November 15, 2012
In my recent post “Cash+ Experiments in Progress,” I described some experiments I had launched with my new US Bank Cash+ credit card. In the comments of that post, readers pointed me to some helpful threads on FatWallet and SlickDeals. Based on reading those threads and some personal experience so far, I can now give an interim update.
Verify that the cash back rate is 6.25% when redeeming rewards $100 at a time.
Interim answer: True, but with a catch
When you cash out your awards in $100 increments, US Bank promises to give you a $25 bonus. What I didn’t realize before is that the $25 bonus is delivered as a bank gift card. It’s still a very useful perk, but not as great as getting cash or a statement credit.
Verify that checking account bonuses stack with other bonuses for up to 9.375% cash back.
Interim answer: False
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. You can find the checking account signup offers here. In my last post I speculated that if these bonuses stack with the $25 bonus for each $100 withdrawn, then you can increase your 5% return to 7.8% or 9.375%, respectively! However, reports from FatWallet and SlickDeals assert that the 25% and 50% bonuses are on the 1% base rewards, not on the bonus category rewards. If that’s true, then you can only increase your 5% return to 6.5625% or 6.875% depending on which account you get.
Platinum Checking Package
In order to get the 50% bonus on cash rewards, I signed up for Platinum Checking Package, which is a combination of a checking account and money market. In the process, I discovered two nice bonuses: 1) I was able to fund the accounts up to $500 with a credit card; and 2) I don’t need to deposit $25K to get fees waived…
Upon sign-up, I was prompted to fund the checking account and money market and was given the option of using a credit card. I used my Target Amex and put $300 into one account and $200 into the other. It’s possible that some credit cards would treat this as a cash advance and charge a fee, but American Express prepaid cards do not. This was a nice way to cash out $500 from that card!
Regarding fees, the signup page for the Platinum Checking Package says that monthly fees can be waived with “$25,000 in combined personal deposit, investment and/or credit balances.“ That sounded like a big hurdle to me until a US Bank rep told me that my combined credit limit across US Bank credit cards is more than $25,000, so my fees will be automatically waived. I didn’t realize that “credit limit” was what they meant by “and/or credit balances”. I sent a secure message to US Bank to double check this and they confirmed the same answer. So, while getting an extra .25% cash back (over the Gold package) isn’t a big deal, it’s nice that one can qualify for that without having to maintain a large balance!
It’s also almost worth noting that the Platinum accounts accrue interest, but the current rates are so small that I almost didn’t bother mentioning it.
Check whether Kiva loans count as charity contributions
Interim answer: Yep.
See what counts as Department Store purchases
Thanks again to commenters from the earlier post, I learned about a great website that helps to figure out which stores count within different categories. Please see “How to find bonus merchants“. From this site, it is clear, for example, that Target will not count as a department store, but Kmart probably will. I’ll do a test purchase at Kmart to confirm.
I also learned that information has been actively collected on SlickDeals already. See this wiki page for details. Most of the information on the Wiki so far relates to the Bill Pay and Electronics categories, but hopefully the list will grow over time. One item about Department Stores struck me as odd: supposedly Sears counts as a department store, but Sears.com does not. I find that hard to believe, so I’ll run my own experiment there.