Middle Age Miles

Credit Card Updates and Our Take – Amex Gold, Chase Southwest, Chase Hyatt, Citi Rewards+, B of A Cash Rewards

There’s been a lot of news in the credit card world over the past week or so, which has been the subject of many articles by other bloggers. As usual, much of the information that’s been written is good, but not all of it. Thus, I wanted to put together a compilation post of recent credit card news, to:

  • Recap the changes in one place for everyone;
  • Share the news with Middle Age Miles readers who might not have been keeping up on a daily basis; and
  • Give our own thoughts and insights on these changes

With that, let’s work our way through the recent news items now:

Amex Gold Card (personal)

Amex Gold Card

Last week, the initial “card launch” sign-up bonus offers on the Amex Gold card ended. These offers had been in effect since this re-vamped card was launched in early October, and it had been possible to get a sign-up bonus of up to 50,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points through a referral link. In addition, the ability to get the “special edition” rose gold-colored version of this card ended last week as well.

Now, the publicly-available offer on the Amex Gold card on the Amex website is for 35,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points after $2,000 spend within 3 months. However, there is a better offer available via referral links. The referral offer is for 40,000 MR points after the same $2,000 spend within 3 months.

We don’t necessarily recommend this offer, given that the best offer just dropped from 50,000 MR points to 40,000. But if you’re signing up for the Amex Gold card now, be sure to use a referral link. Have your spouse refer you, or self-refer, in order to capture the referral bonus yourself. But, if you don’t have any referral links or would just like to support Middle Age Miles (which we very much appreciate!), please use our referral link for the 40,000-point offer.

Chase Southwest Cards

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa

Last week, Chase introduced fascinating new sign-up bonus offers on its personal Southwest co-branded cards (the Priority card, the Premier card, and the Plus card). On each card, Chase is offering a bonus of 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus a Companion Pass good through 12/31/2019, after $4,000 in spend within 3 months. These offers are available until 2/11/19.

This new offer led to a spirited and friendly debate between two of my favorite credit card bloggers, Doctor of Credit and Frequent Miler, about whether this was a good offer or not. Nick at FM took the side that this was a great offer, whereas Will at Doc thought it was weak, preferring the ability to earn a Companion Pass good for an extra year until the end of 2020 by getting both a Chase personal and business card and meeting the spend requirement. Greg at FM mediated a bit, but he still liked the new offer overall.

Here are the articles from Doc and Frequent Miler, listed in the order they were published so that you can follow the Doc-FM dialogue as it unfolded:

To me, the new offer is fascinating and seems like a great deal if you (a) fly Southwest with a companion regularly, (b) are under 5/24, and (c) don’t have an active Chase Southwest card and haven’t gotten a sign-up bonus on one within the past 24 months, so that you’re eligible for this new bonus.

By the same token, I’d say that if the same Southwest loyalist we’ve described above (a) can handle 2 new Chase cards within the 5/24 Rule and meet the minimum spend on them, and (b) is comfortable applying for a business card, then the 2-card path to a Companion Pass good for an extra year is an even better deal.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

Chase World of Hyatt Visa Card

There have been 2 recent changes of note regarding the Chase World of Hyatt card. First, the sign-up bonus decreased, from a possible total of 60,000 Hyatt points previously, to a maximum total of 50,000 Hyatt points now. Second, referral bonuses on the World of Hyatt card decreased from 10,000 Hyatt points to 5,000. Needless to say, these are both negative changes.

The new Chase World of Hyatt card sign-up bonus offer is for a maximum of 50,000 Hyatt points – 25,000 points after $3,000 spend within the first 3 months, and an additional 25,000 points after a total of $6,000 spend within the first 6 months.

Honestly, we don’t think that right now is the best time to get the Chase World of Hyatt card. However, if you’re in a hurry to get the card now, perhaps to start working your way toward Hyatt’s valuable top-tier Globalist status as we outlined in this article (scroll down to the “Probably Not, But Intriguing section), please use our referral link for the current 50,000-point offer.

Citi Rewards+ Card

Citi Rewards+ Card

The Citi Rewards+ card is a new no-annual-fee card that Citi introduced to the market last week. It has modest points-earning categories and wouldn’t be valuable for ongoing spend for any points-and-miles enthusiast … except that it has one unique feature that got the blogging world talking – “Round Up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase – with no cap.”

The intriguing part of the Round Up feature is that you can earn 10 ThankYou Points (TYPs) on micro-purchases. People have speculated about doing repeated 50-cent Amazon reloads, buying bananas one at a time, and writing scripts for repeating micro-purchases. I’m not sure the first two are worth the manual effort, given the minimal points involved. And I suspect that implementing a repeating script will get you banned quickly by Citi.

The new Citi Rewards+ Card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 15,000 TYPs after $1,000 spend within 3 months. However – and this is a huge caveat that means that pretty much everyone either can’t or shouldn’t sign up for this card – the terms for the new Rewards+ Card say that the sign-up bonus is “not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+, City ThankYou Preferred, City ThankYou Premier/Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, or if you have closed any of these cards, in the past 24 months.” You certainly don’t want to lock yourself out of a potential sign-up bonus of 60,000 TYPs or more on the Prestige or Premier cards by taking 15,000 on the Rewards+!

I do see one feature of the Citi Rewards+ that may make it an interesting candidate for a product change, though. The Rewards+ gives you 10% of your ThankYou Points back when you make a redemption, for the first 100,000 TYPs redeemed per calendar year. That could net you up to 10,000 TYPs back, which at our baseline value of 1.25 cents per TYP would be a return worth $125.

It’s not 100% clear that this “Points Back” feature applies to all TYPs in the cardholder’s ThankYou Member Account (including TYPs earned from other cards such as the Prestige, Premier or AT&T Access More), versus applying only to TYPs earned via the Rewards+. But the terms and conditions do not say that “Points Back” is limited to TYPs earned with the Rewards+ card. If “Points Back” indeed applies to redemptions of all TYPs in the Member Account, this is a nice benefit for a card with no annual fee. And depending on your situation with respect to Citi and the 24-month clock on TYP-earning cards, this card could potentially be a useful product-change option.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Card

B of A Cash Rewards Mastercard

The B of A Cash Rewards card introduced a new and interesting feature this week. Previously, this card’s cash-back earning structure was:

  • 3% for gas
  • 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% on everything else

In addition, the cash-back rewards on this card could earn a rewards bonus for B of A Preferred Rewards clients – a 25% bonus for Gold clients ($20-50k with B of A/Merrill Lynch, determined on a three-month average); 50% bonus for Platinum clients ($50-100k); and 75% for Platinum Honors clients ($100k+). The Preferred Rewards bonus structure meant that a cardholder could earn up to 5.25% cashback on gas, if the cardholder was a Platinum Honors client.

This week, the card’s earning structure changed. Gas is no longer the only 3% category; rather, the cardholder gets to choose his or her 3% category from among 6 options. Thus, the new cash-back earning structure for the Cash Rewards card is:

  • 3% in one of the following categories:
    • Gas
    • Online Shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drug Stores
    • Home Improvement and Furnishings
  • 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% on everything else

The cardholder can make a selection of his or her 3% category once each month. The default 3% category is Gas. The cash-back is still eligible for Preferred Rewards bonuses, meaning that a Platinum Honors client would earn 5.25% cashback on purchases within his or her chosen category.

Unfortunately, there is a cap. The 3% and 2% bonuses only apply to the first $2,500 of spend in the combined “Choice”/Grocery-Store/Wholesale-Club categories. That means that even if you were a Platinum Honors client earning 5.25%, your quarterly cash-back amount would be capped at $131.25.

To help you determine what spend is eligible in each category, B of A has a handy online guide inside each cardholder’s online account. In addition, the terms and conditions of the card expressly list the merchant category codes (MCCs) within each of the “Choice” categories other than Online Shopping. For the Online Shopping category, the terms and conditions contain an express list of ineligible MCCs, including Insurance, Utilities, Colleges & Universities, Membership Organizations, Doctors & Hospitals, Government Services & Taxes, other Non-Retail Services (veterinarians, shipping, professional services, child care, etc.), and POI Funding Transactions.

You can learn more about the various rewards categories on this Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card informational web page.

At first, we thought there might be a profit-making play here, depending on what qualified as Online Shopping (e.g., possibly Venmo, Plastiq), especially for Platinum Honors clients. However, the $2,500/quarter cap severely limits the potential upside and prevents any profitable method from scaling.

What are your thoughts on these recent credit card changes and strategies in response? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!

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