The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card puts several unique twists on the concept of cash-back cards with rotating bonus categories.
It earns 5% back in two bonus categories on up to $2,000 in combined purchases per quarter, and you get to choose those two categories from a list of several. Moreover, you'll earn an unlimited 2% back in one everyday purchase category, which you also choose from a list. All other purchases earn 1% back.
That may sound either exhilarating or exhausting, depending on your personality. But for optimizers who don't mind a little legwork, the $0-annual-fee U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card can be a lucrative option. Here's how to make the most of it.
Choose bonus categories that suit your spending
Other cards offer 5% back in categories that change each quarter. But unlike the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card:
Their quarterly spending caps are lower.
There's no additional 2% category.
There's sometimes only one 5% bonus category per quarter.
You don't get to choose the bonus categories yourself.
That last point is key. With this card, you get to pick the spending categories where you'll earn the highest rates, from a list of around a dozen. In the second quarter of 2019, some of those categories included:
Cell phone providers.
TV, internet and streaming services.
Similarly, the 2% "everyday category" gives you a choice among things like gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants. And that category doesn't have a spending cap.
Nerdy tip: Take some time to familiarize yourself with this card's lists of bonus categories, because it's not always as simple as it sounds. "Fast food," for instance, may be a 5% category, whereas "restaurants" are a 2% category.
Review your budget and choose the categories that best align with your expenses to maximize cash back. That may mean repeating the same bonus categories each quarter if they are still offered. And to make your rewards count, pay your bill in full to prevent interest charges from eating into your rewards pot.
Set activation reminders
As with most other rotating-bonus-category cards, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card requires that you "activate" or "opt in" to new bonus categories every quarter to earn the 5% bonus. You may want to set up free activation reminders (via text or email) with U.S. Bank.
“You can set up free activation reminders (via text or email) with U.S. Bank.”
You can activate categories 45 days before the next quarter starts, and you have until the last five days of the quarter to make your selections. But don't wait until the last minute. You won't start earning 5% back until three business days after activation, and unlike the competing Chase Freedom® product, this card won't let you earn retroactive rewards for the quarter.
For maximum flexibility, open a U.S. Bank deposit account
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card allows you to redeem rewards for statement credit, as do most other cash-back cards. But if you want literal "cash" back in the form of a direct deposit, you'll need a U.S. Bank checking, savings or money market account.
Actual cash back is more flexible than statement credit. Make sure you can meet the minimum bank account requirements to avoid maintenance fees, or else it may not be worth the cost.
“If you want literal "cash" back in the form of a direct deposit, you'll need a U.S. Bank checking, savings or money market account.”
You can also redeem rewards for U.S. Bank Visa rewards cards, but unlike with statement credit and direct deposit, there's a minimum required redemption of $20.
Pair it with another credit card
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers a lot, but that doesn't mean it's the best payment option for all purchases. If you travel frequently or tend to spend a lot in areas that don't always line up with the card's lists of bonus categories, you can pair the card with another to maximize value.
Use a flat-rate credit card for non-bonus categories: Instead of earning the low 1% back on all non-bonus-category purchases, you could put those purchases on a flat-rate card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. It earns 2% back on everything: 1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay it off. The annual fee is $0.
Use a travel credit card for purchases abroad: The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card charges a foreign transaction fee of up to 3% on purchases, so if you travel internationally, you'll need a backup payment method to avoid that fee. Foreign transaction fees are common among cash-back cards, but you can find some that don't charge them, like the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card.
Or you could opt for a travel card; the best ones charge no foreign transaction fees.
Plan your sign-up bonus
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers new cardholders a $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
That's decent for a $0-annual-fee card, but make sure you'll be able to meet the spending requirement through your day-to-day budget. That is, don't overspend just to get a sign-up bonus.
“You may want to plan your application around a high-expense month or a special occasion such as a birthday, holiday, wedding or a big move.”
You may want to plan your application around a high-expense month or a special occasion such as a birthday, holiday, wedding or a big move.
Use your Visa Signature Benefits
Your U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card packs Visa Signature benefits that can offer additional value on top of rewards. As part of this program, you’ll get retail and travel protections such as extended warranty protection and auto rental collision insurance, discounts, digital tools and more. A few noteworthy discounts include:
Visa Offers and Perks: If you can combine discounts with rewards, these benefits can add up to significant savings on dining, travel, shopping and entertainment.
VIP perks through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Booking a hotel through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website gets you premium perks such as a $25 food and beverage credit, a room upgrade upon arrival and more.