Archive for October, 2009

American Express Costco Card Review

The American Express Costco Card is one of the better cash rewards credit card in the market today. What we like about this card is that there are no tiers and for the most part (as we shall explain below), there are no limits as to much rewards you can earn.

Cash Rebates – The Amex Costco credit card rebate formula is as follows: You can earn 3% rebates for every dollar you spend on gasoline (for up to $3,000 in annual gasoline spending), 3% rebates at restaurants, 2% rebates for travel, and 1% for all other regular stuff you charge to you card. Aside from the gasoline expense, you can earn unlimited rebates.

How You Receive You Rebate Check – Each year (your card anniversary), you will receive a Costco in-store coupon which you can redeem for either cash or use at Costco.

Fees – Like most cards, this one has no annual fee. But you either need to already be a Costco member to apply for a card or if you are not, you will be enrolled in the Costco Membership, which has an annual fee of $40 (lowest tier).

Other Travel Perks – The Costco Card offers some pretty good (some standard) travel perks. Cardholders get $100,000 travel accident insurance when the card is used to buy travel tickets. You also get car loss and damage insurance so you do not have to pay the extra insurance when you rent a car using your Amex Card. There is also a Global Assist Hotline should you run into an emergency anywhere.

Entertainment Perks – Card members also get various entertainment perks and enjoy exclusive access and benefits in select markets with Ticketmaster through the American Express® Ticket Savings Center. These markets include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, NYC tri-state area, northern California, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. American Express sponsors many shows and you will have access to tickets before the public gets access to them.

Shopping Perks – One of the nice benefits of this card is American Express Selects®, which allows you to find deals and savings from name-brand merchants on clothing, electronics, vacation packages, dinners, travel etc. You also get extended warranty feature where your warranty on products you buy with the card is extended for one additional year if the manufacturers warranty is less than five years. You also get a purchase protection feature where Amex will try to repair, replace the product or even reimburse you if you accidentally break it.

How does it compare with other cash back cards? – It’s quite hard to compare simply because the rebate structure is different. Blue Cash has a tiered formula and if you are a large spender, you can easily earn more than 2% with the Blue Cash. The Costco Card on the other is better in the case that there are no tiers and you earn more than 1% rebates on things like travel and restaurants that you do not get with the Blue Cash. I would say that combining these two cards would be pretty potent.

Right now, there aren’t any Visa or MasterCard out there that can match the cash back credit cards issued by Amex. Most pay a paltry 1% rebate. Others like Chase Freedom and the Discover Card has resorted to pay rebates on a quarterly rotating basis and paying rebates for shopping online through their shopping portal.

I think the Amex Costco Credit Card is a great cash back card both as a standalone card as well as a complimentary card to either the Blue Cash or the Discover More Card. We give this card the thumbs up and recommend this card.


American Express Blue Review

The American Express Blue Card is the no annual fee version of their traditional charge cards. It is a reward credit card based on the Membership Rewards Express, which is the lower tier version of the card. So how good is this reward card compared to others. Well, let’s take a close look.

The Amex Blue Card allows you to earn one point for every dollar that you spend on the card. Memberhship Reward points do not not expire and can be used to redeem for a wide variety of things (more on that later). There is no annual fee for this card and the APR will vary based on your credit history (see terms and conditions for the range of APRs). The design of the card resembles that of the Blue series. It is actually clear plastic with the Blue square in the middle. The design is similar for the Blue Cash and Blue Sky Cards as well.

Before Amex got into the credit card business, their cards were primarily charge cards. Well, the charge cards have annual fees and you are required to pay in full (although there are some leeway now so you don’t have to pay in full). Because the market for no annual fee cards exploded, Amex decided to get into the market. But is order to have a no annual fee credit card with similar rewards as the charge cards, Amex introduced the Blue Card and the main difference is that unlike the regular Membership Rewards program, you cannot transfer points into frequent flier miles or frequent guest miles. But almost every other rewards is the same. So let’s explore their rewards.

Membership Rewards Options – One of the main features of the regular membership rewards program is that you can transfer points to frequent flier miles and frequent flier points of their partners (and they do have quite a lot of partners). Because the Blue Card has no annual fee, this feature is not available for Blue cardholders. But here’s what’s available.

If you wish to use your points for travel, all you have to do is simply use the Amex Travel site to book your tickets. You can either use your points to pay for it or just use your Amex Blue Card, or use a combination of points and cash if you do not have enough points. The travel site is powered by Travelocity so you will have access to the same flights, hotel rooms, cruise and car rentals as if you went to Travelocity itself.

You can also exchange your points for gift cards. The one thing I like about Membership Rewards Gift card is that unlike other programs, they have not actually devalued their program. For example, 1000 points gets you a $10 gift card, 2500 points gets you a $25 gift card. Other programs like Citi’s ThankYou Rewards used to have the same point requirements but now for example, require 6500 points for a $50 gift card instead of only requiring only 5000 points like the Membership Reward points.

As with most credit card reward programs, you can also exchange points for merchandise products and on this front, I have to say that the Membership Rewards program has probably the best and most comprehensive list of merchandise products available in any credit card reward program.

Concluding thoughts – As a reward card, the Amex Blue is a pretty good card for those looking for a good no annual fee card. If all you are looking for is travel rewards and you are not the sort of person to transfer points to frequent flier points, then this is a really good card. Because the Amex travel site is powered by Travelocity, that means any flight you book is planned by you and obviously, there will be no blackout dates. city guide . If you are looking to use rewards for gift cards, perhaps a better to consider would be the Discover More Card because they have more gift card partners.

But overall, I would say that those looking for a no annual fee rewards card will be pleased with this one.