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Note: As of October 13, 2015, the Target REDcard (REDbird) can only be loaded with cash in-store at Target. Gift cards and/or debit cards no longer work to load REDcard. For more info, see: Here is the REDbird memo, “Cash is the only tender guests can use”
Ever since REDbird appeared and proved to be better than expected, I’ve been asked the same question many times: What is the best credit card to use to load REDbird? Here’s the answer…
Many cards are good choices for REDbird. Let’s look at some of the best options:
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
Under the right circumstances, this card earns up to 2.625% on all purchases when points are redeemed for travel. Please find details here.
Amex Delta Reserve
Best for those seeking Delta elite status: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and get 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs). Spend $60,000 in a calendar year and get another 15,000 bonus miles and MQMs.
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest
Earn SPG Gold status with $30K annual spend. Points can be transferred to airline miles at a rate of 1 to 1.25 when transferred 20,000 points at a time.
Amex Hilton Honors Surpass
Earn Diamond status with $40K annual spend.
BarclayCard Arrival Plus
Earn 2 points per dollar for all spend. Points are worth 1.1 cents each thanks to the card’s 10% rebate on travel rewards. Total earnings: 2.2% towards travel rewards.
BarclayCard AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card
This will be an upgrade option offered to US Airways cardholders once US Airways and American Airlines loyalty programs merge. Earn 5,000 EQMs (elite qualifying miles) with $20,000 spend and another 5,000 EQMs with $40,000 spend.
Chase Ink cards offer 5 points per dollar at office supply stores. On occasions where office supply stores offer discounts or rebates on bank gift cards (Visa, MasterCard, or Amex), it’s possible to essentially buy money at a discount and then liquidate through REDbird. Without those discounts or rebates, though, the best you can usually do is buy $200 gift cards with $6.95 fees. 5X earnings is more than enough to compensate for that 3.5% fee, but it might not be worth the trouble of unloading through REDbird $200 at a time.
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards card
Southwest points are worth around 1.6 cents each when used for Wanna Getaway fares. Even better, points earned from credit card spend count towards the Southwest Companion Pass (which requires 110,000 points earned in a calendar year). Normally I wouldn’t recommend this card for loading REDbird since you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar; but if you need to earn extra points towards the Companion Pass it can be well worth it.
Chase British Airways Visa Signature card
This card offers a healthy 1.25 points per dollar for all spend. Plus, when you spend $30,000 in one year you’ll earn a “Travel Together” ticket that can be used to book two award flights for the price of one. The companion must pay taxes and fees though. Note that this works only on British Airways own flights and that British Airways charges exorbitant fuel surcharges, so this Travel Together ticket is only a good deal under very specific circumstances.
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer
Spend $25,000 on this card and you’ll earn a 10,000 miles bonus plus you’ll earn a PQD waiver. This means that you can earn United elite status (up to Premier Platinum) through flying without also having to meet United’s spend requirements.
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card
This card earns 1.5 miles per dollar for all spend. Plus, if you spend $25,000 on this card within a year, you’ll earn a PQD waiver so that you can earn United elite status (up to Premier Platinum) through flying without also having to meet United’s spend requirements.
Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards
This card offers a 10% annual points premium, so it earns 1.1 points per dollar. Spend $75,000 in a year and you’ll earn Platinum status with Marriott / Ritz which can also be used to get United Silver status thanks to the United / Marriott partnership.
Chase Fairmont Visa Signature
Earn a free night every year with $12K spend.
Chase Hyatt Visa Signature
Best for those seeking Hyatt Diamond status: Receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in each calendar year. Receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 in each calendar year.
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite
Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles with $40,000 spend.
Earn 5X at bookstores. If you can find a bookstore that sells Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards at a reasonable rate then those can be used to reload REDbird. Unfortunately this card is no longer available to new applicants.
Citi Hilton Honors Reserve
Earn a free weekend night with $10K spend. Earn Diamond status with $40K spend.
Diners Club Card Elite
The Diners Club card offers 3 points per dollars at grocery stores and it so happens that many Target stores are coded as grocery stores. So, this card offers a means to earn 3 points per dollar fee-free when reloading REDbird. Points earned with this card are transferable to many airline partners. On the other hand… Diners Club has frozen many people’s accounts and is no longer accepting new applications.
EBates Cash Back Visa
This card earns 3% cash back for all purchases made through the EBates portal. The trick then is to go through the portal to buy American Express gift cards. You’ll earn 1% cash back from the portal and 3% cash back from the credit card for a total of 4% cash back! Use the Amex gift cards, then, to reload REDbird. See also: How to earn 4% cash back on all spend.
US Bank Club Carlson Premier (or Business)
Earn 5X for all spend (10X at Club Carlson properties). For those who stay often at Club Carlson properties, 5X for reloading REDbird can be a great deal. Unfortunately, US Bank can be very difficult with respect to reloading REDbird. See also: Club Carlson rocks our world… Again.
US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa or Amex
Earn 2 points per dollar for gas, grocery, or airline purchases – whichever you spend most on each month. If used to reload REDbird at a Target that is coded as a grocery store, this is a great way to earn 2 points per dollar. Plus, points can be worth up to 2 cents each towards airfare (see “Maximizing value from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Card”). Unfortunately, US Bank can be very difficult with respect to reloading REDbird.
Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card
Earn 5 points per dollar for the first 6 months of card membership at gas, grocery and drug stores. The trick, then, is to buy $500 Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards at drug stores or grocery stores and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird. Since many Target stores are coded as grocery stores, you should earn 5X reloading REDbird at those stores. Points are worth at least 1.5 cents each towards airfare.
And the winner is…
The best card to use to reload REDbird is any card for which you are working on meeting the minimum spend requirements in order to get a big signup bonus.
What if you’re not working on meeting minimum spend requirements? Then it depends on your goals:
For airline elite status…
Delta flyers should consider the Delta Reserve card (or the similar Delta Platinum card). American Airlines flyers should consider the BarclayCard AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card and/or the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite card. United flyers should consider one of the Chase United cobranded cards or the Ritz Carlton card (since $75K spend results in Marriott Platinum status which then conveys United Silver status).
For hotel stays…
The Club Carlson card offers tremendous value for those who stay often at Club Carlson hotels. For luxury stays consider the Chase Fairmont card or the Citi Hilton Reserve. Note though that cash back is often the best approach for saving on hotel stays (i.e. earn cash back and then use that cash to pay for hotel stays). See “To earn cash back” below. See also:
For hotel elite status…
Use the Hyatt card to inch closer to Hyatt status. Use the SPG card to get to SPG Gold status (the card also automatically gives you 2 nights and 5 days credit towards status). For Hilton status go with either the Amex Hilton Surpass or the Citi Hilton Reserve. For Marriott status go with the Ritz Carlton card.
To save on paid flights…
The Wells Fargo Visa Signature card offers incredible earnings for 6 months. Or, if you have the Citi Forward card and a local bookstore that sells gift cards you can do almost as well (this is also a fantastic option for earning airline miles). Next best is probably the US Bank FlexPerks cards if you don’t mind dealing with their overzealous fraud prevention department.
To earn airline miles for award flights…
If you can get (or already have) the Diners Club card and don’t mind the risk of having your account frozen, it offers excellent value at 3 points per dollar earnings. If the Diners Club card isn’t an option, you may do well to simply earn 4% or better cash back and then use that cash to buy miles when they are on sale for 2 cents or less each (that way you average 2X miles or better). Next best is to pick a card that averages 1.5 miles per dollar: United Club Card, Delta Reserve (when you spend exactly $30K or $60K per year), Amex EveryDay Preferred (when you make 30 or more transactions each billing period); or 1.25 miles per dollar: SPG. With these cards you can increase overall earnings by going through a cash back portal to buy Amex gift cards and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird.
To earn cash back…
Assuming it works as expected, one of the best options is the eBates / Amex gift card combination which should result in 4% cash back. Other very good options include cards that offer 5% cash back at grocery or drug stores (not shown above, but found here): use those cards to reload REDbird at a store coded as a grocery store, or buy Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards for 5% back and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird.
Read more about REDbird: