Category Archives: MasterCard

40% Off a Single Item at Barnes & Noble When Using MasterCard

In a reprise of a deal they also offered a year ago, Barnes & Noble is offering 40% off a single book when you make the purchase using your MasterCard. The offer is available both online and in stores beginning November 26, 2008 and lasting through December 1, 2008 at 2:59am EST.

There are a number of items that are not eligible for the discount, including gift cards, gift certificates and textbooks. The coupons, along with the full list of exclusions and details can be found here:

Link (for B&N members)
Link (for non-members)
(Via SD)

Order Dollar Coins with Your Credit Card at Face Value with Free Shipping

In an effort to increase circulation of its dollar coins, the US Mint is offering free standard shipping on orders of its Presidential $1 Coins. Customers may order up to 500 of each $1 Presidential Coin and orders may be placed with any major credit card, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express. To spell out the obvious, this is an opportunity is the ability to purchase a cash equivalent on your credit card at cost, thus earning points or miles for “free.”

Link (via FT)

MasterCard Easy Savings Adds the Fuelman Network

Want an easy way to pump up your savings? MasterCard Easy Savings has just added the Fuelman Network to its list of program partners. This means that you can now enjoy an additional 5% rebate on maintenance purchases at more than 1,800 participating Fuelman Network locations, which include the Firestone and TiresPlus brands. In addition, you’ll earn an additional 1% rebate at more than 1,800 participating Fuelman Network gas stations nationwide. There is no annual maximum or cap on Fuelman Network rebates. These savings are in addition to the normal rewards you would earn with your card.
» Read more

An Experiment Gone Awry: Comparing Amex Foreign Exchange Fees to Visa and Mastercard

Those who have followed the recent credit card foreign transaction fee lawsuit and subsequent settlement are aware of the hidden costs of making a purchase in foreign currency. In the most common case, both the network (ie., Visa, MasterCard, Amex) and the card issuer will tack on a surcharge, usually totalling 1-3%, to every overseas transaction. (For a full table of these fees by issuer, see the FlyerTalk Wiki.)

Amex vs. Visa / Mastercard
I recently decided to perform a mini experiment to explore a little publicized aspect of making purchases in foreign currency–namely, to discover the difference, if any, between the underlying exchange rate used by American Express and that of Visa/Mastercard.

The experiment
In the past, I had heard that Amex used inferior exchange rates, so to test that theory I set up an admittedly imperfect experiment, pitting my Starwood American Express against my Chase Visa.

Last week, I ran a series of charges against each card. On Jan. 28, I charged 25 British pounds on each card, with each charge coming within minutes of one another. I repeated this again on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. In theory, the Starwood Amex with its 2% forex fee should beat the Chase Visa with its overall 3% forex fee (1% from Visa + 2% from Chase), assuming that their underlying exchange rates were comparable.

The results
Unfortunately this test didn’t yield the information that I was hoping for. For one thing, I found that while Amex processed each transaction on the day that it occurred, Visa took until the next day, meaning that I couldn’t directly compare the exchange rates.

When I tried to calculate the foreign exchange fee using the average daily Interbank rate, as quoted by, I got the following results:

Date Charged Amount Charged Card Date Processed Charge in dollars Interbank rate* Fee
1/28 25 GBP Amex 1/28 $50.71 1.98370 2.3%
1/28 25 GBP Chase 1/29 $51.21 1.98190 3.4%
1/30 25 GBP Amex 1/30 $50.88 1.98640 2.5%
1/30 25 GBP Chase 1/31 $51.24 1.990 3.0%
2/1 25 GBP Amex 2/1 $50.87 1.99830 1.8%
2/1 25 GBP Chase 2/2 $50.73 1.98490 2.2%

Further Research
Since these results weren’t exactly what I was expecting, I did a bit more research and found some information that helps explain why I didn’t get nice, round numbers. American Express describes how it determines its conversion rate in the fine print of your billing statement:

If you incur a Charge in a foreign currency, it will be converted into US dollars on the date it is processed by us or our agents. Unless a particular rate is required by applicable law, we will choose a conversion rate that is acceptable to us for that date. Currently, the conversion rate we use for a Charge in a foreign currency is no greater than (a) the highest official conversion rate published by a government agency, or (b) the highest interbank conversion rate identified by us from customary banking sources, on the conversion date or the prior business day, in each instance is increased by 2%. This conversion rate may differ from rates in effect on the date of your charge.

Visa also explains how it handles foreign currency transactions:

Will the rates shown be the rates charged to my account?

The exact rate you receive depends on when the transaction is posted to the Visa system. The day the charge actually posts may be later than the day on which you made the purchase, depending on how promptly each merchant handles their Visa transactions.

How does Visa calculate its rate?

Every day—except weekends, Memorial Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—Visa calculates the rate for the next day’s transactions. The Visa rate is selected from a range of rates available in wholesale currency markets or the government-mandated rate in effect one day prior to the applicable central processing date. Visa makes this rate available to issuing banks, which may adjust the rate when billing cardholders by applying a foreign transaction fee. The rate Visa makes available to issuing banks may vary from the rate Visa itself receives. Most consumers find that using Visa is a convenient and cost-effective way to make purchases and obtain cash when traveling internationally.

How accurate are the rates?

The rates you are shown are generated with Visa’s internal database for exchange rates and are accurate to two decimal places. However, they are only meant to serve as an indication of the rate you could expect to receive from your issuing bank. As exchange rates change constantly, the rate is only accurate for one day. The exact rate you are charged depends on when the transaction is posted to the Visa system, which may be later than the day on which you paid, depending on how promptly each merchant handles their Visa transactions. Additionally, your final transaction amount may differ depending on whether the merchant converts the currency at the point of sale or if the bank that issues your card assesses a foreign transaction fee.

My conclusion?
Based on this information, I learned that a direct comparison of exchange rates will always be difficult given how much latitude the networks have afforded themselves in determining the conversion rate, especially with regards to the timing of the transaction. From a practical standpoint, it’s more important to look at the other components of foreign currency fees rather than the underlying exchange rate.

Instead, focus on the fees that are documented and well-defined. See the table below for a summary of these fees for major issuers:

Issuer Total Foreign Currency Fee
Amex 2%
Cap One 0%
Citi 3%
Chase 3%
Discover 0%
FIA 3%

Does your Utility Company Accept Credit Cards?

Want to know if your local water company accepts Visa? How about whether your gas company will take MasterCard as a payment? Charging your necessities (like utilities) on a credit card is probably one of the easiest ways to accumulate reward points and miles, but finding out which merchants actually accept plastic can be a chore.

Fortunately, both Visa and MasterCard have compiled directories to help with this very task.

  • See Visa’s excellent Biller Directory where you can actually search by either category or biller name, or just see which billers are common in your zip code.
  • See MasterCard’s Directory of Service Providers where you can search merchants by either category or state.

Of course just because a merchant accepts credit doesn’t mean you should use it. You’ll still want to check that there is no additional ‘convenience fee’ being charged for using your credit card.

Use Your MasterCard at BurgerKing for a Chance to Win a Vacation

The King has teamed up with with MasterCard to present a new sweepstakes. Between now and March 2, 2008, when you use your MasterCard at participating Burger King restaurants, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win one of the following prizes:

  • 10 Grand Prize winners will receive a $5,000 voucher
  • 40 First Prize winners will receive a $500 MasterCard Gift Card
  • 60 Second Prize winners will receive a $250 MasterCard Gift Card
  • 50 Third prize winners will receive a $50 Burger King Gift Card

For complete details, see

PayPal To Offer Virtual Credit Card Numbers

PayPal is set to offer a new service dubbed “PayPal Secure Card” beginning tomorrow. The service, offered through a web browser plug-in, will allow users to generate a unique one-use MasterCard number to use on sites that don’t accept Paypal. According to the Reuters article:

By residing on the PayPal user’s computer, Secure Card can detect when users visit e-commerce sites. The software then automatically fills in their stored financial information, requiring just a few more clicks to authorize a transaction.

PayPal stores no details on the local computer for security reasons. Instead, it logs Secure Card activity in the user’s account on central computers for safety and record-keeping.

At this point, there has been no mention of whether you will eventually be able to earn rewards on these purchases. There are, however, a couple of immediately recognizable benefits for consumers: 1) credit card access for those without a credit card, 2) virtual credit card numbers for those who don’t have a credit card with this ability (eg, Chase, Amex).

Citi CashReturns Mastercard: 5% CashBack for 3 Months with No Cap

For a big spender, this deal seems a bit too good to be true. The Citi CashReturns MasterCard is offering 5% cash back on everything for 3 months, apparently with no cap:

Automatic cash back on purchases.2 Who wouldn’t like that? With the Citi CashReturnsSM MasterCard®, you’ll earn 5% cash back on all purchases for 3 months and 1% thereafter.2 It’s smart, it’s simple, it’s automatic. Receive your cash back redemption check automatically after you earn 50 CitiDollarsSM. Plus, there’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn.2

If you can funnel a lot of spending onto this card, as long as you can get a large credit line, or can reallocate your existing Citi lines, this could mean a large short-term bonus. The card also does offer an intro 0% balance transfer for 12 months, but it is basically an afterthought, because it has a 3% fee, $5 min and no cap. Since you have up to 12 months from opening the account to use the balance transfer, you should at least wait until the intro 5% period is over before considering using the balance transfer offer.

Link (via FW)

Win a Million AAdvantage Miles and a $6,000 MasterCard Gift Card

To promote the upcoming new film “The Bourne Ultimatum” to be released on August 3, 2007, American Airlines and Mastercard have announced a new sweepstakes. It features a Grand Prize of over one million AAdvantage bonus miles and a $6,000 MasterCard gift card, or a First Prize of a trip for two to Los Angeles for a Universal Red Carpet Premiere Event including VIP party, hotel accommodations for two nights, VIP tour of Universal Hollywood, and a $2,000 MasterCard gift card. Another 250 participants will each take the Second Prize of “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” DVD prize package.

The promotion runs from June 28 through July 31, 2007. Entries can be earned by:

  • Registering at: during the promotional period
  • Forwarding the sweepstakes information to others
  • Purchasing travel on using your MasterCard® credit or debit card after registering for the promotion.

See for more information.

1 2 3 4