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NerdWallet’s Introduction to the Affordable Care Act

Part 1. Don’t fear death panels – fear the adverse selection death spiral

Part 2. How to win friends (and arguments) by understanding expanded coverage


NerdWallet’s Budget Series

Reynold Strossen is a strategy consultant and fiscal policy expert based in New York City.  He served on the staff of the President’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, commonly referred to as Bowles-Simpson, in Washington.  He was educated at the University of Chicago and Harvard.


  • Ashley

    Does the $250 per month in gas mean that you can earn up to $250 a month (meaning you would be charging $6,250) or that you get 4% of the first $250 charged for gas, earning up to $10 per month?

    • nerdwallet

      Hey Ashley, that's $250 in purchases each month. So yes that's equivalent to $10 in rewards each month. After that you earn the standard rewards rate (0.25% up to $10k, then 1% after that).

  • Mike

    Do the purchases you make in the 4%, 3% and 2% categories accumulate to make up that $10,000 minimum on the 1% or do you need to spend $10,000 in non 2-4% categories before earning 1%?

  • Cole

    Any idea how good they are about correctly categorizing food purchases? I've read a lot of cautionary tales on other cards (specifically Chase) incorrectly identifying transactions.

  • Mike

    With the 4% reward on gas, would you recommend using this PNC card as a sort of “gas only” card? (then using a different card for all other purchases)

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com NerdWallet

      Hey Mike, yeah I’d definitely recommend you use a card like this as a “gas only” card. That’s the best way to maximize bonus rewards.

      That said, there are other gas credit cards that pay up to 5% rewards on gas that may serve you better. Check them out here: http://www.nerdwallet.com/gas-credit-cards

  • John

    Thank you for this info that you guys provide! Silly question time… if I use this as just a “gas” card, will I pay finance charges if I pay the balance off every month? If “yes”, then is there a way to avoid paying the finance charges? Thank you very much!

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com NerdWallet

      You won’t incur any finance charges as long as you pay your balance on time every month.

  • Randy

    You’ve mentioned getting a better deal than the 4% from here, which I assume is the Blue Cash from American Express. However, the 5% level only kicks in after the first $6500. This 4% starts at dollor one. Does your recommendation take this averaging issue into account. Thanks.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com NerdWallet

      Hi Randy, we recommend both the Blue Cash and the Costco TrueEarnings, because they offer higher rewards on all other purchases, plus the bonuses on gas.

      As you mention, the 5% on gas with Blue Cash only kicks in after $6,500, and the 4% with PNC starts immediately. But the 4% is also limited to $250/mo, capping total available rewards. We can’t say for certain which of these would be better for you personally, but our gas credit card recommendations at http://www.nerdwallet.com/gas-credit-cards take all of these features and limitations into account.

  • Mike

    One important factor that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: points expire in 2 years.

    So if you don’t accumulate $100 worth of points in 24 months, you will not receive a $100 check (as the points you earned in the first months with expire, month by month), and there is no option to redeem for less than $100.

  • Peter

    Let me just say that this credit card, when used in combination with my Bank of America Accelerated Cash Rewards Card gives me the best cash back. Period. I do not want to carry around 15 credit cards, and I do not want the hassle of rotating rewards categories. I wanted simple, straight-forward cash back rewards. Carrying 2 cards is simple enough, and I can achieve great rewards. I use this card for gas, entertainment, and all food (4%, 3%, 2% cash back) ONLY, and everything else I use my BOA Amex (1.25% cash back on everything). Simple as that. I end up achieving well over 2% cash back averaged out. Since I spend less than $2500 a month, this worked out best for me (if I spent more than 2500, I would probably just use the Blue Cash Amex card). Those are my 2 cents!

  • Lonso

    I buy a lot of electronic parts from overseas. Which card charges the least for foreign transactions? These 2% and 3% fees are beginning to hurt.

  • Andrew

    You state “Cash Rebate is limited to $125 per year” yet when I check the terms & conditions (as of Apr 15 2011) on the card’s website, there is no mention of such a cap.

    They also have a simplistic version of your cash back calculator, and no such $125 cap appears to be applied.

    Can you explain where the $125/year limit information came from? The card looks great w/o the limit, and horrible with it, so it makes a huge difference!

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Thanks for the note Andrew, that’s clearly a mistake on our part. You can see from our review that a $125 limit wouldn’t make much sense.

      A user spending $4,000 each month and earning 1.75% would hit that cap before the end of February!

      Working on getting that fixed now…

  • Guest

    This is not available to people who live outside the PNC “footprint”, i.e., which is not nationwide.

  • Dcamp2006

    The criteria listed for the checking accounts here is wrong, what is listed is the old information. Now the balance requirements are lower and there are actually other ways to have the performance accounts as well.

  • mcdoogles

    With AMEX Blue Cash slashing my everything else rate to 1% as of FEB 2012, I’m shopping for another card and this PNC Visa looks pretty good – I’d be in the 1.75% bracket every month. I’m between this PNC Visa and the Fidelity Rewards AMEX which pays 2% on everything with no monthly minimums, but requires a deposit into a fidelity investments account. Any advice on choosing between the two?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      A 0.25% difference isn’t going to make or break you, but if you can get more, go for it. Plus, the Fidelity helps you to save a little bit more. That said, I’m generally a fan of Visa over American Express, in terms of acceptance, so if you end up with the Fidelity, be sure to have a Visa or MasterCard on hand in case the merchant doesn’t take Amex.

  • logiclife

    how does this PNC cashbuilder compare to a discover card? I have a discover card and Iam wondering about swotching completely to this card since I already have a performance select checking account. thanks

  • logiclife

    how does this card compare with discover cash back? I already have a pnc performance select checking acct and I will qualify for 1.75 % cash back on all the charges. So in this case do you think this card is better? Does this PNC card offer 5 % cash back on groceries , etc?

  • Sam

    PNC Performance and Performance Select fees are also waived if you meet qualifying monthly direct deposit (i.e. employer deposits, etc.) amounts ($2000 for Performance, $5000 for performance select). I have this card along with PNC’s virtual wallet account (which can include performance or performance select), and it has been working well for me.

  • Bob Newman

    Your opening verdict is puzzling. You propose cards that do better, but they have significant downsides such as annual fees, award payouts only annually, or rewards in miles. Depending on your buying patterns, get another card for gas, groceries, and restaurants, but stick with PNC for everything else. I think that’s a winning play.

  • Ashley

    Can someone verify my assumption that one does not need to have a PNC bank account of any kind to open and earn rewards on this card?

  • nerdwallet

    No Mike, the PNC rewards program is a bit unusual in that way. Purchases are divided up by category first, and then rewards are calculated. The 0.25%/1% reward tier only applies to purchases that don't fall into any of the other three categories, so any purchases that earn you 4%, 3%, or 2% do not count toward the $10,000 minimum.

  • nerdwallet

    That is definitely the voodoo of rewards credit cards. Credit card companies claim that it is up to the merchants (restaurants, etc) to properly categorize their own sales on your credit card purchases, which makes it a bit of a black hole.

    In general I've found most credit card companies to be pretty fair, but you never know when something is going to slip through the cracks, and who has time to verify the rewards on every credit card purchase?

    If you notice any specific issues with one or more of your cards, we would definitely love to hear about it.

  • Bill

    You do not need a PNC Account to open a credit card but if you want to
    earn more rewards but not spend the amount to get it, you should open
    either a performance for 1.50% or performance select for 1.75% cash back
    on ALL of your purchases. Also if you open a PNC virtual wallet account
    and add a credit card it integrates with the calendar it and makes it
    easier for you to see when your payments are due, How much is due, when
    you made you last payment. You can even transfer money to your card the
    same day the bill is due and pay your card off. The Cashbuilder card is
    the best card out there when it comes to cash back. the only problem
    with it is that PNC has very strict guidelines when it comes to
    approving credit cards so your credit needs to be flawless or have the
    income to support them taking the risk!

  • Ashley

    Thank you for mentioning the CashBuilder card. It looks like it will be a better fit. In chatting with a PNC rep to ask about the differences between the Everyday Rewards and CashBuilder cards, the piece that stood out was the max cash back earning of $100 over a 3-month time period with the Everyday Rewards card.