The other day I wrote about how Amex has lifted spending caps on its Blue Cash card, making it more attractive for big spenders. Well, before you run out and get one, there is an important caveat to note. In the latest Blue Cash statement is the following verbiage (bolded for emphasis):
Using the Card Effective with billing periods beginning on or after September 1, 2006, the following sentences are added to the end of the second paragraph of the Using the Card section of your Agreement: “A maximum of 3 Additional Cards are permitted on your Account. You agree to use the Account only for legitimate purchases of goods and services for personal, family or household purposes.“
Since I suspect that a lot of the big spenders would be putting business spending on the card, this is an important restriction. How Amex would actually police this is another matter.
This thread at FW tipped off the news that Blue Cash no longer caps your rewards after $50,000 in spending. It’s now reflected on Amex’s website as well. The new redemption table looks like this:
|Total Annual Purchases
||Gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores
||All other puchases
|$6,500.01 or more
This is great news for big spenders. With the impending doom of the Citi Dividend card, this card is a very viable alternative. You are sacrificing some return on the first $6,500 versus a flat 1.5% card like the Fidelity Investments Rewards card, but afterwards, you’re getting top dollar. If you’re a big spender looking for the simplicity of carrying a single card and charging everything on it, then these changes make Blue Cash very attractive.
Details on the Blue Cash rebate can be found here.
Editor’s Note: The following info is oudated. For the latest details on the Citi Dividend Card, see this link.
Various message boards have been abuzz recently with rumors that the Citi Dividend card will soon no longer offer 5% cash back on supermarket, drugstore and gas station purchases. One such thread is on FW here.
Based upon several conversations with Citi CSRs, the general consensus is that changes are coming. And according to one poster who says that they have already received the new terms, they are:
- 2% for supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, convenience stores and utilities including cable.
- 1% on all other purchases.
- Maximum of 300 Dividend Dollars in a calendar year.
- Utilities include electric, gas power, water supply and refuse services, but not telephone service. Cable includes satellite and other pay television and radio service.
The new terms should be mailed out to customers over the next month or so. If these new terms are indeed rolled out, it obviously represents a huge downgrade in benefits to existing cardholders. Then again, these type of changes should not be that unexpected, considering Citi was likely losing quite a bit of money on customers who only used the card for gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. It also follows Chase’s decision back in April to discontinue its own 5% cash back program.
The obvious question is what to do now. Already folks at FW have suggested the HSBC Direct Rewards Platinum Mastercard as an alternative. It offers:
5% CashBack at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations. For other stores, 0.5% on up to $3K purchases, 1% for more. CashBack capped at $500 for any yearly anniversary period of the account. CashBack is paid annually, anything less than $10 is forfeited.
There are a few other potential downsides, including a reputation for low credit limits. Perhaps more importantly, one would almost expect that should HSBC receive a huge influx of new applications in the short-term, that these terms would be short-lived as well.
According to this post from CardRatings, you may be eligible for 2% cash back on non-gas purchases in August and September:
Received a card from Chase that they are paying 2% cash back on non-gasoline purchases on their PerfectCard (formerly known as Freedom Card) for the months of August and September. Gasoline purchases still pay 3% cash back, $15 max per month. Non-gasoline purchases are exempt from the $15 limit.
It’s unclear whether this is a targetted offer, so YMMV.
Every week between now and September 8, 2006, when you use your Pentagon Federal Union credit card, you’ll be automatically entered into a drawing to win a day’s worth of purchases free, up to $500:
The winning transaction day’s worth of charges will be credited to each weekly winner’s credit card account, minimum of $50 and maximum of $500.
More details of this “Summer Sweepstakes” promotion are available at https://www.penfed.org/promo/200606cccontest/overview.asp.
Reported by FW, this promo offer pushes the new Citi Dividend Amex:
- 5% Cash Back on supermarket, Drugstore, and gas station purchases
- 1% Cash Back everywhere else
- 0% APR on BT until 7/1/07, no BT fee with this offer***
- $5 Cash Back on BT more than $1500
- No annual fee
*** First BT and 100$ in purchases must post to account and not be returned within 3 months of becoming a cardmember to receive this rate until Oct. 1, 2007. Otherwise rate lasts until July 1, 2007. BT, Cash advances, and finance charges do not qualify as purchases under this offer.
To apply, visit www.signup.citicards.com and use offer code: P1G9
Or call 1-800-368-1265 by Sept. 15, 2006.
So it appears they’re making you jump through another hoop to get the 15-month balance transfer–namely, the $100 in purchases. It’s important to note that because of the “lower APR balances get paid off first” rule, it’s imperative that those purchases get paid off first before completing your balance transfer.
According to a few reports, including this one, Bank of America will be phasing out the 1.5% and 2% cash back redemption tiers on its Power Rewards Visa card:
I just called the Power Rewards Center at 1-888-434-2232, and they told me they will indeed be phasing out BOTH the 30,000 point reward (for $450 statement credit, 1.5% cash back), and the 50,000 point reward (for $1,000 statement credit, 2% cash back). She did not know when the phase out will occur, which is disappointing because I specifically asked her, “so, possibly by the end of this year?” She did not know.
Anyway, she said the highest cash back reward would be 20,000 points for a $200 statement credit, only 1% cash back.
This is a real shame, as this used to be a great card for big spenders, where a true 2% cash back was possible. Then again, that it was such a great deal probably spelled its demise. It also underscores the recurring problem with points based programs–that they can be devalued at any time.
Current cardholders would be well advised to get to one of the higher tiers and cash out while the 1.5% and 2% redemption tiers are still available. Currently these redemption options are only available by calling a CSR.
This might be useful to a few people. B$ points out this offer where you’ll earn a $30 Savings Certificate redeemable at Pathmark® stores when you sign up for an American Express Blue Cash card. This offer can also currently be seen by visiting Pathmark’s web site at http://www.pathmark.com and visiting the American Express $30 Free Groceries link on the home page.
As part of its “Get More” program, Discover rotates categories of spending that are eligible for 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in spending on a quarterly basis. For the period of July 1 to September 30, 2006, Discover has released the categories eligible for this promotion on its website:
- Classes from preschool to college
- Famous Footwear™
- Office Depot®
- Linens ‘n Things®
- Pier 1 Imports®
To sign up, log in or call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683), then just use your Discover Card to get 5% Cashback Bonus.
Details are here.
This new card from Discover warrants some discussion. Its features include:
- 5% Cashback Bonus on your first $2,000 in office supply purchases
- 2% on your first $2,000 in gas purchases
- 1% on all other purchases in excess of $5,000
- 0.25% on your first $5,000 in other purchases
- Fee-free PurchaseChecks that earn Cashback Bonus and come with the same rate and payment grace period as your Card
- Pay bills or suppliers (excluding rent/mortgage and payroll) that don’t accept credit cards
- Get the same competitive rate and payment grace period as your Card
- Earn Cashback Bonus on every check
- Use them with confidence—you’re protected with $0 fraud liability guarantee
When reading these bullet points, a few things pop out at first glance. Because of the limitations on office supplies and gas purchases and the fact that you only earn 1% after you’ve spent $5,000, you’ll be required to spend at least $1,000 on other spending that earns only 0.25%. Combine this with the fact that there are many other 5% cash back cards for office supplies and gas (eg, Advanta Business), and the cash back component of this card is not attractive.
What is intriguing are the “PurchaseChecks” that allow you to pay bills that otherwise could not be paid via credit card and earn cash back. Since the promotional material explicitly states that you aren’t supposed to use them to pay rent/mortgage or payroll with the checks, you would assume that some sort of auditing must be done. Unfortunately more details are not supplied on the web site. Depending upon how this feature is actually implemented, this feature alone might make this card worthwhile for some. Comments from readers who get this card on this aspect would be most welcome.
For more details or to apply for the card, see this link.