Oct 15

The best everyday cards: Forget the 1%, be part of the 2%

Today is a relatively quiet day in frequent flyer land (although I can’t wait to hear what Delta says on its quarterly conference call with analysts tomorrow), so I decided to introduce people to the 2% credit card.

If you do not have a credit card that pays you in airline miles or hotel points, you should be earning cash back, instead.  Those 1% cards from places like Bank of America are nice enough, but your threshold should be double that number.  Note that some cards pay more than 2% in certain categories.  Those cards are great for the categories in which they pay a bonus.  For other purchases, get at least two percent.

Without further ado, here are four cards for your consideration:

(Please note: If a card has an asterisk next to it, I may get compensation if you use my links.  I greatly appreciate it if you do so.  If there is a better offer than what I have, I will point you to it.)

Here are all of the two percent cards that I know about.  Cards that pay you 2% in restricted categories are not included.  If you spend a lot in a particular category, feel free to contact me using the link above and I’ll find something for you.


 *Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card:  Putting my mouth where my money is: This is my primary card for both myself and my wife.  

Added Bonus: It comes with a $400 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months

The card says it gives you “miles,” which is why it is under travel cards, but those miles are really just points; they use the term to appeal to people who only want mileage cards.  They tell you that you can use the points to book future travel or use it to pay for previous “travel expenses.”  I put travel expenses in quotes because they will count just about anything as travel.  That includes taxis, subway fare/passes, buses, hot air balloons, etc.  If something does not code as travel, you can call them and say, “Hey, this was travel.”  As it was explained to me by a Capital One  representative, let’s say you decide to do a “date night.”  Call them and they’ll code everything as travel because, let’s face it, getting away from the kids is like a vacation.  “Non-travel” expenses are 1%, but since they implied that you could ask them to code anything as travel, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Even better: You can pay the same expense multiple times.  For example, let’s say that you have 80,000 points ($40,000 in spend) and your only expense is a $400 airplane ticket.  You pay it once online, wait a few days and then pay it again.  There are no foreign exchange fees, the $59 annual fee is waived the first year and they’ll probably waive it in the future if you ask nicely.  You also get a Credit Tracker, which allows you to see your credit score anytime.  It’s kinda cool.

To get the card: Click here and scroll down to the “travel” banner (the 3rd banner).  Click on the banner and the card will be the first one.


*Citi Double Cash Card:

This is the simplest card and will probably do 90% of what you need.  2% across the board, 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay it off.  All your purchases go into a “purchase tracker,” which gets calculated at the end of the month.  Downside: the card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee if you use it abroad.


Possible $200 sign-up: There is a targeted (i.e., you can’t apply for it) offer of a $200 sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 in three months.  Naturally, people who didn’t get the offer but found out about it were not happy.  Thus, after getting the card, they sent a “secure message (Citi’s email help; They’re actually quite fast and good.)” to Citi asking if they could be included in the promotion.  Some were accepted immediately, some were rejected but then accepted on a second secure message and some were not accepted at all.  As they say, your miles may vary.

To get this card, click here and scroll down to the the “cash back” banner (the 2nd banner).  Click on the banner and the card is on the first page.


Fidelity American Express or Visa:   Not available through my link.  This card is also good, although you need a Fidelity brokerage account to get the 2% cash back (They only deposit money into Fidelity accounts.).  The Amex pays you back 2% from the first dollar you spend, while the Visa pays you 1.5% for the first $`15,000 of spend per year, 2% on the rest.  No annual fee.  Downside: The card charges fees on foreign transactions: 1% on the Amex, 3% on the Visa.   There is a $50 sign-up bonus for the Amex here if you make $500 in purchases in the first 60 days.  Just click through the link, then click the link that follows.  It should take you to the application.


*Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard: In the Credit Card Deals (CCD) page, click on the third banner labeled “How about miles or travel?”  Halfway down the second page, you’ll see the card.  It has an $89 annual fee (AF) which is waived the first year.  No foreign transaction (FX) fees on international travel and there are a bunch of travel insurance features for free.

Bonus: Spend $3,000 in the first 90 days and get a $400 credit.

Like Capital One, this card gives you “miles” on “travel” purchases made within the past 120 days. They have a VERY broad definition of travel, including airlines, hotels, car rentals, buses, trains, taxis, limos, etc (No mention of hot air balloons.).  The list is under their FAQ.

Bonus: If you use you miles to redeem for travel expenses, Barclays will refund 10% of them, making your effective return 2.2%.

 If you do not use your card for travel expenses, you get back 1%.

This card looks excellent.  Had I seen it before I saw the Capital One card, I might have gotten it.

To get this card, click here and scroll down to the third banner.  Click on the banner and the card is on page two.  Note that there are two Barclays cards here.  The first is the no annual fee one, the second is this one.  The no annual fee card has inferior benefits, so I would consider signing up for the annual fee (waived the first year) card and then switching, or asking them to waive the annual fee.





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