As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!


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:

  1. You can fly any airline at any time — with no blackout dates.

  2. You can redeem any number of miles you want, from one up, at any time.

  3. 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.

  4. You can also redeem miles for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account.

  5. It has no annual fee.

  6. There are no foreign transaction fees.

  7. Discover pays you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees (up to $30 a year) with an automatic statement credit.

  8. There’s no cap on the miles you can earn.

  9. 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.

  10. You get a 0 percent APR introductory rate on purchases for 12 months (then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99-22.99 percent, based on creditworthiness).

  11. 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.

Visit CardRatings.com to learn about these limited time Discover credit card offers and to read a full review of Discover it® Miles-Double Miles your first year.

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.


Banks in the United States are undergoing a major transformation in credit card technology, a process similar to the one Europe successfully completed several years ago. Despite the technological advances in mobile payment that have already rendered plastic cards obsolete, the financial industry wants to replace every magnetic stripe credit card in every wallet.

When I received a business credit card in the mail last week, in an envelope anyone paying attention would recognize as a new credit card delivery, it featured a new security measure: a chip. The embedded computer chip stores information, like the magnetic strike, that ties the card to my identity and my bank account (and in this case, my business credit card account).

Credit card issuers are going through the process of replacing magnetic stripe credit cards with embedded chip cards because they are supposedly less prone to fraud. For instance, there’s a chance that using a chipped credit card would have prevented a different credit card number of mine from being stolen a few weeks ago and used in places which I had never visited.

But are these cards really less prone to fraud? No. Is the banking industry wasting millions of dollars replacing credit cards before they expire? Yes. Is the banking industry using this as a way to earn more money from retailers? Yes. Will the credit card issuers raise consumers’ fees to cover the increased cost of producing and distributing these cards? Probably.

Here’s why these chip-embedded credit cards are a waste of time, money, and effort for the industry and offer no more protection for the consumer.

1. The new cards still contain a magnetic stripe. If the magnetic stripe makes it easy for cards to be duplicated, the only way to eliminate that vulnerability is to eliminate the stripe! But without the magnetic stripe, billions of card readers currently in use by merchants would be rendered useless.

The banking industry wants retailers to “upgrade” all card readers to those that read chips at a significant cost to the retailers. But stripe readers will still be around for a while.

2. The new cards don’t require a PIN. In Europe, chip-and-PIN cards have a better chance of reducing fraud, because they can only be used with knowledge of a secret code. Because PIN transactions in the United States are less profitable for credit card issuers than signature transactions, issuers will stick with the more profitable signature requirement.

A PIN involves a second layer of protection, while a signature provides no protection at all. Signatures aren’t checked when credit card transactions are processed.

3. The credit card numbers are still stored digitally. Regardless of the card type — chip or magnetic stripe — all credit card numbers in the United States are fifteen or sixteen digits long with a simple algorithm to determine which numbers are valid and which are invalid. These numbers are stored in a database or a computer’s memory the same way.

If a hacker is able to access a database of credit card numbers, those customers are vulnerable regardless of the type of credit card they own.

4. Chip duplicators already exist. These devices may be more expensive than credit card duplicators with magnetic stripe technology, but they’ve been in use in Europe for as long as chip-and-PIN credit cards have been around. If a hacker does retrieve your credit card number from a database, he or she can print a credit card with a chip that duplicates that card for in-person use.

5. Fraud is moving online. Even with a chip, when you want to use your credit card for a transaction over the internet, you’ll still need to type your card number into a website. Companies that do not protect those databases (or for some reason accept credit card information over an unencrypted connection) will allow your credit card number to be exposed regardless of whether the physical credit card has a magnetic stripe or a chip.

Perhaps the chip-embedded credit card is a small piece of overall “security theater.” Consumers will feel more protected because their plastic contains something new and novel, but there’s no real improvement for the avoidance of fraud. In fact, by feeling more confident about using plastic, some consumers may feel emboldened to use the credit card in a situation where they might not be safe.

The production and distribution of credit cards with the chip seems to be nothing but a bridge between today’s current method for payments and newer card-less technology that is all ready becoming more widespread. Mobile payments like Apple Pay represent the future, and plastic with or without a chip is getting in the way. The obstacle here is that the banking industry controls the plastic, and outside companies control mobile payment schemes.

To eliminate fraud in the payments industry or to reduce it by a significant amount, the industry must eliminate static credit card numbers. Some banks all ready offer software that will address this issue for online purchases. Consumers can click a button to receive a single-use credit card number that they can use for a transaction of a certain amount, and after that transaction is processed, the credit card number will no longer be valid.

Other technology replaces credit card numbers or accompanies the numbers with a token — another code, but secure and unknown to the purchaser and the retailer — which must be verified through a separate system to confirm the transaction is valid. This token is unique for every transaction.

The unique identifier, whether a separate credit card number for each transaction or a token, is the only way to significantly reduce credit card fraud. Until these are required for every transaction and the magnetic stripe is eliminated, fraud problems will continue to grow.

The chip-embedded card is no solution. When Europe switched to a chip-and-PIN credit card, which in theory should be safer than a card with a chip that doesn’t require a PIN like these in the process of being released in the United States, fraud increased.

This is not a solution. This is a way for banks to force retailers to buy expensive equipment. The financial industry wants to shift the burden of fraud to the retailers. Today, banks pay for unauthorized use of a stolen credit card or credit card number. The companies are now telling retailers that if they don’t upgrade their devices to handle chip-embedded credit cards, those retailers will be responsible for paying for fraudulent transactions — even though the chip does little to prevent fraud.

In addition, retailers pay higher fees per transaction for processing chip-embedded cards, just like they pay higher fees for processing cash back rewards cards and other premium credit cards over basic credit cards and debit cards with PINs.

Well, there’s always cash. Until you want to buy something online, anyway.


This is a guest article by Neal Frankle. Neal is a Certified Financial Planner® in Los Angeles. He is also the senior editor for WealthPilgrim.com, MCMHA.org and CreditPilgrim.com.

Your credit report is like a financial passport. If it’s clean you’ll find the doors to the financial world wide open. Your credit journey will be carefree and wonderful. But if you have blotches on your record, the credit border control is going to make it difficult and expensive for you to go anywhere.

You probably already know this. But what you may not know is that your credit report may contain significant errors. According to the most recent Federal Trade Commission study [pdf], more than 20% of all credit reports do. And if you are that 1 in 5 person who has a botched credit report, it means that you could be penalized for something you didn’t even do.

To make matters worse, once you identify credit report errors, it can be difficult to correct them. That’s because the main players (credit bureaus and creditors) don’t like to be bothered. Fortunately, there are three tools you can use to get these organizations to clean up their sloppy work. Let’s jump right into it:

1. Blaze your own path.

There is a well-defined route to clean up credit report errors but you should not follow it blindly. The process the credit bureau suggest is to inform them of the problem first. Supposedly, the bureau will then work with the creditor to fix the problem.

In theory, this sounds great but in practice this fails miserably. Here’s why. Once you dispute an item on your credit report to the credit bureau, they are only required to ask the creditor to verify the charge and they have 30 days to do it. As long as the creditor comes back to the credit bureau and tells them the charge is correct, the bureau has complied with the law.

From their standpoint, the case is closed. This is great for the clerks who work at the credit bureaus -– they get to go back to their donuts and coffee. You on the other hand are still left holding the bag –- and paying the price.

As a result of this ineffective loop, many people just give up trying to correct credit report errors. It’s understandable; people just get tired of the run around. But you don’t have to put up with being led on a wild goose chase and you don’t have to give up either.

Instead, you should simultaneously contact the creditor and the bureau to demand the false negative item be removed. Dispute the negative credit item with both parties at once rather than waste time with the bureau before contacting your creditor.

While just about everything you read tells you to go through the bureau first, there is absolutely no reason for doing so. If you go directly to the creditor you can force them to prove your dispute is wrong. You don’t have the kind of firepower with the bureau friend.

2. Exercise your legal rights.

By law, all negative items must be verifiable, accurate and complete. If they fail any of these tests, the bureau must remove them. Despite this being the law, many bureaus simply don’t comply. So the best way to force them to play by the rules is to let them know you’ve read the rule book.

There are four main laws that protect consumers from having bogus information reported on their credit reports. These are Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, Truth in Lending Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These laws are written in straight-forward language and they are pretty easy to understand. It’s in your interest to spend 10 minutes and familiarize yourself with these laws. That’s all it will take.

In summary, these regulations require the credit bureaus and creditors to investigate if you dispute a negative item on your credit report. If these organizations still believe the negative information is correct, they have to send you proof if you request it. These laws spell out other protections and rights you have as a consumer. My suggestion is to familiarize yourself with these stipulations and reference them when you contact the bureau and creditors. This will let them know they are dealing with a serious person.

3. Sue the creditor.

If a creditor won’t ask the bureau to remove an item that by all rights should be removed, don’t hesitate to sue them in small claims court. This is an easy and inexpensive process for you but a complete pain in the rear for the creditors. Perfect.

You see, in most states, lawyers aren’t allowed in small claims court and that means you have the advantage. All you have to do is follow the small claims court process carefully and have the right people served at the creditor’s business.

In many cases, this alone will bring them to their senses. It’s usually not worth the creditor’s trouble to go to court so this move usually wakes them up.

The credit repair process is skewed in favor of the credit bureaus and creditors. But you can disrupt their advantage and get mistakes wiped off your credit report by going directly to creditors simultaneously, reading up on the laws which protect consumers and suing the creditor to force them to do the right thing.

Have you ever been frustrated by the process of fixing credit report errors? What was your experience?


Since the credit crunch in the midst of the latest recession, credit card solicitations have seen a significant increase. Unless you’ve opted out, and good luck with that, you’re probably getting junk mail from credit card issuers with invitations to apply for the latest credit card offers.

Don’t get too excited, especially if you have bad credit and are seeing these invitations for the first time. The letter might say you’re pre-approved, but all that means is that you are pre-approved to apply. It’s highly rare that an issuer will run your credit and then send you an invitation to apply. In fact, it’s nearly impossible.

Even if you’re at a bank branch like Wells Fargo and Chase, they could be looking at your account on their computer, and they’ll “notice” you can apply for a new credit card. Even in this case, you need to go through an approval process and could be declined if your credit score isn’t high enough.

Before you waste your time, even if you have good credit, ask yourself these questions before applying for a new credit card.

1. Do I already have enough credit available?

If you already have credit cards, add up your limits. You may all ready have all the credit you need, and if you manage your credit wisely across those cards, you may not need another card.

That being said, having — but not using — more available credit can increase your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio will be more favorable if you maintain the same level of balances on your cards overall while increasing available credit. The same effect, however, can be accomplished by negotiating a higher credit limit with one of your existing cards.

And that approach may be better, because when you do apply for a new credit card, you allow the issuer to do a “hard pull” on your credit, which may negatively affect your credit score. Asking for a higher credit limit on an existing card may also initiate a hard pull, but there’s a chance that it won’t.

Here’s what Capital One says about the process of asking for a credit limit increase:

When you request a credit line increase online or in our automated phone system, our review to determine your eligibility will not impact your credit score. To check your eligibility for an increase, we use the information that we normally receive from the credit bureaus each month. This does not generate an additional inquiry.

If you are unsure, call customer service before requesting an increase.

2. How is my credit score?

It’s a good idea to know two things before you apply for a credit card offer. First, know whether the card is targeted to consumers with excellent credit, good credit, or bad credit. Additionally, know the category in which your credit scores place you. In some cases, if you apply for a card for consumers with excellent credit but you do not have a high enough credit score, the issuer will offer a different version of the card to you, with different interest rates, a low credit limit, or reduced benefits.

In looking at a credit card application recently, I saw a declaimer that explained that the application’s terms pertained to the Visa Signature version of the card, a variety of the card with the most benefits. If the application were not to be approved for the Visa Signature version, the issuer might offer a regular Visa.

The issuers see this “bait and switch” as a better alternative than flatly declining the application, because this way the issuer can steer the customer into a credit card product that is priced according to the customer’s risk category.

Check your credit score before applying for new credit, so you don’t face any surprises. I just use Credit Karma to check my scores from TransUnion and Equifax. This may not be exactly the same score the banks use — usually a FICO score from one of the three credit bureaus — but the exact number isn’t as important as the range. If you check all of your credit reports on a regular basis, and all reports are generally the same, your different scores shouldn’t have much variation.

3. Am I highly disciplined with my spending?

On average, consumers tend to spend more with plastic in their wallet or more electronically than with cash. This is a subconscious effect, so you may not even be aware that it is happening. So unless you are in the habit of conscious spending and tracking your expenses, you may find a new credit card will cause you financial distress in the long run.

Credit cards with rewards are best for people who pay off their entire credit card bill on time every month. If you are disciplined, you might be able to make those cash back rewards or airline miles work for you. Or you may benefit from growing a credit profile with a secured credit card, but again, only with disciplined spending habits.

4. Are the rewards affecting my decision?

Cash back rewards can be a dangerous incentive, and many people believe they have the “hacking skills” necessary to maximize their profits from cards. I’ve used cash back credit cards for a long time while tracking my spending, and I’ve switched to an airline miles card for my primary spending, but I’m not an expert rewards hacker. I don’t spend the effort to buy cash-like products to accrue a large amount of benefits without really spending money.

Credit card issuers know how a small percentage of people use back doors. For the most part, they allow it, but every once in a while, they cut benefits or change the rules, usually without any notice to consumers, and people need to change their approach. Once again, this is a legal bait-and-switch tactic. Entice and attract customers with rewards, and change the value or operation of those rewards at a later date — while the consumer continues using the card as much as possible (generating income for the issuers) to reap what little rewards the issuers offer.

5. Am I desperate?

If you have bad credit, living a middle class life can be frustrating. You’ll have difficulty buying a car without saving up first, and if you want that car to be reliable, you’ll need a lot of money.

You will have difficulty buying a home because purchasing a house without a mortgage is largely unthinkable, especially if you need a house that fits a family. It can be done, of course, usually after years of saving, but that needs to be weighed against quality of life issues.

One reason to apply for a credit card, specifically a secured credit card, is to build a good credit history. It’s easier to qualify for a secured credit card, and if you have bad credit, it’s probably your only option. Many times, secured cards, especially those that are offered through “pre-approved” application mailings, come with annual fees and high interest rates.

That’s the world people with bad credit live in, even if their bad credit is due to no fault of their own, like a deadbeat ex-spouse, a parent who used your name and Social Security number without your knowledge, or an accident not covered by insurance. I’ve had friends with personal experience in all three cases.

Being approved for the right card, and operating that credit card with good behavior like spending only what you can afford to pay off from savings within a month, can help get you on the path for solid financial footing in the future.

Do not apply for a new credit card without self-reflection that involves the above five questions. Credit cards are tools that can help you financially, but if you don’t consider the consequences and how you fit in the relationship between issuer and consumer, you could end up damaging your future in a short amount of time.

It could take the rest of your life to recover from bad financial mistakes involving too much credit, if you recover at all.


The Best Cash Back Credit Cards, November 2015

by Luke Landes

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 nothing but a memory, but the smart use of credit cards can still be profitable for diligent spenders. You ... Continue reading this article…

182 comments Read the full article →

Why Most Millennials Don’t Have Credit Cards

by Luke Landes
Credit Card Statement

According to a new survey, 63 percent of Millennials own no credit cards. For this poll, the Millennial generation is defined as those in the United States aged 18 to 29. The survey, put together by BankRate, attempts to get to the root cause for the lack of penetration of credit cards among this younger demographic, ... Continue reading this article…

4 comments Read the full article →

FICO Score 9: Fair Isaac Changing Credit Score Algorithm Again

by Luke Landes

FICO Score 9 is an improvement over FICO 08, and may be more consumer friendly and fair. But will it have any overall effect for consumers?

3 comments Read the full article →

How United’s Frequent Flier Program Change Affects Travelers

by Luke Landes
United Airlines

United Airlines is making significant changes to its MileagePlus frequent flier program. Here’s how your points will change.

0 comments Read the full article →

5 Reasons to Avoid Cash Back Rebate Cards

by Luke Landes
American Express Prepaid Rebate Card

At the end of last year, I took advantage of a sale on some photography equipment. I perceived the deal to be good, and after contemplating the purchase for some time, I decided to go ahead. The sale price was manipulate through the offering of a manufacturer’s $300 mail-in rebate after a retailer’s discount of ... Continue reading this article…

13 comments Read the full article →

IberiaBank Visa Select Credit Card Review

by Joe Taylor Jr.
IberiaBank Visa Select

To most Americans, Louisiana means great music, good food and some crazy Super Bowl moments. However, keen observers of the credit card industry also know Louisiana as the home of Iberiabank, a solid regional lender that’s been chugging away in cities like New Orleans and Lafayette for more than 125 years. An early adopter of ... Continue reading this article…

1 comment Read the full article →

Online Shopping: Credit Card or Debit Card?

by Luke Landes
Credit Cards vs Debit Cards

The conclusion begins this article. If you’re shopping online, it’s better to use your credit card, not your debit card, in almost all cases. For someone just beginning to focus on improving one’s finances, this seems to be the wrong conclusion. After all, in theory, with a debit card you can spend only what’s in ... Continue reading this article…

5 comments Read the full article →

PenFed Promise Visa Review

by Joe Taylor Jr.
PenFed Promise Visa Card

By offering a suite of services originally designed to help military families make ends meet, Pentagon Federal Credit Union has grown into one of the country’s largest nonprofit financial institutions. Unlike credit unions that require geographic or employer-related eligibility, PenFed extends membership to any citizen with a family connection to our national defenses. You can ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

The Credit Access and Inclusion Act: Should Credit Scores Include Utility Payments?

by Luke Landes
For Rent

A bill is currently being considered by the House Financial Services committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it easier for credit reporting agencies to include both positive and negative bill-paying behavior in credit scores. The Fair Isaac Corporation, which changed its company branding in 2009 to be just FICO though the ... Continue reading this article…

3 comments Read the full article →

The Occupy Debit Card

by Luke Landes
Occupy Banks

Can an organization offer mainstream financial products while being ideologically opposed to the mainstream financial industry? That’s the question I began considering when I first heard that the Occupy Wall Street movement was in the process of developing a prepaid debit card product. The Occupy Debit Card is still just a concept, but if the ... Continue reading this article…

6 comments Read the full article →

An Unauthorized Charge From TransUnion: Was My Identity Stolen?

by Luke Landes
Burglar alarm

Earlier this year, the university where I studied as an undergraduate, the University of Delaware, announced that the school had been the victim of a security breach. The announcement indicated that personal information of anyone who had been on the university’s payroll might be compromised, and those who were compromised would receive a letter from ... Continue reading this article…

14 comments Read the full article →

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card – Low Intro APRs Review

by Joe Taylor Jr.

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card – Low Intro APRs brings a flexible rewards program to a wider audience, with some unexpected perks and privileges for a no annual fee card. However, if you’re already packing a travel rewards card or a cash back card, you might find this account a little underwhelming. Earning 1 ThankYou Rewards point ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

Discover it with 18-Month Balance Transfer Offer

by Joe Taylor Jr.

The Discover it® card with an 18 month introductory balance transfer offer arrived on the market with heavy fanfare, including lots of television ads and billboards touting personal service and a new rebate structure that frees customers from most cash back traps. This card’s critics have pointed out that other lenders extend far more generous signup offers, ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

Credit Card Basics: Everything You Should Know

by Luke Landes
Inappropriate use of a credit card

The credit card is one of the most divisive products among all the financial tools available. Ask around and you’re sure to find people who pay all their expenses using credit cards as well as others who swear the products are the embodiment of pure evil. Opinions among financial experts and thought leaders are just ... Continue reading this article…

5 comments Read the full article →

Discover it for Students

by Joe Taylor Jr.

Discover’s made strong inroads into student borrowing over the past few years. Discover it® for Students represents the bank’s latest foray onto college campuses, with pricing and features that resemble full-featured credit cards more than the typically watered-down student accounts on the market. Loading up your wallet for the long haul For years, student credit cards earned bad ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

Keep Your Old Credit Cards Open

by Luke Landes
Credit Cards

There may come a time when you have no need to keep your credit score as high as possible. Perhaps you have no need for debt now and in the future. It’s not common, but there are a few methods of arriving at that point. You’ve fashioned a life for yourself off the grid. You ... Continue reading this article…

6 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 1512345···Last »