UPDATE 1/12/2016: The American Express for Target card has been discontinued
I recently posted “The 5X everywhere backup plan” where I showed how people unable to buy Vanilla Reload cards could still earn 5 points per dollar everywhere by making use of the American Express for Target card. I consider it the backup plan to the “One card to rule them all” trick. I also plan to follow-up with one or more additional posts showing how best to leverage this card.
In this post, I’ll tell you how to go about getting one of the Target Amex cards.
Unlike the regular American Express Prepaid cards and the new Bluebird card, the Target Amex cards cannot be ordered online. Instead, you need to first buy a temporary card at a participating Target and then wait for a permanent card to (hopefully) arrive. I found the whole process surprisingly difficult. To save you some headache, I’ve laid out below everything you need to know:
Find a participating Target
In order to get the American Express for Target card, you need to go in person to a Target store that carries them. You can find those stores here.
Find the temporary card in the store
Finding the card isn’t easy. In my case, I had to ask four or five employees before I found someone who knew what I was talking about. Most employees pointed me towards regular Amex gift cards. In the end, I found the card I wanted by one (and only one) of the many checkout lanes. Here is what to look for:
My advice is to look at all of the displays near and above the checkout lanes until you find a card that looks like the one pictured above. Make sure it says “reloadable prepaid card.” Otherwise you may be buying a simple, uninteresting gift card.
Buy the card
Now that you’ve found the card, it should be easy to buy it right? I wish! The surprising thing here is that when you buy this card, the cashier will be prompted to ask you all kinds of questions that you probably don’t really want to answer while a line of angry customers forms behind you. They’ll ask for your full name and address. They’ll ask you to input your SSN on the keypad. I can’t remember all of the questions I had to answer, but I’m pretty sure they asked me to describe my life’s most embarrassing moment (“easy – this one!”). Finally, after sharing all of your personal information with the cashier and the angry mob behind you, you can pay for the initial card load with any credit card. There is a $3 fee for each load.
NOTE: In case you’re worried that a credit card load will be treated as a cash advance: I have tested loads and reloads with Chase, Amex, and Citi credit cards. All transactions were credited as regular Target purchases, not as cash advances (that’s a good thing).
Wait and hope
The card you just bought at Target is a temporary card that cannot be reloaded. You can use it for regular credit purchases, but not for ATM withdrawals. If all goes well, you will receive your permanent card in the mail in a few weeks. If not, you’ll receive a letter or email stating that they were unable to verify your identity. That’s what happened to me. So, I called and they resubmitted my application. A few weeks later I received another letter stating that they were unable to confirm my identity (Really? You know I carry a gazillion Amex cards, right?). Ultimately I had to buy another temporary card in order to try again. The second attempt succeeded. I have no idea why the first attempt failed, but I’ve heard from others who have had similar experiences so don’t be surprised if it happens to you too!
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months. Some exceptions that are NOT subject to the 5/24 rule include: British Airways, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott Business, and Ritz Carlton.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status.
|Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most (but not all) Chase cards are subject to the 5/24 rule. That means the rule is enforced in making approval decisions. In other words, you probably won't get approved if your credit report shows that you opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, most business cards (such as those from Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, BOA, Citi, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) are not reported on your personal credit report. These cards do not count towards 5/24.
Chase IHG Card is not subject to 5/24 so it's easy to get. But after approval it will count towards your 5/24 total.
Chase Ink Business Preferred is subject to 5/24, so you likely won't get approved if over 5/24. If you do get approved, it won't count towards 5/24 since it won't appear as an account on your credit report.
|Amex 5 credit card limit: If you apply for a new Amex credit card, you may get turned down if you already have 5 or more Amex credit cards. Both personal and business cards are counted towards this limit. Charge cards, though, are not counted. You can apparently get as many charge cards as you’d like, and the number of charge cards you have does not affect your ability to get up to 5 credit cards. Authorized user cards are also not counted towards the 5 credit card limit. See also: Which Amex Cards are Charge Cards vs. Credit Cards?|
|Applying for Business Credit Cards
Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards points are super valuable and super flexible. At the most basic level, points can be redeemed for cash or merchandise, but you'll only get one cent per point value that way. A better option is to use points for travel. When points are used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, points are worth 1.25 cents each with premium cards (Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, for example) or 1.5 cents each with the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card. Another great option is to transfer points from a premium or ultra-premium card to an airline or hotel program when high value awards are available (see this post for details). If your points are tied to a no-fee "cash back" Ultimate Rewards card, then first move those points to a premium or ultra-premium card before redeeming them in order to get better value.|
|Amex Membership Rewards points can be incredibly valuable if you know how to use them. In general, if you use Membership Rewards points to pay for merchandise or travel, you won't get good value from your points. One exception is with the Business Platinum card where you'll get a 35% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.5 cents per point value, which is pretty good. If you don't have the Business Platinum card, then your best bet is to transfer points to airline miles in order to book high value awards. More details can be found here: Amex Transfer Partners.|
|Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by the same guy who showed you how to fly round trip to Africa (DC to Senegal) for 50,000 points. You can find John’s website and award booking service here: theflyingmustache.com/awardbooking.
-Greg The Frequent Miler