November 8, 2012
I recently signed up for the US Bank Cash+ credit card. The card is free, and it is very likely the best cash back card there is (see “The best cash back card?“). I know that a lot of my readers care only for points & miles, not cash back, but I believe that’s a sub-optimal view. Even if you value miles above cash, you can often end up with many more miles by getting cash back and then using that cash to buy miles cheaply (see “Giving Cash its Dukedom“).
What makes the Cash+ card exciting is that each quarter you get to pick one 2% cash back category and (more interestingly) two 5% cash back categories from a set list. Even better, through a couple of tricks, it should be possible to increase that cash back to over 9%!
Here is an image of the current 2% and 5% categories:
Now that I have the Cash+ card, I’m excited to begin a series of experiments. Here is what I have going so far:
Verify that the cash back rate is 6.25% when redeeming rewards $100 at a time
This seems very clear from the online documentation, but I might as well double check this. When you cash out your awards in $100 increments, US Bank promises to give you a $25 bonus. That means that 5% cash back rewards are really 6.25%. Sweet.
Verify that checking account bonuses stack with other bonuses for up to 9.375% cash back!
As a reader recently informed me, US Bank has two checking accounts that offer an automatic rewards bonus for Cash+ and FlexPerks cardholders. The Gold account offers a 25% monthly bonus, and the Platinum account offers a 50% monthly bonus. If these bonuses stack with the $25 bonus for each $100 withdrawn, then you can increase your 5% return to 7.8% or 9.375%, respectively! Each account has fees that can be waived through various means. See this page for details.
To see how this should work, consider a person with the Platinum checking account who spends $4000 in 5% cash back categories. That person, will earn 5% cash back, which amounts to $200. Then, at the end of the month, they should get a 50% bonus which would increase their total cash back to $300. Then, if that person withdraws $100 at a time, he/she will get an extra $25 each time. In total, this person should get $375 cash back. $375 is 9.375% of $4000!
Check whether Kiva loans count as charity contributions
Many people have reported that Kiva loans are counted by US Bank as charity contributions with the FlexPerks card (see, for example, this Mommy Points post). It will be very interesting to see if the same holds true with this card!
For more about Kiva, see “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans,” and “Minimum spend requirements? Kivalens to the rescue.”
See what counts as Department Store purchases
Target: It’s very unlikely, but if Target counts as a department store, it would be awesome to get over 9% cash back for reloading the Target Amex card! See “The 5X everywhere backup plan.”
Sears: Sears is definitely listed as a department store. I just need to verify that gift card purchases from Sears are counted as such. If so, you can expect several posts about leveraging that opportunity!
Others? Can you think of any other stores that might count as department stores and would be worth checking? Ideal candidates are those that sell a variety of gift cards and/or those in which online portals tend to offer high payouts.
There seems to be an endless number of ways to leverage this card. Do you have ideas worth exploring? Have you used this card? If so, what have your experiences been so far? More importantly, have you found a good way to figure out how your purchases are classified? When I look at my transactions online, it doesn’t seem to indicate anything about this. Do I need to wait for my statement?