Equifax Hack Check Tool, Free Year of Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring

equifaxlogoEquifax announced that they were hacked between May-July 2017, exposing the personal information of potentially over 143 million people. As one of the three major credit bureaus, they have a lot of data: credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Essentially, everything you need for identity fraud.

Equifax has a Potential Impact Tool that lets you check if they believe your information has been exposed. You must provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. It seems that unless they say “you’re not affected”, then you should assume you were affected. No matter what, they are offering everyone a free year of Equifax TrustedID Premier service, which includes:

  • 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports
  • copies of your Equifax credit report
  • the ability to lock and unlock your Equifax credit report
  • identity theft insurance
  • Internet scanning for Social Security numbers

They’ll give you a date and you’ll need to come back to activate. I suppose they need to make a queue with that many new “customers”. Equifax also set up a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, open 7 days a week, 7am–1am Eastern time.

So the business that gets to collect all my personal data (and then charge me for a credit score based on that data) lost my data, and as an apology gives me a temporary subscription to their own identity protection service (which people pay for because… their data gets hacked). Does anyone else feel like there needs to be more of an incentive not to get hacked? This benefit only lasts for a year, so you may want to sign up for other free credit monitoring services. Also see the Big List of Free Consumer Reports on how to get a free full copy of your credit and other consumer reports.

Plastiq Promotion: Pay Mortgage With Mastercard for 1.5% Fee

plastiq_logoPlastiq has a new 1.5% promo rate (standard fee is 2.5%) if you schedule 3 or more mortgage payments with your Mastercard by end of this 2017. You must pay the standard 2.5% first, and then discount will come in the form of a rebate check sent by January 5, 2018. The check will be sent to the name and billing address associated with your Mastercard used for the promotion. Max rebate is $200. Their instructions:

  • Schedule 3 or more monthly mortgage payments by checking the box next to recurring.
  • Use a Mastercard.
  • Set up the first 3 payments so they are set to process between September 5, 2017 and December 31, 2017 11:59 p.m. EDT.
  • Look for a notification of eligibility on the payment review screen.

Here are some ways that this promo may be useful…

Sign-up bonus spending requirements. Sign-up bonuses on credit cards usually have spending requirements. For example, you might get a $500 value bonus but need to spend $3,000. Well, that’s effectively 16.7% back so if you need a little help to get over that hurdle, it’s okay to pay a 1.5% fee.

2% cash back credit cards, or similar. If you have a rewards credit card that offers 2% cash back (or equivalent value in points), then you can still make a slight profit by putting them on your credit card. A current example is the Citi Double Cash Card. For example, if you have a mortgage bill of $5,000 and you earned 2% cash back while paying a 1.5% fee, your net 0.5% is $25. You could also get another month or so of “float” before the your credit card bill is due.

Combine a rewards card + 0% APR on purchases. Many credit cards offer 0% APR on purchases for an introductory period of 12 months or longer. If the card also has a half-decent rewards program on purchases, the combination of purchase rewards and spreading out the payments over a year at no interest could be attractive.

Referral program. Plastiq has a somewhat confusing referral program. If a new user signs up via a referral link and pays $500 worth of bills, they will then get $500 “fee-free dollars”. So first you’d have to pay the fee on a bill, and then on your next bill, $500 of it will be “fee-free” (at 2.5% that’s a $12.50 savings). The referrer will get $1,000 in fee-free dollars. If you take advantage of the promo above, that should trigger the bonus. Here’s my referral link. Thanks if you use it.

Discover Card: Free Social Security Number Monitoring and New Account Alerts

disc_ssnDiscover has a new free alert service available to Discover cardholders on an opt-in basis. I must have missed the initial announcement. This is not complete identity protection (which usually costs a monthly fee of $10 or more) but the following subset:

  • Social Security Number Monitoring. Discover scans the internet including the “dark web” where stolen SSNs are often traded and sold for the purposes of identity theft and fraud. If your SSN is found, you will receive an alert.
  • New Account Alerts. Whenever a new account (credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other credit accounts) is reported on your Experian credit report, you will receive a notification. If you don’t recognize the new account, that can be an indication of identity theft.

You must authorize Discover to access your credit report, but since they are doing so on your behalf, this will not affect your credit score in any way. Opt-in and activate these alerts here. You can choose e-mail and/or text alerts. Deactivate here.

Bottom line. If you are a Discover cardholder, this is a free service that alerts you to new accounts and thus potential identity theft. I keep my Discover it card open for its rotating 5% cash back rewards.

Citi Prestige Card Review: 75,000 Point Offer, Feature Changes

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card Art

Our partner Citi has a limited-time offer on the Citi Prestige® Card, their premium ThankYou point rewards card. The sign-up bonus is now 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Here are the updated highlights:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 75,000 ThankYou® Points are worth over $900 in airfare when redeemed through ThankYou.com or through Citi Prestige® Concierge. Or, you could get $750 in statement credit.
  • Annual $250 Air Travel Credit, valid for flight-related expenses charged to your card including airline tickets, baggage fees, and upgrades.
  • Global Entry/TSA Statement Credit. Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary 4th night stay at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees).
  • Airport Lounge Access. You and your authorized users get access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass™ Select.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x Points on Air Travel & Hotels.
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment.
  • Early 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • $450 annual fee, not waived the first year.

Bonus details. The initial sign-up bonus was formerly 60,000 ThankYou points, and this is the highest that I’ve seen it. The spending requirement is also higher than before. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Since you can only get one or the other, you should compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card as the annual fee is waived during the first year and includes gas as a 3X category.

Annual $250 Air Travel Credit details. Unlike other cards, airfare counts as well as baggage fees, lounge access, and other incidental purchases. This renews every calendar year, so it can be used to help offset the annual fee every year. New cardholders may also qualify for the credit once in 2017 and again in 2018.

This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.

What can you do with ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with them.

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Bonus towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. You get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. The reverse math means 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 75,000 ThankYou points will get you $937.50 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

75,000 points = $750 in statement credit. The Citi Prestige finally offers you a simple 1 ThankYou points = 1 cent redemption towards a statement credit.

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, EVA Air, Jet Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem this points wisely, you can get a lot of value for international flights.

What happened to [perk]? If you read about this card in the past, you should know that the Citi Prestige card no longer offers some features. These include the (1) American Airlines special redemption value at ThankYou point = 1.6 cents in American Airlines airfare, the (2) 1 ThankYou point = 1.33 cents in airfare (the value ratio is now 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents), (3) American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access (Priority Pass Select benefits remain), and (4) free rounds of golf benefit.

Bottom line. This is a high sign-up bonus historically, but it’s also harder to get due to the higher spending requirement and the fact that you can’t have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months. If you can meet these hurdles, you should then compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card – 50,000 Bonus Point offer. The Citi Prestige has a bigger sign-up bonus and more valuable perks if you can take advantage of them ($250 annual airfare credit, Global Entry credit, Priority Pass), but with a higher spending hurdle and you must pay the $450 annual fee. The Citi ThankYou Premier has a smaller sign-up bonus but the spending hurdle is lower and the annual fee is waived during the first year.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Limited-Time Offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 50,000 Mile Bonus

Citi AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard Art

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, is their premium American Airlines co-branded card. The card currently offers an impressive 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus.  Here are the full details …

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership included for you and guests with you*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge Access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or The TSA PreCheck®
  • $450 annual fee

Note the following fine print:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

As mentioned, this is the highest level Citi/American Airlines card. The 50,000 miles are nice and can be converted to several hundred dollars (or more) worth of airfare. $100 for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is nice. But the annual fee is a hefty $450. The special features of this card that the lesser cards omit are Admirals Club lounge membership and the opportunity to earn Elite Qualifying Miles towards status.

Admirals Club lounge membership value and details. Admirals Club membership usually costs ~$500 a year on its own, and this is now the only card that gives it to you as a complimentary feature. Here’s the full cost chart:

aa_clubcost

This membership allows both you and your immediate family (or up to two traveling guests that accompany you) to access over 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide. You don’t even need to be on an American Airlines flight! You can even give your spouse or trusted friend/family an authorized user card and they’ll get lounge access too, even while traveling separately from you. (Authorized user cards have no additional fee.)

You can be flying on any airline, and if that airport has an Admirals Club you and your family can go inside. Lounge access might save you money on certain things like comfortable seats, free food/drink, WiFi, and sometimes hot showers. Mostly it just makes the overall flying experience more pleasant. I’ve been to Admiral’s Clubs with special kids rooms; perfect for families during delays or layovers.

American Airlines elite qualifying miles. For those that know you can generate the required $40,000 in spending in a calendar year . I’ve given up status chasing for the time being, but if you’re an elite on American, you probably already know the value of accumulating these type of miles. 10,000 elite qualifying flight miles is like going from Honolulu to Los Angeles, roundtrip, twice.

Bottom line. The 50,000 bonus miles is nice, but this remains a niche premium card. If you can take advantage of the Admiral Club lounge access, this can be a great way to get it for you and your travel companions. If you don’t care about lounge access and aren’t trying to achieve elite status on American, this card is probably not for you given the relatively high spending requirements.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

“The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Citi ThankYou Premier Card Review – 50,000 Bonus Points

Citi Premier CardUpdate – This offer is now EXPIRED.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has re-launched from our partner Citi, with an improved sign-up bonus and purchase rewards structure. You can now earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  The highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months the account of account opening.*
  • 50,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out and Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Annual fee is waived for the first year. $95 annual fee afterward. $0 fee for additional users.

Triple points include both air/hotel/car rental and daily commute items. The triple (3X) points on on travel includes hotels, airfare, taxis, car rental, public transportation, parking, cruises, and even gas. When combined with the 25% travel premium, makes that equivalent to a 3.75% reward towards gas and travel booked through Citi Travel Center. The double (2X) on restaurants (includes bars and fast food) and entertainment (sporting events) makes that 2.5% towards travel booked through Citi Travel Center.

Bonus details. The initial sign-up bonus was formerly 30,000 ThankYou points, and while we have seen 50,000 and 60,000 for short periods before, it is a historically high number. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Note there is talk that the Citi Prestige card will change their sign-up bonus soon to 75,000 ThankYou points, but there will also be a $450 annual fee that is not waived (and a $250 airfare fee credit).

What can you do with 50,000 ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with 50,000 of them. Bonus ThankYou Points not available if you have had a Citi ThankYou Premier card opened or closed in the past 18 months.

citty20

$625 towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. With the new Citi Premier card, you get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. The reverse math means 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 50,000 ThankYou points will get you $625 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

$500 in gift, $500 check towards student loan or mortgage. You can view your redemption options at ThankYou.com. I took a quick look and it takes 10,000 ThankYou (TY) points to redeem for a $100 gift card to retailers like Gap, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cabelas, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl’s, Land’s End, LL Bean, Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Staples, and Walmart. So with 30,000 TY points, you could get five $100 gift cards from different stores.

Want something closer to cash? For a check mailed to you, it is 8,000 points for $50 (1 points = 0.625 cent). The best deal is a check mailed towards your mortgage payment or student loan (made out to your lender), which is 7,500 points for $75 (1 points = 1 cent).

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem this points wisely, you can get a lot of value for international flights.

Bottom line. The increased 50,000 point sign-up bonus with the annual fee waived for the first year is historically high. I choose to focus on the flexible value where 50,000 points = $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center. The airline points transfer partners are may get you better value for international flights (or JetBlue for domestic). I like the new rewards structure but a cardholder would need a fair amount of spending in the bonus categories (gas, airfare, hotels, dining out) in order to offset the $95 annual after the first year where they waive it.

  • Citi ThankYou Premier Application Page

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Card Review: 80,000 + 5,000 Bonus Points Offer

ihgcard200

The Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card has upped their public sign-up bonus to 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. You can get an additional 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening. The annual fee is waived for the first year, then $49 a year afterward.

Sign-up bonus details. 80k is a solid offer historically, but I should mention that there is also a targeted link for 100,000 bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months. The problem is that if you click on “Apply Now” you probably won’t get an actual application. However, there are reports that if you ask Chase nicely to match a better offer that you happened to see, they will agree. Worth a shot, but don’t count on it. Use their secure online messaging and create a digital paper trail.

This card is NOT subject to any “5/24” restrictions (where Chase limits you to less than 5 credit cards opened in the last 24 months. Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. You must not have had this specific IHG card within the last 24 months, however:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza®
  • Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites®
  • Candlewood Suites®
  • Hotel Indigo®
  • EVEN Hotels

Free hotel night upon annual card renewal. Upon paying the $49 annual fee, you will get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel worldwide. Assuming you can use it within 12 months, it is actually a good deal for $49.

Anniversary Free Night is valid at hotels in the IHG® Rewards Club Family of Brands and must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue. Anniversary Free Night is valid for one standard room night rate and applicable taxes only. Rooms are limited, subject to prior sale and availability of allocated resources and may be unavailable during high demand periods.

Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a credit cardmember. Perks include priority check-in and complimentary room upgrades (that actually happen). You also get 10% back when you redeem your points, up to 100,000 points each year.

Rewards on card purchases. Here’s the tiered rewards structure:

  • Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at IHG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point for $1 spent on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Based on the value estimates below, I would not put all your everyday spending on this card.

IHG point value estimates. IHG Rewards Club puts out a new list of PointBreaks hotels every few months where you can redeem a hotel night for only 5,000 points. That means 80,000 points could technically earn you 16 free nights! If those hotel rooms would otherwise cost $100 a night including taxes, you’d be getting $1,600 value from 80,000 points. This is how you can see valuations anywhere between 1.5 cents and 2 cents per IHG point.

But that’s not very realistic. There are some nice hotels on the list, but the locations are very specific and few people are sufficiently flexible with their travel to constantly take advantage of these deals.

I spent a week at a Staybridge Suites in Austin with my family and it was great. The room felt like an apartment with a living room, full kitchen, and separate bedroom. Every morning there was a buffet breakfast with eggs, bacon, cereal, bagels, fruit, yogurt, juice, and so on that I could grab and bring back into my suite where the kids could run around. I’ll be returning and willing to pay the going rate again, so how much would it cost me in points?

Here’s an actual rate quote for 8/9 to 8/16 for the same Staybridge Suites:

ihgcard1b

Keep in mind that the quote doesn’t include taxes, which would make the $138 average nightly rate into $159 with taxes. The 30,000 points per night does include taxes, so that work outs to roughly 0.53 cents per IHG point. At that rate, 80,000 points would be worth $424.

You can perform the same calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and always got between 0.5 cents and 1.1 cents per point equivalent value.

Bottom line. The 80,000 upfront sign-up bonus can be conservatively valued at $400 in hotel stays (although you may do much better). Grab the easy 5,000 points for first authorized user as well. IHG has a wide selection of hotels around the world, from Holiday Inns and Staybridge Suites to luxury InterContinental hotels. The annual fee is waived the first year, but upon $49 annual fee renewal you get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel (based on availability).

Southwest Companion Pass: 3 Chase Credit Cards with 60k Bonus Points Each

swa_logoUpdated. Southwest Airlines offers a unique feature called the Companion Pass, which lets you pick one person to fly free with you on both paid and award flights. If you either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in a calendar year, and you’ll earn the Companion Pass for the remainder of that year plus the following full calendar year. For example, if you earned it in March 2017, you would have the benefit for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018. You can change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.

As of March 31st, 2017, Southwest ended the ability to transfer hotel points to qualify for the Companion Pass. Therefore, I have removed a big chunk of this original post.

However, points earned from credit cards still count, including sign-up bonuses. As such, it is notable that all three Chase credit cards currently have a limited-time offer of 60,000 bonus points. Picking any two cards and qualifying for the bonus will get you there with no flying at all with an upfront cost as low as 69 + 99 = $168 in annual fees.

  • Chase Southwest Plus consumer card is offering 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $69 annual fee applies. 3,000 points at card anniversary (and you pay another annual fee).
  • Chase Southwest Premier consumer card is offering 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $99 annual fee applies. 6,000 points at card anniversary (and you pay another annual fee). No foreign transaction fees.
  • Chase Southwest Premier Business card offers 60,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $99 annual fee applies. 6,000 points at card anniversary (and you pay another annual fee). No foreign transaction fees.

Restrictions. All of these Southwest credit cards are subject to “5/24” restrictions, which means that your application will be automatically denied if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months (check your credit reports). Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. There is also this language:

This product is available if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Because the companion pass counts for the calendar year of qualification and the next full calendar year, you can still time things so that you have Companion Pass most of the time (assuming these credit card bonuses stay this high).

In addition, you can use all those points for free flights alongside your new Companion Pass. 110,000 Rapid Rewards points transfers roughly to $1,700 in Wanna Get Away airfare (you are still liable for taxes and fees from $5.60 one-way). If $1,700 would have theoretically covered 16 free one-way flights, then with the Companion Pass you’d be getting 16 free one-way flights for two people.

Bottom line. Right now, you can earn 120,000 Southwest points from signing up for just two credit cards with required total annual fees as low as $168. That’s enough points to automatically qualify for the Southwest Companion pass. With the 120k bonus points and Companion Pass, you’d have roughly 16 free one-way flights for two people. Not bad for $170. Explore the country!

Hyatt Credit Card – Two Free Nights Offer Changing to 40,000 Points on 6/29

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The Hyatt Credit Card is changing their sign-up bonus on 6/29/17. For now, you can get two free night awards after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. The free nights are valid for a standard room at any Hyatt hotel worldwide with no blackout dates, no resort fees, but expire within one year of issuance. You can also get 5,000 Hyatt points after adding an authorized user and having them make a first purchase in the first 3 months from account opening. This alternate link adds a $50 statement credit but says nothing about an authorized user bonus. Take your pick.

The new offer is supposed to be 40,000 Hyatt points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months of cardmembership. The question is then:

What is better: Two free nights at any Hyatt hotel or 40,000 Hyatt points?

The overall answer is you should apply for the current offer if you have an aspirational hotel you want to stay at within the next year or so. Here is a screenshot of their award chart:

hyattchart

As you can see, the best Hyatt hotels cost more than 20,000 Hyatt points per night, with a cash cost of $500+ per night. Some examples of these Category 6 and 7 properties:

There are about 50 hotels worldwide that at Cat 6 and Cat 7. If you don’t want to stay at one of those, then you should take the flexibility of the 40,000 Hyatt points. You don’t need to use them within a year, and you can also use Points + Cash redemptions if you want.

If you have any problems booking your award nights, I would first try using the phone and calling. If that doesn’t work, use the power of social media and contact their Gold Passport “Concierges” @hyattconcierge on Twitter.

Card highlights.

  • $75 annual fee. Not waived the first year.
  • Free Category 1-4 award night upon renewal. Upon annual fee renewal, you will also receive a free night certificate valid for Category 1-4 hotels. Category 3-4 hotels can easily run $200 to $300 per night.
  • Free Discoverist member status. Automatic as long as your card is open. This gets you minor room upgrades when available, premium internet access, and late 2pm checkout.
  • Explorist status after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year. Perks include guaranteed room availability up to 72 hours in advance, 4 Club lounge access awards and more.
  • 3 Bonus Points per $1 spent at all Hyatt hotels and resorts. 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies. 1 Bonus Point per $1 spent on all other purchases made with your card.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Restrictions. This Chase Hyatt card is not subject to “5/24” restrictions, although it will count as an opened card for other 5/24 cards. Our strategy is to have one person apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else like these. However, there is this language:

This product is available if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. I enjoy using hotel awards to stay at luxurious places where I would balk at paying the full cash cost. Nights-based awards are nice for such aspirational stays. You can get $1,000+ value out of two free unrestricted night awards. The award certificates do expire after a year though, so you might prefer to wait for a points award with additional flexibility. I might even wait for an improved limited-time offer or something. But if you’ve been waiting on this bonus, you need to make a decision soon.

Existing Discover Cardholders: Free $10 Kohl’s Cash

kohlsIf you have a Discover credit card and shop at Kohl’s, follow the quick instructions below and check if you have $10 in Kohl’s Cash credit available in your account. There is no purchase required. Availability varies and you might see again next month; this one expires 7/2/17. Found via SD.

  • Log into your Discover card account.
  • Go to the Rewards tab and click on Discover Deals
  • In the Search Merchants box, enter and click on “Kohl’s” (not “Kohl’s online”)
  • Look for the $10 off $30 offer as shown below.

disc_kohls

The “deal” here is that because the code and PIN effectively work as “Kohl’s Cash”, the $30 minimum is not actually enforced. Therefore, it’s similar to $10 in free store credit (subject to certain brand exclusions). Just provide the cashier the barcode number, or use the barcode and 4-digit PIN online at Kohls.com. In addition, you can transfer these codes to other people, or stack up to 4 codes on your own purchase (if a family member has a Discover card too, for example).

Blue Business Plus Card from American Express Review: 2X Points on All Purchases Up to $50k/Year

bbpamexAmerican Express has rolled out the new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express. This card is unique in that it offers double Membership Rewards points on all purchases with no annual fee. Therefore, if you can redeem for more than 1 cent per point of value, this card has the potential to beat a flat 2% cash back card. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited-time offer: Earn 20,000 extra Membership Rewards® points after you spend at least $3,000 in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 2X Membership Points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year. 1X Points on purchases thereafter.
  • 0.0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that your APR will be a variable rate, currently 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • No annual fee

Note the usual language regarding the sign-up bonus. This is a new card so nobody should have this card already, but you can only get the sign-up bonus once so try to apply during a limited-time offer.

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

Better than 2% cash back? Membership Rewards points can be converted to the following airline miles (there are more, this is just a selection):

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ANA Mileage Club (partner of United Airlines)
  • Air Canada (partner of United Airlines)
  • British Airways (partner of American Airlines)
  • FlyingBlue (Air France/KLM)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America

If you value any of these miles at more than 1 cent per mile, then you would be getting more value than a 2% cash back card. For example, this card can earn the equivalent of 2 Delta miles per dollar spent.

Unfortunately, there are many redemption options for Membership Rewards points that are worse than 1 cent per point value. Here are a few examples:

  • Shop with Membership Rewards Points (~0.5 cents per point)
  • Shop with Points at Amazon.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Use points at BestBuy.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Gift Cards (varies from 0.5 up to 1 cent per point max)

If you don’t expect to get at least 1 cent per mile value, then you should stick with a 2% cash back card. If it’s close, then I would probably lean towards simplicity. Consider the following:

Business credit card eligibility. Many people aren’t aware that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. Any individual can be a small business. Perhaps you sell items on eBay, Craiglist, or Etsy. Maybe you do some graphic design, web design, freelancing and/or consulting. If you received a 1099-MISC tax form and filled out a Schedule C, that means you have business income, you pay self-employment taxes, and you’re a sole proprietorship. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

This card will require you to personally guarantee that you’ll pay them back what you charge on the card, which means they’ll check your personal credit score like any other consumer card. However, as the card is a business card, American Express won’t have it show up on your personal credit report, so it won’t change things like your credit limits, average account age, or credit utilization ratio.

Bottom line. The new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a unique card that will be very attractive for a certain subset of travelers who know how to maximize their frequent flier miles. If you don’t know how to do this, I would stick with a 2% flat cash back card. Finally, linking this card also allows you keep Membership Rewards points earned from other AmEx cards active while having no annual fee (even if you no longer have the other cards anymore) .

Delta SkyMiles American Express Cards (Limited-Time Offer)

amexdeltaplatAmerican Express and Delta are running limited-time offers on four of their co-branded credit cards. Since you can only get the sign-up bonuses once on each of these cards per person per lifetime (each card is considered different), it’s best to wait for one of these temporary bumps to maximize your bonus miles. These offers are indicated to end on July 5, 2017.

Here are the bonus highlights for the two consumer cards and two business cards. Note that each of the offers are slightly different in terms of bonus amounts and spending requirements. I list common benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding at the bottom.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

You can find a list of all available American Express credit cards at CardRatings.com

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

The above cards all include the following benefits:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on purchases directly with Delta including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club® membership or passes, Delta Vacations® packages, seat upgrades, or in-flight purchases like food, beverages, and entertainment. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights. Savings of up to $50 on a round-trip per person. (Savings of up to $200 on a round-trip for a family of four.)
  • Priority Boarding. You can board your flight when Zone 1 priority boarding is called, so that you find room for your carry-on bag and settle into your seat sooner.