The offer for the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card is no longer available on CreditCardForum. The following information is for reference only.
Compared to the big travel-rewards competitors, perhaps you haven’t heard much about the FlexPerks Travel Rewards card from U.S. Bank. However, you might start hearing a little more, since U.S. Bank recently introduced a new version of the card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) into its FlexPerks suite. The new card is called the FlexPerks Gold American Express card.
So are these cards a diamond in the rough? Our review will help you differentiate between the two versions of the card and help you compute the value of your points.
Looking for information on the no-annual-fee FlexPerks Select card? Go here.
The Visa Signature version:
- Annual fee: $49 (waived the first year)
- Earn 20,000 enrollment FlexPoints after you spend $2,000 in Net Purchases (purchases minus credits and returns) on your Card within the first four months of account opening.
- Earn one FlexPoint for every $1 of eligible net purchases charged to your Card
- Earn two FlexPoints for every $1 spent on gas, grocery or airline net purchases — whichever you spend most on each monthly billing cycle — and on most cell phone expenses
- Earn Triple FlexPoints on eligible charitable donations
- No Foreign Transaction Fees (based on creditworthiness).
- Award travel starts at just 20,000 FlexPoints (up to a $400 ticket value) on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates or online redemption fees
- Receive an airline allowance of up to $25 with every award travel ticket to use toward baggage fees, in-flight food or drinks and more
- $25 airline allowance each time you redeem for an award travel ticket. This allowance lets you get statement-credit reimbursements for things like baggage fees or in-flight refreshments.
- EMV chip technology
- Discounts at National Car Rental and Emerald Club.
- Discounts for chauffeured car service with BostonCoach
- Suite of benefits, including concierge service, secondary car rental coverage and travel and retail protections
The American Express version:
The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express card has all of the above, with the following differences:
- Annual fee: $85
- Earn 30,000 FlexPoints after being approved for the card and after you make $2,000 in purchases in the first four months. These can be redeemed for an airline reward ticket of up to $600.
- 3X FlexPoints at restaurants, 2X at gas stations and 2X on airline purchases
As you can see, these cards are both part of the Flexperks program, but the American Express version has a higher annual fee, more robust benefits and different bonus categories. The travel and retail protections, concierge service and rental car coverage may also differ because they’re administered by different networks (Visa and American Express).
But how much are those points worth?
Anyone who plays the credit card game knows that the number of points/miles you earn is irrelevant if the value of those points is not high or you simply don’t fully understand their worth.
So how do the US Bank FlexPoints measure up to the commpetition? It depends on the circumstances, but the value is quite respectable overall:
Redeeming for the annual fee: These cards allow you to redeem points to cancel out their annual fees. With the Visa Signature card, you can redeem 3,500 FlexPoints for a statement credit to cancel out the $49 annual fee (for a value of 1.4 cents per point). With the American Express version, you can cash in 5,000 points to pay your $85 annual fee (for a value of
1.7 cents per point).
Redeeming for gift cards and statement credits: You’ll get a value of 1 cent per point.
Redeeming for travel: For hotels, car rentals and cruises, you get a straight-forward value of 1 cent per point. You have to redeem through the U.S. bank Rewards Center portal.
With airfares, the US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards program allows you to book with more 150 airline partners. The the price of the ticket will dictate how much points it will take…
- 20,000 FlexPoints = Up to $400 ticket value
- 30,000 FlexPoints = Up to $600 ticket value
- 40,000 FlexPoints = Up to $800 ticket value
- 50,000 FlexPoints = Up to $1,000 ticket value
If you do the basic calculations, that means the value can be as high as 2 cents per point. That equates to double the baseline value of 1 cent per point that you should generally shoot for with these general-purpose travel rewards cards.
Here’s the issue, though: Check out the tiered redemption structure above. Say the flight you want is $405. You’ve surpassed the $400 threshold, meaning you have to redeem 30,000 points (the next tier) for the flight. Instead of getting a per-point value of 2 cents, you’re getting 1.3 cents per point. That’s still more than the 1 cent per point you’d get with many general-purpose travel cards, but it might still be an unpleasant surprise to have to hand over 10,000 more points to cover an extra $5 in fare.
Another possible inconvenience is that you have to redeem your points through U.S. Bank’s online reward portal (or by phone, for a fee). Other cards allow you to comparison shop, book any type of travel (hotel, flight, cruise) anywhere you want and then redeem for a statement credit. Take the Capital One Venture card, for example, which lets you earn 2 miles on every purchase and then cancel out any travel purchase with a statement credit.
Redemption-inconveniences aside, if you redeem FlexPerks points in the most favorable manner possible, you’re getting an above-average rate of return on your spending.
- up to 4 percent in the 2X bonus categories
- up to 4 percent on cell phone expenses with the Visa Signature card
- up to 2 percent on everything else
Other notable benefits
- Annual Bonus: With the Visa Signature version, every year you spend $24,000 (that’s an average of $2,000 per month) you will receive a bonus of 3,500 FlexPoints. US Bank will let you redeem those to offset the $49 annual fee. So if you spend at least $24,000 per year, this credit card can basically be free for you. But since the fee is already waived year one you get to keep all those points to yourself.
- $25 airline allowance with each award ticket: Obviously they added this benefit to compete with the free-first-checked-bag benefit found on airline cards.
- You still can earn frequent flier miles: With most airline cards, you don’t earn miles on award flights. But with the FlexPerks Travel Rewards, your award flight is no different than a regular purchase in the eyes of an airline. So you can still use your frequent flyer account to earn miles on those flights.
- No blackout dates or redemption fees: If you buy a ticket last minute it will probably cost more (and therefore require more points) but at least you have the ability to redeem for any ticket whenever you want.
The tiered rewards program for flights can be a little confusing at first glance. But if you play around with the numbers, you will see that it’s possible to get a good return on your spending. Those 3X points you earn on dining with the American Express version, for example, will get you up to a 6 percent return on your spending if you redeem strategically.
If you’re wondering which version of the card to get, the American Express version gives you 3X points on dining. That’s a common category for a lot of people, giving this card an advantage over the Visa Signature. Visa, meanwhile, offers wider global merchant acceptance, which could be a significant factor depending on where you plan to travel.
Updated June 22, 2016