Many issuers revamped their cards to offer even more enticing rewards in 2018. Here are my favorites.
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Happy New Year! I’ve had a blast writing “Wealth and Wants” this year, and in my final column of 2018, I want to take a look back at my favorite new card offers of 2018. Without further ado, drumroll please…
1. Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
This was the only card I added to my personal collection in 2018. I chose it because of its 30,000-point sign-up bonus (after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months), 3X points back on dining and travel and no annual fee. I like that the card gives the same generous rewards on dining and travel as a premium card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but at a much lower price point.
I’ve only had the Propel card since mid-September, and I’ve already racked up $175 in cash back plus the sign-up bonus. My timing was strategic because it coincided with planning my family’s upcoming Disney trip. That padded my rewards haul, but I’ve also gotten a lot of ongoing value out of this card. For example, my monthly train commute costs $311 (that alone will score me $112 in cash back annually).
2. Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
For anyone who can maintain a balance of $100,000 with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, this card offers tremendous value. The 75 percent Preferred Rewards bonus for that highest tier means that starting Jan. 14, this card gives 5.25 percent on one of the following categories of the cardholder’s choosing: Gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement and furnishings. The normal cashback rate for one of those categories is 3 percent, and it’s 3.75 percent for those who keep at least $20,000 with the bank and 4.5 percent for those who deposit at least $50,000.
There’s also a 2 percent category (grocery stores and wholesale clubs) that raises to 2.5 percent, 3 percent or 3.5 percent at the various Preferred Rewards levels. Additionally, there’s a $200 sign-up bonus (after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening) with no annual fee. This card is tough to beat, particularly at the highest echelon of Preferred Rewards.
Also, for both 3 and 2 percent categories, there is a spending cap of $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery/wholesale club purchases each quarter, dropping down to 1 percent thereafter.
See related: Rewards credit card resolutions for the New Year
3. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This card re-launched late in the year with a 75,000-mile sign-up bonus worth at least $750 in travel (which is now expired), along with 12 airline transfer partners (a first for Capital One). The sign-up bonus is now 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months, but I’m still intrigued by this card. It gives 2 miles per dollar on all spending (simplicity is nice), the annual fee is lower than many travel cards ($95, waived the first year) and it offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waiver (valued up to $100).
4. Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Four percent back on dining and entertainment earns this card a place on the list. The entertainment perk is particularly unique, although some cardholders have been disappointed that certain “entertainment” purchases didn’t count as such. The Savor card offers a $300 sign-up bonus (after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months) and charges a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). It’s proving very popular among millennials and foodies – and aren’t those often the same thing?
5. American Express® Gold Card
Another example of the 4x dining rewards trend, this revamped card also gives 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) and 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com. There’s a 35,000-point welcome offer after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months and up to a $100 annual airline fee credit. The annual fee is pricey ($250), but the AmEx Gold offers a better list of transfer partners than the first four cards on this list. It’s a worthy consideration for someone in the market for a more upscale travel card.