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What credit card should I get?

One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “Which credit card should I get?”

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but here’s how to narrow it down:

Which credit card to choose if you carry a balance 

If you’re in credit card debt, then you need to prioritize your interest rate over rewards. The average credit card charges 16.05%. It doesn’t make sense to pay interest just to earn 1%, 2% or 3% in cash back or travel points.

If you have credit card debt, forget about rewards for now. You can avoid interest for up to 18 months with the right balance transfer card. And some card issuers (especially credit unions) charge ongoing (non-promotional) rates as low as the 6%-9% range. Don’t chase rewards if you’re revolving a balance.

If you have credit card debt, I recommend these cards:

  • Citi Simplicity® Card*: 18-month 0% intro balance transfer offer; transfers must be completed in the first four months; 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum); 0% introductory purchase APR for 18 months; regular variable APR of 14.74%-24.74%
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card: 15-month 0% intro balance transfer offer on qualifying balance transfers; intro balance transfer fee of 3% or $5 (whichever is greater); transfers must be made within 120 days to qualify for intro offer; 0% intro purchase APR for 15 months; regular variable APR of 14.49%-24.99%; regular balance transfer fee of 5% or $5 (whichever is greater)
  • BankAmericard® credit card: 12-billing-cycle 0% intro APR balance transfer offer; must complete the transfer within 60 days of opening the account; 3% or $10 transfer fee, whichever is greater; introductory 0% purchase APR for 12 billing cycles; regular variable APR of 12.99-22.99% on purchases and balance transfers

See related: Balance transfer cards with no transfer fee

Which card to pick if you don’t have any credit card debt 

Now we’re on to the fun stuff! The key questions at this juncture focus on how much effort you want to put in, how you spend your money and what you want to get out of your rewards.

Some people treat credit card rewards like a game. It’s fun for them, and they spend time looking for the best deals and juggling multiple cards. Yet about three-quarters of credit card holders prefer simplicity and would rather use the same card or two as widely as possible, we found in an August 2019 survey.

You won’t get the best rewards with that approach, but you can still do pretty well. Here are my favorite flat-rate cash back cards:

  • Alliant Visa Signature Card: 2.5% cash back on every purchase with a $99 annual fee (waived your first year)
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Essentially 2% cash back on everything (technically 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay it off); no annual fee

If you make more than $20,000 in credit card charges in a typical year, the Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature is a better bet despite the annual fee.

Which card to pick if you’re willing to put in a little work to earn better rewards 

Dividing your spending among multiple cards is the best way to reap higher returns. At this stage, you need to consider how you spend your money. Different cards incentivize different types of spending (e.g., travel, restaurants, groceries, entertainment).

You also need to think about your desired redemption. Cash back has the broadest appeal (after all, who couldn’t use a little more cash?), although travel rewards are usually the most valuable. Some 49% of U.S. adults have at least one cash back card, 20% have an airline or hotel rewards card and 19% have a general travel rewards card, our research shows.

Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express® Gold Card, the Citi Premier® Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card).

Each of these issuers has more than a dozen airline and hotel transfer partners, plus you can book an even wider variety of flights and hotels directly through the card companies. These programs provide tons of flexibility, and in terms of cents per point, they generally offer higher returns than cash back cards.

Parting advice

As you can see, picking the right credit card for you is an individual decision. I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:

You’re doing well as long as you’re avoiding credit card debt and redeeming rewards for something that’s valuable to you.

Not everyone wants to fly to the Maldives in first-class and stay in an overwater bungalow. Even if it yields fewer cents per point, a free flight to grandma’s house or cash back on everyday purchases could make more sense for your particular situation.

You should absolutely consider sign-up bonuses when evaluating credit cards, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your credit card strategy should be a long-term pursuit. Especially if you’re new to credit, focus on ongoing value rather than card churning.

* Information about Citi Simplicity has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.

Source: creditcards.com

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Flex℠, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®? The card names sound the same, and at a glance the rewards are similar.

Not so fast: Though the cards have a lot in common, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is the best fit for you.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with bonus cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The difference is their rewards structures: The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5% cash back on everything.

Read on to get a rundown on the pros and cons of each card, as well as which card is best suited for you, based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex versus Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate
  • 5% rotating quarterly categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Sign-up bonus $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Annual fee $0 $0
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus) $532 $405
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on both specific categories year-round and on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • No annual fee
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
Cons
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can be difficult to max out rotating categories (may not always align with spending)
  • Low cash back rate on general purchases
  • Not the highest rate available on general purchases
Who should get this card?
  • Rewards maximizers
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points
  • People who like cash back variety
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to earn bonus cash back in both specific categories and general purchases
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex overview

The Chase Freedom Flex card offers a combination of year-round and quarterly-rotating bonus cash back categories. Each quarter, you can enroll in a new bonus category from the Chase cash back calendar and earn 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in that category (then 1% back after you reach the $1,500 threshold). Throughout the year, you’ll also get 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

Upsides: The opportunity to earn bonus cash back in select categories year-round and in a variety of categories each quarter.

Downsides: The complex rewards program. To get the most out of the card, cardholders must track their spending, since the 5% rate only applies to certain categories that rotate frequently and is limited to $1,500 per quarter.

Furthermore, cardholders must log in to their Chase account and activate their rewards category by the deadline each quarter to earn the 5% rate. For example, to earn 5% cash back during the first quarter of 2021 (on select streaming services, phone, cable and internet services and at wholesale clubs), you must activate the category by March 14, 2021.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs
TBA TBA TBA

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Freedom Flex, the Freedom Unlimited earns bonus cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (5% back) and dining and drugstore purchases (3% back). However, instead of rotating cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases. There’s also no annual fee, and no interest on purchases for 15 months from account opening (after which a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies). The card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months.

Upsides: The Freedom Unlimited card offers a straightforward rewards program that allows cardholders to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase they make – with no earning caps or rotating categories.

Downsides: Although 1.5% cash back is a substantial amount to earn on general purchases, it’s not the highest rate out there.

trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

See related: Chase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

Source: creditcards.com

Best credit cards for Airbnb

Many of us are avoiding travel during the pandemic.

But if you have to shelter in place under quarantine once you get to your destination, wouldn’t you rather do it in an environment that at least seems more within your control?

If the choice is between a hotel where you must trust your experience to a faceless corporation or a local host you can talk to through homestay sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, the latter may be the better option for these times (provided you don’t violate their party guidelines).

Whatever option you choose, credit card issuers now reward homestays with points and cash back in the same way they’ve long doled out rewards for hotels and other travel expenses.

These are the best cards on the market for homestays like Airbnb.

See related: Strategies for planning 2021 travel

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles card
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping
  • Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option

    The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card includes arguably one of the highest rates of return on points for some of the most popular redemption categories out there, including homestays like Airbnb and Vrbo.

    The greatest advantages of this card – besides earning 3 points per dollar spent on some popular spending categories – are that there’s no point limit or expiration, no annual fee and no rotating categories that you constantly have to remind yourself to activate. You get three times the points in the relevant categories all the time without restriction, with travel – including all homestays – and transit being one of those prominent categories.

    The card also charges no foreign currency conversion fee, so buying things abroad is less expensive. If that weren’t enough, here’s what you also get:

    ProudMoney.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus

    Before the Wells Fargo Propel card debuted, Chase Sapphire Reserve was the go-to credit card option for Airbnb fans. It offers a 50,000-point introductory bonus when you spend $4,000 in your first three months of membership. Those points are worth up to $750 when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

    Though equipped with fewer spending categories offering 3X points and carrying a large annual fee of $550, the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are more specifically geared toward frequent travelers.

    At the same time, that large annual fee is offset by a $300 annual credit that will reimburse any travel expense – including Airbnb. And from June 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases count toward the travel credit.

    Add to that a $100 credit covering the application to Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years and the annual fee is almost completely offset in the first year.

    Meanwhile, there are even more travel benefits:

    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards

    While the points per dollar offered by Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card on travel and Airbnb are fewer than the credit cards above, the sign-up bonus and up to $200 in annual statement credits make it a decent option, even with less flexibility on what qualifies as a credit than the credit cards above.

    This card should absolutely move to the top of your list if you are already a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client. That designation automatically increases your return even higher than what the other credit cards above offer on travel and dining – you can get a rewards bonus of up to 75%.

    Combine that with a generous sign-up bonus and the Bank of America Premium Rewards is one of the most potent rewards cards for Preferred Rewards clients.

    The card includes:

    Travel loyalty programs offer extended perks in pandemic

    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles option

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is remarkably similar to Bank of America’s Premium Rewards card, right down to the $95 annual fee, but without the additional benefits afforded to Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients.

    However, Capital One Venture Rewards offers 2 points per dollar spent on every purchase, not just travel and dining.

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping

    You may be wondering why the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card is on a list highlighting the best credit cards for AirBnb, Vrbo and other homestays.

    Shouldn’t this card be limited to the “best credit cards for online shopping” list? Not when Amazon offers Airbnb gift cards and the Amazon Prime Rewards card gives you 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases as long as you have a Prime membership, which essentially acts as the annual fee ($119).

    Just purchase an AirBnb gift card from Amazon with the card, and it’s as if you are getting 5% cash back for your AirBnb stay when you apply the gift card towards it. It’s the highest rate on this list, Amazon or not.

    You’ll receive the following additional benefits:

    See related: How to pay off Amazon purchases over time

    Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option

    Though the points per dollar on this card are lower than any other credit card on the list, Discover it Miles gives you much more freedom in how you can manage your points and account.

    You can redeem miles in any amount, your miles don’t expire even if you close your account and 1% of your miles can be converted directly into cash for your bank account.

    Discover it Miles offers:

    creditcards.com

    How to stack cards to get the most on your everyday spending

    January 12, 2021

    Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available.

    Running an errand to fill up your gas tank or restock your pantry may not be the most glamorous part of your day, but, with the right cash back card, you can make those everyday tasks much more rewarding.

    Best credit card combinations for everyday spending

    • For Amex loyalists
    • For maximizing points
    • For maximizing cash back

    There are many cash back credit cards that offer bonus rewards on everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. One of our favorites is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which gives you a whopping 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases and (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services 3% cash back on transit and U.S. gas station purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.

    The card does charge a $95 annual fee, but we think that fee is well worth it if you want to earn the most cash back on your everyday spending. We figure that the average shopper who spends $15,900 on the card would earn around $323 in cash back each year.

    Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
    • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter)
    • 6% select U.S. streaming services
    • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations
    • 1% other purchases
    2.63% $323

    Even better, you can push your rewards rate higher by pairing the Blue Cash Preferred card with credit cards that offer bonuses on other categories of purchases. Here are some of the best card pairings for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.

    Combination one: Amex all the way

    If you love American Express cards, or you just want to keep things as simple as possible for yourself by sticking to a single issuer – the American Express Cash Magnet® Card that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase makes a great partner to the Blue Cash Preferred card.

    See related: Which 1.5% cash back card is right for you?

    By swapping in the Cash Magnet card to earn 1.5% cash back on purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the average cardholder can push their cash back rate to 2.91%, amounting to $368 in cash back with $15,900 yearly credit card spend.

    Estimated yearly rewards: Blue Cash Preferred + Amex Cash Magnet

    Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
    • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 1.5% other purchases with the Cash Magnet card
    2.91% $368

    Combination two: Maximizing points

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is another great card to pair with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. Just like the Cash Magnet card, it offers at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase. However, the rewards that you earn with the Freedom Unlimited card are a little more versatile than the Cash Magnet card and it comes with additional cash back categories: 5% on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel, plus 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. You can transfer them to certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*, which awards a 25% bonus on those points when you redeem them for travel for the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

    If you prefer to earn points rather than cash back on purchases that fall outside the Blue Cash Preferred card’s bonus categories, Ultimate Rewards cards are a great way to go:

    Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Chase Freedom Unlimited

    Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
    • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 5% Chase Ultimate Rewards travel with the Freedom Unlimited card
    • 3% dining and drugstore purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
    • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 1.5% other purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
    3.49% $459.91

    Combination three: Maximizing cash back

    If you prefer cash back rewards and want to earn the most cash back possible, the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Blue Cash Preferred cards is one of the ultimate card pairings. The Citi Double Cash card offers up to 2% back on every purchase – 1% when you make the purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill on time.

    Combined with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the Citi Double Cash card pushes the rewards rate to 3.19% cash back for the average cardholder. We figure that a cardholder who spends around $15,900 per year on these two cards can earn nearly $412 in cash back per year.

    Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Citi Double Cash

    Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
    • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
    • 2% other purchases with the Citi Double Cash card
    3.19% $412

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    Source: creditcards.com

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