3 Secured Credit Cards That Reward Responsible Use

Smiling young woman holding a credit card and typing on a laptop.

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

Secured credit cards are great for those who want to improve their bad or nonexistent credit. Because they require a security deposit to open—which may also act as your credit limit while you build up better credit—they’re easier to qualify for than traditional credit cards. Once a secured card is in your pocket, you can use it to make purchases and build credit just like an unsecured card.

Making timely payments on a secured card can help you build a great credit score. But some cards go the extra mile with policies that reward responsible card use and timely payments.

Here are our top three secured credit cards with incentives for responsible use.

1. Capital One Secured Mastercard

Rewards: None

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $0

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 24.99% APR on purchases.

Why We Picked It: A short initial period of timely payments can get you access to a credit limit increase with no additional deposit required.

Responsibility Reward: Depending on your credit, Capital One’s secured card will require a $49, $99, or $200 security deposit for an initial credit line of $200. After five months of on-time payments, Capital One may increase your credit limit with no additional deposit required.

Drawbacks: The APR is pretty high, even for a secured card.

2. Discover it Secured Card

Rewards: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in quarterly gas and restaurant purchases; 1% cash back on other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: First-year cash back matching.

Annual Fee: $0

APR: Variable 23.99% APR on purchases; 10.99% APR for six months on balance transfers, then variable 23.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: This card offers a way to earn back your initial deposit.

Responsibility Reward: Your initial security deposit is equal to your credit limit—for instance, a $500 security deposit will get you a $500 credit limit. After eight months, Discover will begin a monthly account review and may refund your security deposit if you meet its qualifications.

Drawbacks: If you don’t spend much on gas or dining, you won’t earn as much cash back.

3. BankAmericard Secured Credit Card

Rewards: None

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $39

APR: Variable 21.24% APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: A year of responsible use could help you recover your security deposit.

Responsibility Reward: This card requires a security deposit of at least $300, and your initial credit line is equal to the deposit amount. After a year, Bank of America will review your account and overall credit history and may refund your security deposit.

Drawbacks: There’s a $39 annual fee.

How to Choose a Secured Credit Card

With any secured credit card, your primary focus should be building credit. Pick a card that helps you make timely payments and maintain a low balance. If you can, you should avoid cards with high annual fees or lofty interest rates (although high APRs do tend to come with the territory).

Determine the security deposit you can reasonably afford and look for a card that will accept that amount. While most secured cards will extend an initial credit line equal to your deposit, some may extend a higher limit right out of the gate.

While you should do your due diligence, don’t be discouraged if a credit card issuer doesn’t explicitly state that it will refund your deposit or increase your credit line over time. Many credit card issuers are willing to negotiate these terms with responsible customers over the phone. Over time, you may even be able to get an unsecured card with better rewards and lower interest rates. 

What Credit Is Required for a Secured Credit Card?

Consumers with poor or nonexistent credit can qualify for secured credit cards, but approval isn’t a sure thing. To increase your odds of success, you should check your credit score before you apply. You can check your credit report free at Credit.com. 

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Capital One Secured Mastercard and Discover it Secured Credit Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of 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.

The post 3 Secured Credit Cards That Reward Responsible Use appeared first on Credit.com.

Looking to Save on Rail Travel? Take This Card Aboard

The Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard rewards spending with points that save on train tickets.

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

Traveling by train offers a number of advantages over flying or driving. Rail travel can provide better comfort, eliminate the hassle of the airport and offer a better opportunity to take in sights along the way. Amtrak covers many American regions by rail, offering passengers a way to travel to more than 500 destinations in 46 states.

If you love to travel with Amtrak, you may want to check out the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, which rewards spending with points that save on train tickets.

Riding the Rails Earns Rewards

The Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard earns three points for every dollar you spend with Amtrak. You’ll also earn two points for every dollar you spend on other qualifying travel purchases such as airfare, car rentals, cruises and hotel stays, and one point for every dollar spent on everything else.

You’ll get 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 on your card within 90 days of opening your account.

Points can be redeemed for many things, including hotel certificates, car rentals and gift cards. But the greatest redemption value is reserved for rail travel, as you’ll earn back 5% of all points redeemed for Amtrak tickets.

In addition, every $5,000 in purchases you charge to your card in a calendar year earns 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs), for up to 4,000 TQPs in a year. Earning enough TQPs can qualify you for Amtrak Guest Rewards membership, which comes in different tiers and offers benefits such as extra point bonuses, seat upgrades, exclusive discounts and lounge access.

Additional Amtrak Perks

You’ll also get the opportunity to travel with a friend and ride in style. Upon opening your account, you’ll receive a free Companion Coupon, a class upgrade and a single day pass to Amtrak’s ClubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or First Class lounges.

Each year you renew your card membership, you’ll get another free Companion Coupon and class upgrade.

The Cost to Ride the Rails

The card comes with a variable 13.74% to 23.74% annual percentage rate on purchases and balance transfers.

The annual fee is $79. There are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers incur a fee of $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater.

Is Amtrak’s Credit Card for You?

As you might have guessed, Amtrak’s credit card is best suited to frequent Amtrak customers. Amtrak ticket purchases earn the greatest number of points, so you won’t see as much value if you don’t frequently travel with Amtrak. The best redemption value is reserved for Amtrak tickets, which earn back 5%. If you’re eyeing the signup bonus, remember that it comes with a 90-day spending minimum.

You’ll also have to be willing to pay an annual fee of $79. If that isn’t appealing, Amtrak offers a credit card with no annual fee, but it earns fewer points, has a smaller signup bonus and doesn’t offer complimentary Companion Coupons.

If you also like to fly or drive to your destinations, you might be better off with a general travel card that rewards all travel methods. As different travel credit cards reward different types of purchases, you’ll want to shop around for the card that rewards the trips you tend to make.

Travel rewards credit cards usually require good to excellent credit. A hard inquiry into your credit can lower your score a few points, so you should be reasonably certain you can qualify before you apply. You can see two of your credit scores free on Credit.com to gain insight into your credit.

Want more ideas on how to save on travel? We’ve got 50 ways to travel without overspending right here.

Image: halbergman

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.

The post Looking to Save on Rail Travel? Take This Card Aboard appeared first on Credit.com.

Credit Card Rewards More Than Doubled Since the Recession, New Study Shows

Credit card rewards have become increasingly lucrative, as credit card issuers battle for customers. From 100,000 point sign-on bonuses to 6% cash back offers, it has never been a better time to be a credit card customer.

These rewards come at a steep price for banks. To find out just how much the top banks are spending on lucrative credit card rewards, MagnifyMoney reviewed data from the six largest credit card issuers representing 67.6% of the market.

The rapid growth in credit card rewards are dramatic:

Rewards spending doubles

  • Since 2010, credit card rewards spending has more than doubled, from $10.6 billion to $22.6 billion.
    • In 2016, the largest credit card issuers spent $22.6 billion on rewards, compared to $10.6 billion in 2010.
    • In Q1 2017, credit card issuers spent $6.2 billion on rewards, compared to $5.1 billion in Q1 2016 — a 22% year-over-year growth rate.

The New King of Rewards Spend: Chase

  • Chase leads the pack. Beginning in 2016, Chase has led the pack in total rewards spending. Spending on credit card rewards at Chase grew 123% since 2010, and Chase now spends more money on rewards than longtime American Express. Although the headlines have focused on the success of the Chase Sapphire Reserve launch in mid-2016, Chase has been enhancing its entire rewards perks section since the Great Recession.
  • American Express fades. American Express, long the leader in rewards, had the smallest increase in rewards spending with a 36% growth during the period of 2010-2017. With the loss of their deal with wholesale retailer Costco, American Express is offering more lucrative rewards on all its other cards.
  • Citibank triples rewards spending. Citibank has the highest percentage increase in spending since 2010 (333%). Citi won the Costco deal and has also been busy launching its own rewards products, including Citi Double Cash (which can pay up to 2% cash back) and its suite of Thank You products.

Great News for Consumers — But What About Credit Card Issuers?

The best rewards credit cards have lucrative sign-on bonuses and rich ongoing rewards structures. But is this sustainable? And can the credit card companies make money?

MagnifyMoney conducted a national survey of people who opened credit cards in the last year. The results demonstrate that there is a method to the strategies being deployed by the largest issuers: it is a great way to create a loyal customer base.

  • 44.5% of the people surveyed said they opened their accounts because of a sign-on bonus.
  • But 85.4% of the people surveyed said that the ongoing features and benefits of the product were most important in their decision.
  • Only 6.7% of the people surveyed said that they planned to cancel or close a card that they opened in the last year.
  • Only 3.7% of people go from credit card offer to credit card offer for sign-up bonuses.

The results might seem counterintuitive.

However, former credit card executive and MagnifyMoney co-founder Nick Clements explains:

The purpose of a sign-on bonus is to encourage people to act. Most people do not wake up in the morning wanting to open a credit card — and a sign-on bonus is a way for a credit card company to encourage people to reconsider their options. It is no different from a sale in a traditional department store. But what really matters to consumers, as these results reveal, is the ongoing value proposition. People don’t particularly enjoy shopping for credit cards, and they tend to stay put once they do shift. The smartest credit card issuers are luring consumers with a big incentive (the sign-on bonus), and they are keeping them with strong ongoing value propositions.

Chase Sapphire Reserve was probably the most successful product launch in credit card history. And it worked because it hit every button. The massive sign-on bonus gave people a reason to apply for a card. But the ongoing reward proposition was perfectly designed for its target audience. Those customers are going to stick around and become long-term customers.

As our survey found, there are people who like to go from credit card offer to credit card offer. However, this is a small group (only 3.7%, according to the survey). And credit card companies are becoming much better at identifying and rejecting these consumers.

Methodology

Cost of Rewards

Cost of rewards is publicly disclosed by American Express, Discover, and Capital One. For the remaining issuers, MagnifyMoney estimated the cost of rewards. For the estimate:

  • Credit purchase volume is disclosed by the credit card companies. A simplifying 1.75% credit interchange rate was assumed to determine gross credit interchange.
  • Debit purchase volume was provided by the Nilson Report. Actual debit interchange rates were pulled from the Federal Reserve.
  • FDIC Call Reports for each institution were used to determine the net interchange rate across debit and credit.
  • The difference between gross interchange and net interchange was assumed to be the rewards spend.

Credit Card Usage Survey

MagnifyMoney hired Survata to perform a national online survey of 1,000 adults who opened a credit card in the last year (the screening question).

The post Credit Card Rewards More Than Doubled Since the Recession, New Study Shows appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

4 Hacks for Using the Capital One Venture Miles Program

The Capital One Ventures Miles program has some of the most flexible rewards out there. Here's how to take advantage.

Over the past decade, Capital One Venture cards have become popular for a few reasons. Not only have they brought on several A-list celebrities to become the face of the program, but Capital One Venture rewards are also some of the most flexible travel rewards available. Even though the Capital One Venture program might have become a household name, not everyone understands exactly how to use the rewards they earn. Let’s take a deeper look into the ways that you can hack as much value as possible out of your Capital One Venture rewards.

1. Booking Travel

One way you can use your Capital One Venture miles is to book travel through the Capital One website. Each mile converts to one cent in value. Booking is extremely simple through the website. You can use your miles to book airline reservations, hotels, car rentals or vacation packages. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you are required to have the full amount of miles needed for your reservation. You are not allowed to partially pay with miles and cover the rest with cash.

2. Purchase Eraser

If you prefer to book your travel plans elsewhere you can do so and use Capital One’s Purchase Eraser. This allows you to use the miles you have earned to offset travel expenses and by receiving a statement credit. You will simply log into your online account and if a purchase is coded as travel, you can apply your miles. By redeeming your rewards this way you will also receive a value of one cent per mile. What is great about using Purchase Eraser instead of just booking travel with your miles, is that partial rewards are allowed. You might have booked a $200 hotel room, but you can redeem as little as $25 worth of rewards.

3. Gift Cards

If you’re not interested in redeeming your miles for travel, you can also cash them in for gift cards. Gift cards are available for a large selection of retailers including Bath and Body Works, AMC Theaters and Best Buy. Most of these come with redemptions amounts of $25, $50 or $100, however, a few are as low as $10. There will be a value of one cent per mile, which means there is a minimum of 1,000 miles needed.

4. Cash Back

The method that offers the worst value is to redeem miles for cash back. There is no minimum for the number of miles needed to redeem, however you will only receive a value of a half cent per mile. You will be able to receive either a check or statement credit.

Cards That Earn Capital One Venture Miles

Now it’s time to look at cards that allow you to earn Capital One Venture Miles. There are just two:

Capital One Venture Rewards Card

When you sign up for the Capital One Venture Rewards card, you receive 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months. You can then earn two miles per dollar on every purchase you make with the card. There is no need to remember different bonus or rotating categories. This card comes with no foreign transaction fees, but has a $59 annual fee, which is waived the first year. The APR is a variable 13.74%, 18.74% or 23.74%, depending on your credit standing.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card is slightly different. This card has no annual fee, but also has slightly lower earning potential. When you sign up you receive 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months. You can then earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. If you travel outside the United States, this card charges no foreign transaction fees. Plus, if you plan to make a large purchase, the Capital One VentureOne card offers an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases. Afterward, it rises to a variable 12.74%, 17.74% or 22.74%, based on creditworthiness.

Not sure which is the right choice for you? Learn more about how they compare here.

Qualifying for either card will require excellent credit. To see where you stand, you can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

Image: wundervisuals 

At publishing time, the Capital One Venture Rewards and Capital One VentureOne Rewards cards 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 4 Hacks for Using the Capital One Venture Miles Program appeared first on Credit.com.

Can I Pay My Taxes With a Credit Card?

Tax season is upon us, and many people are discovering they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). (Still haven’t filed? You may want to read these 50 things to know if you haven’t done your taxes yet.)

This year, you have until April 18 to figure out how to pay taxes — April 15 falls on a Saturday, so taxes aren’t officially due until the following Tuesday. While there really isn’t a way to lower your tax bill at this point, although proper planning could lower it for next year, you may be wondering if you charge the bill to your credit card.

The short answer is yes, you can pay your taxes with a credit card. In fact, doing so may actually benefit you, if you’re using a rewards card. But there’s a lot to consider before doing you go this route.

Should You Use a Credit Card to Pay Your Taxes?

The answer here is maybe. If you have the means to pay your taxes in cash but are looking to earn some rewards, then a big tax bill is certainly a good opportunity to do that (assuming you pay the card off in full and don’t lose rewards to interest fees — more on that in a bit). But if you’re considering using your credit card to pay your taxes simply because you can’t afford them right now, the more prudent financial decision is very likely to talk to the IRS about a payment plan. Whatever you do, don’t avoid paying your taxes. It can have lasting ramifications for your finances, including your credit. You can see how your financial choices are affecting your credit by taking a look at your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Remember: There Are Fees

The IRS is contracted with three different companies to collect payments. These companies impose convenience fees that range from 1.87% to 2%. (You can read more about how to pay your taxes with a credit card here.) In order to profit by paying your taxes with a credit card, you have to earn more than the fees they are charging you.

There are a lot of rewards cards out there that offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on purchases.  But if you’re paying 1.87% and earning 2% you aren’t profiting much (on a $5,000 tax bill, you earn $6.50).

Paying With an Existing Card

If you don’t want a new card, or think you won’t qualify for a rewards card, it can still be advantageous to use your existing card can have advantages over paying your taxes through your bank account, even if it doesn’t have cash back. Credit cards give you a grace period from when you charge, to when you have to pay. Let’s suppose your card cycles on the eleventh of the month, so you pay your taxes on April 12. The next cycle ends on May 11 and your payment is due on June 11. That’s two extra months to hang onto your money and not incur any interest.

Considering a New Card Instead?

There are a lot of options out there, so you’ll want to think about which one would be most financially beneficial. Here’s an example: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (read our review here) offers a 50,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

So, let’s suppose you have a $5,000 tax bill. After factoring in the fee, you spent $5,093.50, and you have 55,093 points available. If you cash out your points, you earn $550.93, a profit of $457.43. Not bad for a bill you were required to pay anyway. (It’s worth noting that this particular card does have a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.)

If you plan to travel, then your rewards could be redeemed for a bit more. When you use your Chase rewards points to book airfare, hotels, car rentals or a handful of other travel expenses, you get a 25% bonus. So that $550.93 actually turns into $688.66 toward travel expenses booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. In other words, you’ve just paid for a plane ticket to just about anywhere in the U.S. (Have a Chase rewards card? Check out these three hacks for using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.)

Can’t Pay the Card Off Right Away?

Now, if you can’t afford to pay off the balance of your tax bill right away, the above is moot. Here’s why: There’s no introductory 0% APR on balance transfers or new purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or many cards like it, so unless you can pay it off right away, you’re going to incur interest on that balance. This particular Chase card comes with a variable APR of 16.49% to 23.49% based on your creditworthiness, which would quickly offset any rewards you may earn.

If you can’t afford to pay your taxes right away, but you’re set on using your tax bill to net some nice rewards, there are some cards that offer a 0% APR on new purchases that can also give you some nice rewards, like the Discover it card.

The Discover it card (read our review here) comes with an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months. After the introductory period is over the APR will change to a variable 11.49% to 23.49%. When you use the Discover it card to pay your taxes, you will receive 1% cash back. Additionally, Discover will match all cash back earned for the first 12 months. That means, sticking with the $5,000 tax bill, the overall cost would be $5,093.50. Including the cash back match, you would earn $100 in cash back, making your overall profit $6.50. While this isn’t a lot of money, you were also given up to 14 months to pay off your bill without accruing interest, which may be an even bigger reward for some people.

At publishing time, the Discover it 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).

Image: sturti

The post Can I Pay My Taxes With a Credit Card? appeared first on Credit.com.

3 Hacks for Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Program is one of the most flexible out there. Check out these cool ways of using your points.

If you have a Chase credit card, or are considering getting one, you’ve likely heard of the Chase Ultimate Reward program. There are several rewards credit cards in the Chase repertoire (more on those in a minute) and, while they may have different reward structures, the reward program is the same. No matter which Ultimate Rewards eligible card you have, you may want to consider these three hacks to help you use your points in the way that benefits you the most. (Note: Before you apply for any of these cards, make sure your credit scores are high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

1. Transferring Ultimate Reward Points to Loyalty Partners

One of the most popular uses for Ultimate Reward points is being able to transfer them directly to one of the many airline and hotel partners. All of their partners give you the ability to move points one-to-one. Partners you can choose from include:

  • United Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Air France / KLM
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton

Each of these partners has its own sweet spot, which is what makes them all so special. Southwest Airlines, for example, may run a $39 fare sale, which make it possible to book one-way flights for less than 3,000 points. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii then transferring your miles to Korean Air is a great option. Korean Air, which only requires 25,000 Korean Air Skypass miles to book a round-trip economy ticket to Hawaii from North America.

2. Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal to Book Travel

Another way to use your Ultimate Reward points is to book your travel directly through the Ultimate Rewards portal. You can book airfare, hotels or other excursions. The actual value you receive depends on the card you have. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card you will receive a 50% bonus when booking your travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That means 50,000 points would be worth $750 toward travel. If you have any of the other Ultimate Reward earning cards, the bonus is 25%. That would make 50,000 points worth $625 of travel.

3. Redeeming Ultimate Rewards for Cash Back

Another redemption option, but the one offering the least amount of value, is to redeem points for cash back. Each point you redeem would be worth one cent. That means 50,000 points redeemed for cash back would have a value of $500.

Earning Chase Ultimate Reward Points

There are several credit cards that allow you to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s look at what each card has to offer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (read our review here), you can receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. If you decide to add an authorized user to your account, you can receive an extra 5,000 points. They just need to make a purchase within the first three months. You earn two points per dollar when you use the card on travel expenses and at restaurants. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. This card has an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Chase Sapphire Reserve (read our review here) is Chase’s premium card. When you sign up, you can receive 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You will then receive three points per dollar when you use the card for travel and at restaurants. This card includes a fairly high $450 annual fee, but much of that can be recouped with the travel benefits you receive. To start, you will receive a $300 travel credit that can be used for everything from airfare to baggage fees. You will also receive up to a $100 statement credit when you apply for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. So that you can relax a little easier while traveling, you will also receive a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. This will give you access to more than 900 different airport lounges worldwide.

Chase Ink Business Preferred: If you have a small business, you can pick up the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. With this card, you will be able to earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months. You will then be able to earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each calendar year on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and on any online advertising that you do through social media and search engines. This card has a $95 annual fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: If you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited you will not have the opportunity to earn Ultimate Reward points directly. You will, however, be able to transfer your rewards into Ultimate Reward points if you also carry one of the previously mentioned cards. When you sign up for this card you will receive a $150 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. This bonus can be transferred into 15,000 Ultimate Reward points. If you’d like to add an authorized user to your account, you will receive an extra $25, or 2,500 points, after they make a purchase in the first three months. You will then receive 1.5% cash back on all purchases you make with the card. This card has no annual fee.

Chase Freedom: The Chase Freedom card is similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited in that you can’t earn Ultimate Rewards directly. You need to also carry one of the other Ultimate Reward-earning cards and then transfer your points. When you sign up for the Chase Freedom card you will earn a $150 bonus, or 15,000 points, after spending $500 in the first three months. The Chase Freedom card is a little different because it includes rotating categories each quarter, giving you the ability to earn 5% cash back, on up to $1,500 per quarter. One quarter might reward purchases at restaurants and gas stations, and the next it might be department stores and movie theaters. All other purchases that you make will earn 1% back. This card comes with no annual fee. (We think Chase Freedom is one of the best credit card deals around. Check out our other favorites.)

Image: jacoblund

At publishing time, the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards 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 3 Hacks for Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program appeared first on Credit.com.

Amex Soups Up Platinum Card With Free Uber Rides

platinum card free uber rides

American Express is giving Platinum cardholders up to $200 a year in free Uber rides as part of a host of new rewards taking effect March 30.

The American Express Platinum card, which already came with a host of premium benefits like access to airport lounges and a $200 statement credit toward airline fees, is also increasing its already hefty annual fee of $450 to $550 as the new benefits come online.

In addition to the Uber credits, Platinum members will get five points in the American Express Membership Rewards Program for every dollar they spend booking eligible hotels on amextravel.com. Members also get access to more airport lounges and a new Global Dining Collection, which includes exclusive reserved seating at culinary events.

How to Get the Uber Credits

Many American Express cardholders use Uber, the company said in a press release. The new Uber Rides with Platinum reward will give members $15 in Uber credit per month, plus a $20 bonus in December, if they add their American Express Platinum Card as a payment method in the Uber app. The credits will show up in the app.

The expansion of the Global Lounge Collection gives cardholders access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across 120 countries. American Express also is expanding its “By Invitation Only” program, giving cardholders access to swanky events like the Harper’s Bazaar 150th anniversary party or the Grand Prix de Monaco.

Meanwhile, the existing benefits of Platinum membership remain, including one Membership Rewards Program point for every dollar spent. The points can be redeemed with more than a dozen airlines and to snag other rewards, like gift cards and merchandise. The card also confers travel insurance and purchase protections policies.

Another important thing to know: This isn’t really a credit card, but rather a charge card. Card holders are expected to pay their balance in full each month.

Regardless, you’ll need a strong credit score to qualify. To see where you stand, you can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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).

Image: martin-dm

The post Amex Soups Up Platinum Card With Free Uber Rides appeared first on Credit.com.

5 New Starwood Hotels You Can Visit for Free

Planning your spring break vacation? Be sure to factor in these Starwood hotels you can stay at for free.

As we move into spring break season, a lot of you may have vacation plans. If not, then it might be time to start planning a trip. Deciding where to go can be the hardest part of all, as your bucket list of locations may be pretty long. However, if you have credit card rewards, your travel plans will probably be made based on your points and rewards. (You may also consider these 28 ways to save for this years big adventure.)

If you have a large balance of Starwood Points, you might want to consider one of these five Starwood properties that have recently opened around the world. Take a look.

1. Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Located in California’s Napa Valley, this new Luxury Collection hotel is perfect for any wine lover. Most of the hotels’ rooms come with spacious balconies overlooking the vineyards. When not taking advantage of the complementary shuttle, you can indulge yourself at the hotels’ luxury spa. Or you might choose to dine at The Acacia House, the restaurant by Top Chef alum Chris Cosentino.

This is a Category seven property, so it will set you back 30,000 to 35,000 points a night.

2. W Las Vegas

If Las Vegas is more your scene, make sure you check out the new W Las Vegas. Located on the northern end of the Strip, you will find this new property in one of the SLS towers. You will have access to seven different restaurants as well as three entertainment venues and a bar to wind down with a drink. If you want to get out and explore the Las Vegas area, Enterprise Rent-a-Car service is available.

The W Las Vegas is a Category five property, so it will cost 12,000 to 16,000 points a night.

3. Le Méridien Visconti Rome

If you are looking to get out of the U.S., then Rome might be the perfect place to visit this year. This new Starwood property is located in a prime location near the Vatican. If you have ever been to Rome, then you know that most of the city’s hotels were decorated with the renaissance style in mind. The Le Méridien Visconti Rome chose to do things a little differently, going for a sleek contemporary look. Not only does this hotel have the perfect location, you will enjoy its rooftop terrace while you relax after a long day of sightseeing.

The Le Méridien Visconti Rome is a Category five property, meaning rooms cost 12,000 to 16,000 points a night.

4. The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club

Polo is one of the most popular sports in the United Arab Emirates, and this property sits on a massive equestrian complex. In fact, the St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is host to the Dubai Polo Gold Cup.

The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is a Category six property, so rooms will cost 20,000 to 25,000 points a night.

5. Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin

If you are looking to hit the slopes this spring, you might want to check out the Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin. This chalet-style hotel, situated near Montenegro’s northern city, Kolašin, feels just like you are in the Rocky Mountains or Swiss Alps. And it has the services you require. You will find two on-site restaurants, a rental car counter, and a spa where you can relax after a long day on the slopes.

The Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin is a Category four hotel, which means rooms will cost 10,000 points a night.

How to Earn Starwood Points With Your Credit Card

The easiest way to earn Starwood points fast is by using the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. When you sign up for this card, you will earn up to 35,000 points. You will earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You will then earn an additional 10,000 points after spending another $2,000 in the first six months. (This offer expires April 5, 2017.)

When you use the card at Starwood properties, you can earn up to five points. You can also earn two points when you use the card at participating Marriott properties. All other purchases with the card will earn one point. As a cardholder, you will receive a credit for two stays and five nights that count toward SPG Elite status. (You can read more about this card in our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card review.)

You can choose to redeem your points at any of the 1,000+ Starwood properties, including the five mentioned above. You can also choose to transfer your points to one of many different airlines. When you do this, you will receive a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. This card has an annual fee of $95 that’s waived the first year. It carries a variable APR of 15.74% to 19.74%, based on your creditworthiness. (Not sure where your credit stands? You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Note: Marriott bought Starwood hotels last year — You can go here to read about how this will impact your credit card rewards.

How to Earn Starwood Points for Your Business

If you are a business owner, then you will have even more options for earning Starwood points. In addition to the personal credit card, you will also be able to get the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. With this card, you will have the chance to earn 35,000 points. You will receive 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. You will then earn another 10,000 points after spending an additional $3,000 in the first six months. (This offer ends April 5, 2017.)

With this card, you will be able to earn Starwood points the same way you can with the personal card. The business card also comes with a few extra benefits. You will receive unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi at any Boingo hotspot, and you will receive access to Sheraton Club lounges. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. Its variable APR is 15.74%, 17.74% or 19.74% based on your creditworthiness when you apply.

At publishing time, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit 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. Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Image: franckreporter

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BankAmericard Travel Review: No Cap on Miles Earned

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With so many travel rewards credit cards to choose from, it can be difficult to make a good decision about which credit card is best for you. One card you might consider is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card.

But before you sign up for this card, or any credit card, you should know all the fine print.

In this BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card review, we’ll cover:

  • Card details
  • Interest rates and fees
  • Rewards details
  • Getting the most from rewards programs
  • Safety and security

Card Details for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

According to the Bank of America website, you are not limited to the number of points you can earn with this credit card. You’ll earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on anything, anywhere, and points never expire. You can also earn 20,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening. This reward can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Bank of America customers are also eligible for a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase with an active Bank of America checking or savings account. Bank of America also has a Preferred Rewards program, which helps customers increase that bonus up to 25% or more. The Preferred Rewards program benefits are based on the three tiers of the program. Your tier is based on your qualifying combined balances in your Bank of America bank accounts and your Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts.

  • Gold Tier: $20,000 – $49,999
  • Platinum Tier: $50,000 – $99,999
  • Platinum Honors Tier: $100,000+ 

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Interest Rates and Fees

Another major benefit of the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card is that there is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Plus, BankAmericard also offers an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases for new cardholders for their first 12 billing cycles, after which the interest rate will be determined based on creditworthiness. Balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee on each transaction with a minimum fee of $10. Balance transfers are not eligible for the introductory 0% interest rate.

Rewards Details

In addition to earning 1.5 points for every $1 spent, you can also earn 3 point per $1 spent through the Bank of America Travel Center, with no spending limit or limit on points earned. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card points do not expire and are not subject to blackout dates or restrictions.

Points can be redeemed for a travel credit or cash reward (statement credit) starting at 2,500 points. A travel credit is applied as a statement credit to your account to offset travel purchases from qualifying merchants for:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels or motels
  • Car rentals
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agencies
  • Other transportation costs (taxis, buses, etc.)
  • Tourist attractions and exhibits

The fine print states that some costs are not eligible for a travel credit, like tolls, parking garage fees, in-flight purchases, and rentals of vehicles for the purpose of hauling. Travel purchases are eligible for a travel credit for 12 months from the posting date. For travel credit, 2,500 points = $25.

Points can also be redeemed for cash rewards or gift cards starting at 3,125 points. If you’re interested in cash redemption, this can come in the form of a check or an electronic deposit into either your Bank of America checking or savings account or as a contribution toward your Merrill Lynch investment account. Should you chose to redeem your points for cash rewards or gift cards, 2,500 points = $15.

Safety and Security

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers several safety and security benefits that are pretty standard among major credit card companies, including:

$0 Liability Guarantee: Potential fraud and abnormal patterns are blocked until you confirm the purchase. There is a $0 Liability Guarantee for fraudulent transactions. 

Chip Cards: New chip technology is offered for enhanced security at chip-enabled terminals.

Overdraft Protection: Bank of America customers are eligible for Overdraft Protection to prevent declined purchases when you link your Bank of America checking account to your credit card.

Digital Wallet Technology: Your BankAmericard can be added to your mobile device using Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay.

Online and Mobile Banking: Access your credit card statement and information from almost anywhere with online and mobile banking. 

Account Alerts: You can enroll in several different types of account alerts to help you monitor activity, including when payments are due and when payment is received. 

Text Banking: After enrolling in text banking, you can send a text and get a reply in seconds with all the information you need regarding your BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card.

How to Get the Most Value from Travel Rewards Programs

Although the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers a fairly generous program for earning rewards, there are some ways to get even more value from travel rewards programs.

The Venture Rewards Credit Card from Capital One is another travel rewards credit card that doesn’t cap miles earned. Like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card, you’ll be reimbursed for travel expenses on your statement. Every 10,000 miles is worth $100, and you earn 2 miles per $1 spent instead of 1.5 points per $1 with BankAmericard. But there is a $65 annual fee for this credit card that is waived for the first year.

Serious travel enthusiasts love the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card because points are transferred into real airline miles and hotel points with several travel partners. Every 10,000 points is worth $125 in flights, hotels, or rental cars when booked through the Chase website. Plus, you get double points on all dining and travel purchases you make on this card. There is an annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year.

Who Will Benefit Most from the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card?

Serious savers who are already customers with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge will benefit the most from having this credit card. The 1.5 points per $1 spent is pretty basic, but if you are a Bank of America customer, you can increase your rewards significantly, earning 2.25-2.6 points per $1 with no limits. Plus, with a bonus of 20,000 points for new customers and no annual fee, this is an attractive option for earning travel rewards.

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