US Bank Cash+ Credit Card: The Best 5% Card?
The U.S. Bank Cash+ card looks great, it really does. It’s one of the best 5% back credit cards out there right now, and its ongoing rewards unparalleled. If you’re looking for flexibility in your bonus categories and high rates, you can’t do much better. There are, however, a few cases where other cards might win out. But for all that, the Cash+ is a welcome addition to the rotating bonus category family, and might just be the favorite son.
5% as a starting point
The US Bank Cash+ offers an unlimited 5% cash back on bonus categories that change every quarter, a hard number to beat in the credit card world. You can choose two 5% categories from a rotating list that shifts quarterly, and purportedly include broad categories like airfare, bill payments and restaurants (you have to sign up to see the full list.) You’ll also get 2% rewards on gas, groceries or drugstores – you pick ‘em. Best of all, the rewards are unlimited – you aren’t subject to the quarterly or annual caps that restrict the Chase Freedom, Discover it and Citi Dividend Platinum Select.
The U.S. Bank card seems to have this 5% bonus thing figured out. But it gets better: If you save up $100 worth of rewards, US Bank will throw in an extra $25. This means that if you wait to redeem until you’ve spent $2,000 in the bonus categories (or $10,000 in non-bonus categories) you’ll see your rewards rate jump to 6.25%/2.5%/1.25%. Not too shabby! Of course, you do have to rack up those rewards, but if you do, you’ll find it well worth your while. Plus, there’s no annual fee, so you needn’t worry about bleeding charges if you don’t use it as much as you’d planned.
Cash+ vs. Chase Freedom: 5 on 5
The Cash+ actually stacks up quite well against the reigning 5% cash back champ, the Chase Freedom. The Freedom gives 5% back on rotating bonus categories, but those categories are preset, and capped at $1,500 in purchases a quarter. It doesn’t have a 2% bonus, but it does offer an additional 0.1% +$0.10 back on every purchase if you have a Chase checking account. This can really raise your rewards rate on small purchases, though it’s less of a benefit on larger ones. Its key feature, though, is its signup bonus of $100.
The Freedom’s bonus categories for 2013 are:
- Q1 (January – March): Gas, drugstores and Starbucks
- Q2 (April – June): Restaurants and movie theaters
- Q3 (July – September): Gas, theme parks and Kohl’s
- Q4 (October – December): Amazon.com and “select department stores”
The Cash+ is not without its drawbacks. First, there’s no signup bonus – contrast that with the Freedom’s $100. Second, its 0% introductory APR offer of 6 months on balance transfers doesn’t quite compare. The Freedom gives you 15 months of no interest on purchases as well as transfers. Third, it doesn’t have a bonus rewards mall.
That one deserves some explaining. Chase, Bank of America and other card issuers have online bonus malls where, if you click through from their site to another merchant’s, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 30% back on your purchases. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, for example, gives 15% back on Restaurant.com, 6% on Backcountry.com and The North Face, and many, many more. If you’re a prolific online shopper, having access to an online bonus mall can prove quite lucrative.
Moral of the story? Get the US Bank Cash+ if:
- You think the Freedom’s bonus categories aren’t that great for you
- You think you’ll spend more than $1,500 a quarter in bonus categories
- You plan to hold the card for more than 2 years
Get the Freedom if:
- The bonus categories dovetail with your spending
- You’d get some good mileage out of having access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall and its discounts
- You plan to hold the card for 2 years or fewer
It comes down to signup bonus vs. ongoing rewards: the Chase Freedom delivers a lot of value very quickly, while the Cash+ has less short-term value but more staying power.
|Chase Freedom® Visa||U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card|
|Earn $100 Bonus Cash Back after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.||None|
|Intro APR Promo|
|0% APR for 15 months on purchases & balance transfers|