Although Bank of America recently vowed that it would refrain from raising interest rates in advance of the looming credit CARD act, it just announced its intentions of testing the introduction of new annual fees to a random group of customers as a new way to grow revenue. A spokesperson said 1 percent of accounts globally are being tested based on “risk and profitability,” with annual fees ranging from $29 to $99 starting next year.
B of A’s plan is to collect feedback from customers and then decide what to do going forward. Translation: if not enough people complain or close their accounts as a result of this move, there is a good chance that annual fees will be rolled out on a wider basis. Customers can opt-out of the fee, but that requires closing their accounts. Impacted customers must decide whether to opt out by December 16, 2009.
Following similar moves by other banks, Bank of America just announced plans aimed at boosting its bottom line, in part by raising interest rates on many of its balance carrying customers. According to the WSJ, any B of A credit card holder who carries a balance currently below 10% will see their rate jump to double digits beginning with their June statements. The exact number of affected customers is not being released, but estimates range as high as four million of Bank of America’s 70 million credit card customers.
Consumers do have the option of notifying Bank of America, opting out of the change, and keeping their current interest rate, but that requires making no new purchases on their card. Any new charges would cause the new, higher rate to apply to the entire balance.
From now until January 31, 2009, you can earn $10 cash back for every $100 you spend on New York area transit when you pay with any Bank of America Visa credit or check card. You can earn up to $100 during this promotion, but you must sign up first to begin saving.
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It’s a rare thing these days when a credit card issuer actually improves one of its balance transfer offers. So, it came as a bit of a surprise to see that Bank of America has just increased the intro period on balance transfers for several of its cards.
Previously, these cards had offered initial balance transfers of 0% for 12 months. Now, each of the following cards boast an excellent intro 0% for 15 months on balance transfers:
Virgin Atlantic Airlines just announced the release of its new credit card with potential rewards that include a trip into outer space on Virgin Galactic. The Virgin Atlantic American Express Card from Bank of America comes in two versions: the black card, which carries a higher annual fee ($90) and more opportunities to earn bonus miles, and the white card, which has a lower annual fee ($49). Both cards also offer an intro 0% on purchases and balance transfers, though BTs are assessed a 3% fee with no cap.
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With Earth Day rapidly approaching, we have a good excuse to review our green options when it comes to plastic (or corn, if you prefer). After all, even Leo DiCaprio has recently been touting a new HSBC green credit card for the Hong Kong market. What does it mean for a credit card to be green? Well, the HSBC card is made from environmentally-friendly materials, requires the use of digital billing to cut down on paper waste, and donates a portion of each charge towards a local environmental protection project. While that card is not available in the US yet, there are a number of other green credit cards already here.
Green Credit Cards
Here’s a rundown:
- The Brighter Planet Visa
Every $1,000 spent in purchases with the card earns 1,000 points that will fund an estimated 1 ton of carbon offsets. In addition, you’ll earn 1,000 bonus points with your first transaction and another 1,000 points for using paperless statements. Also, until December 2008, Bank of America will match each two base points earned with the contribution of another point, equivalent to a 50% bonus.
- World Asssets Visa Signature Card
For every purchase made on the card, 10 cents will be donated to nonprofit groups like the Ocean Conservancy and Global Fund for Children. In addition, the card earns WorldPoints which can be used towards cash rewards, travel rewards and more.
- Salmon Nation Visa
A percentage of the income derived from the Salmon Nation Visa program goes directly to Ecotrust, a conservation organization aiming to strengthen communities and the environment from Alaska to California.
- GE Earth Rewards Credit Card
This card from GE Money allows you two rewards options: 1) You can choose to contribute either a full 1% of your net purchases to emission reduction projects or 2) 0.5% towards emission offsets and 0.5% cash back for yourself. On Earth Day each year you’ll receive a statement that shows how your reward was spent to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- World Wildlife Fund Card
1% of each purchase will go towards the World Wildlife Fund, an organization with a mission to save endangered species and protect endangered habitats. In addition, Chase will donate $50 for each new account opened online.
- GreenPay MasterCard
For each net $1 spent on gasoline and household utilities, the GreenPay Rewards program will provide 10 pounds of carbon offsets. For each $1 spent on everything else, the program will provide 5 pounds of carbon offsets. In addition, 10,000 pounds of CO2 will be removed as a first purchase bonus.
- Nature Conservancy Visa
0.65% of your net purchases will go to the Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization committed to protecting ecologically important lands and waters. In addition, new card members will receive a complimentary 1 year membership and subscription to Nature Conservancy magazine.
- Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards Platinum Plus Visa Card
With each card purchase, Bass Pro Shops and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will make a contribution to help conservation efforts, with a guaranteed yearly contribution as high as $1.5 million, at no additional cost to you. You’ll also receive a $25 gift card after your first use.
Green Rewards Programs
Credit card issuers have expanded your rewards options recently, so that even general-use credit cards can earn green rewards. Here’s a sampling:
- Wells Fargo Enhanced Rewards
Wells Fargo credit card users can enroll in an optional rewards program where the points that they earn can be used towards various green rewards, such as a solar charger or a garden composter. You can also choose to redeem reward points to support renewable energy projects and receive certificates for your donations. Enrolling in the rewards program costs $19 (or 2,000 points) a year for your credit card only, or $29 a year to enroll both your credit card and Check Card.
- Bank of America WorldPoints
Bank of America offers any of its credit card holders who earn WorldPoints to redeem them for a wide range of eco-friendly products and projects. Any Bank of America credit card that earns WorldPoints is eligible to earn these rewards at no additional cost.
- Citi Thank You Network
As part of its Thank You rewards network, Citi also offers a range of environmentally-responsible rewards. For instance, your Thank You points can be redeemed in exchange for having trees planted or for energy-saving CFL light bulbs.
Another Green Alternative
There’s also another option to consider when going green: instead of selecting a credit card specifically because it is green, you can always choose the best cash back card available and donate the cash rewards to your favorite environmental cause. It is slightly less convenient, but there at least three obvious benefits: 1) any donations will be tax-deductible, 2) you should be able to earn more rewards for your charity, and 3) you’ll have more choice as to exactly how your money is spent.
Regardless of the card you choose, chances are your issuer allows and even encourages your use of electronic-only statements. That’s one sure-fire way to get greener, and save both trees and gas.
Bank of America is now promoting the following offer for the BankAmericard Rewards Visa:
- Earn 1 point for every $1 in net retail purchases
- With an eligible banking relationship, you’ll also earn an additional .25 bonus points for every $1 in net retail purchases each month. Maintain this relationship, and your base points earned during the year will be matched by 25%
- 0% Introductory APR on Purchases, Balance Transfers and Cash Advance Checks for your first 6 billing cycles
What this means is that, when you factor in the annual 0.25% bonus, you’ll earn a total of 1.5 points per dollar spent on anything. The main requirement is that you will need to have an open and eligible deposit, loan (other than a credit card), or investment account with Bank of America in order to earn that rate.
Points can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, travel or merchandise. According to a representative I spoke with, the points redemption for cash is as follows: 2,500 pts = $12.50; 5,000 pts = $25; 10,000 pts = $80; 15,000 pts = $120; 25,000 pts = $250; 50,000 pts = $500.
As long as you redeem at least 25,000 points at a time, this turns the card into a 1.5% flat cash back card on anything with no caps.
You can apply online at this link.
As a doting pet owner, this post at SD about the PetSmart Pet Perks Visa caught my eye. It offers:
- 3 points per $1 spent at PetSmart, petsmart.com and Banfield, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else,
- 0% intro APR for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers (with no fee within the first 90 days)
- $20 PetSmart gift card after first purchase
- Personalize your credit card with your pet’s photo
As you can see, the offer is not much to “woof” about. (Compare this to the Chase Freedom card, for instance, which trumps this offer in nearly every respect.) But it did remind me of the Pet Rewards Visa, a card which I had previously panned. When looking at the Pet Rewards offer with fresh eyes, however, it actually looks to have a good niche use:
- Earn 2 points per dollar spent at participating veterinary clinincs, pet food retailers, farm and feed stores, and neighborhood pet stores; 1 point per dollar anywhere else
- 0% intro APR for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers (with no fee)
- 500 points after first purchase
- Personalize your rewards card with your pet’s photo
Now, on the surface these benefits look pretty similar to the Petsmart card. The redemption opportunities for the PetRewards credit card, however, make the difference. You can redeem 1000 points for $20 worth of vet expenses at any veterinary office, turning this card into a 2% card for general use, or 4% if your pet care expenses are with participating vendors. The main issue with redemption, of course, is the convenience factor, as you’ll have to fill out a form and return receipts in order to be reimbursed. For those with pet expenses who don’t mind sending in receipts, however, this card represents a reasonable option.
The US Airways Signature Visa is now offering 25,000 bonus Dividend Miles when you sign up for the card and make your first purchase, an increase from the 20,000 miles it previously offered.
25000 miles is enough for a round-trip ticket within the continental United States and Canada. They can alternatively be redeemed for award travel between the continental U.S. or Canada and the Carribbean during the “Off-Peak” season.
As usual, the card offers 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months with no balance transfer fee. There is a $90 annual fee for Visa Signature and Platinum Plus accounts, and a $50 annual fee for Preferred accounts.
Alaska Airlines and Bank of America are now offering 20,000 Mileage Plan Bonus Miles upon online approval for the Alaska Airlines Visa, an increase from the 5,000 miles that were previously being offered. Their current splash page still shows 5,000 bonus miles but if you click through to the terms and conditions, you’ll see the new offer.
20,000 miles is valid for a Round Trip Coach Saver Award ticket between the United States and Canda on either Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air. Note that the card has an annual fee of $75 for Visa Signature and Platinum Plus accounts, and $45 for Preferred accounts.
You can see the offer, along with a summary of the card’s benefits, here.