In the heels of Chase, Barclaycard and Wells Fargo, U.S. bank has just launched a 1.5 percent cash-back card – the U.S. Bank Cash 365 card, which is co-branded with American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). The 365 is not an exciting or innovative product, but that’s the whole point: it’s designed to give cardholders a low-maintenance way of earning rewards. Our review will help you decide if it’s right for you.
Annual fee: None
Earning rewards: 1.5 percent cash back on everything, with no caps.
Redeeming rewards: Rewards can be redeemed for statement credits; deposit into a U.S. Bank savings, checking or money market account; or as a Visa Rewards Card (a prepaid debit card).
There is no redemption minimum for most of these options, and you can redeem your rewards in any amount. The only exception is if you redeem for a Visa Rewards card. In that case, you must redeem a minimum of $20 and in $5 increments after that.
Sign-up bonus: While there’s no advertised sign-up bonus for newcomers to U.S. Bank (as of June 2016), those with an existing relationship may be eligible for a sign-up bonus.
Balance transfers: 0 percent APR for the first 12 billing cycles on balances transferred within 30 days of account opening. The balance transfer fee is 3 percent ($5 minimum).
Put simply, this card is, well, simple. There are no bonus categories to worry about. The redemption value is also fixed, so you know you’re getting 1.5 percent cash back on all your purchases.
If you want to earn cash back effortlessly, or you’re new to the rewards game, this could be the card for you. It might also be a good choice if you already have other cards with bonus categories and need a solid earner in your wallet for those non-category purchases.
The cards biggest pros could also be cons for certain cardholders. There are no opportunities to maximize bonus categories, for example – and U.S. bank doesn’t have a bonus- shopping portal like many other cash-back cards do. So, while 1.5 percent cash back isn’t bad, it’s all you’re going to get. While the card carries the American Express brand, it is not issued by AmEx and is therefore not eligible for its bonus program, Amex Offers, according to that program’s terms and conditions:
Redemption flexibility is another potential downside to consider. While some may consider the redemption program of the 365 Card to be minimalist and streamlined, others may prefer more robust programs that allow you to redeem for retailer gift cards, online shopping and travel – or even point-transfers into partner travel programs. While making the most of these types of rewards programs requires more effort, it’s nice to have the option to make that effort and get more out of your points. Yes, cash back is technically the most flexible type of reward there is. However, researchers have found that consumers are more likely to actually use their rewards if they have more exciting redemption options.
Finally, there’s the lack of sign-up bonus for those who are new to U.S. Bank. A good sign-up bonus can let you get a much bigger return on your spending in the first year. So, if you don’t already have a U.S. Bank relationship, consider a similar card that gives sign-up bonuses to all qualified new applicants.
Other options to compare
The U.S. Bank 365 card is no-frills but reliable choice. If you already bank with U.S. Bank (and are eligible for a sign-up bonus), it could a good alternative OR companion to the U.S. Bank Cash+ card (which earns 1 percent on most spending and more in certain categories).
However, there are many similar no-annual-fee cash-back cards to consider, including:
Discover it Miles
It’s billed as a travel card, but you can redeem your “miles” for cash back at a value of 1 cent per point. Because this card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent, it amounts to 1.5 percent cash back (if you redeem for cash). The Discover it Miles also has some other nice perks, such as access to the Discover Deals program and a $30 in-flight Wi-Fi reimbursement every year. Most importantly, however, card automatically doubles all the miles you earned your first year.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise
The Cash Wise card also earns 1.5 percent back, but its redemption program is more robust than the 365 card’s. You can redeem for cash back (even at the ATM, a unique perk from Wells Fargo), gift cards, travel and more.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
At first glance, this appears to be just another 1.5 percent cash-back card. However, the Freedom Unlimited is tied to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, which is arguably one of the most extensive card rewards programs. You have the usual redemption options, plus online shopping and cash back on the go with the Chase Freedom mobile app (which lets you generate instant eGift cards at partner retailers).
If you pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, your points can become even more valuable because the Sapphire Preferred allows you to transfer points earned with the Freedom Unlimited directly into Chase’s partner hotel and airline programs.