get up to $300 back for that mis-sized set under the Return Protection coverage. With the Blue Cash Everyday card, you also get access to ShopRunner, an online store similar to Amazon Prime, but with specific member deals and high-end brands.

Conclusion

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday card is a great option to earn cash-back on those everyday purchases. Since you’ll be buying groceries, gas and clothing anyway, it might as well provide a nice cash-back return to you. Although the cash-back is only eligible for card credit, you card can be used to buy almost anything, so it’s not a huge hindrance. Plus, these earnings are available for no annual fee. The travel and shopping perks are not unique to this particular American Express, but they are nice. The real benefit of this card is the cash-back for no fees and for a great introductory APR. If you use it right, this card will simply pay you back for your everyday spending. As Fey notes with her twenty bags of cheesies, you could be “Living the Dream”.

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How Much Credit Card Debt is Too Much?

Credit Card Debt

According to the 2015 Federal Reserve study, the average US household credit card debt is $15,863, based on a NerdWallet analysis. That amount seems fairly significant to some, not so surprising to others. To a creditor, that looks like a lot of profit! Your interpretation of the average level of household debt is similar to the answer to the question of credit card debt. There is a range of answers that we’ll dive into, but the simplest one is: any.

To clarify, any balance you carry into a new month where you are charged interest is too much. Think of it in the inverse: if someone offered you a 17.93% (or whatever percentage your credit card interest rate happens to be today) return on an investment each year. That would seem too good to be true – that’s the kind of return only stock market legends can make. You’re right to be skeptical because it’s a serious amount of money. Somehow with credit cards, we let the severity of that amount slide for the convenience of the card.

Some people love the thrill of playing with other people’s money. This is can be a great plan, if you play it well. For example, you could make a small renovation to your home to improve its value all completed on a 12 month 0% interest credit card. You could very well come out ahead with an improved home value and an essentially free loan if you pay the balance off within the 12-month period. If you start paying interest on the balance, your future financial gains from the home improvement could soon be lost with the cost of your credit card interest payments.

Credit Card Debt

The notion that any balance is too much credit card debt comes from the idea that you start paying for your loan. Credit cards are useful tools, but are the most expensive types of loans. Normally, credit cards provide very convenient small loans. You charge something to your credit card, and then you have a month grace period to pay it off before interest is charged. When you carry a balance on your credit card, though, this grace period can disappear. During the first month, you can have a balance for free. During the second month with a balance remaining, instead of being charged interest on your second month’s purchases at the end of the second month, you’re being charged interest on the entire balance you’re carrying. If you carry over $1 from the previous month, you may loose your grace period. This means that you pay interest on the last months and on any new charge from the moment it hits your account. And with the power of compound interest, your debt will increase exponentially. Though a small balance can be manageable, what’s small for some people could turn into debilitating debt for others. Therefore, the best guideline to follow is any debt it too much debt.

Unfortunately, many people carry a balance on their credit card. This reality is clear from the Federal Reserve statistic and is likely familiar if you’ve click on this link. So, while the above rule is an important goal, it may not always be realistic. If you are carrying a balance above zero, there are a few indicators of what is a reasonable level of credit card debt.

When it exceeds 10 to 20 % of your Take-Home Income

To provide a guideline, bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren provides the 50/30/20 concept. Fifty percent of your income should first be spent on essentials of housing, food, transportation and utilities. The next 20 percent goes to financial obligations of savings and debt. Thirty percent goes to your lifestyle and your ‘wants’. This general financial rule helps build a healthy budget by covering your needs, your future and your wants. By this rule, if your credit card debt is taking up more than 20% of your monthly take-home income, then it’s too much. Twenty percent is high, as it assume that you’re not saving or investing any of that amount. However, to provide a personal limit and red flag, keep 20% as your rule of thumb. A lower level and of course, zero, is the goal, but 10% being half of your allotted amount for financial obligations is a reasonable level and 20% is the high-end.

When it’s Stressful

Holding debt can be stressful. It can weigh on your mind, put pressure on your time, your finances and your relationships with your family or significant other. Beyond any numerical amount, if your credit card debt is causing you emotional stress or keeps you up at night wondering about how you’ll make your next payment, then that amount is too much.

When the Credit Card Company Passes the Buck

Be wary of debt advice provided by credit card companies. These companies make money on your debt, so they are happy for you to hold a balance, so long as you eventually pay it off, and line their pockets with interest while doing so. However, there comes a point when even they say ‘enough.’ Your card limit is a standard cap for the amount of debt you can hold. However, that is as much as you can spend. Your accumulated balance and interest can be much higher than the limit. If you continue to pay the minimum, you can continue to hold build the interest and pay it off in the long, long terms. However, if you stop making payments, after about 150 days or 6 months, the credit card company will stop trying to collect from you and sell your debt to a collection agency. At this point, it is a huge, waving red flag that your debt is too much. Thankfully, there are laws in place to protect you from the severe collections harassment, but it’s not a pleasant experience once you owe to a collections agency.

Credit card debt is different for different people. Spending levels, stress levels, and income levels all weigh into your debt and your credit strategy. A rule of thumb is any balance carried to a new month is too much. However, if you’re seeking a more-than-zero limit, consider keeping 10 to 20% of your net income as the high-end amount of your credit card debt.

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Review of the Virgin America Visa Signature and Premium Visa Signature Cards

Virgin America Visa Signature Cards

Credit cards and air travel go hand-in-hand. This pair works together well given the security of booking, the price point of flight tickets and the assurance of access to money anywhere you go. It’s natural that many airlines and hotel chains are interested in connecting with the credit card industry directly. Virgin America is no stranger to this connection with their pair of credit cards: the Virgin America Visa Signature and Virgin America Premium Visa Signature.

Virgin America Visa Signature Cards

Earning points

Purchases from Virgin Airlines will obviously be the big point-winner. For every dollar spent with Virgin America, you’ll receive 8 points. These points are coming from two point systems: five points for being a member of Elevate, their frequent flyer program, and three more points for using the Visa Signature card. For any other purchase on the card, you earn 1 point per dollar. The point value is $0.02 per point, which is a fairly high rate in comparison to other airline point systems. It’s worth noting that these points never expire while you use your card. This is a bit of a perk as under the Elevate program, points expire after 18 months if there’s no activity on your account. However, with the Virgin America card, by paying your annual fee and keeping your account in good standing, your points will remain available to you as long as you keep the card.

Annual Fee & APR

The Virgin America Visa Signature card will run you $49 annually while the Virgin America Premium Visa Signature card costs $149 per year. The Annual Percentage Rate ranges from 16.23 to 25.24 depending on your creditworthiness.

Sign-Up Bonus

If you’re looking to book a flight in the near future, the sign-up bonuses could provide you with a nice opportunity to fly for ‘free.’ With your annual fee and $1000 in spending on your new account within the first three months, you’ll earn 10,000 bonus points. These bonus points convert into $200 towards a flight. If you were planning on spending $1000 over three months anyway, you basically got a $200 flight for $49. Not to mention the future points earning that can convert into free flights. The Premium card will send you 15,000 points for the annual fee along with the $1000 in spending, which converts to $300 towards flights. The sign-up deal works out to the same cash savings of about $150 off either a $200 or $300 flight.

As an airline card, the perks are found at on your ticket and at the airport.

On Your Ticket

If you’re booking your travel with a companion, you get benefit from one voucher for $150 off their ticket each year you have the card. The $150 is eligible for the base fare (no fees or taxes) on round-trip flights. Make it count, because if you spend less than $150 on the ticket, the remainder of the voucher is lost. However, there are plenty of chances to maximize the voucher, as Virgin will email you the coupon code once your account is activated and you can use it anytime in the following year. Another benefit of using the card (though it’s a cross-benefit of the Elevate frequent flyer program) is that there are no black-out dates, so you can book at will! If you’re the type who enjoys the flexibility of changing or canceling your booking once its made, the Premium version of this card should be appealing. If you change or cancel your non-refundable booking, all fees will be waived. For any Virgin flights, you can change your ticket and simply pay the difference in fare.

At the Airport

Once you’re at the airport, your card gets you some nice benefits. On any Virgin flight booked on the card, you and your companion on the flight get one free checked bag. This perk can save you $25 per piece in fees. Once you’re checked in and your baggage is taking its free ride to the plane, your card lets you enjoy being the first on the flight with included priority boarding. Then, once you’ve settled into your seat ahead of the rest, you can enjoy discounted in-flight purchases. You receive 20% off of the in-flight entertainment system. There’s nothing better to pass the time in the air than an in-flight movie. Or, if you’d like to get some work done or snoop around the internet, you can use also use the wifi provided as a cardholder.

Premium’s Status Points Potential

If you’re an Elevate status member, the Premium card offers you some additional ways to collect Status Points. For every $10,000 you put on your card, you earn 5000 Status Points to a maximum of 15,000 points annually. Those 15,000 points will get you just shy of the 20,000 points needed for the Elevate Silver level. The basic Visa Signature card already gets you a lot of the perks that the Silver status gets you (such as a free first checked bag and priority boarding). However, if you reach the Silver level, you will enjoy 2 additional bonus points for each dollar spent on Virgin America flights. This could total very nice 10 points per dollar spent. With Silver, you also have 25% off a Main Cabin ticket once per year and complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select within 12 hours of your flight.

Conclusion

If you fly with Virgin America often, the Virgin America Visa Signature and Virgin America Premium Visa Signature cards are valuable assets. Their points are high-value for their ability to purchase tickets. The perks associated with the cards are also big money savers. Potentially two free checked bags for each flight and the annual companion coupon for $150 will pay off the annual fee quickly for either card.

Regarding the basic versus Premium card, most people will use the basic card’s benefits more often. The Premium card has some nice advantages, especially if you are looking to attain or increase your Status in the Elevate program. However, the Status points aren’t redeemable for flights, only for status levels, and they are much more difficult to attain. Unless you’re seeking Status, the basic card is the way to go.

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US Bank Club Carlson Hotel Card Review

US Bank Club Carlson Hotel Card Review

What’s your favorite hotel? Where do you feel at home even you’re away from home? If you answered the Radisson, Park Plaza, Country Inn & Suites or any other Club Carlson chain hotel, then you should consider the Club Carlson ™ Premier Rewards Visa Signature ® Card and the Rewards Visa Signature Card from US Bank. As hotel rewards cards go, the Premier Rewards card has a fantastic sign-up bonus and a cost-effective points-earning system. If you’re willing to stay brand loyal, this card will prove quite rewarding.

 

US Bank Club Carlson Hotel Card Review

 

Annual Fees

The two cards are very similar, one simply having a higher annual fee and therefore great rewards returns. The Premier Rewards card will run you $75 per year while the Rewards card is $50 annually. The fee is not waived like other travel rewards card, but the fee is much less than hotel rewards similar cards, so if you are keeping the card for multiple years, overall the annual fee is quite reasonable.

Earning Points

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards card earns 10 Gold Points for every dollar spent on hotel purchases within the chain. For everything else, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar. The more economical fee card, the Club Carlson Rewards card earns 6 points for eligible purchases, such as a night at a Radisson, and 3 points for other purchases. You also earn points every year for renewing your card. Though that annual fee may hurt a little bit, that pain is eased with a nice 40,000 point bonus for the Premier Rewards and 25,000 bonus for the Rewards card. This is enough four nights free with the Premier Rewards and two nights free with the Rewards card. Not a bad return on your annual fee.

 

Beginner’s Luck

If you’re new to the US Bank Club Carlson cards, the sign-up bonus is a solid one. For the Premier Rewards, if you spend $2,500 on the card in the first three months, you’ll receive 85,000 Bonus Gold Points. What does that many points earn? It’s enough for up to nine free nights at any Category 1 Carlson around the world. If you’d like to splurge, you can also spend 70,000 of those points on one night at a Category 7 hotel, like the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London, England. If you opt for the more economical Rewards card, you need to spend $1,500 on your card in the first 90 days. Your sign up bonus is still a nice 60,000 points, earning you up to six free nights. As far as sign-up bonuses go, the immediate rewards within the hotel chain are well worth it. You’ll have your annual fee returned to you within your free first night, and then you can settle into to enjoy five or seven more.

Flaunting your status

If you’re a Club Carlson hotel fan, you’ll be familiar with the status levels and perks within the program. With this US Bank card, your status will be automatically increased as soon as you activate your card. With the Premier Rewards card, your Club membership will become Gold Elite status. At this level, you’ll receive 15% off of food and drink at hotel restaurants, complimentary room upgrades, roll-over nights and an in-room gift. If you already enjoy all these benefits with your current Gold status, then your card activation will get you 15 qualifying nights towards obtaining or maintaining the Concierge status (75 nights). If you make it to the Concierge status, you’ll enjoy a huge range of perks, including all those listed above as well as free continental breakfast and 48 hour room availability guarantee. If you go for the Rewards card, your card activation will automatically upgrade you from Red to Silver status. At this level, you’ll receive 10% off of food and drink at hotel restaurants, complimentary room upgrades, and roll-over nights. If you’re already a Silver member, you’ll receive 10 qualifying nights towards Gold status (35 nights) and its perks.

Beyond the Hotel Doors Benefits

Both the Premier Rewards and Rewards cards come with the same additional benefits. To make sure you’re safe on the road, the card comes with travel and emergency assistance services, travel accident insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver. In the case of suspicious activity on your card, it offers zero fraud liability. Of course, it comes with online banking and in case you’re forgetful, you can set up automatic bill payment to ensure you don’t unnecessarily pay interest.

However, be careful if you’re staying at a Radisson abroad, as this card does not waive international payment fees. You’ll be paying to pay at international destinations, so be sure to use it only at Club Carlson hotels where the points you earn will offset the fees you pay.

Conclusion

The US Bank Club Carlson ™ Premier Rewards Visa Signature ® Card and the Rewards Visa Signature Cards are a very cost effective option for earning points and free stays at the Carlson Rezidor brand hotels. If you’re already a fan of these hotels, these cards will earn lots of points towards free nights. The sign-up bonus already sets you up to enjoy the perks of the hotel chain. In addition, the upgraded membership status provides another set of benefits that would be appreciated by someone who spends a lot of time in hotel rooms in the run of a year. However, if you can’t remember the last time you stayed at a Radisson or Park Plaza, this card is not for you. While the earning and using the rewards is very favorable, the places where you can do either is very limited. If you like to shop around for hotels or spend your points on flights, this card won’t be much help. However, the inexpensive annual fee and the great sign-up bonus might be worth a try. You just may come to love Club Carlson and enjoy reveling in free nights from the card.

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Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards Card Review

Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards

Do you have big travel plans this year? Or are you always on the road for work? Is so, and if you are a fan of the hotels like the Westin, Le Meridian or W Hotels, the American Express® (AMEX) Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) Rewards card or the SPG business card is a big win for your travel plans. This card pairs up with the existing SPG hotel rewards program to amplify the rewards you collect on eligible purchases. Spend on hotels and flights, accumulate 2, 3, 4, or even 5 points for each dollar, and then take your self on that trip you’ve been waiting for.

Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards Card

Starpoints® Rewards

For every $1 spent on eligible purchases, you earn 2 Starpoints. These points can total to 4 or 5 Starpoints for that same $1 you spend because you receive Starpoints from both the AMEX SPG Card and from the SPG Membership card.

You can use the points to stay at any of the 1,300 participating hotels in over 100 countries. And there are no black-out dates. Instead of blocking off limited rooms for rewards guests, Starwood has a simple policy for booking: if a suite is available and you have the Starpoints, it’s yours. The hotels are ranked by category with the higher ranking hotels requiring more points, obviously. However, for the still very nice category-one Sheraton or FourPoints hotels, you can stay for only 2000 Starpoints on weekends or 3,000 on weekdays. If you’re using your card to book hotels, it won’t take long before you’ll be booking a night or two for free. You can also use the SPG online airline ticket reservation system to book a flight with over 150 airlines. If you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a participating frequent flyer program like Delta SkyMiles®, you’ll actually get 5,000 bonus points. It’s nice to have a benefit in transferring for once!

Eligible purchases range from hotel night stays at the Starwood or partner hotels (like Caeser’s Palace or Planet Hollywood) or food and beverages purchased at Starwood hotels. Starpoints can be earned when purchasing flights on Delta or Air Emirates as SPG Rewards can be connected with the airlines’ miles systems, with additional perks available for elite members. You can even earn with Uber! Take Uber for hopping around the city during your stay and you’ll earn Starpoints, too!

The double Starpoints eligible purchases are generally travel-related, however, any purchase will earn you 1 Starpoint for $1 spent. These additional points can rack up and help earn your way to more free night stays.

 

Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards

 

One Card Leads to Another

In order to reap the benefits of potentially 5 Starpoints on eligible purchases, you have to be a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards Program. Conveniently, membership is free, though the level of benefits of Starpoints eligibility per dollar spent is tiered. The Preferred (a.k.a. basic) level is 1 Starpoint for $3 spent. If you have 10 Eligible Stays or 25 Eligible Nights in a calendar year, you’ll become a Gold level member, earning 1 for every $2 spent. If you can’t quite make that level of stays, there’s another benefit of the AMEX SPG Rewards Card in that each year you’ll receive credit for five nights and two stays towards an SPG Elite status. Those bonus stays could put you over the top to your Gold level and extra Starpoints. If you’re a particularly big spender, $30,000 in eligible spending will also up your elite status to the Gold level. There’s also a Platinum level, but the points per dollar are the same as Gold, so although it sounds flashy and has other hotel perks, in looking at pure Starpoints rewards, who cares?

 

A Warm Rewards Welcome

To entice you to sign up, AMEX is providing a welcome offer of 25,000 Starpoints if you spend $3000 on the card within the first three months. The purchases can be made on the main card, or on an additional card if you have one, and purchases from both cards count towards the total.

This welcome offer can translate into a great trip fairly easily. The Welcome rewards can translate into six free nights at a category 2 hotel, such as certain Westin or Sheraton hotels. If you’re feeling indulgent, you can put all your points towards a one night stay at a top category hotel at one of the premier global destinations. If you’re looking at using the points for air travel, the 25,000 Starpoints can pay for a flight ranging from $280 to $345, which could take you on a nice domestic adventure.

The Fine Print

For the first year, the annual fee of $95 is waived. This first year provides a nice trial period to see if the card is a good fit for your travel and rewards lifestyle. You may discover that your travel plans don’t quite match the hotels or airlines offered (unlikely given the global coverage, but anything’s possible!). On the other hand, the Starpoints could add up very quickly with the combination of the AMEX SPG Rewards card and the SPG Membership card, and the year two annual fee could be paid off in one trip.

The annual percentage rates (APR) are fairly reasonable for this credit card. They range from 15.49% to 19.49% depending on your creditworthiness. This card allows a balance to be carried unlike other AMEX cards, and though it is not recommended, a balance without late payments will only accumulate the interest charges and no additional fees.

During international travel, there are no foreign fees charged to the card for use abroad. This perk seems only appropriate given that this card is intended to take you globetrotting. While planning your travel, keep in mind that point transfer to other airlines, or your welcome bonus rewards can take a while to arrive. The transfer can take up to 12 weeks, so be sure to give yourself lots of leeway before booking.

Extra Benefits

As the SPG Rewards card is an AMEX card, it comes along with a number of additional benefits. For insurance, the card comes with a baggage insurance plan, a travel accident plan, as well as extended warranties for purchases. If you’re on the road and something goes awry, there’s the convenient roadside assistance hotline to connect you to a repair truck and help you on your way. If things really go wayside and your rental is damaged or stolen, AMEX provides auto rental insurance. Though all the insurances have their limitations, it’s a reassuring set of tools to literally have in your back pocket in case your travels don’t go according to plan.

Conclusion

The AMEX SPG Rewards Card is a great rewards card for the avid traveler who loves Starwood Hotels. If you enjoy the high-end comfort of these hotels (and who doesn’t?), and spend quite a few nights on the road, the Starpoints will rack up quickly with the combined point system and you’ll be enjoying the benefits. If you don’t stay at Starwood Hotels, this card holds some perks in the airline bookings, but there’s likely a better for a rewards credit card out there. For the Starwood lovers, this rewards card is a great deal.

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Are Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses a Scam?

Are Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses a Scam?

Credit card sign up bonuses may sound like a scam sometimes, but they aren’t if you’re smart about managing your credit card spending and bill payment.

Sign up and get $350 cash back! Sign up and get 5000 points! Sign up and pay 0% interest! You’ve seen these claims on everything from the billboard to your junk mail. Every credit card advertisement seems to be selling a card and a deal that’s too good to be true. How can they give away points and money just for registering for the card? Everyone knows that first lesson in economics: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So, with credit card sign up bonuses, who’s paying?

 

credit card close up-600

It’s a Contract: Follow it and You’ll be Fine

Each of the sign up bonuses comes along with a contract between you and the credit card company. The sign up bonus is an offer that is available to you under specific conditions. The condition may be that you are required to put a certain amount of money on the card within a certain period of time. Or, the great terms may be limited to a certain length of time. These conditions are usually clearly listed and they must be meticulously followed.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a sign-up bonus where you can earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. Those points are the equivalent to $625 in travel when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and it certainly is – if you’re planning on charging $4,000 to your credit card the next three months. And, most importantly, it’s a sweet deal if you’re also able to pay off $4,000 from your card by the payment due dates.

What is a credit card?

When considering all the sign up bonuses, it’s important to remember what kind of product you’re signing up for. Credit cards allow you to borrow money from your bank to make purchases that you then pay back later. It’s a convenient tool for purchasing anything from a latte to airfare to Rio. You have a certain period of time to pay back the money, but if you don’t do so in that grace period, you’ll need to pay back the money and a percentage of interest on the amount owed. Banks don’t loan money for free and this interest is big businesses.

In the example above, the sign up bonus is provided if you spend $4,000 in three months. For some people, this amount of money is a normal amount that they charge and pay off in three months. For other people, they need to spend more to meet the $4,000 bonus sign up. If this is more than they usually put on a credit card, it’s also more than they usually pay off of a credit card. Even if they pay off part of the balance, but $1,000 is left and is charged interest. Depending on how long balance remains and therefore how much interest is charged, the interest payment can eliminate any bonus that came with the sign up points. Alternatively, they find out they can’t afford to put $4,000 on the credit card in three months. In this scenario, they avoid paying interest, but they also lose the sign up bonus.

Another potential pitfall is in the zero interest sign-up bonus. The Discover it® credit card charges 0% interest for the first 12 months. This is a sweet deal if you want to make a large purchase, like a laptop or minor home renovation supplies, and pay it off over a few months. You can borrow that money for no interest at all over that first year. However, after that first, glorious year, you will have to pay interest on any remaining balance. Carrying a balance on your card went to being worry-free to whoa-expensive. Also, once the interest kicks in, it’s as a variable annual percent rate (APR), which is connected to your credit score. You can get a great rate if you have great credit. If your credit score isn’t so hot, you could end up on the high end of the APR scale. Any balance left on in Month 13 will be costly.

Sign Up Bonuses are a Scam Only as Much as Credit Cards are a Scam

The sign up bonus is no more a scam than credit cards themselves are a scam. Credit cards are an extremely expensive way to borrow money. They are very useful when used wisely and with prudence. However, as soon as a credit card has a late payment or a balance that collects interest, they are a big money maker for the banks. There is nothing unclear or evil with a credit card or a sign up bonus. They are simply financial agreements between you and the company. So long as the contract is followed, there is no issue. However, the sign up bonuses can require balances that some consumers cannot pay off, and so will accrue interest. However, it’s the responsibility of each consumer to decide if they can meet with conditions to receive the perks without any downside. The contract is clear, but it’s up to you the consumer to keep up their end. The credit card company stands to make a lot of money if you don’t.

Conclusion

Credit card sign up bonuses are not a scam. They are a marketing tool with clear terms and conditions. Some may be built on setting people up to hold a balance on their card, but the decision to sign up and accept the financial conditions is up to the consumer. Companies provide clear statements about the bonus conditions and timelines. If you can use a credit card with clever caution, you can save money and even make money with these bonuses. However, you have to remember that there’s no such thing as free lunch. If you’re not careful about paying off your credit card and remembering the changes in your card conditions, you will pay for your free lunch with your card balance interest.

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American Express Premier Rewards Gold Review

Amex PRG Perks

You just landed back in your home city, and you’re rushing to the grocery store to pick up the weeks essentials. You’re too tired to cook tonight though, so you’ve stopped off at your favorite Thai place to pick up some dinner — and you paid for it all on your American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, earning triple and double the points along the way.

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card gets you 3x the points for flights booked directly through airlines, and 2x the points for gas, groceries and restaurants here in the U.S. This card is perfect for the frequent traveler but also gives you points on the everyday essentials you need — whether you’re traveling or not. This card is made for non-stop rewards.

 

What you need to know

The first year of the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is free, but after that you will need to pay a $195 yearly membership fee. You also get access to other first year perks like the opportunity to receive 25,000 membership rewards points after you spent $2,000 during the first 3 months with your American Express Premier Rewards Gold  card.

There’s no intro APR for the With the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card because it’s a charge card. All you need to do is pay your balance in full every month and you’ll be debt and high interest free. However, if you are late you can be charged up to $37. And, if your account doesn’t have the pay over time feature and you miss two payments, you’ll be charged 2.99% or $37 — whichever is greater. So you need to be sure to pay off the balance in full each month.

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card also has big perks like: extended warranty on items you purchase here in the US, return protection, no transaction fees abroad, a $75 hotel credit on qualifying hotels, and even a baggage insurance plan.

Finally, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card gives you access to a whopping 24 membership benefits including: airline fee credit, no foreign transaction fees, hotel collection, personalized travel services, the membership rewards program, purchase protection, return protection, extended warranty, relationship care, membership rewards pay with points, use points for charges, transfer points to frequent traveler programs, 2x membership rewards points at amextravel.com, membership experiences, amex offers, shoprunner, car rental loss and damage insurance, premium roadside assistance, global assist hotline, baggage insurance plan, travel accident insurance, year end summary, and dispute resolution.

 

Here’s how the points work
With the American Express Premier Rewards Gold membership you get access a generous point system where you can earn merchandise, dining and entertainment, travel, and gift card benefits. This card really gives you the opportunity to earn real rewards easily.

Amex PRG Perks

 

American Express Premier Rewards Gold card points system:

  • 3x the points for every $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2x the points for every $1 spent at US supermarkets and gas stations
  • 2x the points for every $1 spent on US restaurants
  • 1x points for every $1 spent on all other purchases

 

You can use these points to book your next flight, hotel, vacation, or cruise through amextravel.com. You can also rent a car, pay for theme parks and concerts, and you can use your points to go out to dinner at some great restaurants. With the American Express Premier Rewards Gold membership you can also use the generous points system to pay for your charges, and purchase gift cards to some of your favorite shops. The flexibility of the points and the rewards you have to choose from gives you a ton of freedom.

 

What are the downsides to the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card?

The major downside to this card, and most American Express cards, is that it isn’t widely accepted abroad. So while you won’t have international fees, you may have trouble using the card at all.

While you can use your points to pay off your balance, the ratio here isn’t great. You’re only going to get $.06 per point, so there’s definitely other cards to consider if this is a big perk for you.

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card offers a lot of travel benefits, but for the frequent fliers who appreciate some of the finer things — this card doesn’t offer the perk of having access to airport lounge memberships.

Another downside may not be a downside for everyone. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card requires you to purchase tickets directly from the airline to use points — so if that’s not something you normally like to do, this card probably isn’t for you.

Finally, this is a charge card not a credit card. So you’re not going to earn credit, and you need to have a super credit score to even get considered for it.

 

Who should apply?

If you have a low credit score, you won’t qualify for this card. Because the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is actually a charge card — meaning the balance must be fully paid each month — only people with really solid and high credit scores will be considered. On that note, this card doesn’t help build your credit score because it’s a charge card.

This card also puts a big emphasis on the points associated with booking flights, so if you’re not a frequent flyer this card probably isn’t for you. Because while the points system for the supermarket, gas stations and restaurants is high (2x points for every $1 spent) if you’re not flying often this card isn’t going to help you maximize the point system earning potential. Plus, if you don’t book flights directly through the airline this card won’t help you out at all.

 

What we think overall

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is perfect for someone with high, established credit who is a frequent flier looking for a charge card that will help them maximize their points earning potential. With a generous points system that covers flights (3x), gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants (2x), and everything else in between (1x) you can really use this card for everything and redeem some pretty useful perks.

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The Chase Freedom Quarter 4 Spending Bonuses, 2014

Chase has announced its Quarter 4 spending bonuses for the Chase Freedom card. When you shop in these categories, you will earn 5% cash back on all of your purchases, up to a total of $1,500 in spending. This adds up to a bonus of up to $75, right in your pocket!

For the final quarter of 2014, beginning October 1 and running until December 31, 2014, you will earn the 5% bonus in the following categories: amazon.com, zappos.com and select department stores. Some of the department stores included are JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Sears. There are plenty more on the list, these are just the most popular choices. Get a head start on your holiday shopping and get your 5% cash back bonus.

Activate to Receive the 5% Bonus

You do have to activate in order to be able to earn the 5% cash back, but you have until December 14, 2014 to activate your account and be able to earn the bonus. You will earn the bonus retroactively to October 1, 2014 if you activate in time.

Unlimited Cash Back Bonuses on Purchases

With the Chase Freedom, you not only earn 5% cash back on the bonus categories, but you earn a steady 1% on all purchases in any category, year round. There is no spending limit, so take advantage of the bonus and let the cash back rewards add up! One of the greatest things about the Chase Freedom cash back rewards is that they never expire—but, why would you let them sit when there are so many great ways and great reasons to redeem them?

0% Introductory APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers

For the first 15 months after you are approved for the Chase Freedom card, you will enjoy a 0% APR on all purchases that you make using the card. You will also enjoy the same 0% APR on all balance transfers, making the Chase Freedom a great choice for paying off higher interest rate credit cards and getting caught up. After the initial 0% APR rate ends, you will pay 13.99-22.99%, depending on your credit history.

No Annual Fee!

One of the most attractive perks of the Chase Freedom credit card is that you will pay no annual fee, ever. You will enjoy all of the great perks, at no cost to you, all year long.

Bonus Cash Back After First Three Months!

Right now, new Chase Freedom card holders will get a $100 cash back bonus after spending only $500 during the first three months that they have the card. You can earn another $25 bonus for each authorized user that you add to the account during the first three months.

Conclusion

The Chase Freedom credit card is certainly a contender when it comes to cash back credit cards. With no annual fee, cash back rewards with bonus categories, and a great 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers, this is one card you should take a closer look at!

Related posts:

Chase Freedom Review

Chase Freedom vs. Discover it

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred Changes its Benefits

Chase has recently announced several changes to the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, so we wanted to make our readers aware of what’s new!

If you didn’t already know, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a top choice when it comes to credit cards for travel rewards. Because of the high points earning potential and flexible redemption process, it is definitely a favorite for many.

When you can earn two points for every dollar spent on dining and travel, with one point on everything else, many can build up a nice account with tons of points, redeemable for great travel options. The Ultimate Rewards program allows for discount rewards and transfer partners that help to maximize the points, making them worth about 1.25 cents per point.

Alright, now that that’s covered, let’s talk about the changes. Here are the highlights that you will want to know about:

1. Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

Previously, this coverage was secondary to your regular car insurance, but the benefit has become your primary coverage if you rent a vehicle using your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Don’t pay any extra insurance charges at the rental counter when you are using the Sapphire card, because you are already well-covered!

The person named on the credit card is covered, as well as any additional drivers listed on the rental agreement. You will be covered in the event of theft, loss-of-use charges in the event of damage, and any physical damage that occurs to the car. Towing is also included, in the event of a breakdown.

Coverage lasts for up to 31 consecutive days of rental, and may be within or outside of your country of residence. Most passenger autos are covered under this policy, with the exception of most luxury vehicles, open cargo bed trucks, antiques, motorcycles, recreational vehicles and limousines.

2. Increased Trip Cancellation Insurance

Previous coverage was up to $5,000, but you now have up to $10,000 in trip cancellation coverage. The cardholder and any immediate family members are covered during the travel dates established. In the event that the trip was paid for with Rewards points, you will be reimbursed the amount of points redeemed.

Here are more important details you should know:

A trip can be covered when it is paid for in advance, using the Sapphire Preferred credit card. Your destination must be more than one mile from your home, and cannot last longer than 60 days. Cancellation must occur for a covered reason, which includes bodily injury, death of one of the parties, severe weather which affects travel conditions, military orders, jury duty, documented illness, doctor’s orders prohibiting travel, terrorist acts, quarantine or bankruptcy of the travel agency.

You will not be covered for a voluntary change in plans, change in financial circumstances, pre-existing conditions, illegal acts, incarceration or suicide.

3. Change in 7% Bonus for New Cardholders

Previously, new cardholders could look forward to a 7% annual dividend on all points earned at the end of the year. This benefit is no longer offered. Existing cardholders will have this continued until 2016, when it will be completely phased out. It’s never fun to see benefits disappear, but the Sapphire Preferred still has excellent perks that make it worth having.

 

Conclusion

While losing the 7% bonus point benefit may sting a little bit, the auto coverage is a big deal, especially for those traveling and renting cars on a regular basis. That additional coverage will add up if you are paying it to the rental company, so keep that in mind when you are paying your annual fee!

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card still offers 2 points per dollar spent on travel, and has no foreign transaction fees, keeping it among the top credit cards for travel. And don’t forget about the many travel partners Ultimate Rewards has to offer. You have great flexibility with this card!