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This is thread for discussing how to best use the "AMEX Cash Rebate Card," first introduced in the summer of 2002, and its sucessor, the "AMEX Blue Cash Rebate Card," which was launched in Spring 2003. I’m hoping that this thread will clarify how these cards function and help us maximize their potential. Many changes have been made to these cards since their launch over give years ago. Obsolete provisions and strategies have been italicized for quick identification.

These cards replace the older AMEX Platinum Cash Rebate Card, and has some very interesting but complex features. The AMEX page on the card is here

The AMEX Costco Cash Rebate card has NOT been replaced, but is not as attractive a product as the newer card, since rebates top out at 2% (no everyday-spend category), and it offers no singnificant advantages over this newer card. Thus even regular costco buyers users should probably opt for Cash Rebate Card product.

For any known temporary promotions applicable to this card, see bottom of this post.

Edited 8/06: the cap on the top tier has been removed, and AMEX has stressed that the card is to be used for personal purchases only.

Edited 11/08 to remove the lingering reference to bonds.


Here is the excerpt verbatim from my most recent statement:

Rebate We are removing the cap on the total amount of annual eligible purchases that can qualify for a Rebate. We are also making additional changes to the Rebate section of your Agreement. Accordingly, effective with Rebate Years ending on or after September 1, 2006, the second sentence of the Rebate section of your Agreement is deleted, and the last sentence of the first paragraph of that section is deleted and replaced with the following: "For the first $6,500 of Eligible Purchases (as defined below), the rebate percentage is 1% for Everyday Purchases (as defined below) and 0.5% for all other Eligible Purchases; for Eligible Purchases of $6,500.01 or more, the rebate percentage is 5% for Everyday Purchases and 1.5% for all other Eligible Purchases."



Also, effective with billing periods beginning on or after September 1, 2006, the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Rebate section of your Agreement is deleted and replaced with the following: ""Everyday Purchases" are Eligible Purchases at U.S. supermarkets, gas stations, and drug stores, in each case that are not departments of superstores or warehouse clubs." In addition, effective with Rebate Years ending on or after September 1, 2006, the first sentence of the fourth paragraph of the Rebate section of your Agreement is replaced with the following: "You will receive the Rebate in the form of credit to your Account approximately one month after the end of the applicable Rebate Year."



Using the Card Effective with billing periods beginning on or after September 1, 2006, the following sentences are added to the end of the second paragraph of the Using the Card section of your Agreement: "A maximum of 3 Additional Cards are permitted on your Account. You agree to use the Account only for legitimate purchases of goods and services for personal, family or household purposes."
Cash Rewards Structure after 5/7/05



"Rebate percentage for each Rebate Year are as follows: For the first $6500 of Eligible Purchases, the rebate is 1% for Everyday Purchases and 0.5% for all other eligible purchases. For Eligible Purchases of $6500.01 to $50000, the rebate percentage is 5% for everyday purchases and 1.5% for all other Eligible Purchases."



Note that this is MUCH simpler than the previous rebate structure. First, there is no longer any "revolve bonus" (discussed below), ending controversy over what will allow a cardholder to get it, and how the annual bonus will be computed. It also makes it much easier to check to see what the annual bonus should be, since the only tricky part is figuring out what qualifies for ED spending and what does not.





Basic Cash Rewards Structure before 5/8/05 (now italicized to indicate its obsolescence)



First and most interesting is the Cash rebate structure.



The Cash reward is paid annually, 2 months after your card’s anniversary date, in the form or a credit to your statement. There are 2 classes of purchases: “Everyday Spend,” including merchants that AMEX codes as “qualifying stand-alone U.S. supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations and home improvement stores in the US.” For a list of merchants that fall within this category, see taylor's AMEX everyday spend merchant classification thread. Assuming you carry no balance, the reward structure for these is:

First $0-2K of TOTAL annual purchases spent on “Everyday Spend” = 0.5% rebate
Next 2K-6K of TOTAL annual purchases spent on “Everyday Spend” = 1.0% rebate
Next 6K-50K of TOTAL annual purchases spent on “Everyday Spend” = 3.0% rebate

So if you spent $50000 on ONLY “Everyday Spend” and NEVER carried a balance, you’d get a total of $1370 back.

The reward level for all other purchases is exactly HALF of the above table: .25%, .5%, and 1.5% respectively. If someone purchases “Everyday Spend” items and other items on the same day, AMEX gives you the benefit of the doubt and adds the other items to your total FIRST, maximizing your possible rebate.

“Revolve” Bonus Rebate

The Card boosts the rebate credited during months where a balance is carried with a so-called “revolve bonus.” “If, in any billing period, your Account is carrying a balance, you will receive a 2.0% rebate for “Everyday Spend” and a 0.50% rebate for “Non-Everyday Spend” posted to your Account that billing period, in addition to your rebate described above….Carrying a balance means you have not paid your outstanding balance for your statement in full by the payment due date on that statement.”

NB: The best evidence we have is that first-cycle purchases, like subsequent purchases, WILL be eligible for revolve bonuses if a balance from them is carried into the following payment cycle.

EDIT 4/03: while the above language is taken from my card statement, more recent agreements contain language suggesting that making payments in one cycle (e.g., Februrary) which equal or exceed the amount due in the preceding cycle (e.g., January) will void the revolve bonus for that preceding (January) cycle. Unless you evidence to the contrary (like the above language in your cycle), I would assume that this more recent policy applies.

Q: For a given charge, in what circumstances will I earn a revolve bonus for it?

A: Firstly, since the revolve bonus is awarded according to repayment activity for a given cycle, either all or none of the charges in a given cycle (appearing on the same statement) will earn the bonus; it is impossible to earn the revolving bonus on some charges on a statement, and not for others on the same statement. In order to earn the revolve bonus for all of the charges on a given statement, the payments you make that post during the following cycle (the time period between the end date printed on the statement in question and the end date of the next statemnt) must NOT be equal to or greater than the balance due on the staetment in question. For example, if you want to earn a revolving bonus on the charges on your statement that closed January 15th with a balance due of $1000, and your next statement is due to close February 15th, your payments made between 1/15 and 2/15 must NOT total more than $999.99. It does not matter at all for "balance carrying" purposes for the 1/15 statement charges if you made a $10,000 charge on 1/16 and your "current balance due" goes to $11,000 (although it WILL matter for how much interest you will be charged!) (Thanks to MarkM for proposing this clarification.)


Other Features Of The Card:

-Purchases through the first 6 billing cycles earn a 0% teaser rate. To confirm, check the “Supplement to the Cardmember Agreement,” which is contained on the sheet of paper to which your primary card was attached.

-Then, a variable rate of Prime plus 4.99%, 6.99% or 9.99%, depending on one’s credit history. Once you receive the Card, check the “Supplement to the Cardmember Agreement” mentioned above to determine your specific rate. Note that this is UNLIKE Blue’s FIXED rate, and is subject to change with short-term rates. Finance charges are computed based on a one-cycle “average daily balance” method, with interest compounding daily.

-Online Fraud Protection Guarantee. “Use the American Express Card online, and you won't be responsible for any unauthorized charges. Period. No fine print, no deductible - just pure protection, so you can shop with confidence anywhere on the Internet.”

-Buyer's Assurance. The Buyer's Assurance Plan extends the terms of the original manufacturer's warranty on a covered product purchased entirely with the Card up to one additional year on U.S. warranties of five years or less.

-Purchase Protection Plan. “The Purchase Protection Plan provides added protection-at no extra cost-for accidental damage to or theft of covered items purchased with the Card.” Basically, 90 days of this protection per item totally purchased with the Card.

-Travel Accident Insurance. “Travel Accident Insurance provides up to $100,000 in accidental death and dismemberment insurance while traveling on a common carrier (plane, train, ship, or bus) when the fare has been charged to the Card.”

There are other features, but they seem trivial (emergency replacement, 24 hour cash at ATMs, etc.) Note that this card does NOT have the BVG (price-matching, best value guarantee)—no newly issued free AMEX cards have that anymore UPDATE: except Costco's Small Business AMEX.

Other Relevant Notes About AMEX Cards

-Unlike with many other cards, you cannot change your billing cycle dates without canceling and reopening your card, and therefore waiting for a new one. (Silly, but this has been confirmed time and again by users and 3 AMEX departments.)

-With good credit, you can often get approved online instantly. (No one has reported instant purchase capabilty, however--you need to wait until the card arrives in the mail to start using it.) That approval date then becomes the first date of your billing cycle. Keep this in mind when you pick your application date.

-You are unlikely to get a large credit limit if either (1) you have limited credit history or (2) you have another large AMEX line. If this is your only AMEX product and your credit is good, you may call the new accounts team at 1-800-947-8192 and request a higher credit limit upon getting the card. This has to be done within the first 30 days of account's opening, from what I understand.

-You can easily move part of one AMEX line to another, and vice versa. I had a $20,000 Blue line, and moved $18,000 of it to the $2,000 Cash Rebate line. Supposedly it would take a couple of business days, but it didn’t take more than 3 hours to show up online and by phone (I asked for this around 3:30 PDT on a Friday.)

-Every cardholder on an account has a different card number, and therefore is able to receive lists of only their own purchases. This is a VERY nice feature of AMEX that other card issuers should follow. No wondering who charged what. Anyone over 17 can be an additional cardholder, and they don’t run credit or ask for SS#s for those folks.


Optimal Strategies for Using the AMEX Cash Rebate Card


Here are my thoughts, roughly from the obvious to the less so :

-EXPLOIT THE 0% OFFER AS MUCH AS IS FEASIBLE. This is a great deal, since it lets you “stack” both no interest AND a generous (if well-exploited) rebate. This suggests getting as big a line as possible, ideally by moving some of a line over from another card.

-BURN THROUGH THE FIRST TIER QUICKLY, THAN PARK EEVERYDAY SPENDING HERE. If you can find a way to spend $6,500 on this card fairly quickly, then you can earn %5 on the next $43,500 in ED spending without having to worry about carrying a balance. No other card comes close to allowing amounts this high on anything >2% cash rebate, much less 5%. This remains the card to use, then, if your ED spending needs are high.

EDIT 3/05: The following strategy notes are obsolete as of 5/05, due to the revised tier structure.

Also, the BEST deal is offered by the card by charging items early within the first 6 billing cycles. Then, you get the benefits of carrying a balance without paying for it (with the possible exception of the first cycle--see above for more on that.) For example, if you’re building or remolding a home and using heavily a place like Home Depot, you will make out like a BANDIT if you can time your project so that you purchase your supplies at the beginning of the 2d billing cycle. 5% back (if you’ve reached that tier already), AND 4-5 months interest free. AMAZING.

-ONCE THE 0% PROMO ENDS, consider carefully whether you want to try carrying balances after the promo period expires in order to get the bonus rebate. For many, this will be more trouble than it’s worth. The rate is variable to begin with, and for many it will be difficult to keep track of whether their balance-carry bonuses will warrant the finance charges.

-IF YOU DO want to play the balance-carry bonus game, then you stand conventional “grace period” wisdom on its head. Instead of maximizing this period by buying stuff early in your billing cycle, you want to buy as late as possible during your billing cycle so that your ending balance is high, but your average daily balance is low.

-WHEN TO APPLY. If you KNOW you want the carry-balance bonuses after the promo period, AND want to buy savings bonds, apply online at or near the first of the month. You’ll want to buy bonds at the end of the month (for reasons explained on the bond threads), but will want to have them post to your AMEX account at the tail end of your cycle IF you want to get a revolve bonus. OTOH, if you know you don’t want to carry a balance, apply a few days before the end of the month so that you can buy end-of-month bonds just after your billing cycle begins. IF YOU AREN’T SURE, do ahead and get a date of around the 24th of the month. That will give you the option of doing either without forgoing much of the benefits from either of the above strategies.

2 specific strategies:

-big initial purchase, then maximize “everyday purchases”

This is simple: the first day you get your card, buy $6K of bonds, tuition, business expenses, etc. if your credit limit is at least that high. This way you blow through the first two tiers, and have the rest of the year to rack up the huge 3-5% bonuses on everyday purchases. If you have a large family, rentals, many Costco purchases, or expensive drugs, you might well do this up to the $44K maximum without much work. Otherwise, consider giving additional user cards to TRUSTED family members, and having them make all their everyday purchases on the card and reimburse you. (Since bills are itemized at the end of the month, this isn’t as hard as it otherwise might be, especially since if they set up an online account it will report ALL and ONLY THEIR purchases, and export them to Quicken/money etc.) I began implementing the “big purchase then max everyday” strategy on 8/2, by buying $6K worth of bonds as soon as my credit limit was raised to $20K.


balance-carry, and maximize “everyday purchases”

If a person truly has lots of everyday purchases, this might be better. Once the 2d cycle begins and a balance is generated, pay only the minimum payment due, and buy everyday purchases rapidly (as in the construction example above.)

Once the promo period ends, it makes sense to pay your bills to as early and as heavily as possible WITHOUT completely paying off your balance. We’re still determining exactly how that is best done, since AMEX uses a somewhat different method of establishing when a balance is paid off.



UPDATE 2/27/05: AMEX is offering "double Cash Back" between 3/1/05 and 4/15/05 for for users who register. While it says it's only for targeted members, many are able to register despite not being targeted. Full details are available in this thread (thanks hud500).


UPDATE 3/30/05: It has now been confirmed that ALL users get the new tiers as of May 8. The above analysis has been updated to reflect this



Please post questions, corrections, and other strategies here, as well as suggestions for additional thread edits…I will try to update this initial post regularly.


Thanks to taylor (who at this point deserves co-author credit), NotAfool, SUCKISSTAPLES, nooch, MarkM, and all the others who helped gather the info that comprises this thread.


(Edited 4/17/03 to include MarkM's example. Edited 5/24/03 to clarify that AMEX Cash Blue has the same rewards structure. There are no other functional differences between the green Cash Rebate card begun in mid-2002 and the Blue Cash card begun in early 2003. Edited 2/05 to include the double cash-back promotion. Edited 3/05 to include revised tiers.)

Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
Not sure I understand. Where and how do you order $6,500 in coins with the AMEX Blue Cash Card?

tdemattei (Mar. 28, 2011 @ 9:48p) |

Um, you keep ordering until you hit $6500?

Glitch99 (Mar. 28, 2011 @ 9:58p) |

FYI, they it apply the rewards credit regardless of the account balance. If the CashBack creates a credit balance, they... (more)

Glitch99 (Mar. 28, 2011 @ 10:01p) |

Gas Stations that count for the upto 5% rebate(stand alone gas stations):
Chevron
Shell
Mobil


Gas Stations that dont count(non standalone stations):
Circle K

_________________________________________________________________________________
Non-stand-alone stores ("non everyday purchase")
Costco (warehouse)
Wal-Mart (mega store)
Kmart
Target
7-eleven

Standalone ("everyday purchase")
meijer
Duane Reade
Rite Aid
Walgreen
Pathmark
Jack's 99
Tops
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Great explanation, thanks a lot.

This card may as well be considered 3% bonus reward card as getting additional 2% seems like a major hassle. Although there is one strategy that comes to mind:
After 6 months of interest free period, pay off the account completely but $1.00 a day before the due date. This will generate a minimum interest of possibly $0.50. The day after due date, estimate your charges for the next month and prepay them. The tricky part is to arrive with $1.00 account debit right before the end of the second billing cycle. This can be achieved by: planning purchases right (nearly impossible), request a check (may take too long) request a credit transfer to another amex cc account and then buy a bubble gum.

Ough sounds so difficult to implement. It is necessary to precisely estimate purchases and also not being able to use a card between end cycle date and due date.

Any holes in this reasoning or any suggestions for improvement?

Great thread, I think it explains how best to maximize this card. Question though about the 6 month 0% APR... so if I charge up to $6k of bonds on this card and want to pay it off in full by the time the 6 months is up, that I'll have to pay in full by the statement that arrives in late January?

Can I redeem my bonds before that bill is due?

Cash Rebate Card...

If you got a Cash Rebate card more than a year ago like me, better make sure your cardholder's agreement is for the up to 5% card. My cash rebate card only pays up to 2% (with a slightly different tier schedule and no "Everyday Purchase" bonus).

I had to apply for the 5% card and can't touch the new card until my 2%-card's rebate period ends in February The AmEx reps couldn't just upgrade my card to the 5%-one without scrapping my accumulated rebate on the 2%-card

DeGlass, thanks for the correction. Sorry they can't convert you card...that's a bummer.


Sure thing DWooley. I'm not certain that you'd be considered "carrying a balance" if you paid more than the minimum but less the previous statement balance BEFORE the payment due date, AND then paid enough extra to have covered the full amount or more AFTER the due date but BEFORE the end of that billing cycle. It should work with this way though, and if it did, you'd be right to think that would be good strategy for keeping finance charges minimized.

I don't think coming close to this will be very difficult. The tricky part will be accounting for my wife's possible returns of stuff, since a return before the due date should be treated as a payment.


kxl19, as long as apply for the card early enough in the month to receive it and order that month's savings bonds with it, you will be able to redeem the bonds and pay off the bill before the interest-free period expires.

[

NOTaFool, excellent idea...I didn't think of that. I wonder if it would work? They'd have to let BTs count as qualifying balances for purposes of the deal--if someone can get a reliable answer on this, pleae post!

DWooley said:

<< Great explanation, thanks a lot.

After 6 months of interest free period, pay off the account completely but $1.00 a day before the due date. This will generate a minimum interest of possibly $0.50. The day after due date, estimate your charges for the next month and prepay them.
>>



BAD IDEA. Remember for interest computations they use the average daily balance method...that means the interest you will be charges is 29 days@$6000 + 1 day@$1 = $5800 average daily balance. THAT is what you will pay interest on. That is exactly why they use the average daily balance method. Inversely, would it be fair if you carried a $1 balance the first 29 days of the month, then on the last day charges $6000 to be charges interest on the entire $6000? (common rebuttal for pissed credit customers).

Andrew

DH: great summary! NOTaFool: Interesting idea on the balance transfer. Unless I don't understand it correctly, I doubt it will work since the billing cycle begins on the day your application is accepted. If you did a balance transfer, it wouldn't be applied to your account until after the first cycle began. This would be no different from purchases (except that you would need to begin paying finance charges immediately) due to the way they define "carrying a balance" (see below). This may all be a moot point...

DH reports that two Amex reps confirm that "carrying a balance" does not begin with the first billing cycle (BT complications not withstanding). I'm not sure I'm ready to take their word for it yet. (While I'm sure there are exceptions, my experience with Amex reps so far (although it was on the applying side) is that they are no more knowledgable about their cards that someone who has read the Amex webpages.) Here is a larger section quoted from the terms:


<< If, in any billing period, your Account is carrying a balance, you will receive a 2.0% rebate for Everyday Spend and a 0.50% rebate for Non-Everyday Spend posted to your Account that billing period, in addition to your rebate described above, provided your Account is not in default. Carrying a balance means you have not paid your outstanding balance for your statement in full by the payment due date on that statement. >>


I believe the last sentence to be critical, as it defines what "carrying a balance" means. It is not clear to me whether the "statement" is the statement from the previous billing cycle or the current billing cycle. I'll explore this further when I get a chance (currently on dial-up with no access to a phone).

FWIW, I applied online for my card on 7-28-02 and received it yesterday. My closing date appears to be the 27th of the month which confirms DH's experience. I have not had an Amex card in ten years and have good credit. My initial credit limit was $3K. I called to have it increased, and the best they would do is $8K total... check back in 6 months for more.

Slider: Thank you for bringing this detail up. I should have said: After 6 months of interest free period, pay off the account completely. Then charge nominal amount to incurr minimum interest in the next billing cycle.

taylor,

Thanks for posting the "carry a balance" dfn. I'll add it to the first post. I think you're right that this _probably_ excludes NotaFool's idea, though it would be nice to get confirmation one way or another.

Slider's point is exactly why I recommend making large purchases at the end of the billing cycle (just before it closes) once the 6 month's promo period is finished.

From the Amex website:

Your annual cash reward for everyday purchases at stand-alone U.S. supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations and home improvement stores is up to 3%. Your annual cash reward for all other purchases is up to 1.5%. You will receive an additional rebate of up to 2% for purchases in months in which your account carries a balance. Your cash rewards are limited to $50,000 of eligible spending.

I am not able to find any more information about how the rebates are calculated and I am quite troubled with the statement above. There is no way to determine ahead of time which merchant qualifies for up 3% rebate and which is up to 1.5%. Also, they do not state definitely the rebate is 3% but it is up to 3%. The way it is phrased, Amex may just as well pay 0.000000000001% cash reward.

DWooley, the "up to" 3% is defined by the tiers above, as stated in the cardholder agreement.

The "Everyday Spend" classification is determined by the codes that comes with the billing. If the merchant codes as grocery or gas, that's how it shows up.

Does it mean that if we buy the bond and “Everyday Spend” at the same time, we will get up to 5% rebate too?


<< If someone purchases “Everyday Spend” items and other items on the same day, Amex gives you the benefit of the doubt and adds the other items to your total FIRST, maximizing your possible rebate.

yes, if (a) you are already carrying a balance that month, and (b) the bonds put you over the $6K mark into the top tier.

EDIT but to be clear, this 5% will ONLY be enjoyed ON THE EVERYDAY SPEND PORTION, not the whole balance. You can NEVER get more than 2.0% back on non ED-spend.

yeah, i actually saw details of this card posted over at anandtech before here (an btw ended up passing links to this form to at least a dozen people via PM!), and made a much more vague post over there on that thread about timing purchase to get the extra rebate with minimal finance charges. Nice work dave on fleshing it all out. Alas, I am not pursuing it more because ... well, it's Amex My main "everday purchase" is groceries, and my local groceries won't accept them. That would have to be another variable in teh FBB vs. Amex decison, how much of your "everyday" charges can you make using amex? Sounds like a really great deal for those who can use it reguarly, though.

Good point about many stores not accepting Amex MarkM, I added it to the initial post.

Funny how misinformed most of the AT folks are on all this. I wonder why that thread was locked?

jasonx: Just to clarify DH's response, you will earn the 5% on Everyday Spend only on the Everyday Spend items (not the bond purchases).

This is a follow-up to my earlier post about what is considered "carrying a balance".

As I suspected, the Amex reps don't know any more than we do (and in some cases a lot less). I called yesterday to see if I could confirm what DH had 2 reps confirm: "the balance-carry rebate does NOT apply during your first month of card membership, since there are no balances for you to have carried over during that month." I spoke with 2 reps who both confirmed the OPPOSITE. Their position was that "the balance-carry rebate DOES apply during your first month of card membership as long as you don't pay off the entire balance before the first billing statement's due date."

My experience with customer service representatives (CSR) in general is that they are good if you have a simple question and just don't want to read the policy details. They can usually answer these questions correctly. More complicated questions may take a "special" CSR, and questions like this one (policy interpretation) CANNOT be answered authoritatively by any CSR.

In case you care... or are just looking for some cheap entertainment... here are the details of my call yesterday. The first CSR I spoke with was not one of the "special" CSR's. When I enquired about what purchases would receive the bonus rebate, I was first told that all purchase for the ENTIRE YEAR would receive the bonus rebate provided a revolved my balance ONE MONTH during the year. After helping her realize that this was absolutely not the case, she stated the bonus was applied to the purchases in the month in which you did not pay your statement in full (suggesting that it would be possible to earn the bonus rebate during the card's first month of operation). I then went through various senarios with her to make sure I understood (and that she understood) what she was saying. For example, if during the first month I were to purchase $1000 worth of non-Everyday Spend (non-ES) items and paid the minimum due ($20) on my first statement, I would receive 0.25% back and an additional 0.5% bonus back. She more or less confirmed this under a number of different senarios but tried to explain it to me in different ways. I asked if there was anyone I could talk with who could give me an authoritative ruling on this. She said no, but that she could put me on hold and confirm it. When she came back she said she had confirmed "it" but when I pressed her, she didn't seem able to tell me what she had confirmed. At one point she got off track and started telling me that the 2% bonus was applied to the amount that I revolved each month (in some kind of 2% APR credit like way). I then realized that I really wasn't going to get anywhere with her, and asked to speak with her supervisor.

Her supervisor seemed a bit more knowledgable. I asked her how I should interpret what "carrying a balance" meant and she told me that if I revolved a balance on one statement, purchases on the next statement would qualify for the bonus (same answer that DH got from two CSRs). I told her that the other CSR had told me the opposite thing and that I thought the wording in the card agreement needed to be clarified since it appeared to be ambiguous to even the CSR's. Since she seemed a bit more knowledgable than the previous CSR, I decided to ask her about the BT idea that NOTaFool suggested. She said that if I did a BT in the first month and then made a purchase after that, it would qualify for the bonus. I then directed her attention to the definition of carrying a balance in the card agreement (see my previous post). After a number of different senarios that didn't make sense to me, I asked her if the following statement was true or false:


<< If, during the first month, I were to purchase $1000 worth of non-ES items and paid the minimum due ($20) on my first statement, I would receive 0.25% + 0.5% bonus back. >>


She stated that it was true. (The opposite of the answer she gave me at the beginning of the call.) At that point I asked her if there was any way to get an authoritative answer to this question. She assured me that she had given me the correct answer but that the card member agreement was the authoritative document. Since the card agreement appeared to be ambiguous, I asked her to send me her answer in writing. She said that she would have "them" send me a clarification to the agreement.

I am not confident that the "clarification" will clarify things, and it will be too late to act on it by the time I receive it. I think the definative answer will come after we see our statements.

Just for kicks, I just called again and presented the above T/F question. The CSR said true. I asked a few other questions just to be sure that she understood the nature of the question, and she gave consistent answers. I also confirmed that the 6 month 0% rate ends the last day of the sixth billing cycle.

At this point I plan to act as if I get my bonus in the first month. If I don't, I'll be sure to let Amex know about it.

taylor, thanks for the good follow-up post.

I agree with you on CSRs being unreliable on stuff like this. The reason I gave credence to their position was because it reflects my understanding of the language of the cardmemeber agreement.

<< She said that if I did a BT in the first month and then made a purchase after that, it would qualify for the bonus. >>

I wonder if she would have said the same had you asked if you did the BT AFTER you made the purchase in the first month (my scenario if I followed NotAFool's suggestion.)

I hope I'm able to get an extra .5% for those $6K in savings bonds purchases, as $30 extra in bonus would be nice. But I'm betting against it. Had I to do it over again, I would have bought some everyday spend the first cycle, then bought $6K in bonds on 8/25, the first day of my new cycle.

So what's the best cash rebate credit card deal going for a Visa or Mastercard. Since AMEX is accepted everywhere, I would like my backup credit card to give me the best cash rebate also. So we are talking about $1000 to $3000 annually.

I currently have a First USA 1% flat rate cash back card that disperses rewards every $2500 of spending (no annual fee of course). Does anyone have one that beats this? I have seen a Citibank card offered to students that offers 3% rebates but I think you have to carry at least a 1 cent balance to get this, and there are low monthly and annual limits on rebates.

DH said:


<< The reason I gave credence to their position was because it reflects my understanding of the language of the cardmemeber agreement. >>


Fair enough; however, I interpret the language differently. "Carrying a balance means you have not paid your outstanding balance for your statement in full by the payment due date on that statement." To me, the "that" makes it sound like if you don't pay off the balance for a given billing cycle, you will get the bonus on all purchases during that cycle. If I am right, it also means that I will not get the bonus during the sixth billing cycle since I plan to pay off my entire balance before the end of that cycle. If I am wrong, it should mean that I will get the bonus for purchases during the sixth billing cycle (but not the first), so either way it's not making a big difference for Amex (unless, of course, you are making a huge purchase in the first month to take advantage of the 0% APR)... hopefully that is clear enough. If not, just ask.



<< << She said that if I did a BT in the first month and then made a purchase after that, it would qualify for the bonus. >>

I wonder if she would have said the same had you asked if you did the BT AFTER you made the purchase in the first month (my scenario if I followed NotAFool's suggestion.)
>>


I doubt it, but I don't think it really matters what she said... she doesn't have the authority to make policy or even interpret it. The card member agreement is the authoritative (albeit ambiguous) statement on the matter. Since the definition of "carrying a balance" doesn't depend on balance transfers, I think it can be argued that BT will not make any difference in whether or not the bonus is awarded.

dajabon:
There is another thread that covers the best rewards CC for small spenders. I suggest looking there for answers.

Thanks taylor, your last post did strike me as clear. Hopefully (for me anyway), you're right.

I agree both that what the CSR said on this is largely irrelevant, and that the language of the cardmember agreement is ambiguous.

Update: one of the sharper posters on Creditnet, PsycDoc, just reported that he was able to convert his Blue card to this card without having AMEX pull a credit inquiry. That thread is at http://consumers.creditnet.com/straighttalk/board/showthread.php?s=&goto=newpost&threadid=30469&pgnum=1

Update Alas, they got him the wrong (old) cash rebate card! So no confirmed conversions at this time (please post if any of you were able to do this!)

<< Fair enough; however, I interpret the language differently. "Carrying a balance means you have not paid your outstanding balance for your statement in full by the payment due date on that statement." To me, the "that" makes it sound like if you don't pay off the balance for a given billing cycle, you will get the bonus on all purchases during that cycle. If I am right, it also means that I will not get the bonus during the sixth billing cycle since I plan to pay off my entire balance before the end of that cycle. >>



This is how I read it as well.

Now, a couple questions for you guys. First, a little background. I am 21 years old and will be a senior at the University of Illinois. Currently, I have 2 credit cards - an AMEX Blue for Students and an MBNA student card (that I do not use). I have a limit of $1700 on my amex card and $2600 on the MBNA card, I think. My question is -- Do you think I will be approved for these "cashback" cards, and if so, how much would I have to put for household income to get a good limit (say, $10,000)? I would like to take advantage of the "bond deals" that I have recently read about. But I don't want to screw up my credit just to get a few extra bucks. But this free money thing is intriguing.

Any suggestions or comments that you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Brad

ahearnb, the important factor is your credit history and performance. I bet that if you've had these cards with no lates for a year or two, you'll qualify--if you can see fit to include a sufficiently high HH income, as $10,000 probably won't be enough.. I would guess 15-20K minimum to get the card, more for a high credit limit.

You'd need a household income of ~$100K to get a credit limit of $10K...

Yeah, I forgot to tell you -- I've had one late payment (MOM!) - it was when I first got the card and after the mishap, all the fees and everything was taken care of. Since then, every payment has been made in full.

So, I'd need to put $100,000 for household income to get 10K for a limit...if I did this, would there be a problem (considering I do not make 100k/yr.)? I wouldn't think they'd care, but you guys are the experts.

Brad

Since you asked... I think there would be a problem with putting $100K if your household income is not $100K. I would suggest you put as high a number as you could support if they were to ask you prove it. Others here may have other opinions though.

Well, I don't live with my parents, but if I did (I'm in college).....I suppose I could come close. Maybe this is just a deal I should not look into then...

Brad

In an earlier post, I had indicated that a CSR had told me that the bonus rebate applies to all purchases in the billing for which the balance is not paid in full. I wrote:


<< Since the card agreement appeared to be ambiguous, I asked her to send me her answer in writing. She said that she would have "them" send me a clarification to the agreement. >>


I received the following letter this weekend (any typos are mine):


<< Dear xxxx:

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding CUSTOMER SERVICE. We would like to take this opportunity to update you on the status of our investigation.

STEPS WE HAVE TAKEN:
We have initiated a formal investigation into your inquiry. While we are unable to provide you with a resolution at this time, we are making every effort to research this matter thoroughly and provide you with a timely decision.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
We may find it necessary to contact you for additional information regarding your inquiry.

In order to complete all of the steps required for a full investigation, it may take up to six to eight weeks for us to resolve your inquiry.
>>


The conclusion I draw is that we are going to have to figure this out ourselves by looking at are statements after the fact.

Thanks for the update taylor. It will be interesting to see how revealing the first month's statements are on this--hopefully they will settle the matter one way or another.

Actually, I don't think the first month's statement will be enough to settle the matter. If the bonus is applied to the billing cycle in which the balance is not paid in full, they will have no way of knowing how to calculate this when they prepare the first statement. Only after the payment due date will they know whether or not a balance was carried. I fear that we may not have this resolved until the second statement... and even then, I doubt it will be a very straight forward calculation.

The issue can't be resolved until the 2nd month's billing since during the 1st billing, there is no balance and thus no extra bonus until the 2nd billing.

Also, if you do a BT as suggested in an earlier thread, wouldn't that incur at a higher APR% than the 0% on purchases and you would have to carry that thru the billing close, which will complicate things.

I realize that the first month's statement may not resolve the matter--hence the "hopefully." Indeed, the 2d month's statement might not either. It all depends on how much information they will be imparting to us about our bonus and in what form. They could include this in the first statement if they want to, something like "your bonus will depend on whether or not a balance is carried into the next billing cycle."

If they are smart, they'll get info on this out ASAP, since they WILL have lots of questions about it.

BTs will indeed incurr higher APRs. I will only do a BT if I get confirmation that (1) they're using my interp of the first billing cycle, not talyor's reasonable counter-intepretation, and (2) notafool's BT strategy would work.

cctraderx: I don't think it is a given that no bonus will occur during the first billing cycle. As DH suggests in his previous post, he reads the card agreement to say that the bonus doesn't occur until the second billing cycle. OTOH, I think it is plausible to interpret the agreement to say that the bonus could apply to the first billing cycle. I've managed to get N CSRs to state that "my" interpretation is the correct one (including one who was going to send it to me in writing) while DH has managed to get M CSRs to state that "his" interpretation is correct. (where N=3 and M=2, but I left them as variables since I don't think that there is any significance to N>M.)

Take a look back at the previous posts in the thread if you want the gory details.

<< The Cash reward is paid annually, 2 months after your card’s anniversary date, in the form or a credit to your statement. >>



Does anyone know when the anniversary date for this card is ? Thanks !

koblu:
I'd be quite surprised if it wasn't one year after the beginning of your first billing cycle.

<< You will receive an annual rebate on the amount of your Purchases (net of credit for Purchases) made during the previous year ("Annual Purchases" based on the following tiered structure: For the portion of total Annual Purchases at Qualifying stand-alone supermakets, drugstores, gas stations, and home improvement stores in the U.S. ("Everyday Spend" you will receive a rebate of 0.50% for the first $2,000, a rebate of 1.0% for the next $4,000 and a rebate of 3.0% for total Annual Purchases in excess of $6,000. For the portion of total Annulal Purchases that is not Everyday Spend ("Non-Everyday Spend", you will receive a rebate of 0.25% for the first $2,000, a rebate of 0.50% for the next $4,000 and a rebate of 1.5% for total Annual Purchases in excess of $6,000. If, in any billing period, your Account is carrying a balance, you will receive a 2.0% rebate for Everyday Spend and a 0.50% rebate for Non-Everyday Spend posted to your Account that billing period, in addition to your rebate described above, provided your account is not in default. ... >>


The above chunk of agreement makes me think that there are two separate $6,000 tiers because they said:

"For the portion of total Annual Purchases at Qualifying stand-alone supermarkets... you will receive a rebate of 0.50% for the first $2,000.."

When, if they meant our current interpretation, they should have said:

"For the first $2,000 in total Annual Purchases, you will receive a rebate of 0.50% for the portion made at Qualifying stand-alone supermarkets... "

However, the following chunk of agreement indicates there is only one tier and definitively supports our current interpretation and maybe even conflicts with the above chunk?:


<< ...Your rebate will be calculated for each billing cycle in accordance with the timing of your Purchases; provided, however, that if a Non-Everyday Spend item and an Everyday Spend item are purchased on the same day, the Non-Everyday Spend item will be added first to determine your rebate tier level so that you will receive the highest rebate percentage in accordance with the rebate structure described above. ..." >>

For those who care, here is an update on my attempts to get clarification from AMEX on what "carrying a balance" really means.

Recall that I had asked a CSR whether or not the following was true:


<< If, during the first month, I were to purchase $1000 worth of non-ES items and paid the minimum due ($20) on my first statement, I would receive 0.25% + 0.5% bonus back. >>


I was told it was true. I then asked to get it in writing. I received a response yesterday and am actually quite pleased with the speed of the response; however the response fails to clarify my initial question. It is not a complete loss, though, as it does clarify that everyday and non-everyday spend are added together when determining which tier of the rebate applies, i.e., there is only one bucket.

Here is the letter I got back (I may have interjected some typos but I made an attempt to reproduce the message verbatim):


<< Dear xxxxx

Thank you for your recent inquiry concerning your American Express Cash Rebae Card account.

For your reference, below is how we calculate the earned rebate.

For every day spend:

You will receive a Rebate of .5% for the portion of the first $2,000 in total annual spend that is everyday. A rebate of 1.0% for the portion of the next $4000 in total annual spend that is everyday, and a Rebate of 3.0% for the portion of the total annual spend greater than $6000 that is everyday.

For non-everyday spend:

You will receive a Rebate of .25% for the portion of the first $2000 in total annual spend that is non-everyday. A rebate of .5% for the portion of the next $4000 in total annual spend that is non-everyday, and a rebate of 1.5% for the portion of the total annual spend greater than $6000 that is non-everyday.

Bonus on revolve:

If, in any billing period, your account is carrying a balance, you will receive an additional 2.0% Rebate for qualified Everyday spend and a 0.5% Rebate for Non-everyday spend

Please be aware that Everyday spend offer applies to purchases at qualifying stand alone supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations, and home improvement stores; non-everyday spend relates to all other purchases. In each year of Cardmembership, your Cash Rebate rewards are limited to $50,000 of eligible spend. To receive the rebate, your account must not be in default.

If we can be of further assistance, please call the toll-free telephone number on your statement and speak with a Customer Service Representative.

Sincerely,
(no signature)
M J Landers
Supervisor, Customer Service.
>>


I realize I have gone off the deep end on my analysis here, but I found it interesting to note that it appears to be hand typed and not a copy/paste job from the card member agreement. It would be interesting to discover what confusion M J Landers thought (s)he was correcting. The attempt seems sincere, but my initial question didn't seem to get relayed correctly.

Thanks for your efforts here, taylor.

Alas, it's not surprising that Amex is having some difficulty with our question here. HOpefully subsenquent statements will clarify things.

Skipping 1304 Messages...
Chgoman said:   I don't know if this is going to be their general policy, but I called a week ago before I saw the delay to March 15th and asked them to apply my reward cash to my credit balance. They told me that they couldn't apply it because my card balance had to be below the amount of the credit. If this is the case it makes it a pain to cash in the rebate. A the end of a billing cycle you have to pay off your balance right away and then monitor the balance of your card until you are just below the credit amount and call to have them credit you. Seems like a pain to me with some of the other 2% options out there. I've been with them for years, but if this is how they are going to work the credit, I'll probably get a 2% card and not have to deal with the hassle.FYI, they it apply the rewards credit regardless of the account balance. If the CashBack creates a credit balance, they'll send you a refund check for the credit balance.

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