Suntrust Credit Card Application a Bad Idea?

Q: I was going to apply for one the SunTrust credit card offers since I bank with them. Their Visa Platinum and Visa Signature come with rewards but the application isn’t clear about the point value. I then go to the section of their website to browse rewards and the point conversion looks mostly bad ($5 and $10 gift cards for high number of points). Should I reconsider getting their card?

A:  Both of the SunTrust Visa credit cards give you the following:

  • 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases

If you look at the first page of the gift cards, indeed the value is quite bad…

$5 card options

With these $5 and $10 gift cards you mention, each point is only worth about 1/2 of one penny. However you might have only noticed the first page because if you look at pages 2-6 you will see gift cards which are much better deals.

$25 card options

Most of the $25 gift cards can be had for 3,000 points. That’s a value of $0.0083 per point… which is better but still less than the gold standard 1 cent per point. Fortunately if you save up enough for $50 and $100 gift cards, SunTrust seems to usually dole out a full penny per point.

$50 and $500 card options

In defense of the SunTrust Visa credit cards, you should know that most banks operate their rewards programs in a similar manner, where you have to redeem for $25 to $100 cards to get the most bang for your buck.

If you opt for cash back/statement credits unfortunately the minimum amount required to get full value is quite high. To get full value, you have to redeem 25,000 points for a $250 statement credit. Go below that amount and you will be getting anywhere from 0.715 to 0.875 cents per point. So if you are after cash back, then the application would actually be a bad idea.

For merchandise there are plenty of options, for everything from fashion to electronics, but these are almost always a bad deal. Not just for the Suntrust credit card, but almost any credit card rewards program. Simply put, you usually get a better price buying the merchandise on your own.

Visa Platinum vs. Signature?

Even though the rewards are the same with both cards, their benefits will vary slightly.

The SunTrust Visa Platinum card comes with your basic run-of-the-mill benefits you can expect to find on any platinum-level Visa or MasterCard. These include things like secondary collision damage waiver for car rentals paid for with the card, travel accident insurance (common carrier only), and lost card reporting.

The SunTrust Visa Signature card offers a couple extra bells and whistles. Most notably the concierge phone support, lost luggage reimbursement, and purchase security (covers eligible purchase which are stolen/damaged during first 90 days). You will find these benefits (or ones comparable) on other Visa Signature cards, MasterCard Worlds, and American Express cards.

Neither the Visa Platinum or Signature credit cards from SunTrust come with an annual fee. So the reasons to choose over the other would be:

  • The Platinum has a preset limit, while the Signature does not. Generally speaking, having preset limits can sometimes be more helpful for your credit score than no preset limits.
  • The credit score requirements for approval will be higher on the Visa Signature. That being said, from customer reviews/comments I have gotten, neither appears to be too hard to qualify for as long as you have good credit.

Verdict?

My guess is that the reader must have only been looking at the first page of gift cards (the $5 and $10 ones) which indeed are a bad value. However as demonstrated above, the $50 and $100 options are generally a 1 point = 1 cent conversion, which is good.

Some of the closest competitors to the SunTrust credit card rewards program are the following:

  • AmEx Blue Cash (2 versions avail) – Depending on the version you choose, you will get 3 or 6% at US supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent per year, 2 or 3% on gas at US gas stations, 2 or 3% at select US dept stores, and 1% on all other eligible purchases. The nice thing about these is that you get straight up cash back, so you don’t have to fool around with points. Best of all, one of the versions has no annual fee.
  • BankAmericard Cash Rewards3% on gas, 2% on grocery, and 1% elsewhere. There’s no annual fee however the main drawback with this one is that there is an extremely low limit to how much you can earn on the bonus categories.

Written or last updated November 14, 2013

 
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