Credit Cards

Tips, news, reviews, caveats, trends, updates and analysis related to consumer and business credit cards, and prepaid debit cards. From the interest rate specialists @ FedPrimeRate.com

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Treasury to Sell Citigroup Common Stock

Citi credit cardYesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it plans to sell all 7+ billion shares of Citigroup common stock during the rest of 2010. Here's a clip from the press release:

"...The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced its intention to fully dispose of its approximately 7.7 billion shares of Citigroup, Inc. common stock over the course of 2010 subject to market conditions. Treasury received these shares of common stock pursuant to the June 2009 Exchange Agreement between Treasury and Citigroup, which provided for the exchange into common shares of the preferred stock that Treasury purchased in connection with Citigroup's participation in the Capital Purchase Program. Treasury has engaged Morgan Stanley as its capital markets advisor in connection with its Citigroup position.

Treasury intends to sell its Citigroup common shares into the market through various means in an orderly and measured fashion. Treasury intends to initiate its disposition of the common shares pursuant to a pre-arranged written trading plan. The manner, amount and timing of the sales under the plan is dependent upon a number of factors.

This disposition does not affect Treasury's holdings of Citigroup trust preferred securities or warrants for its common stock..."

This is certainly good news for the American taxpayer, as the government will reap a tidy profit as a result of its emergency investment in the bank.

Treasury is going take its sweet time selling these assets, so it'll be some time before we can know how Citi will fare without the government crutch.

Are we ready to start recommending Citi credit cards as a result of this news? Nah. Once the government has divested itself from Citigroup, we'll be engaging in at least another 12 months of watching before we make a decision on Citi cards.

For now, we are still very keen on the Discover More card, or any card issued by American Express.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Clean Slate with Chase: Slate

The Slate Credit Card from ChaseSummary: The Chase Slate card is a no-frills card that, combined with Blueprint, can help users pay down their balances faster. With great introductory and balance transfer rates it is easy to go from large balances to no balance in the blink of an eye.

Life seems to have a way of creeping up on us when we least expect it. Unforeseen expenses pop up, emergencies happen, and sometimes the only way to pay for them is by credit card. But when you have the Chase Slate card at your side, you will be able to manage those unforeseen expenses with ease, helping to make your financial life a bit easier. Its simple, no fuss design makes it the perfect go-to card in case of emergency.

Chase has designed the Slate card for those with a good to excellent credit rating, and uses a tiered pricing structure to determine the applicant’s APR. The main factors in determining which tier the applicant falls under are their credit history and credit score. Chase currently has three pricing tiers; Elite, Premium, and Standard, and the APR’s for each tier are as follows: 13.24% variable for Elite; 17.24% variable for Premium, and 22.24% variable for Standard.

The Chase Slate card features a zero percent introductory rate for both purchases and balance transfers for twelve months for those that qualify for Elite or Premium pricing. Standard pricing cardholders will qualify for zero percent interest on balance transfers for six months. Chase Slate has no annual fee, so that all your payments go toward paying your balance down instead of paying to use the card.

The Slate card also come standard with Blueprint by Chase. This amazing set of tools allows you to stay on top of your debt and learn how to pay it off. One of the best features of Blueprint is Full Pay. When using Full Pay, you can select the categories of purchases, like gas or groceries, that you want to pay in full every month. As long as you make your Blueprint payment before your payment is due, no interest will be paid on those purchases. Even if you carry a balance, interest will only be applied to the purchases that are not a part of Full Pay.

The other features of Blueprint are Split, Finish It, and Track It. Split is designed to help you set up a payment plan for specific, larger purchases while Finish It applies the payment plan to your entire balance. Track It categorizes your purchases, whether it be gas, groceries, or dining out, and separates them so that you can see where your money is being spent. The nice thing about your enrollment in Blueprint is that it isn’t set in stone. You can change your settings to meet your financial needs from month to month without penalty. And as long as you pay at least your minimum due before your due date, your account will stay in good standing.

The Slate card also has great additional benefits provided to you at no extra cost, just for being a Chase cardholder, like:

  • 24/7 Fraud Monitoring - Your account is monitored for suspicious activity and reported to you as necessary.
  • Zero Liability for Unauthorized Purchases - Find a charge on your statement you didn’t make? You won’t have to pay for it, though certain restrictions do apply. Be sure to check the details.
  • Email and Text Alerts - Not sure when your payment is due? Can’t remember if a payment was made? By using email and text alerts, you will always be on top of your account. While this service is free through Chase, standard text messaging and/or data rates may apply.
  • Global Acceptance - The Chase Slate card is co-branded with Visa, so it's accepted in 26 million locations worldwide in over 150 countries, easily covering you in the event of an emergency.

The biggest drawback to this card is the lack of a rewards program. This card was designed for the credit card user who either uses credit sparingly or who wants to pay down a higher balance from elsewhere. There are also other cards out there that have a lower APR; while Slate cards do have a lower rate than some, they certainly are not the lowest. Knowing what you want and need in a credit card will help you determine whether the Chase Slate card is right for you.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Chase Freedom Credit Card, A Review

Credit Card Review: The Chase Freedom Credit CardSummary: If you are looking for a no-hassle rewards card, look no further than Chase Freedom. With its simple rewards platform and easy reward redemption process, earning and using your rewards has never been simpler.

Finding that perfect rewards card can be likened to finding a needle in a haystack. With so many options from so many different credit card companies, it is easy to become overwhelmed. If you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use rewards card look no further than the Chase Freedom card. Chase has designed a simple rewards platform that makes it easy to earn and redeem your rewards. Coupled with no annual fee, unlimited rewards, and rewards that never expire, how can you go wrong?

The Nitty-Gritty

With the Chase Freedom card, you can enjoy a zero-percent APR (annual percentage rate) for the first six months your account is open. Your creditworthiness will determine your APR, which starts as low as 12.99%. The Freedom card also gives you the ability to transfer balances to your card at zero percent interest for the first twelve months your account is open, but it must be done when you initially apply for the card. Otherwise a minimum 12.99% rate applies for any balance transfer, again, depending on your credit history. You’ll want to stay on top of your payments; any account over 60 days past due reverts to the default 29.99% APR, potentially reducing any rewards you might accrue if you carry a balance. It should be noted that to even be considered for this credit card, you must have a good credit history. In addition, employment status and annual income are also important factors when determining your creditworthiness.

Chase Blueprint

Once you are approved for the Chase Freedom card, be sure to enroll in Chase Blueprint to begin managing your account. Blueprint allows you to take control of your finances, providing you with the necessary tools to pay down/pay off your account balance. This service is free to all Chase Freedom cardholders, and can be altered as needed to meet your needs. You can specify which purchases you’d like to pay in full to avoid interest charges as well as which purchases you’d like to pay for over time, called Split. You can split the payments up over however many months you’ll need, and Blueprint will track your progress on each statement until it is paid off. Their Finish It tool shows you how long it will take to pay off a large balance, showing you the amount in interest you will save as well as how many fewer payments you’ll have to make.

Rewards

At the core of the rewards program, you earn a full 1% cash back on every purchase with no earnings cap. Chase has also taken a leaf from Discover’s page and added rotating rewards and a shopping portal to earn additional rewards on purchases. The rotating rewards program allows you to earn 5% back on purchases made in various categories that change every three months. Quarterly enrollment is required to ensure that your purchases are properly tracked, and earnings are capped at $600 per month. Using the Chase shopping portal allows the participating merchants to track your purchases and issue your rewards. Merchants like Bath & Body Works, Best Buy, Home Depot, iTunes, and Wal-Mart all allow you to earn percentages from each purchase ranging from 1% to as high as 20%. There are a few merchants that give you a preset dollar amount per purchase rather than a percentage, so be sure to check before you buy.

Rewards Redemption

Redeeming your hard-earned rewards is always the best part, and Chase offers several redemption options to choose from. You can opt to redeem your points for travel by booking online through Chase travel, which is powered by Orbitz. You can also redeem your rewards for gift cards from merchants like Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts, Lowes, or Target. Of course, you can also choose to receive the good ‘ole greenback to do whatever your heart desires. With the Chase Freedom card, the sky is the limit and the choice is yours.

Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom card is an excellent rewards card for those who want either cash back or gift cards to their favorite stores. This card is easy-to-use, has a simple reward calculation formula, and has an easy rewards redemption process. However, in order to enjoy the benefits this card offers you must have a good credit rating. Chase Freedom also has higher interest rates than some of the other rewards cards out there which do not translate well for those who will carry a balance. If you are a frequent flier, you may want to find a card that allows you to amass airline miles coupled with the other frequent traveler perks other cards offer.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

American Express or Discover: Which One is Right for You?

American Express or Discover: Which One is Right for You?Summary: American Express and Discover have some of the best consumer cards out there now, but choosing which company to go with can be difficult. By gathering information about each company, it will help you make the right choice for you and your family.

Making the decision to get a credit card should not be taken lightly. You need to be sure that you are in a place financially to meet the obligations of the card should you be approved. In addition, you also need to decide the type of borrower you are to determine which card will work best for you. Both American Express (also known as AmEx) and Discover offer rewards cards, but if you are not able to pay your balances in full each month your cash back rewards could be negated. Once you determine the type of borrower you’ll be and what you are looking for in a credit card/company, the fun part begins-applying for the card, (hopefully) being approved, and using it to reap the rewards.

American Express: All in Favor?

American Express is different from most credit card companies in that it actually issues, authorizes, and settles all the accounts themselves. They introduced the plastic credit card in the late 1950’s as a charge card whose balance had to be paid in full each month. It wasn’t until 1987 that AmEx gave their customers the option to pay over time. There are many excellent reasons to choose AmEx:

  • Great cash back rewards. On some AmEx cards you can earn up to five percent cash back on your purchases. You should read the fine print of the card(s) you are interested in to be sure of its terms.
  • No preset spending limit. As an AmEx cardholder, you will be able to breathe easier knowing your card will not be declined in the event you go over your limit. In addition, your superior credit rating coupled with the length of time you are an AmEx customer will give your account even more flexibility in the future.
  • Exceptional customer service and complimentary concierge services. Ranked best in customer service for three years running, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that if a problem does arise it will be taken care of swiftly. Moreover, the added bonus of having a complimentary concierge to help make important arrangements will help make anything you need to plan a breeze.

American Express: All Opposed?

Even with all the great benefits to being an AmEx card holder, there is always another side to the coin. Some factors to consider:

  • Higher annual fees. Although it can be said that AmEx has many great cards out there with no annual fees, the fees on the cards that carry them can be substantial. It is important to look at the benefits of each card versus any fees that come with them. That way any potential rewards will not be negated by the annual fee to be paid.

  • Not widely accepted. AmEx, although it has generally been viewed as an exclusive card, is still not as widely accepted as other credit cards. This comes from the higher fee they charge merchants who accept the cards. Having an AmEx card may make you feel good, but you may need to have a back-up card for when AmEx is not accepted.
  • Know Your Repayment terms. When looking for an AmEx card, you should take careful note of the repayment plans for the specific cards you are interested in. In the past, AmEx only issued charge cards in which the balances had to be paid in full each month. Nowadays, many of their cards still require the balance to be paid in full monthly, but they do offer cards that allow payments to be spread out over time. Knowing how you plan to use the card before applying will help avoid any surprises after your approval.

Discover Cards: All in Favor?

Discover Financial Services came about from an unsuccessful attempt by Sears to become a player in the financial services industry in the late 1980’s. Growing from a small spin-off company to now being one of the largest credit card issuers in the world, they have since become a force to be reckoned with. Some of the positive attributes of Discover cards are:

  • Fantastic cardholder perks. Being a Discover card holder gives you extra leverage when the unforeseen happens. Coming standard with the card are things like zero liability for fraudulent transactions, supplementary auto rental insurance, and travelers insurance. The terms for each of these varies, so be sure to check the fine print.
  • ShopDiscover shopping portal. Being a Discover cardholder has its advantages, one of which is the ShopDiscover shopping portal. By shopping through this portal you can earn between 5%-20% cash back on purchases from your favorite stores, racking up your rewards very quickly.
  • Lower interest rates. Some of the most popular Discover cards have a 0% APR for the first six months with as low as 11.9% APR thereafter based on your credit report. Most other card companies have a base rate of at least 14.9% which can really add up, especially if you carry a balance. Couple this with no annual fee and your rewards can add up fast.

Discover Cards: All Opposed?

With all these great attributes, it’s hard to believe that there could be any downsides to Discover. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Not widely accepted. Like AmEx, Discover cards are still not accepted like Visa or Mastercards are. You should have a back-up card on you in the event Discover is not accepted.
  • High cash advance rates. Pretty much all credit card companies charge insanely high rates for cash advances, and Discover is no exception. With a 19.99% fixed rate on all cash advances and a 3% transaction fee with a minimum $5 fee, this is a surefire way to lose money fast.

Knowing the pros and cons for both card issuers is only half the battle. Knowing the type of borrower you’ll be as well as what type of card you are looking for (rewards card, etc) will help you make the right decision. In addition, you should be sure you understand the terms and conditions set for each card to avoid any “surprises.” Recognizing your wants and needs and comparing them to what each company has to offer will help you determine which card is right for you.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the Discover More Card Still the Best Cash Back Rewards Card in the American Market

Summary: The Discover More card boasts discounts of up to 20% off through participating partners while earning unlimited rewards. Combined with their stellar customer service and built-in perks for being a Discover cardholder, it has never been easier to make your money work for you.

It seems that rewards cards are a dime a dozen these days, but all rewards cards are not created equal. The Discover More card blasts the competition with features like no annual fees, unlimited cash back reward earnings, and rewards that do not expire. Combined with the many different ways to earn and redeem rewards, the Discover More card is continually hailed as the best rewards card out there.

Discover More Card Basics

The fundamentals of the Discover More card look like this: there is absolutely no annual fee. Ever. Which means the money you earn stays in your pocket. In addition, you also get zero percent interest on all purchases for the first six months, and balance transfers for the first year. After the six month period and one year period, respectively, the rate jumps to as low as 11.9% for all purchases which is still below the average 14.9% of other cards. Discover cardholders also get to enjoy a 25-day grace period, five days more than any other card. You can also opt to have an additional card number for all of your online shopping; protecting your real card number in the event someone would get hold of it.

Reward Tiers

Rewards. Everyone loves them. And when you can earn unlimited rewards that do not expire, what could be better? With the Discover More card, you can do this and so much more. This card has a “tiered rebate system;” spend up to $1500 and get 0.25% back. Spending $1500-$3000 will get you 0.50% back, and once your annual expenditures are over $3000 you get a full 1% back on your purchases. There is also a program called “Get More Purchase” that gives you a 5% rebate on any purchase within the categories that rotate quarterly. You must sign up for each quarter’s program, but once you do simply use your card to start earning. This program does have a cap for the 5% reward, but anything over the cap will count toward the up to 1% reward you earn everyday by using your card.

Shop Discover

Built-in to the Discover More card is a shopping portal that can earn you up to a 20% rebate on your purchases with participating partners. Simply sign in and browse through their huge list of partners, such as Best Buy (5% rebate), Foot Locker (10% rebate), PetCo (15% rebate), and Restaurant.com (20% rebate) to earn your rewards. The amount of rewards that you can earn is unlimited, and you can even take the rebates earned and double their value by redeeming them for a gift certificate to over 100 partner stores.

Reward Redemption

Racking up the rewards is nice, but the real fun comes when you redeem them. The Discover More card gives you many different options for getting your rewards. You can redeem them for Discover gift cards or merchandise, or even make a charity donation in $20 increments. Or you can choose cash back via direct deposit or a Discover More account credit in $50 increments. You can always combine the different ways to redeem as long as each redemption type is above the minimum amount (either $20 or $50). It is important to note that although your rewards will never expire, if your account is inactive for 18 months or closed for any reason; your accumulated rewards will forever be lost. The same is true if you are late making two consecutive months payments; your rewards will be lost and reset to zero.

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