Unlikely but Awesome Credit Card Benefits

September 23, 2009 at 11:47 PM Leave a comment

The endless search for the biggest, baddest, boldest credit card rewards is a general bore to read about. Each month another site rounds up the best cash back cards, the best rewards cards, the best airline miles cards, the best . . . ooh, caught you falling asleep.

Don’t get me wrong, getting good rewards is important. But it’s a solitary search: people spend on totally different things, pay some or all of their balance each month (life hint: pay it all!), and want different ways to be ‘rewarded.’ I want a card that adds a more mountain-y view out of my New Jersey apartment window! Isn’t gonna happen. Guess I’ll stick with my American Express Blue.

Brace Yourself: This is another credit card rewards round-up. But I tried to keep it from numbing your skull. Here are a few cards that keep me entertained, even if I’m not rushing to apply:

Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Signature Card

2% cash back on everything is nothing to hiss at . . . most rewards cards don’t come near that number. Schwab’s twist is to dump those dollars right into a qualifying SchwabOne Investment Account, letting you invest your earnings wherever you see fit (well, so long as it’s at Schwab). So you’re getting “Pay Yourself First” points!

SchwabOne Investment accounts usually carry a $1,000 minimum to open, but the minimum’s waived if you open the card, too. And with no opening fees and filthy low expense ratios on some of their index funds (Schwab’s S&P 500 only has a 0.09% ratio, one of the best in the field), you should have one of these accounts, anyway. Can’t apply points to an IRA or 529, but you can transfer between Schwab accounts without fees.

Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students

This is a standard, run-of-the-mill student card—offered to students with good-enough credit, keeps the APY low, offers points for paying on time and not going over your credit limit—with an added quirk. Each semester, students can earn between 250 and 2000 points for having a good GPA (more points for a higher GPA). This begs the question: Why are you showing Citi your GPA? And also: Why didn’t I have this when I was in school? It might’ve made me a better student.

Let’s not kid ourselves: 2000 bonus points aren’t going too far. Other cards offer 20,000 bonus points just for signing up. But—hey—the gimmick’s a good one.

Upromise Credit Card through Bank of America

Like Schwab’s Invest First, Upromise’s card is putting your cash back in a safe place—but it’s keeping it safe from the tax man, too. You can choose either a Gas and Groceries or a Dining and Groceries card (simple question: which categories do you spend more on?) and get your rewards deposited right into your 529 account, keeping any pitiful interest you earn on that tiny sum growing tax-free until your kids are college-bound.

(Now’s a fine time to note that Fidelity has cards that stick rewards into an investment account or 529, too . . . or even into an IRA! None of the three cards made the list only because I’d seen perks like theirs before and totally lost interest. Credit card rewards are boring, remember?)

Wells Fargo Home Rebate Card

One more cool rewards in the right place card: Well Fargo’s Home Rebate card puts cash back directly into your Wells Fargo home mortgage’s principal sum. Got a mortgage with Wells Fargo? Get this card. It’ll feel like pennies in the bucket, but hey, you’re going to be dumping funds into that bucket for a long time.

Discover Motiva Card

Last on the list, Discover’s got a card that just sounds cool. Motiva rewards 6 on-time payments in a row (not a difficult feat) with a full month’s interest back. If you carry a balance each month, why aren’t you paying your balance?! Where is your money going?!?!

Ooh, sorry—if you carry a balance each month, this could be a cool perk. If you don’t carry a balance this month, then from my understanding of the card’s terms, this one’s totally worthless.

Do Note: I don’t recommend a single one of these cards. There’s a lot of fine print in every credit card offer, everybody’s situation is unique, and I have absolutely no way of knowing if any of these cards is a good fit for you. Do your own research and find one (or two, or four) that work the way you do.

But admit it, these are kind of cool.

Now I’ll never post about credit card perks again.

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Sam Warren

I write about money matters that apply to my life—and hopefully yours!

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