Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Capital One Cash Credit Card

There are several top cash rebate credit cards which give 2% to 6% on category spending, but few give above 1% on other purchases. However there are a few that do, including Capital One’s recently launched Cash credit card. Depending on your spending patterns, it may or may not beat other reward cards. Let’s review what it does and doesn’t offer.

What the Capital One Cash offers?

The system is a bit different because you don’t get all of the rewards upfront. Here’s how it works:
  • 1% cash back is earned on spending. The rebate accumulates on the account and can be redeemed at anytime through the website or by calling customer support.
  • 0.5% cash back is given for all spending during the previous 1 year period. This half-percent bonus is awarded each year on the anniversary date that the account was opened.
So in a nutshell, you are getting 1% cash back now and another 1/2% at the end of the year. Combined, this means a total of 1.5% cash back on spending, without any ceiling on the amount that can be earned. Although this falls short of the 2% you can get with the Fidelity credit cards from American Express, the 1.5% for non-category spending is high for a Visa or MasterCard.

Redemption: The cash back can be redeemed for the usual statement credits, checks, gift cards, charity donations, etc. The statement credits typically show up 5-7 business days after being requested. For gift cards and checks, it can take up to 30 days to receive them in the mail. With the Capital One Cash card there is an option to arrange for automatic redemption – when the account’s accumulated cash back reaches a certain amount, it will automatically be redeemed.

What it doesn’t offer?

This card’s main selling point is the 1% + 0.5% cash back program. If you like your premium benefits like credit card purchase protection and other perks, then the Cash card from Capital One is probably not for you. That being said, when accounts are approved with credit lines of $5,000+ they will be World MasterCards which do carry some additional benefits (though not up to par with what even the free AmEx cards offer). For credit lines below $5,000 the account will be a Platinum MasterCard which will have fewer benefits.

How does it stack up against competition?

For basic cash rewards, the Capital One Cash credit card lives up to its name and offers a good value. If you don’t spend money on groceries, travel, gas, clothing stores, and other frequently featured reward categories, then the 1.5% is a good choice.
On the other hand, most consumers with average spending patterns will probably come out ahead with any number of other reward cards on the market. With the unlimited 3% to 6% cash back offered on categories, the Blue Cash Preferred by American Express offers rewards which may average out to be far above 1.5% for many people. The Freedom by Chase with its 5% on categories is no annual fee option that may offer enhanced earning opportunity. However if you want the most bang for your buck, then the Starwood credit card offers the best rewards with a value that can often exceed 2% depending on how you spend your points.

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