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Why The Discover It Credit Card Should Be On Your Radar

As a general rule, I don’t sign up for any credit cards without a signup bonus worth at least $500. But the Discover it card is one of the rare exceptions.

Discover it has just a $50 signup bonus. You get that as a statement credit soon after you make your first purchase. The real value in this card comes from its Cashback Match. “After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods,” the card application says.

The card normally gives 1 percent back on all purchases. 2 percent is decent, but there are other 2% cards out there where you get 2% immediately. Alright, I’ll get to the point: Discover has 5% cash back in rotating categories that change each quarter. This cash back is also doubled for the first year!

For Q4 of 2019, which just started, the 5% categories are Amazon, Target and Walmart.com. The 5% cash back applies to the first $1,500 of spending in those categories. I recently got this card and when the calendar turned to October, I immediately bought $1,500 worth of Amazon gift cards. If you are like me, $1,500 on Amazon goes very quickly during Christmas season. With the double cash back, I’ll get $150 back from Discover.

Discover hasn’t announced its 2020 categories yet, but this year, they were grocery stores in Q1, gas stations, Uber/Lyft in Q2 and restaurants in Q3. So the potential is there for $600 in bonus cash back for the first year you have the card. That’s in addition to 2% percent back on all regular spending.

You can cash out bonus $ directly to your checking account. Discover also lets you redeem for gifts and they often have great deals on them. For example, right now they have a special where it’s just $20 in rewards for a $25 Applebee’s gift card.

The last great thing about this card (but one you obviously need to be careful with), there’s no interest on purchases or balance transfers for 14 months. The length of time for both purchases and transfers is very rare.

There’s no annual fee so this one worth getting and keeping for the long haul. After the first year, though, I would only use it in the 5% categories as you should always be doing better than 1% on everyday purchases.

Apply for the Discover it card here.

 

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The Easiest $250 You Will Ever Make

Checking account bonuses are great. Some of them are greater than others, especially the ones that don’t make you jump through a million hoops and then wait three months to get them.

Enter M&T Bank. Go to this page and enter your zip code. If it says “Good news! A cash bonus promotion is available in your area,” you are about to make the easiest $250 of your life.

Open the MyChoice Plus account. When your application is approved, your account number will be displayed immediately. Write this down. I always forget to do this and then I have to message the bank to get it. Take that account number and go to your employer’s direct deposit page (hopefully you can do this online) and set up $500 to go into your new M&T bank for your next paycheck.

With 2-3 days of your next paycheck, you will receive a $250 bonus in your M&T account. Check out how simple this is below. From application start to bonus in the account: 11 days.

The one caveat: you cannot close the account immediately after getting the bonus unless you want to pay a $50 early termination fee. To avoid this fee, you need to keep the account open for 6 months. There’s also a $15 monthly fee on the MyChoice Plus account. So here’s what you do: message M&T bank online and tell them to downgrade your account to Classic Checking. Classic has a $5 monthly fee, but it’s waived with just one direct deposit a month. So set up you work DD to deposit $1 each pay period into your M&T account. Set a note on your calendar for six months. Transfer the $12 in your M&T account to another checking account. Once your balance is at $0, message M&T and ask them to close the account.

Rinse and repeat a year later. Yup, you can get this bonus every year. To play it safe, I would say apply again 13 months after you received the last bonus into your account.

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The 5 Best Credit Card Reward Offers Available Now

If you are going to play the credit card points game, you should be getting new cards every few months. I have been approved for four cards (from four different banks) in a single day numerous times. Yes, you do have to hit a minimum spend within a certain period of time to get bonuses, but even taking that into consideration, I’d say if you play the game smart, for every a hour of work/research you put into it, you can obtain points and miles worth thousands.

I’ve said it before, but I will keep saying it: opening new credit cards will not hurt your credit score. I currently have 14 credit cards. I closed 3 others recently and my credit score is 775. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the five best signup bonuses out there right now for personal credit cards.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

This card offers 125,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account. Now, if you never stay at Hiltons or are just partial to another hotel chain, you should skip this one. But there are Hiltons all over the world so I like to keep a decent balance of HH points, which I value at about a half-cent each.

Of course the value does depend largely on where you travel to. 125,000 points won’t even get you two nights at most Hiltons in New York City. But they can get you four free nights at several hotels near Disney World in Orlando. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is not waived the first year so I put the cash value of this bonus around $500. Apply here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card gives you 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $750 toward travel if you redeem them through the Chase travel portal, but the major value is in transferring them to airline and hotel programs (especially British Airways to book American flights and to Hyatt for hotels). There’s a $95 annual fee so this bonus is worth at least $655 and potentially over $1,000 if transferred to FF programs. Apply here.

Chase World Of Hyatt Card 

I’ve had this card for 10 years and I gladly pay the annual $95 fee each year. More on that in a minute, but the offer on this card is 25,000 Hyatt points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and another 25,000 points after a total of $6,000 in spending in the first six months. Hyatt doesn’t have the huge footprint that Hilton does, but the points go so much further.

I value them at 2 cents each so you are looking at about $900 in value with this bonus factoring in the annual fee. Each year you pay that fee, you get a free night in a category 1-4 hotel. The hotel below is an example of a category 4. Look at that cash price. We also love staying at Hyatt Places because you get a decent free breakfast. Get this card and keep it forever. Apply here. 

Hyatt Place Long Island City / New York City

Hyatt Place Long Island City / New York City
27-03 43rd Ave.
from 12,000 Points/Night
$312 Avg/Night (USD)
This card gets you 50,000 once you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months from account opening. You can redeem those points for statement credits worth $500 toward any purchases in the travel category. You can also transfer the points to various FF programs, but I’ve never done this myself with Capital One so I’ll just say this bonus is worth $500 and potentially a bit more. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Apply here. 
Another fairly straightforward bonus. Spend $4K in the first 3 months and get 60,000 Thank You points, good for $750 toward flights through thankyou.com. If you don’t travel much, you can cash out the points for $600 worth of gift cards. There’s an annual fee of $95 that isn’t waived. Apply here. 
If you have a credit score above 700, it’s quite likely you could apply for 4 of these 5 cards in one day (you won’t get two Chases in one day) and be approved for all four. Of course, that would mean you would have be able to put a ton of spending on those cards within a few months to get the bonuses, but it can certainly be done with some manufactured spending (more on what that is here).

 

 

 

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The Best No APR/Balance Transfer Credit Card Out There Right Now

The credit card rewards game is meant to be played by those who can afford to pay off their balances in full each month. The cards that offer the biggest bonuses generally also have the highest interest rates.

The bank wants you to be lured in by the big bonus and then keep a running balance that quickly gives that bonus money right back to the bank. But let’s say you are in a little debt and you want to get out of it while also dipping your toes into the points world. There is one card that stands out among the pack: the American Express EveryDay card.

It offers 15 months of no interest on all purchases and balance transfers. One of its best perks: there is no balance transfer fee. With most cards, the balance transfer fee is between 3-5 percent. That’s a good chunk of change if you plan on transferring a few thousand bucks.

Incredibly, it also comes with a signup bonus. This is very, very rare for a card that already offers no interest. The official bonus is 15,000 Membership Rewards (conservatively valued at $200 when used for travel) points for spending $1,000 within the first three months. Check out my referral link here. It may actually offer 20,000 MR points as the bonus as it did when I opened it on a different browser. Just note that if it does, the spending requirement is $2,000. If it shows 15K points, you may want to copy and paste the link into an incognito/private window using a different browser and see if the 20K offer shows up. For some reason this trick can sometimes trigger a larger offer.

Obviously with the no interest offer, the bank wants you to run up your balance real high and then start paying hefty interest when the 15 months if up. So be careful with these kinds of cards. Have a plan to pay them off before the no interest period is up.

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Citi Premier Credit Card Review

The Citi Premier credit card has a special place in my heart. It was my real rewards earning credit card.

I did have a Sheetz credit card while living in Virginia in 2005 and I would sadly spend enough at Sheetz to earn $25 gift card rewards once every few months. That $25 was not chump change since I was making $10 an hour at the time working as a reporter at the Hanover Herald-Progress, but I digress.

I opened my Premier card in 2007 and for a few years, I used Citi Thank You points, earned with the Premier and other Citi cards, to rack up nearly $6,000 worth of travel and gift cards. Nowadays, Citi cards usually don’t offer enough in the way of ongoing rewards to make them worth keeping long term.

That’s the case with the Premier card. It has a $95 annual fee (though it’s waived the first year). It gets you 3% back on gas stations and travel as well as 2% back on restaurants and entertainment. Certainly not bad, but Chase Sapphire Preferred has the same annual fee and similar cash back categories. The difference: Chase UR points are much more valuable than Citi Thank You points.

The Citi Premier card is one I’d recommend solely for the signup bonus, which is certainly worthwhile: 50,000 Thank You Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $625 for flights booked through thankyou.com, which basically offers all the same flights you’d find on Expedia or you can redeem the points for $500 in gift cards.

The verdict: get the signup bonus (application link here), book your free flights, toss the card in your sock drawer and then cancel it before the annual fee hits for year 2. Two years after you close the card, you can apply again and receive the bonus again. This is a beautiful game, isn’t it?

 

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How I Get 5% Back on Almost Every Purchase

Hello to my 12 readers (4 of whom I am not related to). A few months back I wrote about how everyone should be getting at least 2% back on every purchase. Now that is the bare minimum. If you aren’t get 2%, well then you just don’t like free money. But for those who do, I want to run down how I get 5% back on almost every purchase I make. Now should you go apply for all these cards right now? No. Some may make sense for you. Others won’t.

Chase Ink Business Preferred: I have an older version of the Chase Ink that gives 5% back on cellphone bills. I actually switched it up recently after learning that the Chase Ink Business Preferred offers free cellphone protection if you pay your bills with that card. You get up to a $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage. There’s a maximum of 3 claims in a 12 month period with a $100 deductible per claim.

The Chase Ink Preferred also gives you 3% back on phone, internet and cable bills. In my mind, the 3% plus the cellphone protection beats out the 5%. The Ink Preferred also has one of the best signup bonuses out there – 80,000 points after spending $5K in five months. Those are worth $800 in statement credits or more than $1,500 worth of travel if transferred to frequent flyer or hotel programs. A reminder you don’t need a traditional business to open a business credit card.  Application link here.

Chase Freedom/Discover IT:  Both of these cards have rotating 5% cash back categories that change each quarter. Right now, the Chase Freedom has 5% on gas stations, drugstores and tolls. The Discover has grocery stores. The great thing about that drugstore category is CVS counts and you can buy $500 gift cards to rack up those points. Discover often offers 5% back at Amazon in Q4 each year and it’s already on the schedule again for 2019. We buy pretty much everything on Amazon so when Q4 rolls around, I buy $1,500 worth of Amazon gift cards so all my holiday shopping is getting 5% back.

If I had to pick one of these two cards, though, the Freedom is the winner. It has a $150 signup bonus after spending $500 in three months and Chase UR points are much more valuable than Discover points. That said, the Discover card doubles your cash back earned for the first year. That means 2% on everything and a huge 10% on anything on the rotating categories. Do note that there’s a maximum of $1,500 in spending in each category that earns bonus points. Chase Freedom link here. Discover IT here.

American Express Gold Card: This card gives 5% back at supermarkets and restaurants all year. But here’s the big caveat: there’s a $250 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year. My annual fee is coming due soon and it will be a tough call on whether to keep it or not. The pros: there’s a signup bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points after $2K spending 3 months. That bonus alone makes this card worth getting for at least one year. 40K Amex points can easily get you $600-700 worth of travel.

The card also gives you $10 a month in statement credits when you pay with the card at participating dining partners, which include Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack locations. We sure as hell don’t bring two kids to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but we get that $10 credit every damn from from Grubhub. So right there with the dining credits, that brings the annual fee down to $130. You also get up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits toward incidental airline fees like checked baggage when you charge them to your card.

So yeah, tough call on this one when it’s renewal time. Big fee, but also big benefits. I will say if you are big spender at restaurants, this is likely a card you want in your arsenal despite the annual fee. Application link here.

The one big nut I have yet to crack: how to get 5% back (or anything back) on my mortgage payment. If someone has figured that out, well, you are my new best friend.

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Citi American Airlines Cards Are Lucrative And Churnable

I applied for my first credit card in a while today. I was letting my credit reports “cool off” a little bit, which really isn’t necessary, but I’m trying to be a bit more selective in the cards I apply for. I applied for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage
Platinum Select World Mastercard today and was instantly approved. That was a little surprisingly because a lot of times with business cards you get a pending status and need to call in or at least wait a week or two to be approved.

The bonus on this card is 50,000 miles after $3,000 spend in three months and then another 15,000 miles after a total of $10,000 spend in the first year. The annual fee of $99 is waived the first year. I value AA miles at about 1.5 cents a piece so you are looking at about $1,000 worth of flights for this bonus.

When applying, I just used my name for the business name. I’ve sold a few hundred dollars worth of items on eBay in the past year so I put that down as my revenue and used my social security number as the tax ID number. As I’ve mentioned before, you would be surprised at what qualifies as a business.

The great thing about business cards is they don’t show up on your personal credit report. This is especially important when it comes to staying under Chase’s 5/24 rule, i.e. you can’t be approved for any Chase card if you have been approved for more than 5 cards from any bank in the past 24 months. Chase generally has the best bonuses so I do my best to always be under 5/24. With business cards, though, I can open as many as I want (except for those from Capital One, Discover and TD Bank as those do show up on your personal credit report) and Chase won’t see them on my credit report.

If you really don’t have anything that qualifies as a business, Citi also has a personal AA card that offers a bonus of 60,000 miles for $3,000 spending in three months.

Another great thing about Citi AA cards if they are churnable, meaning you can get the bonus on them more than once. Here’s what the terms say for the personal card: American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than an AAdvantage MileUp℠ or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months. It’s the same deal for the business card. If you haven’t opened or closed a Citi AA card in the past 24 months, you can apply and get the bonus again.

My strategy with my new card will be to keep it open for 10-11 months, enough time to spend the $10,000 to get the full bonus and to not piss off Citi by looking like a bonus chaser (even though I am one) by getting the bonus and then closing it right away. Once I close it, I will make a note on my credit spreadsheet to apply for it again in two years.

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Everyone Should Have an Amex SPG Card

Hyatts are great for redeeming points. The Hyatt award chart often makes it easy to get 2 cents per point when redeeming and that’s pretty much the holy grail for maximizing credit card points.

But here’s the rub: Hyatt has about 800 hotels worldwide. You can find at least one in pretty much any major city, but there will be times where it just won’t be feasible to stay at a Hyatt and if you only have Hyatt hotel points, you will have to pay cash to stay at another hotel. We do not pay cash to travel. Repeat that. I have not spent a dime on hotels or airfare for a dozen years (Disney is the only exception since you can’t redeem points at Disney properties). The only way to pull this off is to have points spread out across a wide array of reward programs.

This has already been a long-winded way to say the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is one everyone should have. The signup bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Marriott bought Starwood in 2016 and their reward programs merged last year. Those 75,000 points can be used at nearly 8,000 hotels around the world so unless you are traveling to a remote desert, you will always be able to find a Marriott or SPG hotel nearby. You can easily get $500 worth of value out of those points and as I’ve mentioned in the past, that’s really the minimum amount of value you should be looking for with every credit card you apply for. Do not apply for the Target credit card to get 10% off your $20 purchase!

In the example below, you can redeem 70,000 points for two nights at the Courtyard Boston Downtown on a summer weekend. It would cost you over $700 in cash.

Amex cards also unlock Amex offers, which can be very lucrative and can easily make up for the $95 annual fee on the card. That fee is waived for the first year. You also get a free night each year (awarded on each card anniversary) in a hotel up to 35,000 points. So clearly, as long as you use that free night each year, this card is one that is worth getting and keeping long term.

Apply for the SPG card here.

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Citizens Bank Offering a $450 Checking Account Signup Bonus

Some checking account bonuses can be a true pain in the ass to obtain. You need a bunch direct deposits, use a debit card 10 times and then keep the account open for 6 months or pay an early termination fee, etc etc. Thankfully this is not the case with a new offer from Citizens Bank.

The offer is available to residents in CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. One direct deposit of $1,000 or more within 60 days of account opening gets you a $450 bonus. If you can’t swing a DD of more than $1K, there’s a $200 bonus for one direct deposit of $500 or more. The Platinum Checking account that gets you $450 has a $25 monthly fee, but it’s likely not charged for a month or two and I can’t find anything about an early termination fee so once that bonus hits (it may take up to 90 days after the direct deposit according to the terms), just transfer the money out and close the account.

A reminder that bank account bonuses do count as taxable income so you will get a 1099 form for any bonus you receive.

Here’s the link to the offer

 

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