What’s the Difference Between a Charge Card and a Credit Card?

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If you’re shopping around for your next credit card, chances are you might come across a charge card. It can sometimes be difficult to know the difference unless you know the telltale signs. And if you choose the wrong kind and don’t use it correctly, you could end up in a world of financial trouble.

Charge cards aren’t too much different from credit cards, but there are a few key things you need to know.

What is a charge card?

As with a credit card, you use a charge card to make purchases and pay the balance off later. Here’s the biggest difference: Unlike credit cards, which let you keep a revolving balance from month to month, a charge card requires you to pay off the balance in full by your bill’s due date. You cannot make a big purchase and pay it off over time.

Charge cards also have no preset spending limit. This doesn’t mean that it has no spending limit. Rather, your actual spending limit can change quite often depending on how much you’re using the card, if you have any late payments on your record, etc.

At MagnifyMoney, we recommend you always pay off your credit card statement balance in full each month. If that’s something you already do, you’d find using a charge card is pretty much the same as using a credit card. However, there are a few differences that might make you want to choose one type of card over the other.

Pros and cons of using a charge card

Pro: You’re required to pay off the balance in full

One of the biggest advantages of a charge card is that you are required to pay it off in full each month. If you’re the type of person who has a hard time maintaining the discipline to do this normally, using a charge card might force you to develop this good habit. And because you will pay off the balance in full each month, you’ll never pay any interest charges and you won’t rack up any debt.

Con: You’re required to pay off the balance in full

Paying off your bill in full each month is a huge advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage. Yes, it’ll keep you out of debt, and you won’t have to pay interest charges, but if you’re relying on the card as a source of emergency funds, you’ll be better served with a credit card that’ll let you carry a balance from month to month if a very expensive emergency pops up.

Pro: Many charge cards come with a smokin’ hot rewards program

For example, as of this writing, the Platinum Card® from American Express gives you $15 in Uber credits each month (plus a $20 bonus in December), a $200 airline credit each calendar year, and a 60,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 within the first three months, among numerous other perks. There are, of course, credit cards that offer similarly attractive rewards.

Con: Charge cards often carry high fees

Again, we’ll use the Platinum Card® from American Express as an example: It carries a $550 annual fee. The cheapest card from Amex is the American Express® Green Card that has a $95 annual fee, though Amex waives it the first year. And if you make a late payment or fail to pay your bill in full? You could be slapped with a late fee of (up to $38 on the aforementioned Platinum Card), and it’ll go down as a negative mark on your credit report.

Con: There aren’t a lot of charge-card options

You may be sensing a trend — American Express is among the last major credit card issuers to offer charge cards. That means your choices of charge cards are already limited — you can choose from just three cards: American Express® Green Card, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and the Platinum Card® from American Express. American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, so you’ll want to make sure you have a backup when you’re out shopping, just in case it isn’t accepted.

Pro: A charge card helps you build credit

Charge cards can also help you build credit, and you don’t need to go into debt to do it. As long as you pay on time, the account will be listed on your credit report as an example of your positive payment history — the most important aspect of your credit score. And for newer scoring models, charge cards won’t affect your credit utilization ratio — the second most important factor in determining your credit score. That’s because American Express reports its charge cards as “open” lines of credit, as opposed to a revolving line of credit, and FICO does not factor open lines of credit into its credit utilization calculation.

But that’s not always the case. Rod Griffin, the director of public education at Experian (one of the major credit reporting agencies), said some credit scores treat open credit lines like revolving accounts. “Newer scoring systems are more likely to differentiate between the two than older credit scoring systems,” he said. “Your credit report almost certainly will not show a zero balance for the charge card if you use it and could affect your utilization rate.”

With newer scoring models that don’t factor open credit lines into your credit utilization ratio, that means making a big purchase (and paying it off at the end of the month) won’t have any effect on your credit score, nor will it lower your credit utilization ratio if you have other credit card debt. (A credit card also helps you build credit, but you may find yourself tempted to carry a balance.) Checking your credit score regularly will help you understand how your charge card use affects your credit standing.

Con: A changing spending limit can be bothersome

If you want to make a big purchase or it’s getting toward the end of the month, the only way to know for sure if you have any credit left is to log in to your account and check. Still, you shouldn’t be using your charge card willy-nilly to buy Learjets and mansions anyway, so as long as you keep your spending under control, it’s unlikely you’ll go over your limit.

The bottom line

Charge cards do have their quirks. But as long as you keep your spending within a reasonable range for your lifestyle and pay off your bill in full each month (as you should do with a normal credit card anyway), a charge card can be a useful tool in your financial arsenal.

The post What’s the Difference Between a Charge Card and a Credit Card? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Hacks for Using American Express’ Membership Rewards Program

Here's how to make the most of your Membership Rewards.

[Disclosure: Our partners are mentioned below.]

There are a few different transferable points programs available, but over the years one of the most popular has always been American Express’ Membership Rewards program. The reason is because of the ample ways points can be used and the wide selection of credit cards that can help you earn points quickly. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can earn Membership Rewards points and the different ways you can receive ultimate value.

1. Transfer Points to Loyalty Partners

One of the best ways to receive maximum value for your Membership Rewards points is to transfer them to one of the many loyalty partners. There is a large selection of both hotels and airlines and each of the following partners will transfer 1-to-1 unless noted.

  • Aeromexico — 1-to-1.6
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Air France/KLM (Flying Blue)
  • Alitalia
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways — 250-to-200
  • Delta Air Lines
  • El Al Israel Airlines — 1,000-to-20
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus — 250-to-200
  • JetBlue Airways — 250-to-200
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America — 200-to-100
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hilton Hotels — 1-to-1.5
  • Starwood Hotels — 1,000-to-333

To get the most value out of each point, you could use them for one of the following redemptions.

All Nippon Airways From the United States to Japan

Until recently, the All Nippon Airways award chart was based on distances. That used to provide many sweet spots for award travel. Even though they have changed to a region based award chart, there are still some great deals. One of them is round-trip flights from the United States to Japan. You can fly round-trip in coach for just 40,000 miles during low season and business class for 75,000 miles, also in the low season.

All Nippon Airways From the United States to Asia Zone 2

You could use All Nippon Airways miles to fly round-trip from the United States to Asia Zone 2 for just 55,000 in coach or 100,000 in business class. Asia Zone 2 is classified as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Flying Blue From the Continental United States to Hawaii

A great use of Flying Blue miles is to fly round-trip from anywhere in the continental United States to Hawaii for just 30,000 miles.

Aeroplan From the United States to Oceania

Transferring Membership Award points to Aeroplan will allow you to use 90,000 miles to fly round-trip from the United States to Australia, New Zealand or anywhere in the South Pacific. You could make this trip for 80,000 United miles, but what makes using Aeroplan miles worth it is that they will allow you to make two stopovers before reaching your destination. That means you could fly to Tahiti and make stops in both Australia and New Zealand on the way.

British Airways From Miami to Lima, Peru

If hiking to Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, you might want to consider flying British Airways from Miami to Lima, Peru. Because British Airways has a distance-based award chart, the flight in coach is just 12,500 miles each way.

2. Buy Gift Cards

Another way to use your Membership Rewards is to receive gift cards from different restaurants, retailers and for travel. The value you receive will be anywhere from a half-cent to one cent per point.

3. Go Shopping

You could also use your points to shop online with certain retailers. Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com and Newegg.com offer 0.7 cents per point. Other partner retailers give you a half-cent per point in value.

4. Use American Express Travel or Airbnb

There are a few different ways you can use your points on travel beyond transferring them to partners. You can book airfare on American Express Travel for one cent per point. You could also book with Airbnb for 0.7 cents per point.

5. Enjoy Entertainment

If you want to redeem your points for concert tickets or for a Broadway show you can do so through Ticketmaster.com, AXS and Telecharge.com. The value is a half-cent per point.

6. Ride With Uber

You could also use your Membership Reward points to pay for Uber rides. You will receive one cent value per point used.

7. Get a Statement Credit

Finally, you could choose to use your points to receive a statement credit. However, by doing this, you will only receive 0.6 cents value per point.

Cards That Earn Membership Rewards Points

There are quite a few different credit cards that give you the opportunity to earn Membership Rewards points. Below you will find a few of our favorite cards.

Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express has been one of the elite cards available for a few years. When you sign up you will receive 60,000 Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. You can then receive five points per dollar spent on flights and hotels when booked through the airline and by using American Express Travel. All other purchases will receive one point per dollar.

Earlier this year, the annual fee on the Platinum card increased from $450 to $550. This will put the card out of reach for many people. But before you discard the idea of adding it to your wallet, you should consider the travel benefits. Not only will you receive a $200 airline fee credit, which will pay for things like change fees or baggage fees, you also receive a $200 Uber credit. You will receive up to a $100 statement credit to cover the cost of either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. In addition, you will receive Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Honors Gold status. Plus, the next time you travel, it will be in comfort. You will have access to the Delta Sky Club, Centurion Lounges, Airspace Lounges and a Priority Pass Select membership.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Another of the elite cards from American Express is the Premier Rewards Gold Card. When you sign up for this card, you receive 25,000 Membership Reward points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. You receive three points per dollar spent on any airfare purchased directly with airlines. You also receive two points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. All other purchases will earn one point per dollar. There is a $195 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year. Other than the earnings potential, the other benefits can make the annual fee worthwhile to travelers. Each year you receive a $100 airline fee credit. You also receive two points per dollar when you book a hotel through the Hotel Collection. Plus, you receive a $75 hotel credit for qualifying charges.

Amex EveryDay Preferred

When you sign up for the Amex EveryDay Preferred card you receive 10,000 Membership Reward points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. When you use the card at U.S. supermarkets, you receive two points per dollar, on up to $6,000 in purchases each year, and one point per dollar on everything else. Also, if you use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a single billing period you’ll earn 20% extra points on those purchases minus returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.

At the time of this writing, the EveryDay Preferred also offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that, your APR will be a variable 13.74% to 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors. This card has an annual fee of $95.

If you don’t already have one of these cards keep in mind you’ll need excellent credit to qualify. You can see where your credit stands by getting your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Image: AleksandarNakic

At publishing time, the Platinum Card from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and Amex EveryDay Preferred card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

The post 7 Hacks for Using American Express’ Membership Rewards Program appeared first on Credit.com.

The Amped-Up Amex Platinum Card: How Does It Compare to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

American Express just upgraded its already stacked Platinum Card. Does it now top Chase Sapphire Reserve?

For years, the American Express Platinum Card has provided a wide range of travel benefits and luxury perks to its cardholders. But recently, there’s been increased competition from travel-centric credit cards entering the game or increasing their benefits to take some of American Express’ market share.

One of the biggest new players is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (you can read our full review here), which has been popular for its extensive travel perks.

Presumably to compete, American Express is expanding its benefits, offering a wider range of rewards that kick in March 30. So how does it stack up to the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Here we compare each card so you can decide which one is best for jet-setters.

Earning & Redeeming Points

Both cards earn points as they are used. Users can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise or travel.

With the Platinum Card’s newly enhanced features, cardholders earn five points for every dollar spent on airfare and eligible hotels using the American Express Travel platform (they can also book directly with the airline). That’s on top of the existing two points per dollar spent on other eligible travel purchases and one point per dollar spent on everything else. American Express offers a bonus 75,000 points if you spend $5,000 during the first three months after receiving the card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns three points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Chase offers 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. On top of that, you get 50% additional value when you redeem your points for travel.

Travel Perks Included

American Express has enhanced its already extensive travel benefits.

The card will now come with $200 in annual Uber credits, earned by linking the card to your Uber account. The Global Lounge Collection has expanded, and cardholders get access to more than 1,000 airport lounges in 120 countries, including the luxury Centurion Lounge. There’s also a new Global Dining Collection, which provides exclusive reserved seating at culinary events hosted by world-renowned chefs. The By Invitation Only program has also grown to include more exclusive experiences like access to the Grand Prix de Monaco and trips to French wine country.

The Platinum Card’s existing benefits were already impressive. American Express offers a $200 annual credit for airline fees such as checked bags or in-flight meals and a $100 credit toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. Cardholders get competitive hotel rates and benefits (according to American Express, worth an average $550 annual value) and a complimentary room upgrade and $75 hotel credit when cardholders book two consecutive nights at a hotel through American Express Travel. Cardholders can also get VIP status with Starwood and Hilton hotels and select rental car agencies.

Chase’s existing travel features include $300 in annual statement credits for travel purchases and $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications. Plus, cardholders get access to more than 900 airport lounges and special car rental privileges. Cardholders also receive benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties.

Both cards come with concierge services that can assist with travel bookings, dining reservations, entertainment and sporting events. Each card also provides many travel perks standard, including car rental protection, trip cancellation protection and no foreign transaction fees.

Heavy Metal Card Design

American Express is upgrading the Platinum Card to a new metal design. The Chase Sapphire Reserve already came in a “hand-crafted embedded metal” design.

The Cost

The new Platinum Card also comes with a new annual fee of $550 — a $100 increase. It’s also not technically a credit card as cardholders are expected to pay their balance in full each month. As a result, there are no interest charges. (We explain the difference between a charge card and a credit card here.)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $450, and has an annual percentage rate (APR) of 16.49% to 23.49%.

How They Stack Up

Both cards have strong signup bonuses, and the Platinum Card’s five points policy is tempting, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve likely has the best long-term point value. Cardholders earn triple points on dining, and most cardholders will likely dine out more than they fly. In addition, redeeming points for travel through Chase gets you a bonus 50% value for every point.

As for travel perks, results are mixed. The Platinum Card’s $200 travel credits only apply to airline fees, while Chase’s $300 credit can be applied to any travel cost. The Platinum Card’s Uber credit is nice, but only if you use Uber. However, the Platinum Card gives access to exclusive dining and travel experiences that Chase doesn’t provide.

Another major consideration that you must pay the Platinum Card’s balance in full each month. If you need the ability to carry a balance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers that option. (Carrying a balance is, of course, an expensive option, with that APR between 16.49% and 23.49%.)

In the end, the better card depends on how you plan to use it. The Platinum Card may be worth the price if you can pay your balance off each month, if you want access to private exclusive events and travel and if you ride Uber frequently. If you want a simpler, more practical credit card that still provides big travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be the way to go.

You’ll need a strong credit score to qualify for either card. Before you apply, you can check two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Weekend Images Inc. 

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

The post The Amped-Up Amex Platinum Card: How Does It Compare to the Chase Sapphire Reserve? appeared first on Credit.com.

Amex’s Blue for Business vs. Business Gold Rewards: Which Card Is Best?

We tackle two of American Express' popular business credit cards head-to-head.

As a small business owner, chances are you take on a lot of expenses each month. After all, it’s tough to maintain and grow a business if you don’t. That means it’s important to have the right credit card so you can maximize the rewards on all that spending. American Express is one of the largest issuers of business cards, among them, the Blue for Business credit card and the Business Gold Rewards card.

But what’s the difference between the two? And how can you determine what’s a better fit for you?

We’ll break down the rewards cardholders can earn with each of card. We’ll also outline the different benefits you can receive as well as what the cards’ costs entail to help you decide.

Some quick notes before we dive in: Be sure to read the fine print before applying for a new credit card — and check your credit, too, so you’ll have an idea of whether you’ll qualify for certain plastic. Remember, you’ll need a good credit score to net the best credit cards on the market.

How The Cards Compare

Blue for Business from American Express

With the Blue for Business card, you’ll earn 10x Membership Reward points on the first $2,000 you spend at restaurants within the first six months. In addition, you will earn 2x points on up to $50,000 worth of qualifying purchases during the first year you’re a cardmember. Each subsequent year, purchases will earn just 1x points. At the end of each year, you will receive a 30% bonus on the rewards you have earned. When you sign up for the Blue for Business credit card, you can earn 10,000 points after making a single purchase during the first three months.

Business Gold Rewards from American Express

When you sign up for the Business Gold Rewards card, you’re eligible to receive 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first three months. You will also receive 3x points on your choice of one of the following categories:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Advertising in select media
  • Gas stations
  • Shipping
  • Computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

You will also receive 2x points on the four categories that you didn’t choose to receive 3x points. This gives you the opportunity to earn the most points on your business’s largest expenses. The bonus category earnings are good on up to $100,000 each year. Any other purchases you make will earn 1x points.

How The Fees Stack Up

Not only is there quite a large difference in the amount of rewards you can earn with each card, there’s also a big difference in how much each card will cost. The Business Blue card comes with no annual fee. However, the Business Gold Rewards card will have an annual fee of $175, waived the first year. So even though you have a greater opportunity to earn rewards with the Business Gold Rewards card, it will cost you considerably more after the first year.

Another difference is that the Business Blue card is a credit card and the Business Gold Rewards card is a charge card. With the Blue for Business card, you will receive an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases for the first 12 months. Once the introductory period is over, the APR will change to a variable 11.74% to 19.74%, depending on creditworthiness. Because the Business Gold Rewards card is a charge card there will be no interest charges, but your balance is due each month or there will be a late fee of either $38 or 2.99% of the balance due, whichever is greater. (Confused? You can find a full FAQ about credit cards vs. charge cards here.)

If you travel a lot outside the U.S., here’s something to consider as well: The Business Blue card has a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. However, there are no foreign transaction fees with the Business Gold Rewards card.

Weighing the Benefits

Since both cards are from American Express, they have many of the same ancillary benefits included. You will receive purchase protection, which means if an item you purchase is accidentally damaged or stolen in the first 90 days, American Express will have you covered. You will also receive car rental loss and damage insurance. As long as you decline the rental car companies collision damage waiver, either of these cards will offer you the protection you need. Other benefits include baggage insurance, roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, and extended warranty protection on purchases. Plus, both cards will receive American Express OPEN benefits.

So Which Card Should I Get?

Blue for Business

The Blue for Business card is good for two different types of business owners. First, it’s ideal for someone that doesn’t want to deal with a bunch of bonus categories. Running a business is hard enough, and some people don’t want the added complexity and instead want something simple. The other person this card would be great for is someone that might be just starting out their business and their current expenses can’t justify an annual fee of $175. Having a card that comes with no annual fee, that still offer rewards might be a better fit.

Business Gold Rewards

The reason to pick the Business Rewards Gold card is simple. You are all about earning rewards and you don’t mind keeping track of the different bonus categories. Plus, your expenses can justify the high annual fee that you’ll have to pay after the first year.

Looking for more credit card breakdowns? Check our credit card review center.

At publishing time, the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: franckreporter

The post Amex’s Blue for Business vs. Business Gold Rewards: Which Card Is Best? appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Credit Cards That Help You Earn Hotel Elite Status

hotel-rewards

If you’re a frequent traveler, then having elite status at hotels can be pretty valuable. It will allow you to check into your room early or check out late. Status can get you upgraded to a bigger room with a nicer view. It can even award you with free breakfast or a complimentary drink in the evening. Having elite status with hotels can dramatically enhance your overall travel experience.

The only problem is that earning elite status with most hotel chains can be difficult. Many require you to stay for weeks before you will earn low level status. Unless you travel a lot for business, this can be pretty unattainable.

This is where your credit card can help. Some credit cards that earn hotel points will automatically award you elite status, just for being a cardholder. Other cards allow you to earn status when you spend a certain amount each year with your card. Here are five cards that will help you earn hotel elite status.

1. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

When you sign up for the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card you will automatically receive Hilton HHonors Gold status. This will give you things like a 25% bonus on the base HHonors points you can earn, the fifth night free when you book five or more nights, and late checkout. You will then have the chance to earn diamond status when you spend $40,000 or more per year with your card. (Full Disclosure: Citibank, as well as American Express, advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) 

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card also will award you with two free weekend nights after you sign up and spend $2,500 within the first four months. You will also receive 10x HHonors points when you use your card at Hilton hotels, 5x points on airlines and car rentals, and 3x points on everything else. Plus, each year that you spend $10,000 on your card and pay the $95 annual fee, you will receive a free weekend night as a thank you.

2. Hyatt Credit Card

When you sign up for the Hyatt credit card you will automatically receive platinum status with Hyatt hotels. This will give you 15% bonus points, free premium Wi-Fi, and room upgrades when available.

After you sign up and spend $2,000 within the first three months you will receive a bonus of two free nights. Plus, if you add an authorized user to your account and they make a purchase in the same three-month period, you will receive 5,000 bonus Hyatt points. You will then earn 3x points when you use your card at Hyatt hotels, 2x points at restaurants and on airfare and car rentals booked with the airline or car rental agency, and 1x points on all other purchases. Each year on your anniversary, you will receive one free night that can be used at any category 1-4 Hyatt hotel, after you pay the $75 annual fee.

3. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

As an IHG Rewards Club Select cardholder you will automatically receive IHG platinum elite status. This will allow you to check into your room early, earn 50% more points and receive an upgraded room.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months. You will earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in that three-month period. When you use your card at IHG hotels you will earn 5x points. Spending done with the card at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores will earn 2x points, and all other purchases will earn 1x points. Each anniversary you will receive one free night. There is no annual fee the first year, but it will be $49 each subsequent year.

4. Marriott Rewards Premier Card

You will receive 15 elite nights each year that you are a Marriott Rewards Premier cardholder. This is enough to receive silver status, giving you an additional 20% in points when using your card. You will also receive one additional elite night for every $3,000 spent on your card. If you reach 50 nights, you will earn gold elite status.

When you sign up for the Marriott Rewards Premier card you will receive 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. You will earn an additional 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same three-month period. When you use your card at Marriott and Starwood properties you will earn 5x points. Booking airfare directly with the airlines or car rentals booked with the rental agency will earn 2x points. Any other purchase will receive 1x points. Each year on your card anniversary, you will receive a free night at any category 1-5 hotel. The annual fee on this card is $85.

5. The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum card is easily the most expensive card on the list with an annual fee of $450. However, it also offers you the most bang for your buck. As a cardholder you will not only receive Hilton HHonors gold status, but you will also earn Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. With Starwood Gold, you will receive a 50% bonus on the points that you earn. You will also receive an enhanced room and a welcome gift, which could include bonus points, complimentary internet access or a free drink.

When you sign up for the Platinum Card from American Express you will receive 40,000 Membership Reward points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can earn 5x points when you use your card to book flights directly through the airlines or through American Express Travel. Any other purchase you make with the card will earn 1x points. This card also comes with several other valuable benefits. You will receive an annual $200 airline fee credit to use on incidental fees. You will also have complimentary access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. If you would like Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, you will receive up to a $100 statement credit to cover the expense.

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores so you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll qualify. Many rewards cards require excellent credit. You can check your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, Marriott Rewards Premier Card and the Platinum Card from American Express are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Image: Alija

The post 5 Credit Cards That Help You Earn Hotel Elite Status appeared first on Credit.com.

Amex Ups the Ante on Its Platinum Card

american-express-platinum-card

American Express just announced a major change to one of its popular premium travel credit cards: Starting on October 6, its Platinum credit cardholders will receive five times the points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through American Express’s travel portal.

The issuer’s Business Platinum credit cardholders are getting an even sweeter deal: They’ll earn 50% points back when using American Express’s Membership Rewards Pay with Points in its travel portal to book a flight with their selected airline. They’ll also get that benefit when booking a first or business class ticket with any airline, the issuer said. Moreover, business Platinum cardholders will earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on any purchase of $5,000 or more.

Prior to the change, both versions of the Platinum card (you can see a full review of the personal credit card here) offered cardholders one point in its Membership Rewards program and double points when making reservations through its travel portal. Cardholders receive a $200 airline credit, airport lounge access and a fee credit for Global entry or TSA Pre✓, among other travel perks.

A Crowded Market

American Express’s announcement comes on the heels of Chase’s launch of its new Sapphire Reserve credit card, a product that made headlines for featuring one of the biggest sign-on bonuses ever. Reserve cardholders can earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, which amounts to a whopping $1,500 when you redeem them through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal. (That bonus was so popular, incidentally, that Chase temporarily ran out of the branded metal credit cards.)

American Express is currently offering new personal Platinum cardholders 40,000 membership points when they spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Remember, while some premium plastic certainly sounds like a dream come true, you’ve got to be able to afford the perks. These types of credit cards typically tout high annual fees. Both the Platinum and the Reserve, for instance, cost $450 a year. And you’ve got to travel — or at least spend enough — to justify that charge. You should also be in the habit of paying your balances off in full; otherwise, you’ll just pay those points back in interest.

If you are looking to add to your wallet, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to determine if a card is right for you. And check your credit score: Premium plastic generally requires stellar credit, so you don’t want to risk an inquiry (and a ding to your credit score) only to be denied. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: LDProd

The post Amex Ups the Ante on Its Platinum Card appeared first on Credit.com.

Ever Dreamed of Flying Private? This Credit Card Can Get You There

Racking up frequent flier miles and rewards points to fly first-class is so yesterday. Your travel credit card may now be able to make it just little bit easier to score a ride on a private jet.

American Express announced recently that it’s partnering with Delta Private Jets to provide Platinum credit cardholders who purchase a Delta Private Jets Card Membership with reduced rates and exclusive travel benefits.

Delta Private Jets is a private aircraft service aimed at business travelers. Its card offers members the ability to lock-in hourly rates on charters and flights and avoid paying fuel surcharges and interchange fees, among other perks (more on those in a minute).

Of course, living the high life won’t exactly come easy.

For starters, American Express’ Platinum Card (see full review here) touts a $450 annual fee in exchange for all its perks and benefits. And that fee is really chump change when you compare it to the cost of a Delta Private Jets Card Membership, which requires frequent private fliers to pre-fund their plastic with $100,000, $250,000 or $500,000.

Hourly rates on the jets vary depending on membership tier or type, a spokesperson for Delta Private Jets said, while price points and rate reductions resulting from its Premium Private Jet Program with American Express will also be specific to each cardholder. (American Express did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment.)

The benefits will also vary by membership and individual, the spokesperson said, but to give you an idea of what type of services you can expect when you utilize a private jet service, they can include on-board catering, transportation to and from your flight, access to super-sized aircraft or same-day charters, help with making all your hotel accommodations and more.

Traveling in Style

Securing a private jet membership may be a ways off for most folks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever travel in style. Various travel rewards credit cards offer their cardholders lucrative travel perks, like complimentary upgrades, lounge access, concierge services or, at the very least, a free checked bag. (You can check out our roundup of some of the best travel credit cards in America here.)

Of course, you generally need good credit to qualify, so you should go ahead and check your standing before applying for any premium plastic. (You can view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.) Remember, too, these cards are really best-suited to people who don’t carry a balance. Otherwise, all those perks will just be lost to interest. And be sure to read the fine print of any credit card you’re considering carefully so you’re sure that it — and any high annual fee it may carry — is the right fit for you.

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum credit card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: Predrag Vuckovic

The post Ever Dreamed of Flying Private? This Credit Card Can Get You There appeared first on Credit.com.

How (and why) to Request a Credit Limit Increase with American Express

Pretty Young Multiethnic Woman Holding Phone and Credit Card Using Laptop.

In this first installment of our multi-part blog series about how (and why) to request a credit limit increase with various banks and financial institutions, we’ll examine how to go about requesting an increase with American Express. Perhaps the most important thing to remember as you read this blog (and subsequent ones in the series) is that when it comes to requesting a credit limit increase with any financial institution, it’s not the how part that matters most – it’s the why. There are good reasons to request a credit limit increase, and there are bad ones, and understanding the difference between the two is critical.

Why increase your limit in the first place?

Let’s get this out there right off the bat: Requesting a credit limit increase so you can spend more money each month is not a smart thing to do. As you probably well know, failing to pay off your credit card in full and paying big money in interest each month is not a great way to build wealth. So, if you’re requesting a higher credit limit just to spend more money on non-essential purchases each month, you should probably reconsider.

Now, if you are (and want to remain) a financially responsible borrower, the primary reason to request a credit limit increase is to lower your overall credit card utilization rate. Your credit card utilization rate is a measure of how much of your available credit you use each month. The math is pretty simple – just divide your total credit card balance by your total credit card limit. So, if you have a $5,000 balance and a $20,000 credit limit, your credit card utilization rate is 25 percent. Most financial experts advise maintaining a utilization rate of no higher than 20-30%, across all of your cards.

Lower utilization rate = better credit score

Lowering your credit card utilization rate is important because there’s a strong correlation between your utilization rate and your credit score because it accounts for 30% of your overall credit score. Now, credit scores are based on complex scoring algorithms that take many factors into consideration, so it’s impossible to specify the exact impact of your credit utilization rate on your overall credit score. But what we know for sure is the lower your credit utilization rate, the better your credit score is likely to be, and the easier it will be for you to borrow money at the lowest interest rates. So, going back to the hypothetical example above, if you were to charge the same $5,000 each month, but get your credit limit raised from $20,000 to $30,000, your utilization rate would drop from 25 percent to down under 17 percent. That’s a good thing.

How do banks decide?

Of course, the decision to raise your credit limit isn’t solely yours. Your credit provider has to agree to the request. There’s no great mystery here. If you have a clean credit history, a healthy income (relative to how much you charge each month), keep your monthly balance low, and make your payments on time, chances are you’ll have your request approved. In fact, if you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable borrower over a prolonged period of time, many financial institutions will proactively raise your credit limit without you even having to make the request. On the flip side, if you carry a large balance, have a checkered credit history, and have been inconsistent about paying your monthly bill on time, chances are your lender will be hesitant to increase your credit limit. If you fit into the latter category, you’re best served spending time cleaning up your financial act and proving yourself a reliable borrower before requesting an increase.

Requesting an increase from American Express

The good news is we live in a digital world, one where institutions like American Express have made it fast and easy to request a credit limit increase right online with just a few clicks. Start by logging into your account at www.americanexpress.com.

Step 1

Once you’ve logged in, click on Account Services.

Amex Screen 1

Step 2

Next, click on Credit Management.

Amex Screen 2

Step 3

From there, click on Increase Line of Credit.

Amex Screen 3

Step 4

You’ll then be asked to enter your 4-digit personal code, usually found on the right side of your card, just above your credit card number.

Amex Screen 4

Step 5

Finally, you’ll be taken to a page where you can formally request an increase to your line of credit. Note that you’ll have to enter both your new desired credit limit and your total annual income.

Amex Screen 5

For those who prefer good old-fashioned human interaction, you can also request a credit limit increase by calling the American Express customer service line at 1-800-528-4800.

A few housekeeping items to keep in mind that are specific to American Express:

  • You cannot request a credit limit increase until you’ve had your American Express card for more than 60 days.
  • If your request is approved, you’ll need to wait at least 6 months before you can request another increase.
  • If your request is denied, you have to wait at least 90 days before you can make another request.
  • In order to maximize your chances of approval, it’s generally recommended that the new credit limit you request is no more than three times the size of your current limit.
  • One of the best features of American Express is they don’t do a hard pull of your credit report for credit limit increase requests, meaning your credit score won’t be adversely affected.

Your credit limit was increased. Now what?

Let’s assume all goes well and your credit limit is increased. What should you do next? Ideally, nothing. If you started this process for the right reason – to improve your credit score by lowering your utilization rate – then having your limit increased should have no bearing on your spending habits. Simply continue spending at the same level you were before your limit was increased, and let your credit score reap the benefits.

The post How (and why) to Request a Credit Limit Increase with American Express appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

What’s the Difference Between AmEx’s Green, Gold & Platinum Cards?

american_express_card

When many people imagine a credit card, they probably think of one of the traditional charge cards from American Express that have been around for decades, including the Green, Gold and Platinum cards. American Express has added more credit cards to its product line over the years, but it still continues to update its traditional products and offer them to new applicants. Here is what you can expect from its current crop of Green, Gold and Platinum cards. 

American Express Green Card

This is one of the entry level cards in the American Express lineup that offers cardholders points in the Membership Rewards program. One point is earned for each dollar spent, with double points for reservations purchased through American Express travel. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and travel reservations, airfare or hotel stays. Travel benefits include a baggage insurance plan, a Roadside Assistance Hotline, and a Global Assist Hotline. Also included is travel accident insurance and a car rental loss and damage policy.

When shopping, your purchases are covered by an extended warranty, purchase protection and return protection policies. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the U.S.

American Express Gold & Premier Rewards Gold Cards

The American Express Gold cards are the next step up in this lineup, which now includes both the traditional Gold card and the newer Premier Rewards Gold card (see full review here). The standard Gold card offers everything that the Green card does plus several other benefits. For example, double points are earned at restaurants and from flights booked directly with airlines. Cardholders can also receive exclusive benefits from booking stays at properties in The Hotel Collection program including a $75 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights at participating properties. You also have access to a personalized travel service that can assist with making reservations and the Preferred Seating program that helps you secure premium seats for cultural and sporting events, based on availability. There is a $160 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

The Premier Rewards Gold card expands on the benefits of the standard Gold Card by offering 3x points for flights booked directly with the airlines, and 2x points at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets. It also includes a $100 annual airline fee credit that can be used toward baggage fees, change fees and other airline incidentals. And instead of a Roadside Assistance Hotline, you receive Premium Roadside Assistance, which includes the cost of some services such as towing, changing a flat, and jumpstarting a car. There is a $195 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

The American Express Platinum Card

Unlike the Gold cards, the American Express Platinum Card (see full review here) only offers one point for each dollar spent, with double points for reservations purchased through American Express travel, like the Green card. But otherwise, it comes with far more features and benefits than even the Gold cards. Cardholders enjoy access to several airport lounge programs including the Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass Select network, and American Express Centurion Clubs. You also receive elite status with Hilton and Starwood hotels, as well as Avis, Hertz, and National car rentals. Other benefits include a $200 annual airline fee credit, and a $100 credit towards the application fee for the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ programs. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Remember, applying for new credit results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, and credit scores view hard inquiries as a slightly negative bit of credit history. So before you apply for a credit card that is right for you, it’s a good idea to make sure you can qualify for them. You can view your two free credit scores, updated, each month, to find out where your creditworthiness stands.

At publishing time, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card and the American Express Platinum card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: BraunS

The post What’s the Difference Between AmEx’s Green, Gold & Platinum Cards? appeared first on Credit.com.

Need Beyoncé Tickets? AmEx & Uber Are Giving Some Away

beyonce

Getting tickets to Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour has been harder than getting to the bottom of the “Becky with the good hair” controversy. Most of the shows are sold out. Unless you want to stand alone at one of the shows that still has available tickets, you’re going to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars minimum to nab a spot from which you can worship Queen Bey live.

But you might be able to get around that. Yesterday — when Formation kicked off in Miami — American Express and Uber announced a partnership that gives anyone (not just card members) the chance to win two tickets to one of Beyoncé’s 21 remaining U.S. shows (the next one is April 29, in Tampa, Florida). Here’s how the promotion works:

beyonce_knowles

Beyoncé Knowles.
Photo: EdStock

On the day of the concert in a participating city, you can request the “FORMATION” view in the Uber app, using the promo code FORMATIONAMEX. You can then request a FORMATION ride, and you could receive two tickets and a round-trip UberX ride to the concert in the city. (Though Uber and American Express have both said that the demand will be high, and getting matched with a FORMATION ride isn’t a guarantee of tickets.)

Sure, the chances of hitting the Beyoncé/Uber jackpot probably aren’t great, but it may be more likely than you being able to come up with enough money to buy your own tickets and transport to the concert, at this point. As much as it would probably feel worth it at the time, the aftermath of blowing your budget to see Beyoncé (or worse, running up a huge credit card balance or spending more than you can afford), will probably be as unpleasant as it is to be Rachel Roy right now. (OK, being on the receiving end of the wrath of the Beyhive may or may not actually be worse than being in credit card debt, but you get the point.)

There’s some (minuscule) consolation for people who request these Uber rides and don’t end up getting Formation tickets. If you happen to have an American Express credit card and are enrolled in their Membership Rewards program, you can earn two times the rewards points when you pay for an Uber ride with your card. American Express isn’t the only credit card with this sort of deal — it’s always smart to check with your credit card issuer to see if they offer any discounts with a certain service or if you can maximize your rewards with certain purchases. Of course, spending for the sake of credit card rewards can be a dangerous strategy, because credit card debt is expensive and high credit card balances can kill your credit score. You can keep tabs on yours by getting your free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

At publishing time, American Express products are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for American Express credit cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

More on Credit Cards:

Main Image: EdStock

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