12 Places You Could Visit for Free This Summer (With the Right Credit Card)

Because who wouldn't want to travel for free?

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Vacations can be expensive, but that doesn’t stop us from taking them. A 2017 AAA survey found that 42% of Americans plan to take a vacation this year, and about 30% said they are more likely to go on vacation this year than they were in 2016. Most participants said those trips would be to warm locales throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Paying for These Vacations

Getaways usually require advance planning and saving, but you may be able to fund these trips with something other than a cut of each paycheck, thanks to rewards you gather from credit cards.

Some travel rewards credit cards offer sizable signup bonuses that can help pay for a large portion of your trip. Take the ever-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve. This card rewards you with 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That’s equal to $750 toward travel, when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Plus, you’ll get a $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases every year.

Add in rewards for purchases you make with the card (three points on travel and restaurants, one point everywhere else), and you’ll be on your way to funding your next vacation.

Before You Sign Up …

You should read the fine print for any card you’re considering to make sure you know what you’ll be getting. To earn high bonuses or other perks, you have to reach a certain spending threshold in a set amount of time (like $4,000 in three months, as we mentioned). You’ll want to make sure your budget allows for this kind of spending.

There’s often a price tag tied to these cards in the form of an annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 each year, so you’ll want to account for that in your budget. There are rewards cards that don’t come with such a hefty annual fee that you may consider. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee for the first year and is $95 thereafter.

You also want to think about your spending habits. Do you tend to carry a balance? A rewards card may not be right for you. Not paying in full each month with these cards means you’ll just lose all those rewards to interest charges. Are you easily motivated by rewards? If collecting points or miles causes you to spend more than you can afford, you may want to steer clear of these kinds of cards.

Rewards credit cards tend to require high credit scores, so it’s a good idea to take a look at yours before applying to see if you’ll qualify. (You can see a free credit report summary, which includes two of your credit scores, for free on Credit.com.)

With that in mind, where can these plastic perks get you? Here are a dozen possible destinations.

1. Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Strip may be your perfect getaway if you’re looking for never-ending energy, sunshine and good eats. (Pro tip: Mon Ami Gabi is a must try.) Try to visit during the week when hotel rooms tend to go for a lower rate.

2. Nassau, Bahamas

Pull up a beach chair on one of the pristine beaches in the capital city of the Bahamas and enjoy the sunshine. If you’d rather be out in the water, get your snorkel gear and enjoy some of the most beautiful coral reefs around.

3. Rome

From the art and architecture to the wine and pasta, Rome has it all. Enjoy seeing iconic sites like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, then kick back with a cappuccino at one of the cafes.

4. Puerto Rico

The bright and colorful buildings in Old San Juan, as well as the fortresses, are must-sees if you’re coming to Puerto Rico. Your taste buds are sure to thank you for enjoying the local cuisines, like plantain burritos and arroz con dulce.

5. Key West

The southernmost point of the U.S. has great fishing and diving opportunities. Plus, you can see the famous six- and seven-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway Home.

6. New York City

Once you’ve seen the tourist spots, you can check out the architecture and boutiques in NoHo or wrap up the day enjoying the nightlife in Greenwich Village.

7. Seattle

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Puget Sound from the Space Needle or take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and visit the local wineries.

8. Bermuda

Enjoy pink sandy beaches on the main island, like those at Astwood Park. There are also several shipwrecks and reefs that are perfect for scuba divers to explore.

9. Sedona, Arizona

If your idea of warm weather destinations doesn’t include beaches, this desert town in Arizona may be perfect for you. The beautiful red rock cliffs, accompanied by trails leading to some of the most alluring picnicking spots, will have you admiring the West.

10. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Kick back or enjoy the waves at the Playa del Amor and then grab dinner and drinks at one of the many outdoor bars and restaurants along the water. If you want to bring your clubs, there are many gorgeous golf courses in town you won’t want to miss.

11. Hawaii

While here, you can explore volcanoes like Mauna Loa or historic sites like the USS Arizona Memorial or Pearl Harbor. And there are the beautiful beaches and the ocean that are great for surfing or sailing.

12. San Diego

With seemingly perfect weather year-round, there’s never a bad time to visit this California city. Carlsbad, in northern San Diego, boasts some of the most stunning beaches. And the Victorian-style Hotel del Coronado is worth visiting, both for the view and for brunch at the Crown Room.

Want more ideas on where to travel using your credit card rewards? Check out these 50 places to visit before you turn 50.

At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred 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. 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.

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The post 12 Places You Could Visit for Free This Summer (With the Right Credit Card) appeared first on Credit.com.

What’s Up With All These $400 Annual Fee Credit Cards — & Should I Get One?

Here's what's behind the elite credit card surge — and how to decide if you should sign up for one.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

A $1,500 signup bonus. Five times the points at your favorite hotel chain. Up to $200 in annual Uber credits … on top of a $200 annual credit for airline fees. VIP gifts delivered directly to your door.

Chances are, at least one of these credit card offers (or an equally flashy one) has caught your eye in recent months. Elite credit cards — perk-laden plastic touting major travel rewards and super-swanky privileges — are getting a lot of press these days. But if you’ve paid attention to the fine news print, you’ve likely noticed these cards have something else in common: a hefty annual fee, usually at least $400 … or more. And while mega-miles, generous airport lounge access and complimentary hotel room upgrades certainly have mass appeal, that yearly price tag isn’t for everybody.

Here’s what’s behind the elite credit card surge — and how to decide if you should sign up for one.

What’s an Elite Credit Card? 

Elite credit cards, also known as premium, premier or luxury credit cards, offer a wide range of tempting benefits. The details vary from card to card, but there are a few categories that tend to be a focus.

  • Earned Points: Most elite credit cards earn points redeemable for rewards such as travel credits, gift cards and cash back. These cards often earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases and multiple points per dollar spent on certain spending categories, typically related to travel, like dining or airfare. Frequently, there are big signup bonuses (think tens of thousands of points) for meeting certain spending requirements or adding authorized users (though that’ll usually cost an annual fee, too).
  • Travel Perks: Perks for the frequent traveler can include hundreds of dollars in annual travel credits and reimbursements, airport lounge access, hotel upgrades and even VIP treatment at hotel properties and car rental agencies.
  • Concierge Services: Many elite credit cards offer 24/7 concierge services that can help members book travel, get event tickets and even shop for rare merchandise.
  • VIP Experiences: Select cards provide access to exclusive experiences like dining, fashion or sporting events available only to cardholders.
  • Made of Metal: Premium plastic is passé. Elite credit cards are now coming in metal, giving them a distinct “plunk” factor.

Plastic with these kinds of perks isn’t exactly new. Premium travel credit cards geared to frequent fliers (or big spenders) have been on the market for years, but the majority of plunky products were reserved for the rich and famous — and you needed an invite to apply. (See American Express’ near-mythical Centurion Card, a perennial celebrity wallet-stuffer made of anodized titanium, laden with perks and carrying a $7,500 initiation fee/$2,500 annual fee.) The new wave of elite credit cards may not be as VIP as the still-existent invitation-only cards, but their perks are certainly eye-popping — and, $400-plus annual fees aside, anyone can apply.

Open to the Public 

These days, it seems like there are more elite credit cards on the market than you can shake a stick at.

Chalk the boom up to two major factors, said Richard Crone, CEO of Crone Consulting LLC, an independent advisory company that specializes in payments and advises some of the biggest players in the financial sector.

First, there was the Durbin Amendment, part of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 as a response to the conditions that led to the 2008 recession. This amendment capped the amount debit card issuers could charge merchants in interchange fees (also known as swipe fees) for every transaction.

But “these regulations were not applied to credit card transactions,” Crone said. “The focus was then shifted to credit,” with financial institutions throwing considerable weight behind designing and marketing credit cards that could extract more revenue in swipe fees.

Second, issuers saw a big opportunity in millennials, who have been wary of credit and preferred debit cards following the recession. Credit card use is still low among millennials, but that attitude may slowly be changing as the economy rebounds.

“They’re entering prime purchase years, and so issuers took notice and fine-tuned promotions and cards to create packages that attracted millennials,” Crone said — and noted that this demographic loves perceived deals and will pay high rates to get them.

These factors combined caused the elite credit card market to heat up in several ways.

New Players Emerged

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (full review right here) caused a big splash last year when it launched with a massive signup bonus (worth $1,500 in travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards), annual travel credits and a metal design. Despite the $450 annual fee, the new card was so popular Chase initially ran out of the metal to manufacture it.

“Conventional wisdom has been that only high-spend travelers would invest in a premium card,” Eric Lindeen, credit card industry expert and vice president of Marketing at ID Analytics, said. “The success of the Chase Sapphire [Reserve] card came as a surprise … The most important lesson is there are more consumers willing to spend $500 on a card than anyone expected, as long as there is value to justify the spend.”

A Chase spokesperson said the bank saw a gap in the premium credit card category, specifically for modern travelers that needed flexibility in how they earned and redeemed rewards. Half of the initial applicants for the Chase Sapphire Reserve were millennials, who, according to Chase, tend to value experiences over things and appreciate a card with flexibility.

Reimagined Premium Offerings

Even well-established premium cards like Luxury Card’s MasterCard Black Card have seen recent redesigns. In early 2016, Luxury Card added the Gold Card and Titanium Card to their Luxury Card portfolio. The new cards serve as higher-tier and lower-tier alternatives, respectively, to the flagship product. (The Black Card has a $495 annual fee and offers rewards, concierge services, surprise gifts, VIP treatment at many hotel properties and other luxury perks.)

The additions show there’s faith in the potential for a greater customer base.

“Our MasterCard Black Card has been very successful, and so we launched two additional tiers,” Marina Kissam, vice president of customer experience at Luxury Card, said. “We were able to construct benefits that effectively segmented the luxury experience into tiers.”

Those tiers potentially open the Luxury Card up to a wider range of cardholders.

Expanded Benefits

Issuers long in the luxury market have also sweetened their deals, adding new perks and expanding existing benefits.

The Platinum Card from American Express is the most notable example. Back in October, the issuer added five times the points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through its travel portal in addition to the one point per dollar they earn on all other purchases. And in late March, the Platinum Card (full review here) underwent a more dramatic makeover.

Cardholders now earn five times the points on hotels and airfare booked through AmexTravel.com or directly with an airline carrier (they still earn one point per dollar elsewhere). The issuer also increased airport lounge access, added a Global Dining program, expanded their VIP By Invitation Only Program and, for the cherry on top, added up to $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 per month, plus a $20 bonus in December). It also increased the card’s annual fee from $450 to $550.

According to American Express, the modifications to the Platinum’s benefits were a response to the changing preferences of their members. Of course, it’s worth noting the changes come at a time of increased market pressure.

What’s Next? 

While it may be too early to tell, its possible a premium credit card arms race is unfolding, and consumers may be able to pick from an even greater variety of options going forward. There are a few possible trends we could see in coming years, experts say.

New card offerings will continue to pop up, whether in an attempt to disrupt the industry or simply to grab some market share.

“It’s fairly easy to stand up new card products, so I expect to see a continuing flow,” Lindeen said. “Many will be look-a-likes that fade away, but some will resonate. We definitely won’t see the market settle down anytime soon … We may see banks and issuers with smaller card volumes introduce a luxury card to increase the appeal of their branded cards and defend against national brands.”

In fact, U.S. Bank just launched its own premium travel credit card — the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite — touting a 50,000 point signup bonus (if you spend $4,500 in your first 90 days), $325 in annual statement credits and a $400 annual fee.

“We introduced U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve in response to customer feedback and the evolving marketplace for premium reward cards,” Bob Daly, senior vice president of Retail Payment Solutions at U.S. Bank, said in a statement.

A noteworthy caveat? The card, made of metal, is only available to U.S. Bank customers. (You have to have an “eligible consumer U.S. Bank account relationship” for a minimum of 35 days prior to submitting an application, per the bank’s website.)

When it comes to expanding benefits, card issuers are just getting started, experts say, and the market will continue to see expanded and more unique benefits. These perks could come in many forms, but they’ll likely strike a balance between providing value to the consumer and profit to the issuer.

“What’s in play now is attracting first-time credit users. So what would appear to be expensive bounties [is] market acquisition,” Crone said. “There’s a lot of wiggle room for more benefits to come.”

The challenge will be creating benefits that don’t eat into the profitability of the card. Card issuers may also have to move beyond massive signup bonuses, which encourages a lot of upfront demand but could result in declining activity after the first year.

Right on Target

To capture niche markets and to further differentiate themselves from the competition, issuers may need to innovate by designing cards that appeal to highly specific buyer profiles and provide custom experiences.

“There is a commoditization of luxury cards, so differentiating for smaller segments will become more critical,” Lindeen said. “Benefits will shift to local benefits, like Uber, spa, winery, brewery and dining credits. These are areas where vendors will be willing to cost-share the benefit and different consumers will find the offer appealing. Unique benefits with specific appeal will be increasingly important.”

Luxury Card also believes in the value of specificity, and has been focusing on custom experiences in a different way. Kissam believes their customer base is motivated in part by custom experiences and one-on-one service, and notes that their concierge generates high levels of engagement.

Bottomline: Card providers will likely move to demonstrate value that is highly specific to a consumer’s needs.

So Should I Get an Elite Credit Card?

First things first: To land a premium card, you’ll likely need excellent credit, so if your scores are less than stellar, hold off on filling out that application. (You can see where your credit stands by viewing two of your credit scores, along with tips for what you can do to improve on them, for free on Credit.com.)

Keep in mind, these are not credit cards for people prone to carrying a balance. You’ll just wind up losing precious points, miles or credits to interest.

Now, if you can afford the annual fee and find a card that provides a return on your investment, an elite credit card could make a good addition to your wallet. The value of many premium credit cards can be supercharged by frequent use of benefits and exploitation of the card’s quirks — and may even exceed the hefty annual fee.

But you’ll have to look forward: Picking a card with a big signup bonus can help mitigate much of the cost the first year, but will you travel or spend enough the second year to recoup those dollars?

How Can I Find the Best Elite Credit Card for Me?

If you do decide an elite credit card is worth your while, be sure read card agreements closely to find the one that’s best for you.

Compare benefits to see which card provides the greatest potential value. Look at the flashy perks and the more standard policies and programs, like price protection or trip cancellation insurance. And, even if you’re not known to carry a balance, be sure to compare costs, like annual fees, annual percentage rates and other charges. (A big item to note: foreign transaction fees, which are waived by the better travel credit cards on the market.)

It’s also important to choose a card that offers benefits you’ll frequently use, as that’s the best way to ensure value. For instance, if you often stay at Ritz-Carlton properties, the Ritz Carlton credit card from Chase may provide the best return. If you’re a frequent traveler with no loyalties to specific airlines or hotels, a flexible elite credit card, like the Citi Prestige, might be appropriate. Picking a card that fits your lifestyle will help you get the most bang for your buck. [Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.]

Finally, if you’re on the fence, see if a prospective card provider will sweeten their offer.

“Card issuers are banking on the fact that people won’t use the benefits,” said Crone, but notes that some are able to take advantage by frequently using the benefits and negotiating better terms. “Don’t simply follow the script … it’s all negotiable.”

And, if you determine that an elite credit card isn’t right for you, don’t sweat it. There are plenty of fee-free credit cards out there that can help you rack up rewards. (You can find our favorite cash back credit cards right here.)

At publishing time, the MasterCard Black, MasterCard Gold, MasterCard Titanium, Platinum Card from American Express and Citi Prestige credit cards 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).

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.

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The post What’s Up With All These $400 Annual Fee Credit Cards — & Should I Get One? appeared first on Credit.com.

100K Credit Card Points When You Get a Mortgage? Here’s a Look at Chase’s Latest Offer

Chase_mortgage_offer

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Credit card signup bonuses usually come with, well, credit cards. But a new offer from Chase touts beacoup points for (wait for it) … getting a mortgage.

Yup, you’re reading that right: Now through Aug. 6, the bank will award 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points to existing Sapphire, Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve credit cardholders who finance a new home with Chase.

What’s behind the offer? Chase’s being pretty upfront about the fact that it’s courting millennials, who, despite a reported reluctance to sign up for credit cards, displayed a significant interest in the premium Sapphire Reserve Card the bank launched last summer.

“Half of Chase Sapphire customers are millennials, many of whom are looking to buy their first home now or in the near future,” Pam Codispoti, president of Chase Branded Cards, said in a press release.

A Mortgage for Credit Card Points?

Chase’s offer is eye-popping, but right off the bat, it’s important to note that you don’t want to rush into a mortgage just to score credit card rewards points, no matter how lucrative that part of the deal might seem. Home loans are an expensive proposition on the front-end — where you’ll have to cover a down payment, closing costs, possible points and other expenses — and the backend — where you’ll locked into a monthly mortgage payment and paying plenty of interest most likely for the next 15 to 30 years. (Plus, you know, you’ll have a house to take care of and maintenance isn’t exactly cheap.)

Even if you were already looking into home loans, remember, the rate’s really the thing. The allure of credit card rewards points shouldn’t dissuade you for shopping around for the best mortgage deal you can net. (You can get an idea of where your credit might land you by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Per Chase’s website, the annual percentage rate on its 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 4.094%. That’s competitive. Chase’s big bank counterparts Wells Fargo and Citi quote APRs on comparable 30-year fixed-rate mortgage products as 4.275% and 4.086%, respectively, on their websites. (Note: Rates are subject to change and the points you may be required to pay will vary.) But that’s not to say someone with good credit couldn’t score a lower rate or better overall deal at another financial institution, smaller bank or local credit union. It’s still wise to do your research and crunch the numbers to be sure you’re getting the best mortgage. The prospect of credit card rewards should be, at best, an afterthought.

The Nitty Gritty

That being said, if you do have good credit, are looking for a mortgage on a new home and have a Sapphire credit card in your wallet, Chase’s offer could be worth looking into. The exact value of the points will vary, depending on what card is in your wallet and how you ultimately choose to redeem them, but 100,000 points can translate to some significant dollars.

You may recall that when the Chase Sapphire Reserve (full review here) launched last summer, it touted a 100,000 bonus point offer equivalent to $1,500 when redeemed for travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards. The card, which also comes with a hefty $450 annual fee, currently carries a 50,000-point signup bonus (equivalent to $750 in travel) if cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months.

As far as the new mortgage offer details go, it applies only to residential first mortgage purchase loans submitted directly to Chase. You’ll have to have had a Sapphire card prior to May, 7, 2017 launch date to be eligible, so no need to rush out and apply for any new plastic.

Cardholders only get the bonus points if their loan is fully approved and they close on the home. (Points will get automatically posted to the primary cardholder’s account within 10 weeks of closing.) The offer is not transferable, limited to one per property at a time, and could be discontinued without notice, the bank says on its website, where you can find more offer details.

Meanwhile, if you are currently looking for a new home, we’ve got 50 things house hunters should do ahead of their search right here

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.

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Premium Plastic Wars: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex’s Platinum

U.S. Bank's new travel card may make you think twice about applying for Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum cards.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

U.S. Bank just launched a new premium travel card that joins the league of travel cards with big rewards and high annual fees. Available only to U.S. Bank customers, the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite is for frequent travelers with disposable income who want spending incentives.

The Altitude Reserve’s design puts it in direct competition with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (see review here) and the Platinum Card from American Express (see review here). So how does the Altitude Reserve measure up to these premium kingpins? Here’s a closer look.

Earning & Redeeming Points

Each card rewards points for spending, but comes with its quirks. The Altitude Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel purchases, including those made with mobile wallets. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Right now, U.S. Bank is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Right now, Chase is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The Platinum Card earns five points for every dollar on flights booked directly or through American Express and eligible hotels booked through Amextravel.com. You’ll get one point for every dollar on all other purchases. American Express is offering 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Each card offers a variety of ways to redeem points, including gift cards, travel and merchandise. Chase and U.S. Bank reserve the most valuable redemption options for travel purchases.

Travel Credits

Each card credits $85 to your TSA Pre-Check application or $100 to your Global Entry application. Beyond that, travel credits vary. The Altitude Reserve offers $325 in automatic statement credits when you make qualifying purchases on airlines, hotels, car rentals, cruises and taxis. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an annual $300 statement credit for similar purchases. The Platinum Card provides up to $200 in annual Uber savings and a $200 airline fee credit.

Other Travel Benefits

Each card touts a wealth of additional benefits, including airline, car rental and hotel perks.

The Altitude Reserve provides 12 Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes each year and a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership; members must pay $27 for subsequent visits. They’ll also receive a 15% discount and a one-time $30 credit at GroundLink Black Car Service. The card provides complimentary breakfast at Relais & Châteaux Boutique Luxury Hotels.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership after a one-time activation. Cardholders will also receive perks like free Wi-Fi at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties.

The Platinum Card offers benefits at more than 975 properties worldwide. These include late checkout, free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Cardholders also have access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, room upgrades and car-rental privileges.

Each card offers its own concierge and protections, including car rental and trip cancellation insurance.

Annual Fees

The Altitude Reserve carries a $400 annual fee and its APR is a variable 16.49%. You’ll also need to be a U.S. Bank customer, although you can apply for the card 35 days after opening an account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 and a variable APR between 16.74% and 23.74%. The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550. It has no APR, as it’s a charge card that requires members to pay their balance in full every month. None of these cards charge foreign transaction fees.

Should I Apply for One of These Travel Cards?

These cards are intended for frequent travelers with disposable income and require good-to-excellent credit. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) If that’s not you, you should look elsewhere. You’ll also need to be comfortable with paying a $400-plus annual fee.

If you’re in the market for a premium travel card and are a U.S. Bank customer, the Altitude Reserve is an attractive option. If you’re not a U.S. Bank customer and have no need for another loan or bank account, another card may be better.

Remember, points that reward your spending habits offer the most value. For instance, the Altitude Reserve offers three points for mobile wallet purchases, but if you don’t use a mobile wallet, you may be better off with a card that rewards other types of transactions.

As the travel credits can earn back a good deal of the annual fee, you’ll want a card with travel credits you can fully exploit. If you don’t use services like Uber or incur many airline fees, American Express’ Platinum Card may not be the best option, even though its annual credits offer the greatest monetary value.

You’ll also want to look at the additional benefits that come with each card and decide if you’ll use them. Apply for the card that rewards your lifestyle and spending habits, rather than chasing benefits with the most monetary value.

Keep in mind, too, a rewards credit card, premium or otherwise, is only truly rewarding if you pay your balances off in full. Otherwise, you’re just losing perks to interest. If you’re prone to carrying a balance, you’re better off looking into a low-interest or balance transfer credit card. You can find some of a list of some of the best balance transfer credit cards right here.

At publishing time, the Platinum 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.

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The post Premium Plastic Wars: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex’s Platinum appeared first on Credit.com.

U.S. Bank Launches New Card With Big Travel Rewards

On-the-go professionals have a new credit card option with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

U.S. Bank introduced a new credit card Monday that offers a $325 annual travel credit and three points back for each dollar spent on travel and mobile wallet purchases. The card is available immediately to most existing customers only, but there is a way you can get the card if you aren’t a current customer (more on that in a minute).

The Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite is aimed at on-the-go professionals, John Steward, president of retail payment solutions for U.S. Bank, said in a press release.

High-End Travel Rewards

Like many high-end travel rewards cards, the Altitude Reserve also offers travel planning, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry application fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, free airplane Wi-Fi access and discounts on hotel rooms and car rentals. New cardholders receive a 50,000-point bonus, worth $750 in travel purchases if they spend $4,500 in their first 90 days of membership.

While travel and purchases made with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and Microsoft Wallet earn three points per dollar, other purchases earn one point per dollar.

Cardholders get 12 free in-flight GoGo Wi-Fi sessions each year once they register their account on the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve website. GoGo is available on AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Japan Airlines, United and Virgin America flights.

Cardholders also get a year of free Priority Pass Select membership, which allows access to more than 1,000 VIP airport lounges. Each cardmember and guest still has to pay a $27 lounge visit fee, though the fee is waived for the first four visits.

The card reimburses an $85 statement credit for a TSA PreCheck application or $100 for a Global Entry application, as long as the fee is charged to the card. Cardholders are eligible for a reimbursement every four years.

Cardmembers also get a 15% discount on reservations made with the Groundlink Black Car Service and a one-time $30 credit to be used for reservations.

The card also offers fraud protection, warranty service, rental car insurance and travel insurance.

What You’ll Pay

The Altitude Reserve is only available to U.S. Bank customers. If you’re not already a customer, you can apply for the card 35 days after opening an account or taking out a loan with U.S. Bank. The card comes with a $400 annual fee.

The card has a variable APR of 16.49% for purchases and balance transfers and 24.74% for cash advances. Cash advances also come with a 4% fee and a $10 minimum. The balance transfer fee is 3% with a $5 minimum.

The Altitude Reserve has no foreign transaction fees. Late payments cost up to $38; returned payments fees run up to $35.

Altitude vs. Sapphire

The Altitude Reserve’s rewards are similar to that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve (read our review here), which also offers a 50,000 point bonus, though for only $4,000 in purchases in three months. The Altitude Reserve has a higher annual travel credit and matches Sapphire Reserve with its three points per dollar travel rewards rate.

Both cards require solid credit scores. You can check two of yours free on Credit.com to see if you’ll qualify.

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Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

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Shattered Your New iPhone? Your Credit Card Might Have You Covered

Smashed your iPhone? These credit cards offer stellar purchase protection policies.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably dropped your smartphone. If it happened to be on the ground, you may have even shattered the glass. If you didn’t have insurance through your carrier, you probably thought you were out of luck. But if you purchased that phone with a credit card, you could have taken advantage of an underused benefit: purchase protection.

What Is Purchase Protection?

Purchase protection is a benefit that comes with select credit cards. It will protect your purchases against accidental damage or theft for a select amount of time. Some cards also include a benefit called extended warranty protection. This is different from purchase protection. Extended Warranty protection extends the life of the manufacturer’s warranty on your items.

Be aware that purchase protection isn’t an indefinite benefit. It typically only lasts for the first 90 to 120 days of owning an item. The exact length of time depends on the card itself. But if you purchase a new smartphone and break it before you can get a protective case, you can rest easy knowing that you’re protected.

So what makes a great purchase protection policy? One of the biggest things to look at is the amount of coverage you have. What if you purchased something much more expensive and it was damaged soon after? You’ll want to make sure you’re covered for that. Some policies actually cover up to $10,000 per claim.

Something else to be mindful of is the length of the benefit. As we mentioned before, most last for 90 to 120 days. You will also want to pay special attention to the items excluded from each card’s policy.

Let’s take a look at five cards that offer purchase protection policies for cardholders.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (we’ve got a full review here) made a big splash last year when it was released. It quickly became one of the best available cards for travelers. However, it also has some great shopping benefits. With this card, you will receive purchase protection, up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year. It will cover theft or accidental damage for the first 120 days.

When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you will receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You will then receive three points on restaurants and travel expenses. Any other purchase will receive one point. This card has a $450 annual fee, but you will receive a $300 travel credit each year. You will also receive up to $100 to cover Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check.

The card carries a variable purchase annual percentage rate between 16.49% and 23.49%, based on creditworthiness. (You can get an idea of yours by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

2. Platinum Card From American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express offers its cardholders purchase protection on items for the first 90 days. The benefit limits are $10,000 per claim, at a maximum of $50,000 per year.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 40,000 Membership Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You will also receive five points for flights booked directly through airlines or with American Express Travel. All other purchases will earn one point. This card comes with an annual fee of $450, but it offers a $200 airline fee credit. There are no interest charges since it is a charge card, meaning you’ll have to pay your balance in full each month or face a steep penalty APR.

3. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers purchase protection benefits for the first 120 days (90 days for New York residents). You’re covered for up to $10,000 per item, up to $50,000 per year, a spokesperson from Citi said. To get the coverage, you must pay at least partially for the item with your Citi credit card.

You will receive 50,000 AAdvantage miles after signing up for this card and spending $5,000 within the first three months. You will then receive two miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases. Plus, you will receive one mile for every dollar spent on everything else. If you spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you will receive 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles. This card has a $450 annual fee, but you will receive a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. You will also receive complimentary Admirals Club membership. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 15.74%. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

4. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

If big annual fees aren’t something you can comfortably afford, you might want to consider the United MileagePlus Explorer card. Not only does it have a lower annual fee of $95, it offers a purchase protection benefit of $10,000 per claim and is valid for 120 days.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. In addition, you will receive two miles on all United purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on everything else. Each calendar year you spend $25,000, you will be awarded a 10,000-mile bonus. As a cardholder, you will also receive two free United Club one-time passes each year, a free first checked bag and priority boarding. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 16.49% to 23.49%, depending on creditworthiness.

5. Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige is another premium credit card that offers stellar purchase protection. With this card, you will have protection for 120 days and the limits are $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per calendar year.

With the Citi Prestige, you will earn 40,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You will receive three points on airfare and hotel purchases, two points on dining and entertainment, and one point on everything else. The card comes with a $450 annual fee, but it includes a $250 air travel credit and access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass Select. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 15.74%

Purchase protection isn’t the only extra premium plastic has to offer. Here are 8 other major credit card perks you probably aren’t taking advantage of.

At publishing time, the Platinum Card from American Express, Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard and Citi Prestige 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, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuers. Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuers.

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.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture: Which Should You Get?

chase-sapphire-or-capitol-one-venture

When people talk about travel credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture, are almost always in the conversation. Both cards offer some of the biggest and most popular reward cards currently available and can be great options if you have excellent credit. They are also quite similar to each other. Because of that, it can be difficult to decide between the two, when looking to add a new card to your wallet.

Within this article we are going to walk you through the different parts of each card. This will help you decide which card might be the best fit for you.

Comparing the Rewards

When you sign up online for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card you will receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Plus, you will receive an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase during the same three-month period. (Note: There is a differential if you account for the Chase Sapphire card’s original 100,000 bonus points, which are still available, but only if you apply at a branch by March 12.)

When you use your card at restaurants and on travel, you will receive two times the points. Every other purchase made with this card will earn one point.

The Capital One Venture card comes with a signup bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You will then earn two times the miles on every purchase you make.

Redeeming the Rewards

Chase Ultimate Reward points are a favorite for many because of how they can be redeemed. If you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points will be worth 1.25 cents each. By going this route, you will be able to pay for portions of a trip, even if you don’t have the points to book the entire thing.

Where you will find the most value from your points, is by transferring them 1:1 to the following loyalty programs:

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

By transferring your points to loyalty programs, many people are able to get a much higher value than 1.25 cents.

Capital One Venture miles are extremely popular with cardholders because of the flexibility they have. Each miles is worth one cent each and you can use them in a couple of different ways. You can book travel directly through Capital One, or you can book travel on your own, and then redeem your miles for a statement credit.

Both of these cards also give you option to redeem rewards for things like gift cards and merchandise, but you won’t get near the value you do when booking travel.

The Fees

Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture card waive the annual fee the first year. Then for each subsequent year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred charges $95 and the Capital One Venture card is $59.

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture cards do not have foreign transaction fees. That makes both of these cards perfect for travel outside the United States.

Which One Is Right for Me?

As you can see, both of these are excellent options for anyone looking to pick up a new travel credit card. Both cards offer a generous signup bonus and the ability to earn double points on purchases. When deciding which card would be the best fit for you, it will come down to redemption. If you are looking for something that is a little more flexible, then the Capital One Venture card might be best.

However if you don’t have a problem booking your travel through individual loyalty programs, and know how to search for optimal value, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card would be a great fit.

No matter which card you decide to go with, you’re likely going to be very satisfied with your choice. Before applying, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to make sure there aren’t any errors or surprises on your credit reports that will keep you from being approved. It’s easy to get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 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, the Capital One Venture 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. 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).

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Getting The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Made My Credit Score Go Up By Almost 40 Points

To help make a family vacation more affordable, I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and it surprisingly boosted my credit score. Here's how.

I’m planning a family vacation to Hawaii for myself, my husband and our daughter for later this year. Although I’m typically not much of a travel hacker, my goal is to get the airfare and lodging to be as inexpensive as possible, which is what lead me to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

This credit card offers a very large welcome bonus to eligible new cardholders (100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases with the card within the first three months after account opening). I wanted this card in particular because points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel. In other words, if I spend the 100,000 points on travel, they will yield $1,500 in travel reward value.

Applying for the New Card

I was fairly certain my application would be approved. I knew my credit score at the time was somewhere around 740 or 750, depending on the source. I know it could be even higher, but at this level I don’t worry about it too much. I use credit cards for almost everything I buy and, although I’m not perfect — I do carry a balance now and then — most months I pay my credit card balances in full. I usually see high utilization reflected in my credit scores, though, because the balances are often reported before my payment due dates. But just like I expected, my card was approved. But what I didn’t expect was what would happen to my credit scores.

The Thing That Sent My Credit Score Skyrocketing

I knew applying for a new credit card would knock a few points off my scores. What I didn’t expect was the very high credit limit ($12,000) on my new Reserve card. The credit limits on my other cards range from $1,900 to $7,200.

When I checked my credit after receiving the card (which I did for free on Credit.com), I was pleasantly surprised. My credit score had gone up 37 points!

I was quite suddenly within reach of the elite 800+ club, and the only significant change was my overall amount of available credit, and the lower utilization ratio that resulted.

Let’s make sure that’s plain as day. Lowering my credit utilization ratio to 12% caused my credit score to rise by 37 points.

One of the keys to excellent credit is having low utilization — meaning keeping your debt levels low in relation to your overall credit limit. Experts recommend keeping that rate at 30%, ideally 10%, of your overall credit limit. So, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit and you charge $900, your utilization would be reported as 90%. Bumping my credit limit up helped me improve my scores. But remember: Just because you have a higher limit doesn’t mean you should be spending more, especially if you can’t afford to pay off the balance in full.

What else impacts your credit? Using the free credit scores tool on Credit.com, I found out what other factors I had working for and against me.

On-Time Payments: 100% (excellent). No work to do here. I automate many payments, and use a bill pay app to help me make sure I maintain a good payment history (this accounts for 35% of your credit scores).

Oldest Credit Line: 12 years (good). My student loans from the ‘80s and ’90s finally aged off, lowering my average file age. I’ll need to hold on to my oldest accounts to improve this factor. Also, the average age of all of my accounts is just five years, pulled down by my new Chase account.

Utilization: 12% (good). To lower this, especially after holiday spending, I plan to focus on making my credit card payments by the statement closing date on each card. That way, the balance reported will be zero.

Recent Inquiries: 1 (good). This was the Chase card I recently applied for, and I know the inquiry counts against my score for one year (and ages off my credit report after two years). I’ll avoid applying for new credit for the time being.

New Accounts: 2 (good to average). I recently refinanced my mortgage. The inquiry was more than six but less than 12 months ago.

Before You Get a New Credit Card

Are you considering getting a new card? Well, first up, you’ll want to see what your credit scores are so you have an idea of the types of cards you may qualify for.

Needless to say, so-called “elite” credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve would likely not be available to me if I had a low credit score, as you typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for rewards credit cards. Because my credit is already healthy, I can take advantage of deals that are only available to consumers with good or excellent credit. In this case, a great credit score translates to being able to have the chance to secure $1,500 in travel perks.

Beyond that, you’ll want to look at the details of any card you’re considering. Is there an annual fee and, if so, would it fit into your budget? (The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $450 annual fee, for example.) And think about your personal habits. Do you tend to carry a balance? If so, a rewards credit card may not be right for you, as you’ll likely lose out any benefits of the card due to paying those interest charges.

As for that trip to Hawaii, I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points from two lower-tier Chase cards over to the Reserve account where they have more value. Once I get the welcome bonus, I’ll have more than 200,000 points to shop with. Not enough for an all-expenses paid week vacation for three, but I’ve still got plenty more time to earn and save.

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.

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Chase’s Hot New Credit Card Could Cost Them up to $300 Million

Chase's new credit card is so wildly popular, and offers such great perks, it's costing the bank money.

Back in September, Chase ran out of the metal versions of their new Sapphire Reserve credit card because of such high demand. And, while it seems the card is still drawing a lot of attention (and applicants), it’s costing Chase money — as much as $300 million, in fact.

At least that’s according to a recent Bloomberg report, which says the card is expected to hurt profits by $200 million to $300 million in the fourth quarter. (Don’t feel too bad, they’re still anticipating a $5 billion profit this quarter.) And, according to the report, the bank won’t break even on the investment they’ve made into this card for almost six years. Despite all this, the JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said “the card has been doing great” when he spoke at an investor conference in New York on Tuesday.

Wondering what all the fuss is about with this Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card? Well…

What Makes This Card So Popular

There’s a lot to be said about this credit card — to start, after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of having the card, you’ll get 100,000 bonus points. Yes, you read that right: 100,000 points, which is equal to $1,500 in travel redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform. And, if you have wanderlust, you’ll also like that this card gives you an annual statement credit of up to $300 to reimburse you for travel purchases. (Starting to understand why this card is so popular and costing Chase some money?)

All this from a credit card is pretty amazing, right? There’s more. While you’ve still got jet setting on the brain, it’s worth mentioning that this card will reimburse you up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application, as well as give you access to airport lounges and special benefits at certain hotels and when renting cars.

And let’s talk about spending rewards: You get three points per dollar on travel and dining and one point per dollar for all other purchases. When you redeem through the Chase rewards platform, your points will go further, as you’ll get 50% more in travel redemption.

As many rewards credit cards do, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with an annual fee, and it isn’t a subtle one: $450. You also have to pay the annual fee upfront. And if you can’t pay your statement in full (a best practice with rewards credit cards so you don’t lose your perks to interest fees), you’re looking at a variable APR of 16.24% to 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.

Adding Plastic to Your Wallet

Yes, these rewards are amazing and can be exceptionally tempting. But, not so fast: You want to think about if adding this card, or any other card, to your collection is really right for you before you hit “Submit” on that application. Are you going to be able to make that $450 annual fee worthwhile or would a credit card with a lower yearly fee (or not one at all) be better? And if it’s that signup bonus that sounds most appealing to you, is it an amount you’d be able to afford to spend? After all, added spending just to get a bonus (and ultimately ending up in debt) certainly isn’t worth it.

Part of considering which credit card may be right for you is also knowing what cards you’re likely to qualify for. Cards that offer rewards tend to require a good credit score, so it’s good to know if you’re even eligible before applying. After all, you don’t want that hard inquiry on your credit just to be rejected for the new card. (You can find out where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) If you discover your scores aren’t at the level you’d like them to be, all is not lost: Consider paying down debts, repairing any report damage you may discover and limiting inquiries on your credit until your scores rebound.

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