Being that the National Education Association is this country’s largest union, it comes as no surprise they have their own branded credit cards… but are they really in the best interest of their members?
There are a couple public school teachers in my family and not too long ago, I was with one of them at the grocery store and noticed they paid using a NEA credit card. Being that cards are my hobby (as pathetic as that is to say) you know I just had to do some digging around to find out what the deal with it was.
As it turns out, there are 3 versions – 2 MasterCard and 1 AmEx, all of which are issued by Bank of America.
(1) NEA Cash Rewards MasterCard
Previously this was the NEA Visa Signature, but sometime in 2012 they changed it over to MasterCard. As the name implies it gives cash back as follows:
- 1% cash back on regular purchases
- 2% cash back at grocery stores
- 3% cash back at gas stations
Warning! This may sound good, but read the fine print…
That’s right- only $1,500 in COMBINED spending per quarter at grocery stores and gas stations will count. Most families spend more than $500 per month on those categories combined, so they will only be earning the 2% and 3% on some of those purchases.
After the promotional period the APR listed on the application was 12.99% to 20.99%. This is only average, at best. I’m really disappointed to see that the NEA didn’t use their strength in numbers to negotiate a better deal for the APR.
(2) NEA Accelerated Rewards American Express
With this one you earn 1.25 WorldPoints per $1.00 spent and redemption starts at only 2,500 points. Unfortunately when you redeem at that tier your points are worth 50% less (you are only getting 1/2 cent per point). Here’s the redemption chart so you can see for yourself…
As you see, in order to “break even” with your points and not have them watered down, you have to redeem at least 25,000 at a time. Since you’re earning 1.25 points per dollar, that would mean you would have to spend $20,000 if you want the most bang for your buck.
Between the two so far, this NEA credit card rewards program is a better for large spenders, but still a lousy deal compared to what else is out there.
(3) NEA Credit Card with WorldPoints Rewards
Yes, I know the NEA American Express also had WorldPoints so the above card name can be confusing, but just don’t kill the messenger because I’m actually copy/pasting the card names word for word from the NEA website
With this one you only get 1 point per dollar and that’s it. And unfortunately since those are WorldPoints, as demonstrated above you are going to have to save up 25,000 of them in order to get $0.01 value per point.
Now here’s the ironic part…
As someone who’s very familiar with BofA credit cards, the first thing I noticed was that all 3 of these cards are identical to the BofA cards marketed without the NEA brand: the rewards and promo offers are the same. So basically what you are getting here is a plain old BofA credit card, except the card’s design will be for the National Education Association.
Although they are virtually identical to Bank of America’s own cards, I suppose the benefit here is that the NEA must be making at least something off these accounts… so in that sense, it would be logical to choose the NEA version since it probably helps them out a little.
On the other hand, if it’s rewards you are after, then you may want to consider other options too. Why? Well for starters, having to spend the $20k or $30k in order to get the full value on WorldPoints isn’t always an easy task for a public school teacher, which rules out 2 of the 3 options. I really wish they would revise the redemption tiers and make them more accommodating for NEA members!
There are plenty of other credit cards that give 1% to 5% cash back, plus you won’t have to save up anywhere near 25,000 points to realize the full value. For a sponsored selection of recommendations check out these 5% cash back card reviews.