Bank of America Premium Rewards® Credit Card Review: Rewards for High Spenders with a BofA Relationship

Bank of America is joining the premium rewards card category with the new Bank of America Premium Rewards® credit card. This card boasts a 50,000-point sign-on bonus and a much lower annual fee ($95) than comparable cards, making it a great way for consumers to earn rewards at a low yearly cost. There are additional perks for Bank of America account holders that will allow you to earn a higher rewards rate, making this card a great choice if you have an account with Bank of America and are looking for a premium rewards card.

We believe that everyone should be able to earn at least 2% cash back, without paying a fee (thanks to Citi Double Cash). If you have over $20,000 in a Bank of America checking, savings, or investment account, you will be able to earn more than 2%. If you have less (or no relationship balance), it gets more complicated.

Key insights

  • This card only works if you have a deep relationship with Bank of America. If you don’t have other assets (either in a savings account or investment account), you are better off with a flat-rate cash back card, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card
  • This card is probably not for you:
    1. If you have less than a $50,000 relationship with Bank of America and spend less than $2,000 a month on the card.
    2. If you spend a lot in travel and dining but have less than a $20,000 total relationship balance with Bank of America.
  • This card is for you – and you can earn more than 2%:
    1. If you spend at least $2,000 a month and have at least a $50,000 relationship balance with Bank of America
    2. If you have a relationship balance between $20,000 and $50,000 and spend a lot on travel and dining.
  • The biggest winners are people who have more than $100,000 at BofA (and that can include an IRA at Merrill Edge) and spend more than $3,000 a month on the card. People with this profile can earn up to 3% – which is hard to beat.

How the card works

This card charges a $95 annual fee, which is much less than competing premium rewards cards that have annual fees around $450. But this card competes on value (the amount of cash back you can earn) rather than luxury (you will not get access to swanky Amex lounges, for example).

There is a 50,000-point intro bonus offer, available for qualifying customers. Customers must make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of opening to earn the bonus. This is a feasible amount if you typically charge $1,000 a month.

The amount you earn depends upon your relationship with the bank. Your total relationship includes:

  • How much you have deposited in a checking and savings account. (But beware: interest rates are very low at BofA. Find the best savings account rates here).
  • How much you have invested at Merrill Lynch, which includes Merrill Edge (the self-directed brokerage account that has very competitive fees and commission).

As a cardholder you will automatically earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. The more assets you have at BofA, the more points you can earn. Account holders must enroll in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program to benefit from these higher rewards levels. See the breakdown below.

We like the concept: BofA is trying to reward their most loyal customers with the best rewards.

The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card is most beneficial to those who have $20,000 or more in a Bank of America account. This is a lot of cash for a savings or checking account with low interest rates. However, it’s possible to earn a higher interest rate from your Bank of America account if you roll over your IRA or 401(k) into a Merrill Edge® account. You can learn more here.

The table below shows your effective annual cash back rate depending on your monthly spending and relationship with Bank of America. This first table demonstrates the cash back rate earned for cardholders who are not big spenders in the bonus categories of travel and dining. Monthly spending was allocated at 40% toward travel and dining and 60% on all other purchases. The effective annual cash back rate deducts the annual fee, but does not factor in the sign-on bonus.

As you can see from the table, you won’t see significant return until you have at least a $50,000 relationship with Bank of America and spend over $2,000 a month. This will allow you to earn an effective annual cash back rate of over 2%. From this point on, you will start to see higher cash back earning potential.

Now if you’re a big spender in the bonus categories of travel and dining, you will see higher cash back earning potential at lower relationship levels. For the table below, monthly spending was allocated at 80% toward travel and dining and 20% on all other purchases. Again, the effective annual cash back rate deducts the annual fee, but does not factor in the sign-on bonus.

As you can see from this table, having at least a $20,000 relationship with Bank of America and spending over $3,000 a month allows you to earn an effective annual cash back rate of over 2%. From this point on, you will start to see substantial cash back earning potential.

In conclusion, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card is a good option if you are an affluent account holder at Bank of America and prefer to open a premium rewards credit card from the same bank as your savings account. If you plan on moving your IRA or 401(k) to Merrill Edge®, you will benefit from a higher interest rate.

How to qualify

To qualify for this card you will need excellent credit. The higher rewards levels for Bank of America checking, savings, and investment accounts with large amounts of money target affluent customers. Therefore, you will also need to have a steady job, which will show that you are responsible and can pay your bills.

What we like about the card

Large sign-on bonus

This card offers a 50,000-point sign-on bonus when you spend $3,000 in your first three months of account opening. This a reasonable amount of money to earn the large sign-on bonus, and lower than competing cards.

Reasonable annual fee

This card charges an annual fee that is significantly lower than competitors who can charge upward of $450 a year. The low annual fee allows you to enjoy more of the rewards you earn.

Bonus for Bank of America account holders

If you have a checking, savings, or investment account with Bank of America, you will benefit greatly from the additional points you earn. Higher tier points depend on the amount of money you have in your account and can increase your rewards potential significantly.

Unlimited higher rewards rates

You will benefit from the higher rewards rate for travel and dining without any caps. This means you don’t have to worry about hitting a predetermined dollar value and then being downgraded to a lower rewards rate.

What we don’t like about the card

Must be a Bank of America account holder for higher rewards rates

To earn more points per dollar spent you need to be a Bank of America account holder with a checking, savings, or investment account. If you don’t have an account, you will still earn the 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar on all other purchases, but can find a better deal with a flat-rate card such as the Citi® Double Cash.

Who the card is best for

This card benefits affluent Bank of America account holders with a checking, savings, or retirement account balance over $20,000 at the bank. If you fall in this category, your loyalty to Bank of America will be rewarded with the higher tiered rewards levels that allow for high rewards earning potential. In addition, this card has one of the lowest annual fees for premium rewards cards on the market and offers a large intro bonus.

Alternatives

There are multiple combinations of savings accounts and credit cards that you can use to maximize your savings. In the table below we compared the Citi® Double Cash Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, and the Citi ThankYou® Premier card paired with an Ally Bank savings account to the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card.

Note that the Citi ThankYou® Premier card waives the annual fee in year one. Also, we listed the effective annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card; assuming you spend $300 in travel a month, the $450 annual fee would be an effective $150.

*.06% interest may be available if you roll over an IRA or 401(k) into a Merrill Edge® account.

From this table we can draw several conclusions:

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card paired with an Ally Bank savings account will earn you the most money at year’s end.
  • Ally Bank earns you the most interest compared to the other savings accounts.
  • The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card will earn you the most cash back, but coupled with the low interest rate from the Bank of America savings account, you will fall short of earning as much money at year’s end as Citi® Double Cash or Chase Sapphire Reserve® cards paired with an Ally Bank savings account.

To sum it all up, if you want to earn the most money at year’s end, the best option would be the Citi® Double Cash Card paired with an Ally Bank savings account. The high interest rate that Ally Bank offers coupled with the card’s flat-rate cash back rewards are what make this the most profitable pairing. The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card lures consumers in with the higher tier rewards levels for affluent account holders, but offers a low interest rate for those accounts that ultimately hinders your year-end earning potential. However, if you transfer your IRA or 401(k) to Merrill Edge, you will earn a higher interest rate than a typical Bank of America savings account and can make up some of the difference.

Here’s an overview of the alternative cards:

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

1% when you buy, 1% when you pay

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

The Citi® Double Cash Card is a flat-rate cash back card that will earn you a consistent cash back rate. You will earn 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your bill. This card has no annual fee unlike the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card or the other alternatives. Keep in mind this is a cash back card, so you will not be earning points that can be redeemed for travel. Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, deposit, check, or gift card. Paired with an Ally Bank savings account, this card will earn you the most money at the end of the year (excluding year one), beating the Bank of America Premium Rewards card by $177 in subsequent years. Refer to our chart above for a detailed comparison.

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

Annual fee

$450 For First Year

$450 Ongoing

Rewards

3X points on travel and dining, 1 point on everything else

APR

16.99%-23.99%

This card comes with several great perks that make it a stand-out favorite among frequent travelers. Each account anniversary year, Chase automatically gives you $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases you make throughout the year on your card. This lowers the $450 annual fee to an effective $150. You will also benefit from a 50% rewards boost when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a great alternative if you are a frequent traveler and want a higher redemption value for your rewards.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$95 Ongoing

Rewards

3X on travel, 2X on dining and entertainment, 1X on all other purchases

APR

15.49%-24.49%

This card is a good alternative if you want a card that offers a high rewards rate for travel, dining, and entertainment. If you’re not a Bank of America account holder, you will earn a higher rewards rate on travel and entertainment with the Citi ThankYou® Premier card. Citi also charges an annual fee, but this is waived the first year. Keep in mind that you will fall short of earning as much money at the end of the year with this card compared to the Bank of America Premium Rewards card (by approximately $63 in year one and $158 in subsequent years). Refer to our chart above for a detailed comparison.

FAQ

This card will be released in September 2017.

Yes, anyone can apply for this card. Keep in mind, an excellent credit score is needed to have the highest approval odds.

No, there are no limits to the amount of points you can earn in each category. That means you will consistently earn the higher rate for travel and dining, regardless how much you spend.

The post Bank of America Premium Rewards® Credit Card Review: Rewards for High Spenders with a BofA Relationship appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: Is the Annual Fee Worth It?

Looking for a travel rewards card with a big bang for your buck? Chase Sapphire Reserve may be right for you.It comes with a litany of benefits for frequent travelers including:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on anything else.
  • Your points are worth 50% more when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Ability to transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to major airline and hotel rewards programs.
  • $100 statement credit after you pay for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application.
  • The first $300 you spend on travel during each 12-month period measured by your sign-up date will be automatically reimbursed through statement credits.
  • Currently, you can get 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your card.

These benefits do come at a cost. The card has a $450 annual fee — and it is not waived in the first year. While the benefits are top-notch, they’re only accessible to those who can float the $450 in upfront costs.

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

Annual fee
$450 For First Year
$450 Ongoing
Rewards
3X points on travel and dining, 1 point on everything else
APR
16.99%-23.99%
Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent


The information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred has been collected independently by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

How to earn points

The best way to earn points with Chase Sapphire Reserve is by placing all of your travel and dining purchases on this card exclusively. These purchases will get you 3 points for every dollar spent on travel or restaurant dining, while all other purchases will get you a less competitive return of 1 point per every dollar spent.

What, exactly, qualifies as a travel purchase? The obvious things, like hotels and car rentals, are included. But don’t forget merchants like Airbnb, Expedia, or even your state DOT when you drive on toll roads.

Certain travel-related expenses do not count as travel purchases. Amusement park tickets, excursions purchased directly through tour companies, and that Starbucks latte you purchased at the airport will not be counted as a 3-point-per-dollar travel expense, for example.

If you’re making a big purchase, but you’re not sure if it will qualify as a travel expense, it’s worth it to call the company you will be purchasing from. You want to find out how they are coded to credit card companies. Do they come through as “travel” or is the business classified into another category? Finding the answer to this question can help you decide if you should make the purchase on your Chase Sapphire Reserve or if you should charge it somewhere else where you’ll get more than one measly point per dollar.

Best ways to redeem points

Whether you’re purchasing a plane ticket for a work trip or booking your next family vacation, you want to make sure you’re maximizing all those points you’ve earned.

One of the best ways to redeem your points at booking is by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Here, you’ll be able to find flights, hotels, and more with no blackout dates. Because you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve holder, your points will be worth 50% more here. That means that instead of your 50,000-point bonus being worth $500, it will actually be worth $750.

Another potentially great way to book is by transferring your points to one of Chase’s partner airline or hotel rewards programs. This can be done in real time on a 1:1 basis. Sometimes, it may even be a better deal than booking through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

For example, a flight from New York City to Tokyo may run you $1,200. If you booked within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, that would cost you 80,000 points.

However, if you transferred your points to United MileagePlus miles, you could score a flight for 70,000 points if you booked at the “Saver Award” level in economy class. There is limited seating at this award level, so you would want to book far ahead, but doing so would save you 10,000 points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has several transfer partners aside from United. The full list includes:

  • British Airways Avios
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Korean Airlines Skypass
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards/Ritz Carlton Rewards

How to qualify

Those with the best chance of qualifying for Chase Sapphire Reserve will have a credit score of 700 or above without a history of chronically late payments. Those with a credit score below 650 are unlikely to qualify.

This card is only for people with excellent credit. In general, that means your score should be above 700. In addition, Chase (and other credit card issuers) have been cracking down on people who go from one bonus offer to the next. If you apply for a lot of credit cards, don’t be surprised if you are declined.

What we like about the card

There are a lot of reasons to love Chase Sapphire Reserve if you’re big on travel.

The bonus is nothing to laugh at.

Fifty thousand points is on the high end of standard spending bonuses for credit cards, but when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal, Chase’s offer is even more stellar.

Your annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 every year.

Because you will receive up to $300 in statement credits for travel reimbursements per year, the $450 annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 — as long as you actually spend $300 on travel.

Rewards points are generous on dining and travel purchases.

Three points per dollar is a large multiplier in the world of travel rewards credit cards.

No foreign transaction fees.

When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to deal with is foreign transaction fees. They can quickly eat away at any value you’re getting with your rewards points, so we’re glad to see that this card doesn’t have any.

Additional $100 statement credit specifically for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Both of these programs can save you a ton of time and hassle, especially if you travel frequently. The $100 statement credit reduces or even eliminates the application fees, depending on which product you pursue.

Plentiful travel protection benefits. When you book your travel with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you automatically have a lot of coverage as long as 100% of the purchase goes on the card. Coverage includes:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. You won’t have to purchase collision insurance from your rental company as physical damages to the vehicle will be covered by this waiver provided via Chase.
  • Roadside assistance. You’re covered up to $50, four times per year. Covered services include locksmiths, tows, tire changes, jump-starts, and gas.
  • Baggage delay insurance. If the airline has issues locating your luggage at your destination airport for six hours or more, this insurance policy will reimburse you for essential purchases, like shampoo or slacks. The policy maxes out at $100 per day over the course of five days.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement. What if the airport never finds your bag? Or damages your belongings? Chase will reimburse the value of your belongings up to $3,000.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Certain emergencies, such as severe weather or illness, will merit a reimbursement of up to $10,000 if they force you to cancel or cut your trip short.
  • Trip delay reimbursement. If your flight is delayed for over six hours and the airline is offering little to nothing in the way of reimbursement, Chase will pay you back $500 per ticket to cover things like food and hotel stays.
  • Emergency coverages. Chase provides coverage for emergency evacuations, emergency medical and dental services, and accidental death or dismemberment while you’re on a trip that you’ve paid for 100% with your Chase Sapphire Rewards card.

What we don’t like about the card

While Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rewards are out of this world, they do come at a steep price.

The annual fee is colossal.

A $450 annual fee is huge—especially since it is not waived in the first year. This limits the number of people who will even be able to afford to open a card, nonetheless justify the expense.

Rewards points are scant on everyday purchases.

While this card is generous with rewards points for dining and travel, purchases in every other category only earn 1 point per dollar. Even when you account for the 50% bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal, it would be wise to put these purchases on one of many other cards on the market that will earn you more points.

Travel hackers will have a hard time qualifying.

Banks (and not just Chase) are making it more difficult for people to jump from bonus offer to bonus offer. If that sounds like you, it will probably be difficult to get approved.

Who the Chase Sapphire Reserve best for

Those who travel frequently, spending a good portion of their budget on related purchases including dining, will benefit most from this card. These applicants have a solid credit history and score and are more likely to have a higher income as they have the funds available to front the $450 annual fee without hurting their budget. Their travels enable them to get the most out of not only the rewards points but also the statement credits that make this offer so attractive.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you have the $450 to spend up front, and know that you will be able to take advantage of the annual $300 travel reimbursement, Chase Sapphire Reserve is likely a better card for you than the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While the Preferred’s annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year, in subsequent years its annual fee is only $55 less than the Reserve’s effective $150 fee after travel reimbursements.

For an additional $55, your Reserve points are worth 1.5 points each when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal versus the Preferred’s 1.25 points. Let’s look back at our trip from New York City to Tokyo. With the Reserve, you would need 80,000 points to book your $1,200 flight. With the Preferred, you would need 96,000 points. That’s a 16,000-point difference. In order to make up the difference, you’d have to spend $6,400 on travel or dining on your Preferred card.

Fifty-five dollars starts to look like a deal.

You also earn 3 points instead of the Preferred rate of 2 points on each dollar you spend on travel and dining.

Given the increased point values, making up the $55 difference is easy. Having the income to support opening the Reserve in the first place is the challenge. Not only do you need to have $450 on hand up front, but you’ll also need to have an income that justifies a credit line of $10,000+. If you will have trouble achieving either of these things, the Preferred may be a better card for you. Read the Chase Sapphire Preferred Review for more details.

Alternatives

While Chase Sapphire Reserve offers fantastic benefits, it’s not for everyone. If you want a credit card that offers travel rewards without such large impositions, you do have other options.

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$95 Ongoing

Rewards

2 points on travel and dining, 1 point on all other spending

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

Chase Sapphire Preferred is much like the Reserve option, except its $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. It doesn’t have all the same perks, but it does offer 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel while offering 1 point on all other purchases. When you redeem points in the Ultimate Rewards portal, they’ll be worth 25% more instead of Reserve’s 50% incentive.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$89 Ongoing

Rewards

2X miles on all purchases

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

While the bonus in the Ultimate Rewards portal is attractive, earning 1 point per dollar spent on everyday purchases is not. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard offers 2 miles per dollar spent on any purchase, which may make it more valuable for those planning one or two trips per year rather than getting away every other month for work or leisure. The annual fee is waived in the first year, and it currently comes with a 50,000-mile bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Barclaycard also gives you back 5% of the miles you redeem. For example, if you redeem 50,000 miles, you’ll get 2,500 back.

Venture® from Capital One®

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$59 Ongoing

Rewards

2 miles per dollar spent

APR

13.99%-23.99%

Variable

Similar to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, the Capital One Venture card offers 2 miles per dollar spent on any purchase, with each mile worth one cent when redeemed against a past travel purchase. The annual fee is waived in the first year, and the current sign-up bonus is 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

FAQ

Yes, though you should keep in mind the credit requirements above. If you currently have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it’s wise to transfer them to the Reserve so you can take full advantage of the 1.5-point redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Yes. As long as you share the same address, you will be able to transfer points one to another instantaneously. You cannot combine or share points with a family member who lives at a different address.

No. Once you transfer points to another program, you cannot convert them back to Ultimate Rewards points. Be sure you understand the redemption process for each program before you transfer to ensure you’re getting the maximum value for your points.

No. As long as you keep your account open, your points will not expire. If you have other Chase cards that are eligible for the Ultimate Rewards program, you could close your Reserve account and transfer them to your other card, but as of today Reserve offers the best redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal, so this may not be the best move.

The post Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: Is the Annual Fee Worth It? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review: The Perfect Cash Back Card for Grocery Shoppers?

If you’re looking for a cash back program that will reward you handsomely for grocery shopping, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one to check out. Although this card has an annual fee, the amount of cash back you have the potential to earn can easily cover the fee.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee
$95 For First Year
$95 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 6%
APR
13.99%-24.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How to earn cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card

1. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets with a cap.

The supermarket category excludes superstores and warehouses. Specialty retailers like wine stores and convenience stores likely won’t earn 6% cash back either. The annual cap for the supermarket category is $6,000.

2. Earn 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores, 1% cash back on everything else.

There’s no annual spending cap for the 3% and 1% cash back categories. The following department stores are examples of those that qualify for 3%:

  • Bealls
  • Belk
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton Stores
  • Boscov’s
  • Century 21 Department Store
  • Dillard’s
  • JCPenney (JCP)
  • Kohl’s
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Stein Mart

3. Earn an extra introductory bonus.

You get a bonus of $150 in cash back if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of card signing.

How redeeming cash back works

Cash back earned converts into Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You can redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars for a statement credit in increments of $25.

Word of warning: A cash back statement credit does not get applied to your minimum payment. To keep your card in good standing, you need to make at least the minimum payment each month even if you redeem cash back.

Overview of card benefits

These are the American Express perks:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance. You can decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver because you’re covered if your rental car is damaged or stolen when you pay with this card, though some countries like Australia and Italy aren’t covered.
  • Global assist hotline. When traveling you get 24/7 access to legal, emergency, and financial assistance.
  • Travel accident insurance. You get coverage for accidental death or dismemberment during travel.
  • Extended warranty of up to an additional year after your manufacturer’s warranty expires.
  • Roadside assistance for emergencies if your car needs to be towed, you need to fix a flat, or you need a battery jump. Third-party service costs may apply.

What we like about this card

6% cash back on groceries up to $6,000.

Despite the annual fee and category restrictions, we’re still big fans of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. You only need to spend $1,583 per year (or $132 per month) on groceries to earn enough cash back to cover the $95 fee.

Since the supermarket spending cap is a generous $6,000 per year, you still have plenty of room to earn cash back beyond this break-even point, and if you spend a full $6,000 on groceries in a year, you’ll earn $360 in cash back before the annual fee is deducted.

Unlimited 3% cash back for gas.

You’ll be able to earn 3% cash back in the gas category without any cap, which can serve you well on your commute.

No revolving categories.

This card is simple to use. You don’t need to enroll in the bonus categories quarterly or annually. You just need to remember to pull out this card when you shop at major grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores.

What we don’t like about this card

Store restrictions in 3% and 6% categories.

Category restrictions are common for most cash back cards, but still a piece of fine print you should be aware of. American Express uses merchant codes to determine how much cash back you get on each purchase.

Stores like Amazon, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target, and Walmart won’t qualify as supermarket spending.

Furthermore, you can’t earn 3% cash back by pumping gas just anywhere. You have to buy gas at places with a gas station merchant code. Gas purchases at supermarkets or warehouse clubs will not qualify unless otherwise noted.

This restriction on gas spending may be the biggest deal-breaker for savvy gas shoppers since supermarkets and warehouses often have competitive gas prices with minimal markup.

Before you apply for the card, contact American Express if you pump at discount locations to see if the spending qualifies. American Express has a short list of example stores that fall into each cash back category here.

Who the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is best for

Whether the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is or isn’t for you will depend on how much you spend in the bonus categories.

Here’s why:

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card has a sister card that comes with no annual fee called the Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card gives:

  • 3% cash back on groceries
  • 2% cash back at department stores and gas stations
  • 1% cash back on everything else

Pick the Blue Cash Everyday® Card (no fee) instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee) if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries (about $300 a month).

If you spend more than $3,200 on groceries per year (about $300 a month), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with the $95 annual fee outperforms the free Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

Another thing to consider is where you do your shopping.

If you live in a city where major groceries stores are few and far between, neither the Blue Cash Preferred® Card nor Blue Cash Everyday® Card will serve you well. You won’t get 6% for food purchases at corner markets and specialty stores.

Shoppers who stock up for groceries at warehouse or superstores like Walmart will also get less use from these American Express cash back cards since that spending doesn’t qualify.

Consumers who’ll get the most out of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card are those who spend at places that are eligible for bonus cash back like Whole Foods, Safeway, and Kroger.

Approval chances

You have the best chance of getting approved for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with good to excellent credit (a score that’s 670 or above).

American Express lets you prequalify for offers without a hard pull to your credit history here.

Alternatives

You can find our ultimate roundup of cash back cards for every category in this post.

Here we’ll cover four alternatives to compare against the Blue Cash Preferred® Card:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Chase Freedom®
  • Citi® Double Cash
  • Alliant Visa® Signature
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

up to 3%

APR

13.99%-24.99%

Variable

As mentioned, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card is the free version of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. It offers:

  • 3% cash back at grocery stores
  • 2% cash back on gas and department store spending
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Again, this is the card to go with instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries.

But, let’s be honest: $3,200 or $267 per month spent on groceries is a pretty small sum even for a one- or two-person household. For this reason, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is what we prefer of the two supermarket cards.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

5% on certain categories, 1% on everything else

APR

15.99%-24.74%

Variable

A revolving category cash back card is an alternative if you spend pretty evenly across multiple areas. The Chase Freedom® card gives you 5% cash back in bonus categories that change quarterly.

There’s a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% category. You earn 1% cash back on all other spending. The bonus category for July through September this year includes restaurants and movie theaters, but categories change every quarter, and there’s no guarantee these will be a bonus category in the future.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

1% when you buy, 1% when you pay

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

An unlimited flat-rate cash back card such as the Citi® Double Cash is good to pair with any of the category cards we discuss above. The Citi® Double Cash offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases with no fee, making this a great card to earn a consistent cash back rate. Citi® also does not charge an annual fee for this card.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$59 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards

APR

11.24%-24.24%

Variable

The Alliant Visa® Signature offers 3% cash back on all purchases during your first year as a cardholder. After the first year, you will earn 2.5% cash back. There is an annual fee for this card, however it is waived the first year. A good rewards strategy is partnering a high cash-back rate category card with one of these unlimited cards for non-category spending.

FAQ

One disadvantage of American Express is it’s a card that some stores don’t accept. Why? American Express charges a higher merchant processing fee, which causes some smaller shops to avoid it. Most of the places eligible to earn 6% and 3% cash back from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card are big stores that will most likely take American Express anyway. Stick to these stores and your cash back potential won’t be impacted by limited acceptance.

Anything you spend over the $6,000 cap on groceries will earn only 1% cash back. Fortunately, the 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores is unlimited, so you’ll always get bonus cash back for that spending.

No, Blue Cash Rewards Dollars do not expire as long as your account remains open.

Yes, the minimum amount to redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars is $25.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars can only be redeemed for statement credit. They can’t be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars are redeemable for statement credit, while Membership Rewards® Points are redeemable for statement credit, travel, gift cards, merchandise, or entertainment. With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card you receive Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You would need a different American Express credit card, such as the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, to receive Membership Rewards® Points.

The post Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review: The Perfect Cash Back Card for Grocery Shoppers? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Having fair credit doesn’t mean you’re ineligible for great credit cards. We’ve rounded up the top credit cards with the best offers in a range of different categories that you’re still likely to be approved for, even with fair credit. These credit cards can help you build credit as long as you use them wisely. In this guide, we’ll show you the best credit cards for fair credit scores as well as how to use them to boost your credit score even higher.

Here are some of the products we will be discussing today:

Check If You’re Pre-qualified

Before applying for any credit card it’s helpful to check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. The soft credit check the institutions perform does not harm your credit score and allows you to compare credit options. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

A great approach to rebuilding credit is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to deposit money that will be your line of credit. To effectively rebuild your credit, you must use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card.

We’ve reviewed the best secured cards in the market and found our top pick — the Discover it® Secured Card. This card has no annual fee, a reasonable security deposit and offers an easy transition to an unsecured card. In addition, Discover offers a rewards program and free access to your FICO score. These reasons are why we recommend the Discover it® Secured Card for people with fair credit.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover’s secure website

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
No credit, 670 or less

Best for Cash Back

If you have fair credit and want a cash back card the QuicksilverOne® Rewards credit card from Capital One® is a good option. As a consumer with fair credit you may not qualify for all cash back cards, but you may qualify for the QuicksilverOne® Rewards card since it is made for those with fair credit. With this card you will earn unlimited cash back, with no changing categories, and the rewards never expire.

However, this card comes with a high APR and annual fee. To earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year you’ll need to spend $2,600 annually ($217 per month). To net a cash back of $50 you need to spend $5,933 in a year ($494 per month). This card may be an option for you if you want to earn more than 1% cash back.

Best for Cash Back

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

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on Capital One’s secure website

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

Annual fee
$39 For First Year
$39 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 1.5%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best Low Ongoing APR

No one wants to carry a balance on their credit cards, but if you must, it’s best to get a card with a low ongoing APR. Many lenders charge high APRs around 25%, but you can potentially qualify for an APR as low as 9.15%. This card will charge you less money on your debt than the typical credit card, which can save you big dollars in the long run.

Best Low Ongoing APR

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

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on Aspire Credit Union’s secure website

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MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

Intro Rate
0%

promotional rate

Intro Fee
2%
APR
8.90%-18.00%

Variable

Duration
6 months
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best for Small Business Owners

Running a business is hard. Small business credit cards can make it a bit easier for you by giving you rewards for everyday purchases. Nevertheless, be aware: Business credit cards forego certain protections that personal credit cards have under the Credit CARD Act. For example, card issuers can change the payment due date or interest rate without giving you prior notice.

Still, small business cards can be a great option for you to build your credit and save money, even if you don’t have a traditional brick-and-mortar business. You can apply for these cards with just a DBA or even your own name, if you’re a freelancer.

Best for Small Business Owners

Spark Classic for Business from Capital One

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on Capital One’s secure website

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Spark Classic for Business from Capital One

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% on all spend
APR
23.99%
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best for Students

You may have a fair credit score because you are a student. Student cards provide a great way for you to build your credit score and establish good credit history. The Discover it® for Students card is made with students in mind and offers ways to help you build credit and also earn rewards.

Best for Students

Discover it® for Students

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on Discover’s secure website

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Discover it® for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 5%
APR
13.99%-22.99%

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

FAQ

There’s a lot of math that goes into computing your credit scores, but at the end of the day, a fair credit score is defined as being between 649 and 699. Here’s how a fair credit score sits in relation to other credit scoring classes:

  • Excellent: Above 760
  • Good: 700-759
  • Fair/Average: 649-699
  • Poor: 600-648
  • Very Poor: Under 599

You can check your credit score for free on sites like Credit Karma, Chase Credit Journey, or AnnualCreditReport.com.

Having a good or excellent credit score unlocks a lot of advantages, such as lower interest rates and better approval odds for high-value credit cards and other financial products. These advantages will result in more dollars in your wallet at the end of the day. For example, having a high credit score can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments over your lifetime, especially for big-ticket loans like a home mortgage.

But if you have a fair credit score, don’t fret! There is a reason that your score is less than optimal, and thus there are real, concrete steps you can take to boost your credit score into the good and excellent range.

If you play your cards right, you can even join the exclusive 800+ credit score club (unfortunately, it’s not an official club, and you don’t get a shower of balloons and confetti once you reach it — but you will get access to some of the most exclusive financial products).

There can be many reasons why your credit score is below 700. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • You have late payments on your credit report. Having even just one late payment on your credit report can seriously harm it because payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Unfortunately, unless it’s an error, you’ll just need to wait for it to drop off of your credit report in seven years. To prevent this from happening, make sure all of your debt payments are set up on autopay. That way, you won’t have to worry about it.
  • You have a lot of credit card debt. Credit utilization ratio is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score — it affects 30% of the final score. It’s simply how much you owe relative to how much you are allowed to spend. For example, let’s say you have two credit cards with a $5,000 limit each, and you owe $2,000. Your credit utilization ratio is 20% because you owe $2,000 out of a possible $10,000. Luckily, this is one of the easiest factors to correct that will boost your credit score big time in the short run: Pay off your balance, and your score will bump up immediately.
  • You don’t have a long credit history. Although credit history doesn’t factor into the calculation of your credit score as much as the credit utilization ratio and payment history, it still makes up a sizable chunk at 15%. There’s not much you can do about this one: Simply wait for your accounts to age.
  • You have a lot of credit inquiries. Banks don’t like to see you applying for credit like an out-of-control spender in Las Vegas. Each time you apply for credit or a loan, it’s recorded on your credit report as a credit inquiry, and it stays there for two years. To minimize the number of credit inquiries you have, always shop around and make sure creditors use a soft pull credit check unless you’re absolutely ready to apply for the line of credit. This factor makes up just 10% of your credit score, but it’s an easy one you can affect as long as you’re careful about applying for credit.
  • You don’t have a wide variety of account types. You may be an ace at handling your student loans, but creditors also want to know you can handle other types of credit like mortgages and credit card debt, too. The more types of credit accounts you have on file, the better. However, we don’t recommend taking out a loan just for the sake of boosting your credit score — that costs money, and you’ll only receive a modest benefit from it because credit mix only makes up 10% of your credit score.

As you can see, you do have a lot of options when it comes to fine-tuning your credit score into the good or excellent category. We recommend the helpful credit score simulator at Chase Credit Journey to check your current score and see how these adjustments can potentially change your credit level. It’s available whether you’re a Chase customer or not. Give it a try!

Applying for a credit card is easy. You’ll need some basic information like name, address, and Social Security number. You’ll also need employment and income information. Simply enter it into the online form on the credit card company’s website, visit a branch of the bank (if they have one), or call the credit card company directly. You’ll usually receive instant notification if you’ve been approved or not.

There are many ways for you to increase your credit score. Ultimately practicing responsible credit behavior is the best way to see your score rise. Here are a few ways you can increase your credit score:

  • Have someone add you as an authorized user: If you have a willing (and very trusting) friend or family member with better credit, you can ask them to add you as an authorized user onto one or more of their credit cards. Their credit will not be harmed by this (as long as you don’t rack up charges or missed payments), and the credit card will show up on your credit report just as if you had applied for it — boosting your credit utilization ratio, number of accounts, and account age if you keep it for a long time.
  • Increase your credit history length: Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time, but you can still affect your credit history length. Your credit score is partially based off of average credit history length, and the more old accounts you have, the better. If you already have credit cards open, consider keeping them open so your average credit history won’t decrease and ding your credit. Each new credit card you get will drop your average account age, and it’ll take longer to boost this portion of your score.
  • Maintain a low credit utilization: Credit utilization (the percentage of available credit you’re using) is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score. The lower, the better. To decrease your utilization ratio, simply pay off your credit card. You can also request a credit limit increase from your credit card issuer to lower your credit utilization ratio — just make sure not to rack up a balance again with that extra credit or you’ll be back to square one.

Missing a payment can single-handedly cause your credit score to drop by 100 points or more. To avoid this, simply set up your credit card on autopay for the minimum amount due — that way you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment.

You can always apply for a personal loan if you need some cash right now for something. You can use this tool to shop around for the best interest rates without hurting your credit score. It’s smart to avoid hard inquiries until you’re ready to actually apply for a personal loan so that your credit isn’t dinged with multiple inquiries.

Each credit card is different, so you’ll need to check the fine print. Usually, though, you’ll need to both charge a purchase and pay off your bill before you’re eligible for those cash back rewards. Then, they’ll tally up this amount and periodically either send you a check, or offer a statement credit.

If you’re running a small business, it’s often easy to mix your personal and business accounts, especially if you’re self-employed. This creates an accounting nightmare to sort through, so it’s recommended (but not required) that you have a separate business banking account and credit card, if you need one.

The post Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Minimize Rejection: Check if You’re Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

Check if You're Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

Updated August 16, 2017

Are you avoiding a credit card application  because you’re afraid of being rejected? Want to see if you can be approved for a credit card without having an inquiry hit your credit score?

We may be able to help. Some large banks give you the chance to see if you are pre-qualified for cards before you officially apply. You give a bit of personal information (name, address, typically the last 4 digits of your social security), and they will tell you if you are pre-qualified. There is no harm to your credit score when using this service. This is the best way to see if you can get a credit card without hurting your score.

What does pre-qualified mean?

Pre-qualification typically utilizes a soft credit inquiry with a credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). A soft inquiry does not appear on your credit report, and will not harm your credit score.

Banks also create pre-qualified lists by buying marketing lists every month from a credit bureau. They buy the names of people who would meet their credit criteria and keep that list. When you see if you are pre-qualified, the bank is just checking to see if you are on their list.

A soft inquiry provides the bank with some basic credit information, including your score. Based upon the information in the credit bureau, the bank determines whether or not you have been pre-qualified for a credit card.

If you are not pre-qualified, that does not mean you will be rejected. When they pull a full credit report or get more information, you may still be approved. But, even if you are pre-qualified, you can still be rejected. So, why would you be rejected?

  • When you complete a formal credit card application, you provide additional personal information, including your employment and salary. If you are unemployed, or if your salary is too low relative to your debt – you could be rejected. There are other policy reasons that can be applied as well.
  • When a full credit bureau report is pulled, the bank gets more data. Some of that incremental data may result in a rejection.
  • Timing: your information may have changed. The bank may have pre-qualified you a week ago, but since then you have missed a payment. Final decisions are always made using the most up-to-date information.

Even with these caveats, checking to see if you are pre-qualified is a great way to shop for a credit card without hurting your score.

Where can I see if I have been pre-qualified?

Most (but not all) banks have pre-qualification tools. In addition, some websites (like CreditCards.com) have tools that let you check across multiple banks at once. Here is a current list of tools that are functioning:

CreditCards – CardMatch is a very good tool developed by CreditCards.com that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is a good first stop.

Bank of America

Capital One

Chase

Citibank

Credit One  – This company targets people with less than perfect credit.

Discover

U.S. Bank

Below are credit card issuers that do not always have the pre-qualification tool live:

American Express – We have reports that this does not work for everyone. To find the pre-qualification page, click on “CARDS” in the menu bar. Then click on “View All Personal Charge & Credit Cards.” At the bottom of the page you will find a section called “Do More with American Express” – and you can click on “Pre-Qualified Credit Card Offers.”

Barclaycard – unfortunately Barclaycard has taken down their pre-qualification tool. We will keep looking to see if it comes back.

Consider A Personal Loan (No Hard Inquiry and Lower Rates)

If you need to borrow money, you may also want to consider a personal loan. A number of internet-only personal loan companies allow you to see if you are approved (including your interest rate and loan amount) without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Instead, they do a soft pull, which has no impact on your credit score. Personal loans also tend to have much lower interest rates than credit cards. If you need to borrow money, personal loans are usually a better option.

We recommend starting your personal loan shopping experience at LendingTree. With one quick application, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. LendingTree uses a soft credit pull, and within minutes you will be able to see how much you qualify for – and the interest rate – without any harm to your credit score. (Note: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree)

Not pre-qualified but still want to apply?

We still believe that people are too afraid of the impact of credit inquiries on their score. One inquiry will only take 5-10 points off your score.

If you pay your bills on time, do not have a ton of debt (less than $20,000) and want to apply for a new credit card, an inquiry should not scare you. The only way to know for certain if you can get approved is to do a full application.

How We Can Help

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Magnify_Money and on Facebook.

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on the “Apply Now” buttons in this post. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

The post Minimize Rejection: Check if You’re Pre-qualified for a Credit Card appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

6 Credit Cards for College Commuters

A long commute to college isn't fun, unless you have a credit card that rewards you for driving and spending money on gas.

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

Waking up early to rush to class is never fun, and having to commute to school doesn’t make mornings any easier. Whether you live 15 minutes from campus or more than an hour away, every minute and mile counts. Being a few minutes late can ruin your performance on an exam, and having to drive a few extra miles can wreck your wallet.

While the first rings of an alarm clock might never get less jarring, having a credit card made for commuters can ease your mind during your morning commute. All of these cards offer great perks as well as gas-focused rewards that’ll turn every commute into an opportunity to rack up cash. (It’s a good idea to check your credit before applying for a new card. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then a $95 annual fee.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are focused on gas and groceries, plus the APR can be low depending on your credit.
For College Commuters: You’ll save on gas in the long run, and buying snacks for your afternoon commute is more appetizing when you realize how much cash back you earn.
Drawbacks: If you constantly frequent gas stations, you may prefer a card with slightly better rewards on gas.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on gas purchases, 3% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $100 Statement Credit when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%.
Why We Picked It: This card features unlimited rewards and a solid APR, alongside 1% cash back on everything.
For College Commuters: If you have a long commute that requires a lot of gas, this is a great card for racking up gas rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. BankAmericard Cash Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. These rewards are capped at $2,500.
Signup Bonus: $150 cash rewards bonus online after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for a year on purchases, and on balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% will apply.
Why We Picked It: Your rewards never expire and they’re capped at a decent level if you’re not a large spender.
For College Commuters: If you have a shorter commute or very fuel efficient car, this card is for you because it has decent rewards up to a certain point.
Drawbacks: If you drive very often you might use up your rewards quickly.

4. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries and 1% back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points if you use your card to make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, variable APR will be 13.99% to 25.99%.
Why We Picked It: Your points last five years and there’s no annual fee.
For College Commuters: You can trade your points for cash, which is perfect for buying snacks, car chargers and more for your commute. Or, if your car breaks down during a drive, you can use your points for a rental car.
Drawbacks: The points eventually expire and the APR is on the higher side.

5. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases up to $7,000 per year. Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 (you will need a paid Costco membership)
APR: 0% APR on purchases for seven months, after that, variable 16.24% APR
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and heavily focus on gas. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
For College Commuters: This card is great for those who are near a Costco during their commute and often get their gas there.
Drawbacks: This card is only available to those with an active Costco membership.

6. Marathon Credit Card by Visa

Rewards: Receive $0.25 rebate per each gallon of gas you purchase when you charge at least $1,000 that month, $0.15 rebate per gallon if you spend at least $500 that month and $0.05 rebate per gallon if you spend less than $500.
Signup Bonus: Receive up to $0.50 per gallon for the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: For purchases, 25.99%, 21.99%, or 17.99% when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. For, balance transfers and cash advances, 26.99%.
Why We Picked It: This credit card focuses on gas and features great rewards.
For College Commuters: Living in the Midwest or Southeast has its perks if you have Marathon gas stations nearby. Whether you’re buying gas frequently for a long commute or only buying it occasionally, you’re still earning rewards.
Drawbacks: The APR for this card is really high. The rebates can only be redeemed as $25 Marathon cash cards that expire after 24 months. This card is only worth it if you frequently go to Marathon for gas.

Image: Georgijevic

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

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 6 Credit Cards for College Commuters appeared first on Credit.com.

11 Things College Students Should Know Before Opening a Credit Card

Getting your first credit card is a big step and with the right knowledge you'll be on your way to having great credit and plentiful rewards in no time.

College is a great time for financially responsible students to start learning to use credit cards. Credit cards can enable students to make purchases, build credit and even earn rewards. But credit cards can be a confusing concept for a first-timer.

Here are eleven things all college students should know about their first credit card.

1. It Can Help Build Your Credit …

Credit cards are important credit building tools, as card activity is typically reported to credit bureaus and included on your credit report. Over time, credit cards can help you establish an excellent credit score. Excellent credit can help you secure loans, land better interest rates and even reduce common monthly payments.

2. … If You Use It Correctly

Credit cards only help your credit when they’re used wisely — irresponsible use can severely damage your credit. To successfully build your credit, you’ll need to start and stick to smart credit card practices. These include making payments on time, maintaining a low balance and keeping accounts open over time.

3. It Isn’t Free

The credit limit on your credit card isn’t a budget for your next spending spree. Any purchase you make on your credit card will accrue interest if isn’t paid off in time. Plus, credit cards charge additional fees, which may include annual fees, foreign transaction fees and late payment penalties. Pay close attention to the annual percentage rate (APR) and fees for any credit card you’re considering.

4. Missed Payments Have Consequences

If you miss a payment or make a late payment, your credit card issuer may charge you a late payment fee. You might get slapped with a penalty APR that’s much higher than the interest rate you signed up for. That missed payment could even land on your credit report and bring down your credit score for up to seven years.

5. There Are Options if You Have No Credit

If you have no credit history, you can still qualify for certain types of credit cards. One of the best options is a secured credit card, which requires a security deposit upfront but then works just like a traditional credit card. You could also have a trusted family member add you as an authorized user to their credit card account.

6. You Should Pay More Than the Minimum

While it’s tempting to only pay the bare minimum each month, it’s wise to pay a little more. Minimum payments won’t significantly reduce your balance, and you may wind up paying a lot in interest over time. To completely avoid interest, you should pay off your balance in full each month. This means you shouldn’t charge more than you can afford to pay.

7. Applications Can Harm Your Score

When you apply for a credit card, the ensuing credit check (known as a hard inquiry) may land on your credit report. Hard inquiries can ding your credit score a few points but aren’t damaging in the long term. There is a risk in submitting too many applications over a long period of time, so you should try to limit your credit card shopping to a two-week period.

8. Use Rewards Wisely

Many credit cards earn rewards, such as cash back or travel points, as you spend. These rewards can be extremely valuable, but only if you use your card correctly. For instance, cash back cards are less valuable if you carry a balance month-to-month, as interest will eat into the profitability of your card. The way you redeem rewards also varies from card to card, so you’ll want to pick a card that actually provides rewards you’ll use.

9. Not All Cards Are Created Equal

Some credit cards are specifically designed for college students and offer security features, rewards and programs that benefit the fledgling credit card user. Take a look at student-focused credit cards, as they may be more accessible to you and have student-friendly policies. Some of these cards have certain requirements when it comes to credit scores. Before applying for any new cards, it’s wise to check if you will qualify by reviewing your credit scores. You can check two credit scores for free on Credit.com.

10. It Doesn’t Have to Be Exclusive

Your credit card will help build credit whether or not you use it religiously, so don’t feel obligated to use it for everything. You can keep it in case of emergencies or for the occasional purchase.

11. There Are Security Benefits

Credit cards offer a number of security benefits over cash and debit cards. They aren’t tied to your bank account, and you’ll never be responsible for more than $50 if your credit card is stolen. Plus, credit card companies often offer additional security features and monitor your account for suspicious activity.

Image: GeorgeRudy

The post 11 Things College Students Should Know Before Opening a Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Credit Cards to Help You Throw Parties

Parties are even more fun when your credit card's earning you solid deals.

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

Enthusiastic hosts love to throw parties for friends and family. Whether you like to put on lavish dinner parties with elaborate menus or make chili nachos for your friends on game day, you might be spending a lot at the supermarket. Some credit cards offer cash back rewards on grocery purchases, helping you host epic get-togethers.

Here are five credit cards to help you throw your next great party.

1. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on up to $7,000 in eligible gas purchases per year, 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 (you will need a paid Costco membership)
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% for seven months on purchases, then variable 16.24%; variable 16.24% on balance transfers
Why We Picked It: Costco members earn double cash back as they stock up on party supplies. For Your Party: For Costco members, this card earns 2% cash back on all Costco purchases, which can help you feed a small army. Some Costco locations even sell their own generic brands of beer, wine and liquor. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Drawbacks: You’ll have to be a Costco member to access this card.

2. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual supermarket purchases, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back everywhere else
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then a $95 annual fee.
APR: Variable 13.99% to 24.99%
Why We Picked It: This card offers one of the best supermarket cash back rates available.
For Your Party: You’ll earn a whopping 6% cash back at supermarkets, which should prove extremely valuable for frequent party hosts.
Drawbacks: There is a $95 annual fee.

3. Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One

Rewards: 3% cash back on dining purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $100 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 15.49% – 24.49%
Why We Picked It: The card offers solid cash back rates on dining and groceries.
For Your Party: With 3% cash back on dining and 2% cash back on groceries, you’re covered whether you’re meeting a big group for dinner or hosting friends at home.
Drawbacks: If you don’t dine out a lot, you should keep looking.

4. BankAmericard Cash Rewards 

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases, 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: You’ll earn double cash back on all grocery and wholesale club purchases.
For Your Party: With 2% cash back on all grocery store and wholesale club purchases, you’ll earn double cash on party supplies. Plus, Bank of America customers get an extra 10% cash back when they redeem their cash for a bank account deposit.
Drawbacks: The best cash back redemption value is reserved for Bank of America customers.

5. Citi Double Cash 

Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 1% upon payment
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 15 months, then variable 14.49% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: All purchases earn double cash back once you’ve paid them off.
For Your Party: There are no special incentives for groceries, but all purchases will earn 2% cash back by the time they’re paid off. That means you can earn double cash back on decorations, booze, groceries and everything else.
Drawbacks: There are no special cash back rates for groceries.

How to Choose a Credit Card for Party Expenses

If your primary purpose for a credit card is funding your parties, your choice is easy. You’ll want to choose a card that offers the strongest rewards wherever you get party supplies.

But if you also want a card for everyday spending, you may want to pick a cash back card that offers good rates at the other merchants you frequent. If your spending is truly scattershot, a card with a great flat cash back rate on all purchases might be the right choice.

Don’t forget to consider interest rates and fees. If you tend to carry a balance on your card, the ensuing interest will eat into your cash back earnings. Fees can have the same effect.

What Credit Is Required for a Card That Funds Parties?

Cards with great cash back rates generally require good to excellent credit. You should check your credit before you apply, as a hard inquiry resulting from a credit card application may slightly ding your credit score. You can check two of your credit scores free at Credit.com.

Image: svetikd

At publishing time, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One. Citi Double Cash and Bank Americard Cash Rewards credit 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).

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 5 Credit Cards to Help You Throw Parties appeared first on Credit.com.

Free Money! The Best Way to Get Your Cash Back

[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners once they become available here — Blue Cash Preferred from American Express ]

Free money is always useful, especially when it comes from your cash back credit cards. Although the U.S. government has reported the personal income rate to be increasing for many Americans, this winter might still get expensive, considering the holidays and heating bills. But before you cash in on your cash back to make ends meet, there are some questions you should be asking your card company to make sure you’re not losing any of your points. Sometimes, there are better ways to retrieve your bonus cash. You can usually reach a representative by calling the number on the back of your card, or on the card’s application website. Here are a few questions to ask.

Is There a Deadline to Get My Cash Back?

Some cards have a redeem-points-by-this-date-or-lose-your-money provision in their fine print, and it isn’t categorized by the bank. It’s categorized by the type of credit card you have. For example, an older card that was offered a few years ago, the Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card, has points that expire in 5 years if they’re not cashed in, but the newer BankAmericard Cash Rewards cards have points that “never expire,” Bank of America spokeswoman Lucie Fernandez said. Other related questions to ask are if your points are ever in jeopardy of being lost, and how, and if there is a minimum number of points you need to start getting cash back.

Is there a Higher Cash Back Percentage After I Spend a Certain Amount?

Sometimes, your points will increase in value the more that you spend, so you might not want to cash them in too soon. For example, if you have a Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card, you’ll want to get beyond 25,000 in points before cashing them in, because you’ll get $1 in cash back for every $100 spent. At the lower spending plateau —for less than 10,000 points — your cash back will only be worth 50-cents per $100 spent, Fernandez said.
(It may not sound like a lot of money, but if you throw all of your expenses on your credit card, every few years, you might get an extra $500 in cash back, depending on your spending habits.) But cards differ. Compare that to the newer BankAmericard Cash Rewards cards, which offers from 1-3% back immediately for anything you buy with the card. (The 3% is usually for gasoline purchases, and means $3 per $100 spent.)

Will I get more value by transferring my points to other things?

Some cards, such as the Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card offer a 10% bonus if you deposit your cash rewards directly into your Bank of America checking account. And even if you have an airline miles card, and not a cash card, in some cases, it pays to ask. A Southwest Airlines Visa Plus card, for example, offers the option of converting your airline miles to gift cards, hotel stays and car rentals in addition to flights. (66,000 points, for example, are redeemable for 21 gift cards to Amazon, Macy’s, Lowe’s and other stores, each worth $25 each or $525 altogether, according to a Chase card representative. ) You can also transfer the miles to another rapid rewards account, so some family members might use flight miles as holiday gifts.

What are my most lucrative spending categories?

This answer can also usually be found on the card’s website, but you’ll need to know the exact name for your card, and not just the brand. Your bonus will vary per card. The Citi Double Cash Card, for example, offers 1% cash back on purchases, and another 1% when you pay for your purchases on your statement balance. The QuicksilverOne From Capital One offers 1.5% for every purchase, while other cash back credit cards run calendar-driven promotions for their cash back or points. If you have a Discover It card for example, in December you can get a generous 5% back on up to $1500 spent on Amazon, department stores, and Sam’s Club.
The Chase Freedom credit card’s 5% bonus category in December is for purchases at department stores, wholesale clubs and drug stores, and you can score an extra $150 after you spend $500 in your first three months. (source: https://creditcards.chase.com/credit-cards/chase-freedom) But both cards require you to activate them for each rewards category, and the rewards vary per calendar month or quarter.
Other cards, such as the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, offer cash back application incentives. If you apply for the Blue Cash card by January 11, for example, you’ll earn 10% on Amazon purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200, and if you spend $1,000 or more on anything within your first three months, you’ll earn another $150. Couple that with the whopping 6% you get back on grocery store purchases (including gift cards,) and this card can give you some serious rewards. Be aware, however: The cash is given to you as a statement credit and the annual fee for the card is $95. (Source: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/personal-card-application/blue-cash-preferred-credit-card/26129-10-0?intlink=us-CCSG-CardDetail-BCP-Apply-Mid)

What does the card offer beyond earn rates?

  “Earn rates are important, but in today’s marketplace that’s one of many considerations   When choosing a new credit card, it’s important to find one that helps you save time and money, and also helps you take control of your finances,” said Alli Sherman, spokeswoman for Capital One.

Even with lucrative cash back opportunities available, it’s also prudent not to overspend and to check the interest rates associated with each card. Revolving balances can accrue interest charges that gobble up the value of your rewards, and hurt your credit score, which will keep you from getting other lucrative offers, lower interest loans and mortgages. To keep an eye on how your spending is reflected in your credit history, you can see a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Citi Double Cash Card, Discover It and QuicksilverOne From Capital One are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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

The post Free Money! The Best Way to Get Your Cash Back appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

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

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

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

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 4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs appeared first on Credit.com.