If travel is in your plans, you may want to know about this offer from American Express. It’s the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, and it offers 25,000 bonus points when you make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening your account.
You can redeem those points for free nights when it works for you because there are no blackout dates at over 1,200 Starwood hotels and resorts in almost 100 countries. (Some hotels may have mandatory service charges and resort charges.) For international travelers, though, it’s a big plus that there are no foreign transaction fees. You can stay connected with free in-room premium Internet access, but booking requirements apply. Other perks give you access to discounts and presale tickets for live events as well.
After the introductory period, your travel and everyday purchases continue to help you earn travel rewards too. You can get up to 5 points for every dollar you spend at Starwood hotels and 1 point on all other purchases. The offer includes a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year and goes to $95 per year after that. Terms and conditions apply.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card was also honored in the CardRating.com Editor’s Choice Awards article for its introductory offer – 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. (That translates to $625 in travel rewards.)
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you earn two times the points on travel and dining. You earn one point for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
It seems that turning your everyday purchases into better travel experiences is getting easier – and there are a number of options to choose from to boot. Happy trails!
Cash back credit cards can help consumers practice responsible spending while earning a little extra for their efforts when used properly. The days of earning 5 percent cash back for all credit card purchases may be just a memory, but the smart use of credit cards can still be profitable for diligent consumers. You may be able to find some credit cards offering a high level of cash back in certain spending categories, but these are often subject to maximums.
Most of today’s better cash back credit cards offer 1 percent to 2 percent cash back on purchases. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a number of credit cards with higher cash rebates. Keep in mind that in order to make credit card with rewards programs worthwhile, you must pay your bill on time and in full every single month to avoid interest charges and late fees.
This ever-changing list reflects the best cash back credit cards currently available. Weighing in with his expert feedback is Curtis Arnold, CardRatings.com founder and editor in chief, and nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate. Want to learn more about any of the cards listed below? Click through below to read Arnold’s full reviews of these top cards, see CardRatings.com Cash Back Credit Card Comparison Table or visit the CardRatings.com list of hand-picked list of best cash back credit cards.
Discover it® Card-Double Cash Back your first year – CardRatings.com review. Discover® recently announced a tempting offer for anyone considering a new cash-back card— they’ll double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year automatically on this card. This offer is only intended for new cardmembers and is only available for a limited time. That applies to the 5 percent cash back in quarterly categories as well as the 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. With the new New Freeze It® on/off switch, you can prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app and online. You can also get your free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online and by mobile app, and will pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
Chase Freedom®. See the issuer for terms, but Chase is offering a $150 bonus for new cardmembers. You can earn this bonus after spending only $500 on purchases within the first three months of owning the card.
Besides this bonus, Chase Freedom® offers 5% total cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. All other purchases (purchases in other categories or purchases in the 5% category beyond $1,500) earn 1% cash back. It’s automatic! There are new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, select grocery stores, and wholesale clubs. Cash back rewards never expire as long as your account is open. It’s free and simple to activate your bonus each quarter.
Chase Freedom® has a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. Its ongoing APR is 14.24% – 23.24% variable. The balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum. And the cash advance APR is 25.24% variable, but a cash advance fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater) applies.
So while the most you can earn from the 5% bonus cash back rate is $75, your cash back at the 1% rate is unlimited. Plus, Chase Freedom® carries no annual fee.
Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature Card. Fidelity’s card is regularly cited as a Consumerism Commentary readers’ favorite. For the first $15,000 you spend on this card in a year, you will earn 1.5 points. After you hit the $15,000 threshold, each dollar will earn 2 points. Every time you pass 5,000 points, Fidelity will deposit $50 into your account.
This card requires a linked account at Fidelity, but these accounts are free and can be good choices for savers and investors. A few years ago, I chose to rollover a former company’s 401(k) into a Fidelity IRA, and I use Fidelity as the servicing company for my charitable gift fund. Their index mutual funds are some of the lowest cost in the business, but for most of my own investing I prefer Vanguard. Vanguard, however, does not offer a similar credit card offer.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. I recommend this card as the one whose bonus categories are most likely to overlap the spending habits of parents.
Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of statement credits.
With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can get cash back. There are no rotating reward categories. No enrollment is required. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases (Terms and limitations apply):
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
3% cash back at select U.S. department stores
1% cash back on other purchases
There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors. Terms and conditions apply.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months.
The rewards program is simple and straightforward: With the Blue Cash Everyday® Card, you can start earning cash back. There are no rotating reward categories. No enrollment is required. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases:
3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
2% cash back at U.S. gas stations
2% cash back at select U.S. department stores
1% cash back on other purchases
There is no annual fee. Terms and conditions apply. Compare this card with others in its category and apply here.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards. The basic offer for Quicksilver Cash Rewards from Capital One® is a 1.5% rate of cash back on every purchase, every day, with no limit. There are no rotating categories to keep track of, and you don’t have to sign up to earn cash rewards. Plus, cash back rewards don’t expire! If you are approved and open this card, Capital One® currently offers a one-time $100 cash bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases within the first three months. Compare this card with others in its category and apply here.
Capital One® is also offering an introductory interest rate of 0% on purchases for nine months, with 13.24% – 23.24% variable APR after that. Balance transfers also have a 0% intro APR for nine months, with 13.24% – 23.24% variable APR after that. Balance transfers carry a fee of 3% to each transferred balance. You’ll need good to excellent credit to be considered for this credit card which carries no annual membership fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Discover it® Chrome. With Discover it® Chrome, you can earn 1% cash back on every purchase, but Discover® offers an opportunity to earn double cash back on certain categories. The double cash back is limited to $1,000 in combined purchases, though, which adds up to only $100 extra. Still, that’s $100 you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The categories for double cash back with Discover it® Chrome are gas stations and restaurants. In order to make using the cash back points even easier, Discover® allows you to pay for items on Amazon.com using points instead of dollars. That could come in handy during the holiday seasons.
Ink Cash® Business Credit Card. Yes, this is a business card, but sole proprietors can open an account too. Not only is this a good cash back card, but it’s the card I recently chose to open for a side business. Chase is currently offering new customers a $200 account cash back bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases across the first three months from account opening.
Beyond the opening bonus, Chase offers cardholders 5% cash back on purchases at office supply stores, telephone (mobile and landline) payments, and cable and internet bills, up to a total of $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year. The next tier is a 2% cash back rate on combined purchases up to $25,000 at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. These bonus cash back tiers include points that aren’t added to your account until the anniversary of your card opening, so that’s a little inconvenient.
Otherwise, all other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back. Always see issuer’s terms regarding APR.
If you’re holding on to a cash back credit card that you feel deserves to make this list, let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below. If the offer is good, I’ll add it to this best cash back credit cards list.
Zero-interest balance transfer credit card offers can help you meet this challenge, but only if you know what to look for. Otherwise, you will end up paying interest anyway, which is exactly what the credit card companies hope will happen.
Time to pay the piper
According to a Consumerism Commentary analysis of Federal Reserve figures, since 1989, Americans accumulated an average of nearly $30.3 billion in new credit card debt in the final three months of the year. In the first three months, they paid down an average of $24.1 billion in credit card debt.
Click on the image to the left, and you can see that Americans run up more holiday debt than they repay after New Year’s Day. This problem is made worse by the fact that they also run up debt in the second and third quarters of the year.
As a result, credit card debt increased four-fold over those 25 years, to nearly $890 billion.
Balance transfer credit cards – what to look for
What adds to this problem is that the debt accumulates interest, often at high rates. Zero-interest balance transfer credit cards can help, by buying you some time to pay off your debt without interest. However, it is important to know what to look for when considering an offer:
Does the offer apply to your credit profile? Credit card companies advertise their most attractive terms, but these only apply to the most attractive customers – those with strong credit ratings. Current offers being marketed show 0% APR on balances transferred for as long as 21 months (Chase Slate® is currently offering no balance transfer fees, and 0% APR for 15 months – over a year of 0% APR for balances transferred within the first 60 days) – but the cream of the crop of balance transfer offers are only available to those with great credit. If your score is above 740, you are considered to have prime credit and can probably choose from any offer that’s out there. At the other end of the spectrum, if your credit score is below 620, you are considered sub-prime and probably won’t get the best credit card terms.
How long does the zero interest offer last? These offers are temporary, so compare to see which ones give you the longest interest-free period. Those periods can range from a few months to over a year, so it does make a big difference. People assume that when the time expires they can always roll any remaining balance into a new zero-interest balance transfer credit card, but opening new accounts frequently can damage your credit rating. Ultimately, this could make new zero-interest offers unavailable to you.
What is the interest rate after the initial period? Chances are you will incur interest charges eventually, either on the unpaid portion of your transferred balance, or on new purchases. So, it is important to compare rates you would be paying after the zero-interest period runs out.
Is there a fee for transfers? Keep in mind that these fees, which are often 3 percent of any transferring balance, will reduce the savings of the zero interest period. Compare to see which cards have low transfer fees. As mentioned above, Chase Slate® is one notable example of a card that is offering no balance transfer fees and 15 months with 0% APR as a part of its introductory offer.
What is the credit limit? Make sure the limit is high enough to allow you to consolidate your existing credit card debt, or at least a meaningful portion of it.
The ultimate question: What is your repayment plan?
After you’ve asked all the right questions about different credit card offers, you have to ask yourself one very important question: What is your plan for paying down that debt? You need a budget with a payment plan that lets you project how long it will take you to pay off your credit card balances, preferably before any zero-interest offers run out.
One way or another, the build-up of debt is a problem that won’t be solved by simply moving it around. The best balance transfer credit card offers can help you pay off your debt less expensively with zero interest, but the clear goal must be to pay off that debt completely.
Whether you’re planning a very special trip next year or just travel a lot, there’s currently a limited-time offer you really ought to think seriously about. The Discover it® Miles-Double Miles your first year card is effectively offering double miles for the first year after new cardholders (but not existing ones) open their accounts.
Here’s how it works: After the first consecutive 12 billing periods that your new account is open, Discover® will double all the miles you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the next billing cycle. Cardholders earn 1.5x miles per dollar spent on purchases, then double all the miles you’ve earned at the end of the first year.
A good travel rewards card This would be of less interest were the Discover it® Miles not a pretty good travel rewards card already. But it is, because:
You can fly any airline at any time — with no blackout dates.
You can redeem any number of miles you want, from one up, at any time.
You can redeem miles against travel purchases made on the card within the previous 180 days. These travel purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation.
You can also redeem miles for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account.
It has no annual fee.
There are no foreign transaction fees.
Discover® pays you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees (up to $30 a year) with an automatic statement credit.
There’s no cap on the miles you can earn.
Rewards never expire, although Discover® will credit your account with your rewards balance if your account is closed or has not been used in 18 months.
You get a 0 percent APR introductory rate on purchases for 12 months.
There’s no fee for your first late payment, and paying late won’t increase your APR.
All this, and Discover® has just introduced the Freeze ItSM on/off switch, which lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.
Getting the most out of this offer If you’re planning a big trip and want your rewards to cover part of the cost, you’re probably going to want to use your card for most or all your travel and non-travel purchases prior to departure. The tricky bit is timing when you buy your tickets and pay for other upfront travel-related expenses.
Remember, you can only use rewards to pay or partially pay for travel items purchased within the previous 180 days. Discover® doubles all the miles you’ve earned in your first year during your 13th billing cycle, so depending on the timing of your plans and the purchases you make on the card, there may be a bit of a gap when it comes to redeeming all of your miles.
One possible solution is to buy tickets and so on less than six months before you travel, taking advantage of the Discover it® Miles card’s zero percent introductory APR. That way, you can avoid interest and maximize the contribution your points make to the final cost — although you are going to have to make at least minimum payments during the months between buying the tickets and redeeming the rewards. Ideally you probably want to clear the balance during that 13th billing cycle, which is not only when your bonus rewards become available, but also when the variable APR kicks in.
By all means use your card while you’re on your trip to build up more rewards, and provide triggers (hotel bills, car rental, rail tickets …) for other rewards redemptions. After all, it doesn’t charge the foreign transaction fees — typically 3 percent — that many cards do.
However, you should note one possible drawback. This concerns Discover’s® acceptance by merchants in certain countries. You need to check the map on the company’s website before you travel to make sure your card’s going to work at your destination. Oh, and don’t forget to call Discover® with your itinerary details before you set off or there’s a good chance your international activity will set off fraud alarms and see your plastic temporarily frozen.
Not looking for a travel card? There’s no doubt the Discover it® Miles-Double Miles your first year is currently exceptional, but not everyone’s on the hunt for a travel rewards card.
Indeed, you may find cash back more desirable than miles, in which case you probably should explore Discover’s® other offerings. Discover® is currently offering to double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year automatically (again, only for new cardmembers) on cards including:
Discover it®-Double Cash Back your first year
Discover it® card-Double Cash Back your first year
Discover it® chrome for Students-Double Cash Back your first year
As always with credit cards, the trick is to match the plastic available to your personal requirements, desires and spending patterns.
Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which ConsumerismCommentary.com receives compensation. Compensation may impact which cards we review and write about and how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We recognize that our site does not feature every card company or card available on the market.
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