Best Reward / Cash Back Credit Cards

My PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa card has been a good card for me as I qualify for and receive the full 2% reward.

Today received a concerning snail mail from PenFed regarding changes in terms. Front of letter, which they seem to be emphasizing, mentions CA fee being reduced to zero and a change to the late payment fee. Neither of those things is an issue for me. I don’t care.

But when I turned the page over, there on the back found new definitions for “cash-like transactions”. That sort of thing hits several of us in our wheelhouse and any attention given that realm is a concern.

Plan going forward:

Will do a test transaction before putting this card back to work with major charges. Their new language might or might not be a problem. Will have to make a determination following test.

Related note:

I posted up thread about the Freedom Credit Union card. Absence of the sort of “gotcha” language herein referenced is reason I like the FCU card.


Sears Citi card has stepped up their game … Been getting random 10% cashback offers randomly for the last couple years, but this is pretty unprecedented ( for me at least ) for an existing card. $450 for $2250 in spend over 3 months… No wonder Sears is bankrupt ( multiple times ).


Curious who pays for the cashback… citi or sears?

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Just posted on the Alliant thread regarding their reining in of benefits on the Alliant Visa Signature with 2.5% reward.

In general now:

Hope this is not the start of a trend. But with interest rates having already tumbled have to wonder how much longer CC issuers will be able to sustain 2% rewards.

I don’t believe there is a relationship between credit card rewards and interest rates. The fed funds rate was close to 0 for like a decade during which credit card rewards and bonuses were getting better and better. Card issuers make enough money from interchange / swipe fees to pay for rewards.

All industries go through expand-contract cycles, and I suspect we’re in a contraction cycle now with major networks/issuers reducing card benefits and increasing AFs. Besides this Alliant limitation, I don’t think I’ve seen any impact on cash (and cash-equivalent – UR & TYP) rewards. Airlines and hotels keep devaluing points, but this has always happened and should be expected by anyone participating in their game.

Updated the wiki for Alliant.


Agreed. So far so good . . . with the exception now of Alliant. Just hope we’re not looking at the commencement of a trend.

Not too long ago, it was easy to find “unlimited 5% on all purchase” promotions, then “unlimited 5% on groceries”. Now 5% is a unicorn, let alone it being unlimited. This 2.5% card was Alliant’s attempt to buck the already well-established trend, and making it unlimited was apparently them bucking a little too much. Be glad they’re continuing to try to be a leader, rather than just falling back in line with the slew of other 2% cards.


I have the CITI Double Cash cc. 2% cash back & no yearly charge for the card.
I love the cash check every couple months $500± (usually). Like all of you, I charge everything (farm equipment etc).

I must admit that Alliant Visa Signature card turned me down a couple years ago. :rage: Even though I have been with Alliant CU for 15+ years.

If all you put on the card is organic spend, the Alliant card isn’t better than a Citi Double Cash for most people. If you aren’t a MSer, the Alliant change shouldn’t affect you. I don’t think it really signals anything beside Alliant deciding this was the way they would go about limiting MSers.

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Well that just isnt true. As noted, all it takes is $20k spending over the full year to beat a 2% card, less than $2,000/month. From the day it was introduced, this Alliant card was marketed to “those spending at least $5,000 per month”.

You’re right in that the $10k monthly cap is likely not affecting many organic spenders (as someone mentioned, it’s mostly the one-time, big ticket anomalies like buying a car that’d be affected), but the extra half-percent is still plenty worthwhile for plenty of people.


If you’re putting $2k per month on the Alliant 2.5% card, you’re getting $20 more per year than if you put it on a Citi Double Cash card. If you have Chase Freedom and Discover It (and you should), if you are most people, there should be months where you don’t put $2k on your 2% card.

I stand by my statement that most people that only put organic spend on their Citi Double Cash wouldn’t benefit from this card.

If you travel, a much better option is a Citi Double Cash / Citi Premier combo. It’s still the same annual fee, you can redeem your Double Cash as points and then use the points on travel for a 25% bonus, which makes them equal to the 2.5% on the Alliant card, and you get other travel benefits like airline transfer partners. Plus there are sign up bonuses for those cards. And the Premier earns 3x on travel including gas.

If you never travel and spend a lot more than $2,000 a month on things outside of the normal consumer categories that show up on the Chase Freedom & Discover It calendars, the Alliant card is probably a good product. But I wouldn’t say most non MSers fall into that category.


My side hustle activity happens to be in an interval of hiatus. Reason: no money.

But when I resume the fun in the spring, my absolute best rewards will come from dearly beloved Bank of America, bless their generous hearts. It’s what they used to call, back in the day, their “1-2-3” card. Course today you are permitted to assign the “3” category as you please. Online purchases is what pleases me.:wink:

OK, sure, you’re screaming there is a $2500/quarter limit. Unlike you, I’m not too proud to collect 3% of $2500, or $300 tax free each year. And the skinflints at Alliant can go fish. My buddies at B of A do not insult me with an annual fee. :grinning:

I’m pretty sure “most people” don’t charge $20K/yr on credit cards. Here’s some averages, medians are probably lower, and Amex (whose average is closest to $20K/yr from that chart) is just ~21% of the market.

At Allaint, or CCs in general? If the latter, it is certainly not the start of a trend. See Discover (which now seems to have no benefits) and Amex Blue which keeps chipping away at what benefits it has left.

I’d argue to exclude some other broad high earning categories available from other no fee cards as well. Chase Ink - internet, cable, cell phone - 7.5% (with a different chase AF card held) or 5% on its own. BOA - 3% “online purchases”. It’s really hard to come up with $2k of spend not in those.

And if you include fee cards, saphhire reserve makes the broad travel category and broad dining category 4.5%. But the CSR is a tougher sale on annual fee now that it’s a net cost of $250 (vs prior $150).

All i can think of for myself that’s not covered already much higher than 2.5% is maybe grocery stores, warehouse club stores (but that’s 2% on the same BOA card that provides 3% online), and tax payments. But tax payments are really just a convenient manufactured spend that I only do to satisfy welcome bonuses.

Great points. When not doing a bonus, my go to cards are 5% rotating categories, 3% chase ink, 3% online shopping BoA, and then 2% double cash - all $0 fee cards. My family puts 100% of all our spending on credit cards and with those in our wallet, I’ll only hit $2k in organic spend on the Citi Double Cash a few months out of the year. The $100 AF for Alliant really kills it for us commoners.

I’m also pretty sure that those averages include plenty of cardholders who dont even earn $20k/year, live primarily in cash, and only have “primary” credit card for the sake of having it (or their cards are maxed out, so they cant spend much using credit). And, plenty of people have no inclination to constantly shuffle a full deck of credit cards, just so they can squeeze out a few extra cents of reward for any given purchase.

My only point is, there are far too many variables and circumstances to make any sort of blanket statement about this card being or not being worth it for “most” people.

This is exactly the way to do it. Identify the bonus categories that most closely align with your spending habits, and find the card that offers the best deal on those categories.

I’d also suggest pairing these cards with a high-AF “benefits” card like AMEX Plat or CSR. In our case, we hopped on the Hilton Aspire train and that card has more than paid for its annual fee through free night certificates, resort credits, airline fee credits, Priority Pass, free trip interruption coverage, etc.

The Priceline Visa is the closest thing to a one-stop holy grail for spend, at 3%+ back when used correctly. It is my go-to card for most of my spending but new applicants won’t get that same set of sweet rewards.

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Fair enough. I’ll be a little more specific then. I just did a quick and dirty estimate of all my household’s credit card spending via my Mint account for 2019. Keep in mind, we go further out of our way to put everything on a credit card than most people (I mean I’m talking about credit card rewards on FD, so its likely we’re in the top 5% of credit card users for our income level that pay in full each month). My family spent around $37,000 on our credit cards in a year as a middle class family of 3 that became 4. If you have several of the best no fee cards in your wallet (Chase Freedom, Discover It, BoA Cash Rewards, Amex Blue Cash Everyday, Chase Ink), you would likely have to put over $40,000 worth of annual organic spend on your stable of cards before you would see ANY benefit from the Alliant 2.5% card vs. the Citi Double Cash. And if you travel AT ALL, there is no benefit in having the Alliant card vs. a Citi Premier.

Have you done the math? Do you have an Alliant card and don’t want to for fear that I’m right? Or is your income (and therefore spending) high enough that you can’t imagine what it’s like to only put $40k on your credit cards each year like us plebs do?

Absolutely. If you travel regularly, there are so many credit card point earning and spending options it’s hard to keep track. Travel pretty much kills the Alliant card since is has no benefits there and so many travel cards with the same AF. My family doesn’t travel with two small kids, so we have no AF cards unless I’m doing a bonus. But before kids when we traveled, we had one or two. I’d say we missed out on the peak of travel cards which I peg as the year that the Chase Sapphire Reserve came out and offered a 100k UR bonus. That was right after we stopped travelling. Our lack of travel actually makes the Alliant card more attractive and the math STILL doesn’t work in it’s favor with a middle class level of credit card spend.

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