The recession may have pulverized your 401k, but credit card companies are still offering great bargains — if you are willing to look, and cautious enough to pay your bill in full each month to take advantage of your grace period.
Since both of us are probably short on time, here’s a quick breakdown of my favorite cards out there right now.
If you live in America, and you own a TV, you have probably seen one of the new Chase Sapphire commercials. They are on constantly. I recently reviewed their Chase Sapphire Preferred card which has an $85 annual fee (waived for the first year) and Ultimate Rewards points that never expire.
Your points can be redeemed for air travel or hotel stays, you earn 15,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 on the card within the first three months (that’s only about $333 per month, very doable). Sapphire Preferred also offers you a 7 percent annual points dividend.
There is also a “basic” version of the Sapphire card, which has no annual fee — but it won’t earn you a points dividend.
Only drawback to both cards? No zero percent promotional APR period, although if you pay your bill in full each month this is one to get anyway. Perfect for bargain-conscious jet setters.
For Cuisine Aficionados:
Enjoy an evening after work of cooking delicious food from scratch with fresh ingredients from the grocery store? So do I.
Which is why I’m a big fan of the Citi Dividend Platinum Select line of cards: you get “5 percent cash back at supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations & utilities for 6 months; 2 percent thereafter” 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can’t beat that.
I just got a cash back check from Citi the other day, in fact.
For Paranoid Bargain Hunters:
If you are worried about credit card companies slamming you with secret fees, the American Express Clear card is for you.
No annual fee, no late fees, no balance transfer fees, no over-limit fees, and no cash advance fees. Is that clear enough for you?
Plus, every time you spend $2,500 in eligible purchases, they automatically mail you an AmEx gift card for $25. Pretty hassle free. I’ve had this one for a couple months now, and aside from a lower-than-average credit limit compared to my other cards, I like it. It also has a cool transparent design that has gotten comments from quite a few bartenders.
I still carry a MasterCard as a back up, though, as some places don’t accept AmEx.
For more, check out my site, but these are my three absolute faves right now. Can’t go wrong with any of those.
If you’re a bargain-minded investor, the Schwab Invest First Visa card is pretty cool as well, because you get 2 percent cash back on purchases — which is swept into your Schwab brokerage account. Of course, you’ll need a brokerage account there to participate.
Small Business Owners:
I would recommend the Citi Professional Cash Card for small business owners and successful entrepreneurs. Great introductory terms and cash back: “3 percent cash back on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, certain office supply merchants and on auto rentals for 12 months, 1 percent thereafter” on purchases.
Plus, you get zero percent promotional APR on regular purchases for 6 months after opening your account, and then a reasonable 12.24% variable APR.
Although this is a great card, it is designed only for business use. Individuals without businesses will not be able to get it. It has some nice additional features for the busy executive, including free quarterly & annual summaries (great if you file your taxes quarterly) immediate access to a real human being by pressing “2” after you call their customer service line.