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Credit Card Suggestions?


berkshire101
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After 25 years of never owning and using credit cards, I finally caved in.  In a credit based society, it's just too difficult to go against the norm.  Also, since I plan to do more traveling, I can't simply travel with a debit card around.  So that's the main reason for getting a credit card.

 

But I have no clue how they work.  So any suggestions on what's the best card to get?  I was looking at American Express, but they have annual fees.  And I don't really understand the whole points systems as I don't spend much anyways.  Thanks.

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if you don't care about points/miles, it doesn't matter too much.  you might prefer to get a couple of cards to optimize your use (for example one card that doesn't charge transaction fees for charges in foreign currencies, another that has primary insurance on car rentals).

 

chase has good customer service.  barclays has horrible customer service.

 

 

 

now if you want to get into maximizing points, it's a whole other world.

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If you plan to travel abroad, I'd suggest Sears (yeah!) credit card that allows you to save the 2% conversion or transaction fee on purchases you make in foreign currency, plus you get to accumulate the same points as a standard Sears card.

Got one recently but have not used it yet so I can't speak about their customer service.

 

http://www.searsfinancial.ca/CreditCards/SaveonForeignCurrencyChanges.aspx

 

http://www.creditcards.ca/credit-card-news/How-to-save-on-foreign-exchange-fees-1268.php

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If you just want a basic card, that is all purpose (so you only have one), I'd just go with a Capital One Quicksilver.  1.5% cash back, no limit.  avoids all foreign fees (those charged by bank, and by network operator), and doesn't have an annual fee.  I've used Capital One for various services over the years, and they seem well run, and not thieves.

 

However, depending on where you are looking to travel, and also where you live (I assume US, maybe Canada is different), the US mag strip cards aren't as useful especially traveling in Europe.  Most places can accommodate them, but it's usually inconvenient, and sometimes not possible.  Chip + Pin cards aren't offered to most US customers for any cards I'm aware of, and the Chip + Signature cards which are starting to be offered by most card providers may not really help out with the European issue (I haven't travelled to Europe recently with a new Chip + Sig card though, so perhaps it is a solution).

 

My 2 cents.

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If you use Fidelity a good two card solution with no annual fees would be to get both the Fidelity AmEx with 2% unlimited cash back on everything, and the Fidelity Visa which is 1.5% cash back on everything (for those places that don't except AmEx).  The Visa is actually 1.5% for the first $15K spent every year and 2% back there after, but if you use your AmEx whenever you can you would be unlikely to reach the $15K limit, unless you spend a lot at places that do not accept AmEx.

 

This is an especially good setup if you use Fidelity as your broker, as they will just automatically deposit the cash back into your Fidelity account.

 

How have you lived the last 25 years without a credit card, that is unimaginable to me.  I have a few cards and besides a few things I can't put on them (my mortgage, electric bill, and car insurance) I have just those bills to pay every month and I get a 2% discount on everything I buy.

 

You can always try out a card for a few months and cancel it if you are not happy.  I've applied for cards in the past just to make one big ticket purchase, pay it off, then cancel the card.  I did this for example to put a $10K purchase on a card that had 0% interest for 18 months, so I could pay it off over time without interest. Payed it off then canceled the card.  If you are smart and responsible you can really use these things to your advantage.

 

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After 25 years of never owning and using credit cards, I finally caved in.  In a credit based society, it's just too difficult to go against the norm.  Also, since I plan to do more traveling, I can't simply travel with a debit card around.  So that's the main reason for getting a credit card.

 

But I have no clue how they work.  So any suggestions on what's the best card to get?  I was looking at American Express, but they have annual fees.  And I don't really understand the whole points systems as I don't spend much anyways.  Thanks.

 

People that can pay cash/debit are really the only people that should have a credit card. More specifically a no annual fee Cash back card. Not having one is like saying no to free money. Amex/Discover isn't accepted everywhere but the benefits are usually better. Visa/MasterCard are accepted everywhere.

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The problem I see with your situation is that American CC's offer the best benefits, but generally don't have chips, which can cause some issues.

 

I would recommend the following

 

Citi Double Cash Mastercard: 2% on everything (1% when you charge, 1% when you pay)

 

American Express Blue Cash Preferred (6% groceries, 3% gas, 1% everything else), $75/ year. If you buy a good amount of groceries and gas, you make back more than the fee. Also Whole Foods currently has a holiday promotion for an additional 2%, so that's 8% back during the holiday's (though that may not happen again).

 

Pen Fed (5% Gas), if you buy a lot of gas, you can join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union through some maneuvering

 

The Fidelity ones already mentioned.

 

Once you have a base of 2 or 3 cards with generous cash back and low fees. You can add 1 or 2 / year to get the promotions (sometimes as high as $1000). You have to watch for too much opening/closing accounts affecting  your credit score. But it's free money otherwise.

 

 

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Also another good card

 

https://www.salliemae.com/credit-cards/sallie-mae-card/

 

the Sallie Mae MasterCard - I just use this just for Amazon purchases and groceries.

 

 

 

•5% cash back on the first $250 you spend per month on eligible gas and grocery purchases each and the first $750 you spend per month on eligible book purchases (including Amazon)!

 

•1% cash back on every other purchase you make

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Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Looks like I have a lot to look into :)

 

I currently bank with a credit union, and they offer a credit card.  I'm not sure how the points/peaks work, but it seems convenient to just stick with one bank.  But we'll see.  I don't think I'll get multiple cards, just only one.  Ah, so many options!

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If you just want to get one card, I would second the recommendation for Citi Double Cash mastercard. You get easy 2%, just try to remember to pay the statement balance every month. I try to charge all I can through rebate/point cards, and should have get 10K+ back over the years.

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Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Looks like I have a lot to look into :)

 

I currently bank with a credit union, and they offer a credit card.  I'm not sure how the points/peaks work, but it seems convenient to just stick with one bank.  But we'll see.  I don't think I'll get multiple cards, just only one.  Ah, so many options!

 

Your credit union is unlikely to offer a competitive rewards program.  I also do my banking at a small credit union and its cards are not worth having.

 

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Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Looks like I have a lot to look into :)

 

I currently bank with a credit union, and they offer a credit card.  I'm not sure how the points/peaks work, but it seems convenient to just stick with one bank.  But we'll see.  I don't think I'll get multiple cards, just only one.  Ah, so many options!

 

Your credit union is unlikely to offer a competitive rewards program.  I also do my banking at a small credit union and its cards are not worth having.

 

True, I looked at the perks and they're not really peaks.  Another question, say I bank with a credit union and decide to get a Citi CC.  Do I have to open a bank account with Citi?  How would I go about paying my balance every month?  Thanks.

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If you are doing international travel, I would get the Barclay's Arrival card:

 

http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=1729&od=bcarrival&cellNumber=24

 

It is a true chip and pin card so it will work everywhere in Europe and no foreign transaction fees. Its a Mastercard too, so you should have no problem with the network.

 

It is a points type card, but it's not hard to keep up with. 40,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. 2% back on all spending and a 10% bonus if you use your points to pay for travel (becoming 2.2% cash back on all purchases.

 

Use the card for most everything, then book a few airline tickets for free each year.  Fee is $89/year waived for the first year. You don't need a Barclays bank account.

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If you are doing international travel, I would get the Barclay's Arrival card:

 

http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=1729&od=bcarrival&cellNumber=24

 

It is a true chip and pin card so it will work everywhere in Europe and no foreign transaction fees. Its a Mastercard too, so you should have no problem with the network.

 

It is a points type card, but it's not hard to keep up with. 40,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. 2% back on all spending and a 10% bonus if you use your points to pay for travel (becoming 2.2% cash back on all purchases.

 

Use the card for most everything, then book a few airline tickets for free each year.  Fee is $89/year waived for the first year. You don't need a Barclays bank account.

 

There is also Barclay's arrival card that has 1% back, but no annual fee.

 

I am CC'holic. Fidelity Amex for 2% back, Chase Freedom and Discover for 5% categories, Barclay's and CapitalOne for international no-fee (and CapitalOne gives 1.5% back), United Explorer for United perks + international no-fee. Plus I usually get new cards that promise $200-500 sign up bonuses. Cancel them later. I guess my credit history suffers a bit, but so far I don't care. :)

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If you are doing international travel, I would get the Barclay's Arrival card:

 

http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=1729&od=bcarrival&cellNumber=24

 

It is a true chip and pin card so it will work everywhere in Europe and no foreign transaction fees. Its a Mastercard too, so you should have no problem with the network.

 

It is a points type card, but it's not hard to keep up with. 40,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. 2% back on all spending and a 10% bonus if you use your points to pay for travel (becoming 2.2% cash back on all purchases.

 

Use the card for most everything, then book a few airline tickets for free each year.  Fee is $89/year waived for the first year. You don't need a Barclays bank account.

 

Thanks.  The Barclay's Arrival is definitely on my short list of CC.  It seems the annual fees are well covered by the rewards.  Any thoughts on the Capital One Venture CC?  It looks about the same as the Arrival, except for a lower annual fee.

 

http://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/venture/?Log=1&EventType=Link&ComponentType=T&LOB=MTS%253A%253ALCTMMQC4S&PageName=travel+and+miles&PortletLocation=4%253B16-col%253B2-1-1&ComponentName=suiteTable&ContentElement=2%253BVenture%253Csup%253E%2526reg%253B%253C%252Fsup%253E+Rewards&TargetLob=MTS%253A%253ALCTMMQC4S&TargetPageName=Venture+Card+Details&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.capitalone.com%252Fcredit-cards%252Ftravel-and-miles&external_id=CJA_ZZ11412970_USCCJ_K7247714_1032211_F529620919

 

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Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Looks like I have a lot to look into :)

 

I currently bank with a credit union, and they offer a credit card.  I'm not sure how the points/peaks work, but it seems convenient to just stick with one bank.  But we'll see.  I don't think I'll get multiple cards, just only one.  Ah, so many options!

 

Your credit union is unlikely to offer a competitive rewards program.  I also do my banking at a small credit union and its cards are not worth having.

 

True, I looked at the perks and they're not really peaks.  Another question, say I bank with a credit union and decide to get a Citi CC.  Do I have to open a bank account with Citi?  How would I go about paying my balance every month?  Thanks.

 

You really are new at this.  You certainly do not need to open an account with them.  You get a bill every month.  You'll have the option of having it delivered by paper mail, or email, and if your bank supports it, it can even be delivered electronically right to your banks bill pay system. Once you get your bill, in whatever form, you either write them a check and mail it in (do people still do this? I don't know, I'm sure some people still write checks.), or what most people do is pay with your credit unions online bill payment.

 

The Fidelity cards require a Fidelity account to get your rewards in cash, but all of the other cards mentioned here allow you to either apply it to your credit card account or they will mail you a check when your rewards balance reaches a certain level ($50 or $100).

 

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If you are doing international travel, I would get the Barclay's Arrival card:

 

http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=1729&od=bcarrival&cellNumber=24

 

It is a true chip and pin card so it will work everywhere in Europe and no foreign transaction fees. Its a Mastercard too, so you should have no problem with the network.

 

It is a points type card, but it's not hard to keep up with. 40,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. 2% back on all spending and a 10% bonus if you use your points to pay for travel (becoming 2.2% cash back on all purchases.

 

Use the card for most everything, then book a few airline tickets for free each year.  Fee is $89/year waived for the first year. You don't need a Barclays bank account.

 

There is also Barclay's arrival card that has 1% back, but no annual fee.

 

I am CC'holic. Fidelity Amex for 2% back, Chase Freedom and Discover for 5% categories, Barclay's and CapitalOne for international no-fee (and CapitalOne gives 1.5% back), United Explorer for United perks + international no-fee. Plus I usually get new cards that promise $200-500 sign up bonuses. Cancel them later. I guess my credit history suffers a bit, but so far I don't care. :)

 

I am the same.  For example, Chase Southwest Card gives you 40,000-60,000 (depending on timing) Southwest Airlines point to sign-up.  You can directly cash those in for $600 in Amazon gift cards.  Pay the $95 annual fee.  Close as needed. 

 

I also recommend the Amazon Visa card.  3% cash back on Amazon, 2% on restaurant/drug stores/gas and 1% on everything else.  I buy everything humanly possible on Amazon so 3% cash back is great. 

 

I also think the Starwood AMEX is great because Starwood gives great yields on their points.  When I go on vacation, it's not difficult to get 10%+ effective cash back on Starwood hotels. 

 

I carry a United Mileage Plus for United Perks and No International Fees.

 

I also bank at Ally.com online bank for 100% ATM reimbursement at any ATM.  The 1% current yield on savings accounts is great too for emergency funds. 

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Yes, I forgot Amazon Chase card. I have that too for 3% on Amazon. Have it since it was 5% on Amazon. They cut it down to 3% ... probably 7 years ago or so. :)

 

I don't fly Southwest and don't consistently stay at same hotels, so no to these cards. Not even sure if I wanna keep United Explorer - will decide next year.

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I use American Express Servo card. it's a pre-paid charge card. There's no point, but I believe using it will save you much more than what you would get with other 3% cash back cards.

 

The reason is: You have to put money in the account before you can spend it. Each day you can at most fund it with $200 from a credit card (unlimited from a checking account). This is similar to when you are using cash, where you are actively keep tracking mentally how much you are spending. Using the card will dramatically cut down your spending. I got one for my wife. :)

 

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While Amex is my go to and they have great cards for travelers (Amex Platinum for lounges and airline fee credit, SPG Amex is maybe most valuable rewards card if you stay in Starwood hotels) I would not recommend it for someone looking to have one card. Particularly outside of the U.S, Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted.

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I think I narrowed down my options to either the Barclay's Arrival Plus or Capital One's Venture.  They're basically the same, except for the Capital One's having a lower annual fee while the Barclay's CC looks so much cooler.  So which one?  If I could get a free flight or two a year to go on a cruise then I think it's worth it.  Cruises aren't that expensive, it's just the flight that adds to the cost.

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if you don't mind a little effort, you don't need to pay annual fees.  just cancel the card before or right after the first year of holding a card where the fee is waived for that year and open a new account.  you'll benefit from signup bonuses as well.

 

 

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If you are doing international travel, I would get the Barclay's Arrival card:

 

http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=1729&od=bcarrival&cellNumber=24

 

It is a true chip and pin card so it will work everywhere in Europe and no foreign transaction fees. Its a Mastercard too, so you should have no problem with the network.

 

It is a points type card, but it's not hard to keep up with. 40,000 points when you spend $3k in the first 3 months. 2% back on all spending and a 10% bonus if you use your points to pay for travel (becoming 2.2% cash back on all purchases.

 

Use the card for most everything, then book a few airline tickets for free each year.  Fee is $89/year waived for the first year. You don't need a Barclays bank account.

 

Thanks.  The Barclay's Arrival is definitely on my short list of CC.  It seems the annual fees are well covered by the rewards.  Any thoughts on the Capital One Venture CC?  It looks about the same as the Arrival, except for a lower annual fee.

 

http://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/venture/?Log=1&EventType=Link&ComponentType=T&LOB=MTS%253A%253ALCTMMQC4S&PageName=travel+and+miles&PortletLocation=4%253B16-col%253B2-1-1&ComponentName=suiteTable&ContentElement=2%253BVenture%253Csup%253E%2526reg%253B%253C%252Fsup%253E+Rewards&TargetLob=MTS%253A%253ALCTMMQC4S&TargetPageName=Venture+Card+Details&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.capitalone.com%252Fcredit-cards%252Ftravel-and-miles&external_id=CJA_ZZ11412970_USCCJ_K7247714_1032211_F529620919

 

I actually have the ventureone rewards card (the one without the annual fee). I've had it since 2010. I would say the big difference is Chip+Pin (Barcklays) vs Chip+Signature (Capital One). Last time I was in Europe (a couple of years ago) the card only had the magnetic strip and only worked about 30% of the time. I mostly used cash. 

 

My parents have the same card and got the new chip for a trip to northern Europe (Russia, Scandinavia)  a couple of months ago. I asked them how it worked. They said the chip and signature worked at retail stores because the readers were set up to accept both signature and pins, but automated payment systems and a lot of restaurants only use chip & pin. They said the most irritating time was buying train tickets, they had to wait in a long line to pay for tickets in cash while there were several automated machines at the station. They said there were automated machines at some museums too that only accepted chip+pin. 

 

The difference in the annual fee is $30 so the extra 0.2% cash back takes 15k of spending to recoup. I pretty easily spend ~30k-40k on cards per year so this isn't that big of a deal for me. If you are only using it when you travel, then you have to realize you are paying for the convenience of a Chip and Pin. 

 

I will say I prefer Amex to any other card because their customer service is so good. I use my Amex to rent cars even when charged the 3% foreign transaction fee because its worth it to not have to fight with them if something happens. They are also good about helping you out if something goes wrong (i.e. you need a tow). We had a fender bender in Costa Rica in this November and it took me about 15 mins to file the claim. Amex paid it no questions asked. This was their standard free insurance. Their premium insurance, ($19 or $29 depending on limits per rental agreement) is primary insurance. This means if you wreck a rental car, your personal insurance is left out of the claim. With Mastercard or Visa, they will pay for the rental car damage and the deductible for damage to the car/property you hit, but your personal insurance picks up everything else (property damage above the deductible, liability and medical). 

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