Adieu to the 2% Charles Schwab Credit Card
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Updated September 6th and 29th: The replacements for the Charles Schwab credit card aren’t great. A completely unscientific poll of the NerdWallet staff shows that none of us will be going with the Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards and since there’s, like, a ton of better cards out there, we won’t actually use the regular BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card for anything other than unlocking stubborn doors.
Lucky cardholders of the Charles Schwab credit card will receive some unhappy news in the mail this week. The fantastic 2% credit card (which I love, and consider to be one of the top cards in the business) will be discontinued, and the replacement Bank of America credit cards simply doesn’t compare. The Schwab Bank Invest First has been my one and only credit card, and it pains me to lay it to rest. While the replacements haven’t impressed me, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Freedom® retain some of the Schwab card’s better qualities.
For Schwab Cardholders
While the letter reveals little more than the fact that the FIA card is being replaced with a BofA-branded card, we were able to get a bit more information out of a customer service rep. In an email brief, reps were told that starting later this month, cardholders will have a choice between two credit cards: the Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card.
Details are still up in the air on both of these cards, and could change again before cardholders are informed, but full details are to come in a letter that will be sent out on September 23rd. Below we’ll go through the little we were able to determine, some of which is admittedly hearsay.
And while these presumed rewards programs certainly aren’t terrible, they don’t exactly fare well against either the hallowed memory of the Schwab card or our best rewards credit cards.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card:
This card has a 0% on purchases for 12 billing cycles and 0% on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles for qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 22.99% Variable on purchases & balance transfers. Its annual fee:$0 Its rewards program is as follows:
- 3% on groceries and 2% on gas (or vice versa, our rep’s memory was hazy), up to a combined spending of $1,500 a quarter (update: it’s 3% on gas and 2% on groceries, up to $1,500 spent a quarter. Thanks a lot, BofA.)
- Unlimited 1% elsewhere
- Online-exclusive $100 cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
- 10% bonus on rewards if you have them deposited into a BofA checking account [Update September 30th: see below for checking-account-based tirade]
- No word on the foreign transaction fee, but I’m not optimistic
So it’s not a terrible rewards program. But it’s a pretty big step down from 2% on all purchases. Bonus rewards on gas and groceries? Compared to no-fee rewards cards like the Chase Freedom® and Citi Forward® Card (both of which give 5% back in bonus categories), the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card is the runt of the litter, still working out the intricacies of depth perception while its brothers and sisters are off hunting geese and saving trapped children. Our verdict? Not worth it.
Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards:
Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards gives 1% back on all purchases and 3% back in rotating bonus categories. Plus, you get 50% more cash back if you deposit your rewards into a BofA checking account [updates below, in bold], Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch account. Now, if you have a Merrill Lynch account, lovely, but BofA doesn’t offer straight-up free checking. You have to meet certain qualifications in order to avoid the monthly fee: minimum balance requirements, direct deposits or steering clear of brick-and-mortar locations, depending on the checking account. It’s a bit of an inconvenience, especially if you don’t already bank with BofA. Plus these are WorldPoints that we’re talking about, which are pretty pathetic as far as points programs go.
In addition to a pared-down rewards program, the Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards has way more fees than the departing Schwab Bank Invest First. It’s annual fee is waived the first year and $75 every year thereafter, and in subsequent years if you have a combined $50,000 or more in your BofA and Merrill Lynch accounts, which I most certainly do not. Plus, the Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, where the Schwab Bank Invest First charged a grand total of 0% on overseas transactions. I loved the Schwab Visa because it gave a simple, flat 2% back and didn’t have an annual fee. I’m not in love with this new guy.
The customer service rep we spoke to said that this card is geared towards travelers, but couldn’t elaborate on why. We’ll let you know when we find out.
Substitutes for the Schwab Bank Invest First
I’m not sold on theBank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards, and I’m really not sold on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. Thankfully, my hunt for credit cards that can hold their own against the Schwab Bank Invest First was pretty successful. Depending on your favorite features of the Schwab card, you can find some pretty good alternatives.
No foreign transaction fee: See our blog post for a list of credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.
No annual fee, part 1: We mentioned that the Chase Freedom® is comparable to (in fact, superior to) the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. Here’s why. It comes with a signup bonus: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. It also gives 5% back on bonus categories that rotate quarterly, and can include department stores, movies and groceries. This quarter’s categories are gas, hotels and airlines. The Chase Freedom®’s rewards program beats out the Americard’s for a couple of reasons:
- You probably spend more on the Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories cumulatively than you do on gas and groceries, so you’re getting 5% on more spending.
- Essentially, the Chase Freedom® gives 2% back on all its bonus categories, throughout the entire year. This is because you earn 1% for 3 quarters and 5% for 1, averaging out to 2%. You’re earning 2% back on gas, groceries, hotels, airfare, clothing…the list goes on. Much better than getting bonuses on just gas and groceries.
Okay, okay, technically the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card gives 1.1%, 2.2% and 3.3% if you deposit your rewards into a BofA checking account. But the difference is pretty negligible. In any case, the Chase Freedom®’s rewards program is much broader and much better.
No annual fee, part 2: One of my favorite aspects of the Schwab Visa was that it has no annual fee. Now, while the FIA card’s cousin, the Fidelity American Express, gives a flat 2% back and also has no annual fee, it suffers in a few different ways.
- It’s an American Express, so it doesn’t have the same acceptance as Visa and MasterCard, especially in Europe.
- It charges a foreign transaction fee of 1%.
- It has no signup bonus.
- It deposits your rewards into a Fidelity account (investment, retirement or 529), so they aren’t as easy to redeem as cash dumped into a checking account.
The Fidelity American Express is a decent card for those who a) want a 2% card, b) don’t want to pay annual fees, c) don’t travel all that often and d) have Fidelity accounts. But if you don’t meet all of those criteria, a more flexible card might be in order. The Chase Freedom® also has an annual fee of $0, but it’s a cash back credit card, so its rewards are far easier to use. Plus, it has a signup bonus: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Compare that to the Fidelity American Express’s signup bonus: None.
While the Schwab 2% Visa’s demise is a loss for cardholders everywhere, thankfully, there are other credit cards to fill the void left in our hearts. Goodbye, Schwab Bank Invest First. You will be missed.