The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select Rewards Visa and the Flexperks Select+ from American Express are the no-annual-fee counterparts to the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards (learn more about the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards here).
There’s an important difference between the Visa and American Express versions, and our review will help you decide which is best for you. American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner.
If you were considering the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards but want to avoid an annual fee, the ‘Select’ cards let you earn FlexPoints without paying every year. The Visa version has been around for several years, while the American Express version was launched in Oct. 2014.
Compared to the Travel Rewards cards, the ‘Select’ cards do not have boosted rewards in categories, nor do they have certain extras, such as reimbursements for airline fees, waived foreign transaction fees and annual bonuses.
Compared to each other, the cards have the following differences:
- The American Express version allows you to earn 1 FlexPoint per dollar (on up to $120,000 in spending each year and 1 FlexPoint per $2 after that). The Visa version earns you 1 FlexPoint for every $2 spent from the get-go.
- The American Express card has an EMV chip.
As you can see, the American Express version of the card lets you earn 2x as many rewards as the Visa on the first $120,000 you spend each year (and let’s face it, most people won’t pass that threshold). The advantage of the Visa is greater acceptance worldwide. Stateside, however, the American Express version is likely the best bet, since AmEx enjoys good acceptance here.
The other major difference lies in the cards’ benefits (insurance and warranty coverage, for example). Benefits on the American Express card will obviously be administered by AmEx, while Visa oversees the benefits on its card.
Now here’s what the cards have in common:
- No annual fee
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Secondary rental car insurance
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel emergency assistance
How much are the points worth?
The entire suite of FlexPerks cards allows you to redeem for hotels, car rentals, merchandise, gift cards and statement credits against airfare. The value of your points depends on the option you choose.
You’ll get the most value when redeeming for statement credits against air travel. When redeeming this way, you have to use either U.S. Bank’s online travel portal, or travel phone line (which has a consultation fee of $20).
More than 150 airlines participate in the program. Because you’re essentially using your points as cash-back statement credits, you can earn frequent flier miles on your free flights (assuming you’re enrolled in the airline’s frequent flier program), and you don’t have to worry about blackout dates.
The FlexPerks program has a unique tiered redemption structure for airfare:
That means each point can be worth as much as 2 cents per point, which is really good for a no-annual-fee general-purpose travel rewards card.
But what happens if you redeem for a ticket that costs, say, $402? You’ll get bumped up into the next redemption level, meaning you’ll have to cough up 10,000 extra FlexPoints to cover that $2. That brings your redemption value down to 1.3 cents a point for that particular ticket (still a touch higher than the 1 cent per point you get with other general-purpose travel rewards cards).
If you’re redeeming for air travel, the American Express version of the card is a solid deal – you’re getting up to 2 percent back on all your spending. The Visa card’s return of 1 point per $2 spent, though, is paltry by comparison, no matter how you redeem your rewards.
Even with the American Express card’s better rewards, you may be selling yourself short if you want to redeem for anything other than air travel. A more flexible route may be a cash-back credit card that lets use your rewards for anything you want to buy, without a reduction in rewards value. The Citi Double Cash card (no annual fee), for example, gives you 1 percent back on eligible spending and then another 1 percent back when you pay your balance.
Still want an AmEx? The EveryDay card (no annual fee) from American Express gives you 2X points at supermarkets as well as the opportunity to accelerate your rewards if you make more than 20 purchases each month. You’ll be earning Membership Rewards points, which you can turn into real frequent flier miles, or redeem for merchandise, gift cards and a variety of other rewards.