While it’s garnered some criticism in recent years for changing its rewards structure, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card offers something unique – you get to choose your own bonus categories.
But can this customizable card be molded to fit your lifestyle? Our review will help you decide.
How the rewards work
Unlike cards with stationary bonus categories or rotating categories chosen by the bank, this card lets you pick the following:
- A 2 percent “everyday” category: You’ll get an unlimited 2 percent cash back at gas stations, restaurants or grocery stores.
- Two 5 percent categories (you can change them every quarter): In these categories, you’ll be rewarded 5 percent cash back on up to $2,000 in combined quarterly spending. Categories include, Clothing Stores, Gyms/Fitness Centers, Sporting Goods Stores, Cell Phone Providers, Book Stores, Department Stores, Electronics Stores, Fast Food, Furniture Stores, Car Rentals, Charities (ending Feb. 15, 2017), Movie Theaters and Ground Transportation (starting Feb. 15, 2017).
You will also get 1 percent cash back on non-category spending, with no limit.
Keep in mind that whether you get the bonus-category cash back depends on the merchant code. If, say, you buy a book, don’t assume you’ll get 5 percent back. The store must be recognized by U.S. Bank as a book store. See a full list of eligible merchants for each category here.
Registering for rewards
Each quarter, you must manually pick your 2 percent and 5 percent categories. You can do so as early as 45 days before the start of a new quarter and can change them until 5 days before a new quarter begins. You can also register during the quarter, but it may take up to three business days for your chosen categories to take effect.
Using your rewards
Rewards can be redeemed as follows:
- Statement credit (any amount)
- U.S. Bank rewards gift card ($5 increments, $20 minimum)
- Deposit into U.S. Bank savings, checking or money market account (any amount)
The first time you redeem $100 or greater, you’ll get a one-time $25 cash bonus.
As a Visa Signature card, the Cash+ comes with the following benefits:
- Concierge service
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Rental car insurance (secondary)
- Travel accident insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- And more
The card has no annual fee but does charge foreign transaction fees on transactions made in foreign currency.
Should you get the card?
The U.S. Bank Cash+ card is unique among cash-back cards, due to its customizable rewards. And that could be a perk or a disadvantage.
On one hand, you have control over your quarterly categories, meaning you’re not at the mercy of the issuer, as you would be with a card like the Discover it or Chase Freedom. With those cards, it’s possible you could spend an entire year disappointed with whatever 5 percent categories Discover and Chase serve up. With the Cash+, you can choose categories each quarter based on planned spending.
On the other, you have to remember to opt in to your bonus categories every quarter. That makes the U.S. Bank card more complicated than other flat-rate cash-back cards on the market. If you want to avoid complexity (or you won’t hit enough of the Cash+ card’s bonus categories), consider a card that gives you a flat, elevated rate of cash back on all purchases:
Another aspect to consider is whether you’ll regularly make purchases that match the Cash+ card’s categories.
The 2 percent categories are relatively easy to hit (gas, groceries, restaurants). This could make the card a good companion for another cash back card. For example, if you have the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), which earns 3 percent back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in spending per year, then 1 percent) and gas stations, you can opt for 2 percent back on dining with the Cash+ card.
Some of the 5 percent categories are iffier and very hobby-based – gyms and sporting goods stores, for example. But the card could still become the missing piece of your rewards puzzle with broader categories like clothing stores and fast food. And, if you plan to buy a bunch of furniture in the near future, you could switch over to the furniture store category for a quarter.
Even if you carefully you fit this card into your rewards strategy, however, keep in mind that the Cash+ has a history of eliminating or downgrading categories.
Why we gave it 3 out of 5 stars
We rated this card based on our standards for cash-back credit cards.
The card lost some stars, due to the requirement to enroll in categories every quarter (even if you aren’t changing yours), its quarterly rewards cap in the 5 percent categories and lack of perks beyond its rewards program. However, it earned stars for its rewards program overall (which we found, in a recent survey, is particularly lucrative for families).
|Rewards-earning rate: This card meets our standards for no-annual fee cards by offering at least 1 percent on ALL spending and at least 3 percent in at least one bonus category.|
|Cash-back redemption value: This card meets our requirements for offering a cash-back value of 1 percent.|
|Rewards simplicity and transparency: This card requires category enrollment and caps the 5 percent categories.|
|Bonus-earning opportunities: This card sometimes offers a sign-up bonus for online applicants and a once-per-lifetime $25 bonus when redeeming $100 in rewards or more. However, there are no other ongoing bonus opportunities that boost the value of the card.|
|Unique perks: The ability to customize your rewards categories is a unique perk in and of itself. However, the card doesn’t have any other perks that set it apart from similar cards.|