Review: U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select cards

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 FlexPerk Travel Rewards cards here). US bank flexperks Visa

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.

The basics

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:

US bank flexperks redemption 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).

The verdict

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.


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Review: Is Diners Club back in the game with its new cards?

As the first independent credit card company, Diners Club has a long history. But many may consider Diners Club to be history: after being dwarfed by the competition over the years and being acquired by Citi and then later by Discover, Diners Club has become a minor player, with just a handful of corporate and professional charge and credit cards to its name (albeit ones that cater to frequent, high-income travelers).

In Sept. 2014, however, it launched two new consumer credit card products on the MasterCard network: The Diners Club Card Premier and the Diners Club Card Elite. Unlike some of the other cards in the Diners Club portfolio, these are credit cards, not charge cards.

Do these cards herald a Diners Club comeback? And do they stack up with similar cards on the market? Read on to find out.

Compare the Diners Club 'Premier' and 'Elite' cards
Diners Club Card PremierDiners Club Card Elite
Annual fee$95$300
Rewards1 point/dollar3 points/dollar on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases


1 point/dollar elsewhere
EMV chip?YESYES
Personal concierge?YESYES
Lounge access?YESYES
Rental car perksComplimentary Avis Preferred status, 25% off Avis rentals, complimentary Fastbreak status with Budget, 25% off Budget rentals


PRIMARY rental car coverage
Lost/damaged luggage coverageYES (up to $3,000)
Baggage delay insuranceYESYES
Travel accident insuranceYESYES
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance?NOYES
Purchase assuranceYES (within 90 days)
Extended warrantyYES (up to 1 additional year on warranties of 1 year or less)
Roadside assistanceYES, but you must pay for the services you receive.

As you can see, despite the discrepancy in annual fees, the cards offer similar benefits. The major differences are:

  • Rewards: With the Elite card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption coverage: This is a useful benefit to have if your travel plans go awry. The Elite offers it, but the Premier does not.

How much are your points worth?

This is a vital question to ask with all rewards cards. Otherwise, you might find yourself racking up points only to find they’re not worth much.

Both of these cards enroll you in the “Club Rewards” program — the same rewards program tied to Diners Club’s professional cards. You can redeem your points for:

Merchandise: On the Club Rewards website, you’ll find everything from a mug for 3,000 points to a backpack for 12,000 points, to bikes for 32,000 points and more. To find the point value, simply find the item on another website and do the math. With the backpack, for example (a SwissGear computer backpack that’s $65 on Amazon.com), you’ll get a value of one-half cent per point. Expect value to vary with merchandise redemptions.

Cash: Cash out your points to be used against a statement credit or card fees. You get a value of 1 cent per point when redeeming for card fees and 0.66 cents per point when redeeming for a statement credit.
Diners club cash redemption


Gift certificates and eGift certificates:
There’s a selection of retail, dining and travel gift cards and eGift cards. The redemption value is a steady 1 cent per point for all the currently posted options.

Airfare, car rentals, vacation packages and cruise booking discounts: Redeem for a discount off your booking on certain airlines, cruise lines, custom vacations (that you book with the help of a customer service rep) as well as pre-packaged vacations. The various options posted on the website all have a value of 1 cent per point (10,000 points for a $100 vacation package discount, for example), but expect your value to vary when you get to the more customized trips.

vacation package redemption diners club

Real frequent flier miles and loyalty points with various programs: Turn your points into real loyalty points with a variety of hotel and airline programs. Currently, transfer partners and their transfer rates (Diners Club Rewards Points needed : Loyalty points obtained) include:

Aeroplan: 1:1
Alaska Airlines: 1:1
Amtrak: 1:1
Best Western: 1:2.64
British Airways: 1:1
Thai Airways: 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines: 1:1
Choice Privileges: 1:1.92
Delta SkyMiles: 1:1
El Al Airlines: 50:1
EVA Airways: 1:1
Frontier: 1:1
Hilton HHonors: 1:1.6
Hyatt: 1.67:1
Icelandair: 1:1
IHG: 1:1.2
Marriott: 1:1.2
SAS EuroBonus: 1:1
South African Airways: 1:1
Southwest: 1.25:1
Starwood Preferred Guest: 1.67:1
Virgin Atlantic: 1:1

The numbers in the list above are the transfer ratios. Most partners allow you to transfer at a 1-for-1 ratio. Others are better, others are worse. The actual value of your points will vary, depending on how wisely you redeem them after the transfer. Airline frequent flier miles, for example, can be worth well over 1 cent each.

A good value? In some areas (such as the loyalty-point transfers and redemptions toward card fees), you’ll get a competitive value for your points. Yet there are other options (such as statement credits) where your points are worth less than 1 cent each. You’ll have to determine which redemption options are most important to you and decide if you’re willing to take a cut in value in other areas.

Noteworthy benefits

Some of these cards’ benefits are easy to come by, while others are more rare. These are the four benefits that make the new Diners Club cards stand out:

  1. Lounge access: This is usually the domain of airline-specific cards or general-purpose travel cards that cost $400+ per year. Diners Club has a network of more than 500 lounges worldwide (and in 14 U.S. cities). Guest fees, and access rules vary by property.
  2. Primary car rental insurance: Most credit cards offer what’s called secondary coverage. That means you have to file a claim with your primary auto insurance company before the card’s coverage kicks in. Primary insurance kicks in right away, so you can avoid the claim with your primary insurer — and it’s a rare perk. Currently the only other cards offering it are the United MileagePlus card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  3. Car rental discounts and status: Complimentary status with Avis and Budget means you won’t have to wait at the counter — and a 25 percent discount is a nice perk for travelers who frequently use those companies.
  4. Point transfer: The ability to transfer points into airline and hotel loyalty programs is a powerful and versatile tool. Not only can you top off your balance in other programs as you see fit, but you can get a lot of value out of your transferred points if you redeem for first-class airfares and pricey rooms. Other cards also give you this power. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, cards in the Membership Rewards Program from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and the Starwood Preferred Guest card all let you transfer points. Diners Club has some transfer partners the others don’t have and vice versa. So make sure the card you choose partners with your favorite travel programs.

Are the Diners Club consumer cards a good choice?

When comparing these cards with each other, the Premier card (with the lower annual fee) likely packs more value. The only tangible extra perks you’re getting for the $300-per-year Elite card are extra rewards on category purchases, as well as trip cancellation coverage. While the Diners Club professional Carte Blanche charge card (also $300 per year) throws in international cellphone rental and private jet access, the Elite credit card does not. Meanwhile, the Premier has all of the four benefits that make these cards unique (listed above) — for just $95 a year.

So, how do the cards compare with others in the market? If lounge access and travel benefits are what you’re after, and you’re willing to pay a rather high annual fee, the American Express Platinum (which gives you access to Priority Pass Select lounges, the Delta Sky Club, Airspace lounges and AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges) might be a good fit. It throws in reimbursement for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, refunds you up to $200 in airline fees per year and gives you four free roadside assistance service calls per year.

If you’re eying the Premier card, it’s a solid choice. Yet if you’re not interest in lounge access and more interested in earning extra rewards, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It offers no lounge access benefits, but does offer primary rental car insurance, the ability to transfer points to travel loyalty programs and double points for dining and travel.


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Review: Do the Citi Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager deliver?

In Sept. 2014, Citi launched two new credit cards to go with its updated rewards program: the Expedia+ Voyager Card and the Expedia+ Card. In addition to offering extra points on Expedia purchases, they offer extra perks for travelers. Yet, as with any card tied to a loyalty program, you need to make sure these cards provide extra value for your traveling habits.

Expedia+ Cards from Citi

What’s new?

You may already be familiar with the existing Citi PremierPass Expedia card, which lets you earn Citi ThankYou points. That card isn’t going away, but these new Expedia co-branded cards let you earn points in the Expedia+ rewards program.

Starting Sept. 29, eligible PremierPass cardholders will be invited to switch to one of the new cards, keep their old PremierPass account numbers and have their ThankYou points converted into Expedia+ points, according to a Citi spokesperson.

How does the Expedia+ Rewards program work?

We’ll get to the card-specific benefits in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand how Expedia’s rewards program works. After all, that’s where your earned points will go and where you’ll redeem them.

Expedia revamped its rewards program in July into Expedia+. The biggest change: new tiered membership levels (+blue, +silver and +gold), which come with a variety of perks, including hotel upgrades at certain properties, exclusive offers and dedicated customer service lines. The perks you get depend on the tier you’ve reached, of course.

Check out what you get for each tier here.

The new version of the program also allows you to earn double points on cruises.

By enrolling in the Expedia+ Rewards program (regardless of whether you have one of the co-branded Citi cards), you’ll earn:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on hotels, vacation packages that include hotel, activities and cruises
  • 1 point for every $5 spent on airfare
  • 1 point per $1 on flight + car packages

But the real question is what you can get from your points. Expedia’s reward program allows you to redeem for:

  • Hotels (by redeeming for hotel coupons worth up to $1,000 off a booking)
  • Packages (by redeeming for coupons worth up to $300 off a package)
  • Flights (for the full cost of the flight)
  • Charitable donations (every 3,500 points equals a $25 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
  • Dining and entertainment experiences (at the time of this review, for example, you can see “Mamma Mia” on Broadway for 14,000 points)

What the cards offer

Both cards let you earn more points than what you’d earn with Expedia+ rewards membership alone, earn points outside of Expedia purchases, and accelerate your progress toward elite status. Here’s a closer look at both cards:

Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager: Breaking down the benefits
Expedia+ voyager card
Annual fee$0$95
Extra points (outside of Expedia+ Rewards base earnings)3 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)


1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
4 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)


2 pts/dollar on restaurants and entertainment


1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
Sign-up bonus15,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.25,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months.
Anniversary bonusN/A5,000 points after spending $10,000 on the card in prior membership year.
Elite statusAutomatic +silver membership.


Earn 1 elite-qualifying night toward +gold status for every $2,500 in purchases on the card every calendar year.
Automatic +gold membership
Travel fee statement creditN/A$100 each year toward airline incidentals and fees on participating airlines
Other travel perksEMV chipEMV chip, no foreign transaction fees
Insurance and shopping benefitsLost baggage protection, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation/interruption coverage, Price Rewind, rental auto coverage and more

One of the most notable perks is the automatic status upgrade to +silver (with the Expedia+) and +gold with the (Voyager). Without these cards, you’d need to spend $5,000 on eligible bookings (or stay 7 nights in a qualifying hotel) in a calendar year to get +silver status OR spend $10,000 (or stay 15 nights) to get to +gold. In addition to travel-related perks, these status tiers will help you earn more points in the following ways:

  • 250 bonus points when you book a +VIP Access hotel. Expedia says it has 1,400 such hotels in its portfolio, and you can browse them here.
  • A bonus on base Expedia points earnings for eligible bookings. That bonus is 30 percent for +gold and 10 percent for +silver. So that 2 points per dollar you get on hotel bookings via the Expedia+ rewards program would turn into 2.6 points per dollar with +gold status and 2.2 points per dollar with silver.

Another unique benefit: The Voyager gives you a $100 statement credit every year, which you can use to cancel out airline incidentals and fees from participating airlines, including in-flight Wi-Fi, Global Entry Application, in-flight refreshments, checked bags and more. This isn’t a common perk, and it’s generally associated with higher-annual-fee cards like the Platinum card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and the Wells Fargo Propel World.

How much are my points worth?

In short, your points are worth about 0.6 cents each when you redeem for flights and 0.7 cents each when you redeem for coupons for hotels and travel packages. Read on for a more detailed break-down (and how you might squeeze some more value out of hotel redemptions).

Hotels: When redeeming for hotel coupons, you can get them in set increments. A $25 coupon costs 3,500 points, and a $1,000 coupon (the maximum value) costs you 140,000 points.

Expedia+ rewards hotel coupon redemption

So your point value is fixed at 0.7 cents per point when redeeming for hotels. However, if you are redeeming at a +VIP Access property (and are enrolled in the Expedia+ rewards program), your coupon is worth twice as much.

Packages: Same as hotels (0.7 cents per point), without the possibility to redeem for double value.

Flights: Pinning down the exact value for flights is trickier. Here’s what the fine print has to say about redeeming for flights:
expedia flight redemption point value

I ran a several itineraries (domestic and international) through Expedia’s rewards booker to get an estimate, and, for all of them, the point value was 0.6 cents per point.

Are these cards a good deal?

As with all rewards cards, that depends on what you’re looking for.

Looking for consistently good point value? The value of Expedia+ points is questionable. You can easily get a steady value of 1 cent per point with a variety of general-purpose travel rewards cards and even more with airline-specific cards – but Expedia offers you just 0.6 or 0.7 cents per point for most redemption options.

All those extra points you get with the Voyager card help with that somewhat, though. Earning 4 points per dollar spent on Expedia airfare means you’re getting a return of 2.4 percent back on your spending (plus a little more, thanks to the points you’re earning through Expedia+ rewards). That’s not bad – just remember that you get that rate of return only on Expedia purchases.

Looking for travel perks? These cards can’t compete with the perks offered by co-branded airline cards (you won’t get free bags or priority boarding, for example). But the $100 airline incidentals statement credit does give the Voyager an edge. Plus, the EMV chip (on both cards) and waived foreign transaction fees (on the Voyager) are nice touches for frequent travelers.

And don’t forget the automatic status upgrades. If you stay at +VIP Access properties enough and have +gold status, you might enjoy the occasional room upgrade.

Looking for flexibility? If you’re already a loyal Expedia fan, you probably value flexibility. After all, you’re using a site that lets you browse dozens of airlines, hotels and vacation packages, and book the lowest-cost option. Your points, therefore, are flexible currency.

Even so, what if you find a better deal with another online travel agency? Or even on the airline’s own website? You won’t earn those extra Expedia rewards if you opt for the better price. Your Expedia points can also be redeemed only for Expedia purchases – and you’re capped at $1,000 per hotel redemption.

So, if you’re an infrequent Expedia user, another option might be to get one of the general-purpose travel cards listed below (which both offer a respectable, steady redemption value and return on your spending). Both also give extra points on travel, including travel you book via Expedia.

Updated Sept. 25, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Citi Double Cash card review: What makes it different?

Cards without annual fees that let you earn more than 1 percent cash back on every single purchase across the board are pretty uncommon. But Citi just launched a new product that promises to give you 1 percent when you buy something — and another 1 percent when you pay for it.

The Citi Double Cash card offers a unique way to earn “double” cash back on all purchases. Here’s how it works and how it compares to the competition.

How you earn the extra cash back

With most cards, you earn rewards as you make the purchase. Say you have a card that gets you extra points or miles on dining. You eat at a restaurant, pay with your card and, as soon as that purchase is posted to your account, those rewards are yours.

Citi’s Double Cash card works a bit differently. When you pay with your card (for any purchase), you get 1 percent back right away. Want those “double cash” rewards the card offers? You’ll get an additional 1 percent when you make a payment. Here’s what the card’s terms and conditions say about getting that additional 1 percent on payments:

    “You will also earn 1% cash back on payments you make that appear on your current month’s billing statement as long as the amount paid is at least the Minimum Payment Due that is printed on your billing statement and there is a balance in the Purchase Tracker. The balance in the Purchase Tracker is reduced by eligible payments you make. When the Purchase Tracker reaches $0, you won’t earn cash back on payments until more eligible purchases are made.”

We reached out to Chris Fred, head of product management at Citi Cards, for a translation. According to Fred, getting that extra 1 percent requires two things:

  • When you make a payment there must be a balance in the Purchase Tracker. That’s a running tally of your purchases and payments. When you make a purchase, that amount gets added to your Purchase Tracker. If you make a payment, you reduce the Purchase Tracker by that amount. If your purchase tracker is at zero, you can’t make an extra payment to earn more cash back. You must first make more purchases, which will then be added to the purchase tracker, enabling you to make more payments (and earn the extra 1 percent).
  • Before the due date, you must pay at least the minimum amount due. For those who like to make multiple “early” payments throughout the month to keep utilization low, payments made before your statement closes will still earn the additional 1 percent. Fail to make the minimum in a given billing cycle, though, and you’re left with the initial 1 percent you earned on spending.

In other words, this card gives you 1 percent when you buy something and another 1 percent when you pay down your balance, whether you pay in full, or just pay the minimum.

Still it’s not always accurate to call this a 2-percent-cash-back card. For one thing, you’re sacrificing that second round of cash back if you fail to pay on time. Plus, if you redeem your rewards for a statement credit, it will reduce the amount you owe by 1 percent and, thus, the amount you can earn rewards on when you pay the rest of the bill. Even so, the card gives you the chance to earn more on every purchase than the competition. Its closest competitor, the Capital One Quicksilver, offers a steady 1.5 percent cash back.

You can redeem your rewards for a statement credit, cash back (check) or gift card (for a minimum of $25). After that $25 minimum, there’s no requirement to redeem in increments for statement credits or cash back, although gift cards are available only in $25 increments, Fred notes.

Benefits

EMV chip: As an added perk, this card has an EMV chip. It seems like every new card these days is sporting one, but no-annual-fee cards that have an EMV chip are still in the minority.

The EMV chip will allow you to use your card overseas in many cases where magnetic stripe cards aren’t accepted. However, the card unfortunately has a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, meaning it might not be the best choice for purchases abroad. With the U.S. migrating to EMV, though, the card should be increasingly handy state-side over the next few years.

Citi Price Rewind: This benefit (offered on several other card’s in Citi’s portfolio) allows you to monitor price fluctuations after you buy an item. If the price drops within 60 days, you might be eligible for a refund of the difference (up to $300 per item and up to $1,200 per year).

Purchase protection: If an item you bought was stolen or damaged within 120 days of purchase (or 90 days if you’re a New York resident), you can be refunded for up to $1,000 per item.

Extended warranty: If you turned down the extended warranty when you purchased an item, you might regret that decision if the item breaks. This card adds up to an extra year on warranties of five years or less for no additional cost.

Travel protections: You get secondary car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance (up to $1,500 per year), and travel accident insurance (up to $250,000).

Citi Private Pass: The Double Cash card gets you access to preferred and presale tickets, as well as access to special events.

What to watch out for

If you carry a balance on the card, that extra 1 percent you get when you pay will be cancelled out by interest. So, while you can earn extra rewards by paying only the minimum, you’re still coming out behind. To get the full potential double cash back reward, you will have to pay your balance in full every month before the due date.

But that’s really no different any rewards card; paying interest cancels out your rewards, across the board, plain and simple. The plus side of this card is that, because you don’t get the extra 1 percent until you pay, there’s an added incentive to pay – and possibly make larger payments or pay in full. If you’re the type to do that anyway, you might not care. But tying rewards to desired behavior could help those who require a little extra motivation.

Can I product-change from other Citi cards?

In the first days after launch, some of our forum members reported difficulties product-changing from other Citi cards to the Double Cash. Fred says that, as of Sept. 7, 2014, most Citi cardmembers should be able to convert existing Citi cards. Another detail: When Citi announced the Double Cash, it stopped marketing the Dividend Platinum Select. Those currently holding that card, Fred says, can convert to the Double Cash.

The competition — what else is out there?

If you want to earn a full 2 percent cash back, there are ways to do that. The one card without an annual fee that gives 2 percent back on absolutely everything is the Fidelity card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). However, you have to have a Fidelity account to get the card.

Also keep in mind there are other no-annual-fee cards that offer 5 percent cash back in certain categories (the Discover it and the Chase Freedom. Depending on your spending, those cards might net you more rewards overall. However, you need to enroll in quarterly categories to get 5 percent back — and those categories have spending caps. The ideal strategy, therefore, might be to combine the Double Cash card with a card that offers elevated category spending. That way, you can get extra cash back within the categories and use the Double Cash for all other spending (and for category spending after you hit your limit on the 5 percent card).

The bottom line: The Citi Double Cash card is likely the easiest way to get a steady higher-than-usual rate of cash back on absolutely everything with no cover charge. It would work well on its own (if you don’t want to mess with chasing rotating categories) — or as a good sidekick to a rotating-category card.

Still, keep in mind that things do change, and Citi has, in the past, offered especially lucrative rewards on a card and then pared them back, as some of our forum members are pointing out, citing the now-discontinued Dividend Platinum Select as an example.

Updated Sept. 16, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

BuyPower Card Review: Important 2014 Update

The BuyPower Card (formerly known as the GM Card) used to have some red tape that made it a less-than-stellar offer. But, after being taken over by Capital One (which bought HSBC’s U.S. credit card business in 2012), the card underwent some major changes in late-2013 that make it a better option for 2014.

Click here to apply for the BuyPower Card from Capital One

So what’s changed?

The card still has no annual fee and allows you to earn back a percentage of your spending, which you can then put toward an eligible new GM vehicle (retail purchase or lease).

In 2014, you can earn:

  • 5 percent back on the first $5,000 in purchases every year
  • 2 percent back on all purchases the rest of the year without limit

Here are the major differences between the old GM Card and BuyPower Card:

Now, it’s a World Elite MasterCard: That means it offers an array of additional benefits and protections beyond the perks offered by the issuer. Many of the World Elite MasterCard benefits are designed for travelers, and that’s fitting because the card (just like all Capital One cards) has no foreign transaction fees.

Here’s a run-down of some of them:World Elite MasterCard

  • Trip cancellation insurance: This coverage refunds any non-refundable purchases you’ve made for a trip (hotels, flights) if you have to cancel or end your trip early for a covered reason.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resorts program: For hotels in MasterCard’s portfolio, get complimentary room upgrades, late check-out, early check-in and free breakfast (availability permitting)
  • Discounts on limos: Get between 15 and 25 percent off on limo and chauffeured car services from participating companies.
  • Flight upgrades: You get discounts for certain airlines and itineraries and, sometimes, even complimentary seat upgrades.
  • Concierge service: Available 24/7, this service will help you with tasks and chores like finding hard-to-find items, plan travel and make reservations.

No more redemption limits: In the past, the GM Card had what were called “redemption allowances.” Only a certain amount of the rewards you earned could be used toward your car purchase. That ceiling was as low as $500 for some vehicles and went up to $3,000 for others.

The BuyPower Card has no such limits. You can redeem as many rewards as you earn.

Rewards don’t expire: Previously, rewards expired seven years after they were earned. Coupled with the redemption allowances, this was a double whammy for cardholders; if you maxed out your redemption allowance, you’d have to buy a new vehicle within seven years to take advantage of remaining rewards.

Now, however, rewards earned via the BuyPower Card never expire. So, even if you don’t plan on getting a new car for a while, you can simply bank your rewards as long as needed.BuyPower Card from Capital One

Cool new design: The previous traditional horizontal design of the original GM card has been rotated 90 degrees with a distinctive vertical design. The only other cards on the market featuring this design ethic are the Chase Slate card and the Virgin America cards. The cobalt blue background is truly eye-catching and the silver MasterCard logo indicates that this is a special piece of plastic. Of course, you should choose a card based on more than good looks ? but this luckily this card has looks and substance.

Other GM cards

In addition to the BuyPower credit card, Capital One offers one more option for consumers: The GM Extended Family Card. With the regular card, you can’t redeem you rewards in combination with an employee or supplier discount. The Extended Family card allows you to do that, although it also decreases the rewards earnings ? you get a steady 1 percent back on all your purchases. The card does have a unique perk, though: If you don’t want to cash your rewards in for a car, you can get them as cash back in $50 increments.

For business owners, there’s another option: The GM Business Card. It gives 5 percent back on GM parts, accessories and service at GM dealers; 3 percent back at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores and 1 percent back on everything else. It also offers a $100 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first three months. Rewards are good toward a new GM vehicle.

Is it a good deal for 2014?

There are a few other cards out there that have a 5 percent rate of return on spending (the Chase Freedom and Discover it among them). In theory, you could get one of them and save up the cash back toward a new car. Yet, that 5 percent back is often tied to very specific and rotating categories, and the cash-back rate often falls to 1 percent after that. With the BuyPower card, you get 5 percent back on the first $5,000 you spend each year (on absolutely anything) and 2 percent after that.

The card’s biggest potential drawback is that, as with many loyalty cards, the redemption options are pretty limited. The card is clearly meant for customers who are brand loyal. Unless you have the Extended Family Card (which gives you the option for cash back), your points must be redeemed for anew GM vehicle. Change your mind about buying or leasing with GM? Your points are useless.

If you aren’t a fan of GM, you probably wouldn’t have this card in the first place, but make sure your budget can handle a new GM vehicle. Even if you spend $10,000 on the card per year, you’d have just about $1,750 after five years. That’s not enough to entirely cover the cost of a new vehicle. So, if cost is a concern, you can certainly save money by forgoing the card altogether and buying a used car.

The bottom line: If you intend to buy a GM vehicle and nothing else will do, the BuyPower card is a wise choice, given the user-friendly changes to the program and a simple rewards structure that lets you stockpile cash back on all your purchases. With no more redemption ceilings and expiration dates on rewards, you can rack up enough points to get a significant discount on your dream car and wait until the right time to buy it. However, if you don’t anticipate sticking with GM for years to come, there are lots more flexible rewards cards on the market that will get you a nice return on your spending over the long term.

[Commercial] Capital One BuyPower Card TV Spot – Something Great from Avant Artists on Vimeo.

Updated August 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.