Big List of Ways To Protect Your Credit: Free Credit Monitoring, Credit Locks, Fraud Alerts, and Credit Freezes (Updated 2018)

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Updated. After the 2017 Equifax hack that affected half of all Americans, there was renewed interest in the various ways you can monitor and/or protect your credit report. Below is a summary of the options available.

Free credit freezes mandated by 9/21/18, some available now. By law, all three credit bureaus must offer free online credit report freezes (and thaws) to consumers by Friday, September 21st, 2018. TransUnion and Equifax actually have this live already (see below), while Experian has chosen to wait until they are forced to comply. In addition, the same law requires that free credit freezes also be made available for children under 16 years old. (I would warn folks that you have to send in multiple sensitive personal documents like birth certificate and possibly notarized forms to verify your kids’ identities. Makes sense but a lot of work.)

Free credit reports. Everyone should take advantage of the free copy of their credit reports (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and their bank report (ChexSystems, TeleCheck) available every 12 months. I would also add LexisNexis to the ones I personally check. This free access is mandated by the government. Here again is my Big List of Free Consumer Reports.

Free credit monitoring. There are many offers nowadays for free credit scores and partial snapshots of your credit report. These are provided by private services, either in partnership with or as a subsidiary of the major credit bureaus. In addition, some offer credit monitoring, where they will e-mail or text you when a significant change occurs (new accounts, etc). I choose to take advantage of this, knowing it is in exchange for some ads. Here’s a recipe for credit monitoring coverage across all three major bureaus:

Free credit locks. The credit bureaus now have a feature that allows you to instantly “lock” and “unlock” the credit report of a specific credit bureau and thus prevent access. These are nice because you can unlock it for a day or so when you need, but otherwise keep it locked. Again, if they are free, they are probably supported by ads and/or upgrades (which is fine by me, I just decline the occasional upsell and it stays free).

Free Fraud Alerts. If you are concerned that your personal information is compromised (you should be!), you can any one of the three major credit bureaus and ask for a “Fraud Alert” to be placed on your credit report. This supposedly lets all potential creditors know that you are at high risk and that they need to do extra identity verification. Be sure that they have your current information as they will call you every time someone tries to check your credit report.

(Update: I’ve had a Fraud Alert on my account for over 12 months now, and I have not seen any special precautions taken despite applying for multiple credit cards during that time. No verification phone calls, no snail mail letters, etc. I wouldn’t depend on a Fraud Alert to stop any criminal activities.)

This is free of charge. It will expire automatically after 1 year but you can call in and renew by submitting a new request within 30 days of your current alert expiring. If you are a documented victim of identity theft, you can ask for an Extended Fraud Alert of up to 7 years. By law, you should only need to one of them, and they are supposed to the other two companies and thus have the Fraud Alert active on all three accounts. Taken from FTC.gov:

Credit Freezes. This is the most comprehensive measure to take. Once you initiate a credit freeze, it will stay on there permanently in most states (or at least 7 years in others). In order for a business to check your credit report, you must manually “unfreeze” your credit temporarily. As of 9/21/18, this should be free by law at all three credit bureaus. As of this writing, TransUnion and Equifax freezes are already available for free. You must each credit bureau separately.

I decided to initiate a free 90-Day Fraud Alert to try it out (through Equifax since they should do the extra work).

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I already access my credit reports/ChexSystems/LexisNexis every 12 months, and I continuously monitor my own credit using the services listed above. Here’s a sample free alert I got from CreditKarma:

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I then cross-referenced with a similar free credit monitoring alert from CreditSesame (TransUnion) that included more info like date and card issuer:

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Bottom line. That’s the menu; I would start at the top and pick what works for you. I tend to open a relatively high number of credit and bank accounts throughout the year, often for a time-senstive promotion, so I choose to decline the extra hassle and cost that comes with a credit freeze. I use the free monitoring services listed above instead to get an e-mail whenever a new credit check occurs or a new line of credit is reported. If you rarely get new accounts or simply feel otherwise, go more extreme.

Chase Sapphire Banking: 60,000 Bonus Points For New Customers

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Chase Bank has a new premium checking account tier called Sapphire Banking. To qualify, you will need to maintain at least $75,000 in deposits or investments in qualifying Chase accounts. Otherwise, a $25 monthly fee applies. Sapphire Banking perks include:

  • No ATM fees, including rebates on fees charged by non-Chase ATMs.
  • No fees for foreign exchange (ATM/debit), outgoing wire transfers, or stop payments.
  • No fees on the first four overdrafts within 12 months.
  • Free online stock and ETF trades with You Invest by JP Morgan.
  • Access to Sapphire lounges at concerts, sports and special events, early ticket sales and premium seats
  • $0 monthly service fee on a linked Chase Total Business Checking account.

Everyone wants assets under management now, even the banks. Since investments count towards the $75,000 requirement, if you have that much in ETFs, mutual funds, or stocks at another broker, you could perform an in-kind ACAT transfer over to Chase You Invest. This would let you avoid parking $75,000 at Chase earning nearly zero interest. (2% interest on $75k is $1,500 per year.) I’ve previously moved over some Vanguard funds to Bank of America / Merrill Edge in order get their asset-based perks.

Here’s the fine print:

There is a $25 Monthly Service Fee for Chase SapphireSM Checking OR $0 when you have an average beginning day balance of $75,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying deposits/investments. Qualifying personal deposits include this checking account and up to nine personal Chase checking accounts (excluding Chase Private Client CheckingSM ), personal Chase savings accounts (excluding Chase Private Client SavingsSM), Chase Liquid® Cards, CDs, certain Chase Retirement CDs, or certain Chase Retirement Money Market Accounts (balances in Chase Money Purchase Pension and Profit Sharing Plans do not qualify). Qualifying personal investments include prior end of month balances for investment and annuity products offered by JPMorgan Chase & Co. or its affiliates and agencies. Balances in certain retirement plan investment accounts, such as Money Purchase Pension and Profit Sharing Plans, do not qualify. Investment products and related services are only available in English.

New account bonus. According to this press release, “Sapphire cardholders will be able to earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when they bring in $75,000 in new qualifying deposits and investments and open or upgrade to a Sapphire Banking account”. The exact date is to be announce “shortly”, but it will be sometime in October. This language suggests you’ll need to also have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. Offer is available online and in-branch.

Now, 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for $600 cash. With the Sapphire Preferred card, 60,000 UR points can be redeem for $750 in travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal (think Expedia). With the Sapphire Reserve card, 60,000 UR points can be redeem for $900 in travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal (think Expedia). You could also transfer those points to airline miles. That’s a pretty good bonus, although I wonder if Chase will issue a 1099-INT and with what value amount.

Cost-benefit analysis. I don’t know of Chase savings accounts with high interest rates. That means if you’re bringing over cash, again you might be giving up bank interest of 2% or higher. $75,000 would earn $125 interest per month at 2% APR. If they require you to keep it there for 90 days and it’s in an account that doesn’t earn any interest, that’s $375 in foregone interest already. Then you have to wait up to another 45 days to get the bonus, during which you’ll need to keep the account open. If you take out all your money, you’ll still need to pay the $25 monthly fee, which means another $50 to keep it open two more months. I don’t like having to give up hundreds of dollars upfront in the hopes of an eventual bonus. I would consider moving over some index funds instead, especially if they agree to rebate the account transfer fee ($25 to $75), as many other brokers do. I’ll wait until all the details come out.

Bottom line. Chase Bank has a new premium checking account tier called Sapphire Banking, targeted at the “mass affluent”. There is a new account bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for existing Sapphire credit cardholders if you move over $75,000 in cash and/or investment assets, but the full details have not yet been confirmed.

How To Enable Auto Sweep on Paypal Accounts (2018)

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If you use PayPal to accept credit cards for your small business (eBay, Etsy, e-store, freelance, etc), you may not want to keep your money sitting at PayPal (especially if you are earning higher interest in your bank account). There is a feature called Auto Sweep that checks daily and automatically “sweeps” any money that arrives in your PayPal account into your bank account overnight.

The Auto Sweep feature used to be easily found in their settings. Then they moved it into a dim corner of their website that was harder to find. Last week, I couldn’t find it at all. After digging through several outdated articles, it turns out that as of 2018 you can’t access the feature at all unless you call in and ask for it explicitly. Not exactly customer-friendly behavior, but PayPal makes money off your idle balances… (The PayPal Money Market fund that offered higher interest shut down in July 2011.)

Here’s how to enable Auto Sweep on your PayPal account as of 2018. This is another post for the benefit for others searching online. First, make sure you meet these requirements:

  • You must have a Business PayPal account in good standing.
  • You must have a bank account linked to your PayPal account.
  • You must have lifted your withdrawal limit and verified your PayPal Account.

Next, you must call PayPal directly via phone.

  • Once logged into your PayPal account click Contact at the bottom of the page.
  • Choose the Call Us option and call the number listed for your account. Use the unique code to quickly identify yourself to them.
  • When you reach a human, explicitly ask for “Auto Sweep” to be enabled on your account.

After that, they will flip a switch on their end, and you should finally be able to see the option enabled on your online account. Log back into your PayPal account and follow these instructions:

  • Click Profile beside “Log Out” and select Profile and settings.
  • Click My money.
  • Click Set near “Automatic transfers.”
  • Click Edit.
  • Click Yes, select the bank you want your money transferred to, and click Save.

Here’s what you should see after Auto Sweep has successfully been turned on:

There you go. Note that if you ever manually request a cash transfer from a bank account to your PayPal balance, that this would automatically turn off Auto Sweep. I guess the money running around in circles causes a tear in the time-space continuum or something. (You can go back an turn Auto Sweep back on manually.)

If you activate this feature, it may also change your how you use the PayPal Business Debit card, as there will no longer be any cash balance in your account to draw from. For non-PIN signature purchases, these will still work if you first link a bank account as a backup source, and then the debit card charges will pull from your designated backup source. You can also link up certain PayPal credit cards (source), but not just any credit card as backup. For ATM withdrawals, you will not be able to make ATM withdrawals with a zero PayPal balance (source).

I wouldn’t really recommend using the debit card anyway, there are much better small business card options with no annual fee.

Hilton American Express Cards Limited-Time Offers – Up to 125,000 Hilton Points Each

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Hilton Hotels has two American Express consumer cards, a no annual fee and a $95 annual fee version (with more perks of course). There is also a business card version. Right now, all of them have a limited-time increase to their welcome offer, from 75,000 to 125,000 points. (Up from 50k and 100k.) Each person can only get one welcome offer, per card in your entire lifetime, so it’s best to apply during one of these temporary bump-ups. (You could get all three of these welcome offers separately, but only one per card per person per lifetime.)

What are 75,000 or 125,000 Hilton Honor points worth? The best value is from booking free hotel nights or using their “Points & Money” option where you pay with a combination of Hilton points and cash. Hilton has some really nice properties, but the value varies from hotel to hotel. I just ran a search and for the same 60,000 Hilton points, I could book rooms that cost $320 or $532 cash. I’ve seen some valuations around 0.6 cents per point, which I think is fair on average, but I would be more conservative at 0.5 cents a point. That would make 75,000 points = $375 value and 125,000 points = $625 value towards Hilton hotel stays.

The good part of Hilton points is that they have so many different hotel brands, from business-class DoubleTree to luxury Waldorf Astoria. Hilton also lets you transfer and pool points with other with other family or household members. As long as you keep them active (once every 12 months), I do like to keep some around. Here’s a tip on how to keep Hilton points active with $1 Amazon gift codes.

Hilton Honors Ascend Credit Card from American Express

  • 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward certificate after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
  • 12X Hilton Honors points on purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio.
  • 6X Hilton Honors points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Hilton Honors points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Free upgrade to Hilton HHonors Gold status (free breakfast, room upgrades based on availability, 5th standard reward night free).
  • Spend $40,000 in a calendar year on this card and get HHonors Diamon status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.

Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express

  • 75,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 7X Hilton Honors points on purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Hilton Honors points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Hilton Honors points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Free upgrade to Hilton HHonors Silver status (5th standard reward night free, 2 bottles of water in your room).
  • Spend $20,000 in a calendar year on this card and get HHonors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms apply.

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

  • 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward certificate after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
  • Earn another Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend an additional $45,000 in purchases in the same calendar year.
  • 12X Hilton Honors points on purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio.
  • 6X Hilton Honors points on Select Business & Travel Purchases (ex. U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines)
  • 3X Hilton Honors points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Free upgrade to Hilton HHonors Gold status (free breakfast, room upgrades based on availability, 5th standard reward night free).
  • 10 free airport lounge visits each year once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership, which offers access to over 1,000 lounges in over 120 countries.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.

Bottom line. If you can use the points towards Hilton hotel stays, the best time to apply for a Hilton co-branded American Express card is during a limited-time increase to their welcome offers. This is because American Express has changed their policy to only allow each person to get a welcome bonus once per card per lifetime.

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.”

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – September 2018

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Are you fully aware of how valuable that space in your wallet or purse is? Credit card companies are in heated competition right now, offering strong perks and $500+ value a pop during the first year to try out a new card. In my opinion, these are the top 10(ish) credit card offers for consumers in September 2018. Please see links provided for full details.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels like Staybridge Suites and Courtyard Marriott, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

  • 60,000 Thank You points (worth $750 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. More rewards, more perks including lounge access, $450 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

  • 60,000 points (worth $600 towards travel) after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee. See link for details.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • $89 annual fee.

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card

  • 100,000 Marriott Rewards points after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points (redeemable for $600+ in Wanna Getaway airfare) after $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $99 annual fee.
  • Combine with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select Card

  • 50,000 American Airlines miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic flights perk.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • 60,000 Hyatt points (enough for two nights at any Hyatt). 40,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 20,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • NOT subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card

  • 100,000 IHG Rewards points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $89 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • NOT subject to 5/24 rule.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

  • 60,000 Delta Skymiles after you make $3,000 in purchases within your first 4 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on every Delta flight.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card Review: 80,000 Point Bonus worth $1,000 Towards Travel

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

inkpreferred2018Updated. Business credit cards can be used by self-employed or side-gig workers with eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Uber/Lyft, Adsense or other 1099 income that make you a sole proprietorship. The Ink Business Preferred Card is now offering a 80,000 point bonus for new cardholders, worth an even $1,000 towards travel when redeemed through Chase. This is their premium travel card with 3X points on travel purchases and the ability to transfer points to airline miles or redeem at a 25% premium through their travel portal. Here are the details:

  • 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. That’s worth $1,000 toward any airfare or hotels booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (works like Expedia or Travelocity).
  • 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.
  • 1X point per $1 on all other purchases with no limit.
  • Ability to transfer points directly to airline mile partners.
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Free additional cards for employees.
  • Primary rental car coverage when renting for business purposes.
  • $95 annual fee.

Ultimate Rewards points. This card offers a 25% bonus on travel bookings made through the Ultimate Rewards travel website. 80,000 Ultimate Rewards = $1,000 in travel. Similar to Expedia or Travelocity, you can book flights on most major airlines, hotel chains, and car rental companies. This makes it much more flexible to spend your points. You can even buy something more expensive and pay the difference.

If you have other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points like the Ink Business Cash or Ink Business Unlimited, you can transfer points into this card account and take advantage of the 25% premium. However, if you happen to have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you could transfer your points over to that card and grab the better 50% premium.

You could think of this card as the small business version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Prefer airline and/or hotel points? This card also allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points into hotel and/or airline miles. Transfer to United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Southwest, Hyatt Hotels, IHG Hotels, and Marriott Hotels at a ratio of 1 Ultimate Rewards point = 1 mile/hotel point. Miles redemption continue to offer great value for savvy travelers, especially for last-minute travel and business class seats.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and these days many people are full-time or part-time consultants, freelancers, eBay/Amazon/Etsy sellers, Uber/Lyft drivers, or other one-person business owners. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

Note that Chase has an unofficial rule that they will most likely deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years (aka the 5/24 rule). This rule is designed to discourage folks that apply for high numbers of sign-up bonuses. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so in our household one applies to Chase while the other applies at other card issuers.

The good news is that small business cards from Chase hardly ever show up on personal credit reports, so getting this card in itself won’t affect your future 5/24 eligibility. This it makes a “free” application if you are already eligible.

Bottom line. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card has a huge 80,000 point sign-up bonus worth a cool $1,000 towards travel, along with premium travel features included with the $95 annual fee. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points from other Chase cards to increase your value. If you’d rather have a more simple cash-focused rewards structure and no annual fee, be sure to compare with the Ink Business Unlimited and Ink Business Cash.

“Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.”

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card Review – $500 Bonus + 4% Back on Restaurants

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Capital One has refreshed their Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card with a new $500 sign-up bonus, waived first year annual fee, and improved rewards structure. Here are the highlights:

  • $500 cash bonus after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee for the first year, $95 after that
  • Free concierge service that lets you call for special reservations at certain restaurants and other experiences.

Capital One says that existing Savor cardholders will be upgraded to the 4% back on dining and other features of the Savor, but will have their annual fee waived indefinitely. No sign-up bonus, though!

Purchase rewards details. Notable about this card is the 4% back on dining and entertainment. 4% is high, but there are many other rewards cards that offer some sort of boost on restaurant purchases, such as the Costco Anywhere Visa (my review) with 3% on restaurants (amongst other rewards categories) and no annual fee. Often one of the rotating 5% cash back cards has restaurants as a category.

If you already have one of those cards above, you’d have to spend decent chunk on dining out to justify paying that $95 annual fee after the first year. Of course, if you do dine out often, you might actually take advantage of their free Concierge service to help you get reservations at high-demand spots.

In case you were curious, the application page provides some direct clarifications on the rewards structure.

What counts as dining?
Purchases at restaurants, cafes, bars, lounges, fast-food chains and bakeries.

What counts as entertainment?
Buying tickets to a movie, play, concert, sporting event, tourist attraction, theme park, aquarium, zoo, dance club, pool hall or bowling alley. Also, making purchases at record store and video rental locations. This excludes non-industry entertainment merchant codes like cable, digital streaming, and subscription services.

What counts as a grocery store?
A supermarket, meat locker, freezer, dairy product store and specialty market. Excludes superstores like Walmart® and Target®.

Statement credits. The rewards on this card are nice and simple. You earn cash, which can be redeemed as a statement credit or a mailed check. There are other options, but none are especially interesting or more valuable than cash.

Credit approval details. This card says it requires “Excellent credit”. Capital One is known to limit you to two consumer Capital One credit cards per person. They are also a bit unusual in that they pull your credit reports from all three major bureaus, instead of just one.

Bottom line. The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has a new $500 sign-up bonus, waived first year annual fee, and 4% cash back on dining and entertainment. This The total first-year value of this card is over $500. Note the $3,000 of total spending required within 3 months – maybe it’s your turn to put group dinner on your card and have everyone else pay you back to take advantage of that 4% back.

“Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.”

Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card Review: 100,000 Bonus Points + 5,000 for Authorized User

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card is the IHG hotel co-branded card with an improved bonus offer. There is a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 IHG points + $5,000 more IHG points for adding a new authorized user. Here are the highlights:

  • 100,000 bonus IHG points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5,000 bonus IHG points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within 3 months from account opening.
  • Free night certificate at card anniversary. Valid at IHG® Hotels with a current point redemption level of 40,000 points or less. Stay must be completed within 12 months from date of issue.
  • Free status upgrade to IHG® Rewards Club Platinum Elite for as long as you remain a Premier credit cardmember.
  • For each standard room Reward Night stay of 4 or more nights, every 4th night is free.
  • Earn 10,000 bonus IHG points after you spend $20,000 on purchases and make one additional purchase each account anniversary year.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $89 annual fee.

This total bonus level is the highest that I’ve seen on any IHG card. This is a pretty new card, but if you’ve gotten a bonus from this card within the last 2 years, please note the following:

This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.

Note that this is the new “IGH Club Premier” card, so this language should mean that if you have the older and different “IHG Club Select” card, you can still apply for this card and get the sign-up bonus.

For now, the 5/24 rule does not apply to this card. On many Chase cards, there is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years (aka the 5/24 rule). This rule is designed to discourage folks that apply for high numbers of sign-up bonuses. This is applied on a per-person basis, so in our household one applies to Chase while the other applies at other card issuers. As of right now, the 5/24 rule does not apply to this card.

What can you get with 100,000 IHG points? The best redemption value for IHG points is for free hotel nights. The other options offer significantly less value. While the points don’t translate directly to a dollar value, but overall you should expect around 0.60 cents of value per point. This would place 100,000 IHG points at a $600 value. You can perform the calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and got between 0.5 cents and 0.8 cents per point equivalent value. Personally, I assign the points a more conservative value of 0.50 cents per IHG point based on my past award redemptions. (I don’t stay at the fancy places much anymore.)

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites
  • Hotel Indigo
  • EVEN Hotels

IHG Rewards Club puts out a new list of PointBreaks hotels every few months where you can redeem a hotel night for only 5,000 to 15,00 points. There are some nice hotels on the list, but the locations are very specific and few people are sufficiently flexible with their travel to constantly take advantage of these deals. However, you could get value of over 1 cent per IHG point with a hotel on this list.

IHG points expire after 24 months of inactivity, so if you keep up your activity then you can save up these free nights for later. Chase Ultimate Rewards points also convert to IHG points.

Ongoing rewards structure. I might book my IHG nights on this card, but the rest of the rewards are pretty bad. Remember that IHG points are worth less than other points like Hyatt or Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

  • 10 IHG points total per $1 spent at IHG properties.
  • 2 IHG points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants.
  • 1 IHG point per $1 spent on all other card purchases

I would only consider keeping this card if you can use the anniversary night certificate with the 40,000 point maximum value.

Bottom line. The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has a current sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 IHG points + $5,000 more IHG points for adding a new authorized user. As with most of these co-branded cards, the best value is obtained by regular IHG hotel customers. After accounting for the $89 annual fee, the total first-year value of this card is still over $500 if you value IHG points at 0.55 cents per point.

As it does not fall under the Chase 5/24 restrictions, I plan on applying for this card later on if it’s still available. I already applied for the Chase World of Hyatt card (review) as I think it is a better offer, and am currently fulfilling the spending requirements on that one.

“Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.”

Citi ThankYou Premier Card Review – 60,000 Bonus Points Redeemable For $750 in Airfare on Any Airline

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Citi Premier CardLimited-time offer bump. The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card from our partner Citi has a limited-time offer of 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points (worth $750 in airfare towards any airline) a waived annual fee for the first year. This is the highest bonus that I’ve ever seen on this card. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out and Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*

Triple points include both air/hotel/car rental and daily commute items. The triple (3X) points on on travel includes hotels, airfare, taxis, car rental, public transportation, parking, cruises, and even gas. When combined with the 25% travel premium, makes that equivalent to a 3.75% reward towards travel booked through Citi Travel Center. The double (2X) on restaurants (includes bars and fast food) and entertainment (sporting events) makes that 2.5% towards travel booked through Citi Travel Center.

Bonus details. The sign-up bonus was is usually around 30,000 ThankYou points with a few bumps to 50,000. The current combination of 60,000 bonus points and first year annual fee waiver is the highest that I’ve seen. If you got a lower bonus recently, it doesn’t hurt to ask Citi to match the current bonus via their secure message system. The worst they could say is no.

Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

What can you do with 60,000 ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points.

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$750 towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. With the new Citi Premier card, you get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. That is the same as saying 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 60,000 ThankYou points will get you $750 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it easy to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

$600 in gift cards, $600 check towards student loan or mortgage. You can view your redemption options at ThankYou.com. I took a quick look and it takes 10,000 ThankYou (TY) points to redeem for a $100 gift card to retailers like Gap, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cabelas, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl’s, Land’s End, LL Bean, Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Staples, and Walmart. So with 50,000 TY points, you could get five $100 gift cards from different stores.

For a check mailed to you, it is 8,000 points for $50 (1 points = 0.625 cent). A better conversion ratio comes from a check mailed towards your mortgage payment or student loan (it arrives made out to your lender), which is 7,500 points for $75 (1 points = 1 cent).

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem these points wisely, you can get a lot of value. For example, Singapore Airlines has some very nice award options and great customer service.

Bottom line.  60,000 ThankYou points = $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center. The $95 annual fee is also waived for the first 12 months, so you can “try before you buy”. That brings the total first year value to $750. Now that I am booking family travel around school schedules, I appreciate the ability to redeem ThankYou points towards any airline without worrying about using a specific airline or hunting for “saver awards”. If you are willing to do the legwork, the airline transfer partners may get you better value.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card Review

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The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, from our partner Citi, is the new no annual fee co-branded American Airlines credit card.   It replaces the former (little-publicized) Citi/AAdvantage Bronze card and adds a few new features. Here are the card highlights:

  • NEW: Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • No Annual Fee*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*

I view this is a niche card for those that want to earn American Airlines, but don’t fly or spend enough to justify the annual fee of the other cards. Some folks just aren’t willing to pay an annual fee, no matter how good the perks are.

Bonus details. If you find the spending requirement too high on many cards, note that this one only requires $500 in purchases to earn the account opening bonus. Note the following language:

Statement credit and American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had an AAdvantage MileUp? card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

This means that yes, you can still get the bonus on this card if you’ve had another co-branded American Airlines card from Citi in the last 24 months like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard or the CitiBusiness® version designed for businesses.

No waived baggage fees. As you might expect, being the no annual fee version also means less perks. Notably, this card does not include any baggage fee waivers, which was a big potential source of savings from the other cards mentioned above (with annual fees). Also missing are priority boarding and the ability to book discounted award tickets (“Reduced Mileage Awards”).

Redemption tips. American Airlines MileSAAver awards are still 25,000 miles for a round-trip ticket within the contiguous 48 states. Their online system is pretty good for looking for domestic AA awards. If the trip is less than 500 miles, then it is only 15,000 miles round-trip within the contiguous 48 states. Under-500 miles routes include Las Vegas to/from Los Angeles, Charleston to/from Miami, New York to/from Washington DC, Philadelphia to Boston, and many others.

Bottom-line.  The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is the new no annual fee credit card from Citi and American Airlines. This card is a good fit for folks that don’t want to pay an annual fee for extra features, but still want to earn American miles on purchases (and keep their miles from expiring from inactivity). As such, you may consider “downgrading” your other Citi/American cards to this card if you stop wanting to pay the annual fee. Note that if you downgrade you don’t get the sign-up bonus, and getting the bonus from this card is independent of the bonuses from other Citi/American cards anyway.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Limited-Time Offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 75,000 Mile Bonus

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Citi AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard Art

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, is their premium American Airlines co-branded card that includes Admirals Club lounge access. There is now a limited-time 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus, which you can think of as offsetting the annual fee. Here are the full details.

  • Limited time offer: Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge Access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation*

Note the following fine print:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

As mentioned, this is the highest level Citi/American Airlines card. The 75,000 miles are nice and can be converted to several hundred dollars (or more) worth of airfare. $100 for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is nice. The reason for the $450 annual fee is the Admirals Club lounge membership and the opportunity to earn Elite Qualifying Miles towards status.

Admirals Club lounge membership value and details. Admirals Club membership usually costs ~$500 a year on its own, and this is now the only card that gives it to you as a complimentary feature. Here’s the full cost chart:

aa_clubcost

This membership allows both you and your immediate family (or up to two traveling guests that accompany you) to access over 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide. You don’t even need to be on an American Airlines flight! You can even give your spouse or trusted friend/family an authorized user card and they’ll get lounge access too, even while traveling separately from you. (Authorized user cards have no additional fee.)

You can be flying on any airline, and if that airport has an Admirals Club you and your family can go inside. Lounge access might save you money on certain things like comfortable seats, free food/drink, WiFi, and sometimes hot showers. Mostly it just makes the overall flying experience more pleasant. I’ve been to Admiral’s Clubs with special kids rooms; perfect for families during delays or layovers.

American Airlines elite qualifying miles. For those that know you can generate the required $40,000 in spending in a calendar year . I’ve given up status chasing for the time being, but if you’re an elite on American, you probably already know the value of accumulating these type of miles. 10,000 elite qualifying flight miles is like going from Honolulu to Los Angeles, roundtrip, twice.

Bottom line. The 75,000 bonus miles is definitely higher than normal, but the key to this premium card is if you can take advantage of the Admiral Club lounge access and the help in achieving/maintaining elite status on American. If you don’t need these things, I would consider the Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard with a current 50,000 mile bonus and annual fee waived for the first year.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

“The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 60,000 Bonus Miles

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(Updated. The sign-up bonus has been raised to 60,000 points, the highest ever. $89 annual fee. Details below.)

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card with 60,000 miles sign-up bonus (worth $600 toward travel statement credits) and 2X miles on every purchase. Note that this card is different from the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard. Here are the card highlights:

  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • $89 annual fee

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. You can redeem towards any airline on any date.

First, visit any booking site (Delta.com, Expedia.com, Hilton.com, Hotels.com, etc) and buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this adds a layer of complexity, you can calculate that technically getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel. Everything else (gift cards, merchandise) offers a worse redemption ratio, so don’t bother.

Comparison with alternatives. 2X miles is nice and the rebate adds a bit extra. However, this card also has an $89 annual fee. The competition offers multiple cards earning 2% cash back with no annual fee. A few examples:

You would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver). That’s a big number. Now, you could also use 8,900 miles out of the 60,000 point bonus to offset the $89 annual fee. You can also ask them to downgrade your card into the “plain” Arrival card with no annual fee (and no 2X miles).

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that earns double miles on all purchases (even more with the 5% rebate). The sign-up bonus has been raised to 60,000 points – worth $600 in travel statement credits – the highest ever for this card. This is offset by the $89 annual fee. This is strong offer as there is a $500 net value over the first year to get me to try out a new card.

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