Cash+ Experiments in Progress

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

I recently signed up for the US Bank Cash+ credit card.  The card is free, and it is very likely the best cash back card there is (see “The best cash back card?“).  I know that a lot of my readers care only for points & miles, not cash back, but I believe that’s a sub-optimal view.  Even if you value miles above cash, you can often end up with many more miles by getting cash back and then using that cash to buy miles cheaply (see “Giving Cash its Dukedom“).

What makes the Cash+ card exciting is that each quarter you get to pick one 2% cash back category and (more interestingly) two 5% cash back categories from a set list.  Even better, through a couple of tricks, it should be possible to increase that cash back to over 9%!

Here is an image of the current 2% and 5% categories:

image_thumb8

Now that I have the Cash+ card, I’m excited to begin a series of experiments. Here is what I have going so far:

Verify that the cash back rate is 6.25% when redeeming rewards $100 at a time

This seems very clear from the online documentation, but I might as well double check this.  When you cash out your awards in $100 increments, US Bank promises to give you a $25 bonus.  That means that 5% cash back rewards are really 6.25%.  Sweet.

Verify that checking account bonuses stack with other bonuses for up to 9.375% cash back!

As a reader recently informed me, US Bank has two checking accounts that offer an automatic rewards bonus for Cash+ and FlexPerks cardholders.  The Gold account offers a 25% monthly bonus, and the Platinum account offers a 50% monthly bonus.  If these bonuses stack with the $25 bonus for each $100 withdrawn, then you can increase your 5% return to 7.8% or 9.375%, respectively!  Each account has fees that can be waived through various means.  See this page for details.

To see how this should work, consider a person with the Platinum checking account who spends $4000 in 5% cash back categories.  That person, will earn 5% cash back, which amounts to $200.  Then, at the end of the month, they should get a 50% bonus which would increase their total cash back to $300.  Then, if that person withdraws $100 at a time, he/she will get an extra $25 each time.  In total, this person should get $375 cash back.  $375 is 9.375% of $4000!

Check whether Kiva loans count as charity contributions

Many people have reported that Kiva loans are counted by US Bank as charity contributions with the FlexPerks card (see, for example, this Mommy Points post).  It will be very interesting to see if the same holds true with this card!

For more about Kiva, see “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans,” and “Minimum spend requirements? Kivalens to the rescue.”

See what counts as Department Store purchases


Target:
It’s very unlikely, but if Target counts as a department store, it would be awesome to get over 9% cash back for reloading the Target Amex card!  See “The 5X everywhere backup plan.” 

Sears: Sears is definitely listed as a department store.  I just need to verify that gift card purchases from Sears are counted as such.  If so, you can expect several posts about leveraging that opportunity!

Others?  Can you think of any other stores that might count as department stores and would be worth checking?  Ideal candidates are those that sell a variety of gift cards and/or those in which online portals tend to offer high payouts.

Reader Suggestions

There seems to be an endless number of ways to leverage this card.  Do you have ideas worth exploring?  Have you used this card?  If so, what have your experiences been so far?  More importantly, have you found a good way to figure out how your purchases are classified?  When I look at my transactions online, it doesn’t seem to indicate anything about this.  Do I need to wait for my statement?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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57 Comments on "Cash+ Experiments in Progress"

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nep301
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From looking at other forums, it seems like the checking account bonus only applies to the base 1% rewards and not the category bonuses.

FrequentMiler
Guest

nep301: You’re probably right about that (can you point me to some of those forums?), but it would mean that US Bank’s ad is very deceptive (no surprise there!). It says “50% monthly bonus on all rewards earned for net purchases (purchases minus credits and returns).” Nothing is said about base rewards. Regardless, getting between 6.25% and 6.75% would still be awesome.

Zz
Guest

What Category does Walmart fit into?
Do you have a checking account?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Zz: Good question. Walmart is worth checking too. Yes, I’m in the process of getting a checking account.

Milezjunkie: Let me know how that goes. I assume you’re suggesting that you would signup for Home Improvement as a 5% category?

Milezjunkie
Guest

The Lowes I shop at has a gift card mall. I will check and see if they sell $500 Visa gift cards. If so, they could be used to then buy VR at Walgreens or OD then load onto BB. It cuts the return down to 3.02% without factoring in a bonus for redeeming $100.

Marshall
Guest

FM:

Discovery card has great cash bonuses, too, esp if use the shopdiscovery portal. For ex: Sears – 10% thru 1/10/13; drugstore.com – 15%. Not all the time, but has 5% all the time.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Marshall: Yes, I’m also running Discover card experiments, but this post was focused on Cash+. Look for a separate post on Discover soon.

Gravy
Guest

Did you look at the bill pay option? Can I pay my mortgage with it? Seems like this could be a Bluebird alternative.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Gravy: What Bill Pay option are you referring to?

MileageUpdate
Guest

I hope this deal stays for awhile. Those types of percentages are better than all mileage offers out there.

RJ
Guest

I have the flexperks card from the Olympics promo(as I’m sure many of your readers do), Can you point us to where this offer is to get additional points by having a checking account.. thanks!

FrequentMiler
Guest

RJ: https://www.usbank.com/ICWeb/productComparison.html?productCode=PKG

Jessica/Gravy: I should never answer comments before my morning coffee kicks in! As Rob says, “bill pay” is really just a way of classifying credit card use with the following billers: phone, internet, cable/satellite TV, utilities and insurance.

Jessica
Guest

@FM: bill payments are one of the 5% cash back options on this card

Rob
Guest

Walmart is not a department store.
http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/usa/supplier/NewSearch.do

Bill pay is a 5% category on the Visa Cash+ but the 5% only works on billers that can charge the Card on Autopay such as Comcast, Verizon Wireless etc.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Rob: A huge thanks for pointing out that site! I can’t wait to explore it!

Rob
Guest

Target also doesn’t count see the link above.

Nick
Guest

Target has never come up as a department store on my Amex Blue Cash preferred. And if you check the Visa Supplier Locator (http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/usa/supplier/NewSearch.do), the MCC is “DISCOUNT STORES/WAREHOUSE/WHOLESALE -5310”. What’s interesting is that the grocery MCC (5411) is also listed for my neighborhood Target on the VSL. I knew that Wal-Mart sometimes has grocery MCCs and discount store MCCs in the same store (the super Wal-Marts have two different sets of registers, I think), but I didn’t know that Target was doing that, and honestly I’m not sure how it would work in my store since there’s only one set of registers.

AndrewC
Guest

The Bill Payment category is good for those who aren’t going the Chase Ink/BB route, but forums have found a lot of limitations. It only works for payments that can normally be paid by credit card (not mortgages), and it must fall into one of these specific categories: phone, internet, cable/satellite TV, utilities and insurance. Even following these guidelines, I think some people have found that US Bank does not recognize some of these payments. In a few months I’m sure we will have a better idea of what US Bank classifies as fitting in the Bill Payment category.

FrequentMiler
Guest

AndrewC: Can you help me find a useful forum or two regarding Cash+?

Ben L
Guest

@Nick
I’ve been looking for a website like that for the past month! Thanks! Any ideas as to a similar one for Amex and/or MasterCard?
Also, I looked up a local Target and it was classified as BOTH a “wholesale/distributor” AND a “grocery”. Any ideas on how that plays out on purchases? I’ll be investigating this weekend, but will have to wait for my statement to close in 3.5 weeks.

Lynn
Guest

Kohls?

nep301
Guest

Both the Fatwallet and Slickdeals forums have a ton of useful information about this card. Slickdeals even has a running list of confirmed 5% billpay merchants.

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1197402/
http://slickdeals.net/f/4711824-US-Bank-Credit-card-Choose-your-own-two-5-cash-back-categories-even-for-airticket?

FrequentMiler
Guest

nep301: Thanks! I read through the FatWallet thread last night. Now I need to go through SlickDeals.

Michael
Guest

Any idea how much you need to have a Relationship with U.S. Bank Trust Services to avoid that monthly fee.

nep301
Guest

For the Gold Package Checking, one of the options to waive the monthly fee is to Auto-pay to a U.S. Bank personal loan, line, or credit card. This should be a easy way of getting the 25% bonus on the base rewards.

FrequentMiler
Guest

nep301: Agree that’s a great way to go. Or, with Gold, keep $2500 balance.

AK: Too many miles is a nice problem to have!

AK
Guest

Looking forward to this series. I’m earning way too many miles. I want cash or travel-cash. Last to I took was redeemed with FlexPerks, cost 20K points but also earned 4K elite and 17K redeemable miles, in addition to the trip.

Nick
Guest

Ben L:

I would think MC/Amex would be processed the same as Visa. Regarding your other question, I’ve never tested it, but my understanding is that you can have different MCCs at the same Super Wal-Mart. Buy from the grocery section, and it’s processed under 5411 (regardless of what you’re buying), and buy from the other set of registers and it’s processed under 5310. So if you have Amex Blue Cash or any other card with a grocery bonus, it’s another way to goose your cash/points/miles earning.

Incidentally, I seem to recall that retailers pay lower interchange rates on grocery transactions than on others, which is why they have it split like this rather than keeping everything under the discount store MCC.

AndrewC
Guest

FrequentMiler,

The Slickdeals and Fatwallet forums that nep301 links are where I had seen the previous discussions about this card.

Tana
Guest

If you are jumping through hoops trying to see if Target works as a department store on this card or other 5% card – you just might as well get a Target card that gives you 5% off your bill at checkout. Much simpler :). The way I travel – I will rarely get a 5% return so it still makes sense to me to use the Target card. Plus free shipping on their web site – good use of a shopping portal.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Tana: But does the Target card give you 5% off when using it to reload a Target Amex card? My guess is no. See “the 5X everywhere backup plan

Valerie
Guest

So I’m contemplating openning up another checking account for this miles game. Chase for the “Exlusive” perk with freedom card, Ufb for aa miles by loading bb, and us bank for cash+. I can’t do dd for the accounts. Have you done a cost benefit comparison bt these and what would u recommend?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Valerie: Great question, but no I haven’t tried to figure out which of those is best. I think you’ll have to estimate based on expected usage of each card.

MileageUpdate
Guest

So my question ? Is there a cap on how much cash back you can earn?

FrequentMiler
Guest

MileageUpdate: No cap

guest
Guest

cap on bonus portion CB, always has been either 200 or 250 annually

FrequentMiler
Guest

guest: I see no evidence of a 200 or 250 cap anywhere. Are you sure you’re not confusing this with a different card? Can you show me a place that lists those limits?

Guest
Guest

Kiva counts as 5% charity on cash plus card

FrequentMiler
Guest

Guest: Thanks for confirming Kiva. I just found proof of that on my own log-in as well!

allen
Guest

Can I open a checking account with US Bank if there is no US banks in my area/state?

thanks.

FrequentMiler
Guest

allen: Yes, anyone in the US can open one

marathon man
Guest

I have read that different cards code stores differently. Will take more tests to figure out what this one may count as in different areas.
.
I have yet to get this card and am a bit leary of chasing around for stackable CB. Sometimes those things fail or have other hidden costs and so it’s hard to justify the work involved unless it runs smoothly. Often times something gets gummed up though.

FrequentMiler
Guest

marathon man: Agreed. Let me be the guinea pig here so that you and others can learn from my mistakes.

Tana
Guest

FM: I get you. If we could use Target card to load to Target Amex you could get your 5% that way. I wasn’t thinking outside the box. I was just talking about the people wanting to use the Cash+ card at Target for actual purchases and wondering if it was classified as a department store. No need since Target card gives 5% back.
I did just see the Target Amex at my local Target and though of your blog :). But I am lucky to be able to get Vanilla Reloads and they are in good supply so I will just use this for now. And I just got my Ink yesterday. Going to load up the Bluebird and pay my property taxes with their bill pay. This will wipe out the spend in one fell swoop.
Love your blog. I am a computer programmer so I love all of the analyzing and number crunching.

trackback

[…] (and up to 6-9% with various bonuses). The Frequent Miler has more discussion on that here: http://boardingarea.com/freque…s-in-progress/ I have the Chase Freedom and I like it, but without the 10-points per swipe bonus on new accounts […]

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[…] my recent post “Cash+ Experiments in Progress,” I described some experiments I had launched with my new US Bank Cash+ credit card.  In […]

Lgea
Guest

Any update on this? Which gift cards, if any, work? Would be most appreciated!

Lgea
Guest

Thanks for the info and prompt response FM. I’m a bit of a newb here. Start a new job next month and am planning my financial goals.

Can you confirm any Visa gift or prepaid cards you’ve used (in conjunction with Bluebird) that were treated as category specific? I’m thinking of getting this card to pay rent and loans each month (about $3000). I’m just wary of being able to find gift/prepaid cards that I can purchase without too much trouble each month.

Also, for grocery specific purchases (e.g., gift cards, Visa GCs, and groceries/food), do you suggest this card given the higher 6.875% return? Or the AmEx card that gives 6% cash back? I’m weighing the options since w/the AmEx you wouldn’t have to wait for the $25 card in the mail which is a huge hassle and can take 6-8 weeks I’ve read. Would be nice to receive the 6% automatically credited to my account. Your thoughts?

Lgea
Guest

Have you checked out Home Depot and Best Buy yet? How rare exactly are $500 Visa CC payable cards? If you’re not using the Cash+, how exactly are you paying rent/mortgage right now and what sort of cash back return on it are you getting?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Lgea: Some grocery stores do sell reload cards, but most do not allow credit cards for buying them.

cjstl
Guest

I have been a long-time US Bank customer, but have only recently become obsessed with the points/miles game. I called US Bank back in October and enquired about upgrading my Platinum Visa (which was one of the only cards left in my arsenal that didn’t have a rewards program). The very friendly CSR went through the options with me, and as soon as she got to the Cash+ card, it was a no-brainer. Right around the same time, I refinanced my mortgage and my broker sold the loan to US Bank. Another easy phone call and I am now a Platinum Checking holder with no monthly fee. By now, everyone knows about the [somewhat] misleading language regarding the 50% bonus on cash back. But it still works out to 1.875% on everyday purchases, 3.125% on the 2% category (I chose grocery), and 6.875% on the 5% bonus categories (I’m currently doing bill pay and restaurants). I have been able to get most of my monthly bills moved over. There is no fee for AT&T Uverse, State Farm Insurance, Sprint Wireless, trash, or sewer. There is a fee for electric ($2.75), gas ($2.95), and water ($1.85), but the returns far exceed the fees. Plus, I have gas and electric on budget billing, so to minimize the fees I have been alternating paying 2 months of each one in one transaction.

We eat out a lot, so restaurants seemed like the obvious choice for the second category, but I’m beginning to second guess. So far, all of my rewards gathering has been on normal spend categories, but blogs like yours have me thinking. I have been studying the gift card racks at my local grocery stores and Targets to see how much of my everyday spend I might be able to bump up to 3.125% instead of the paltry 1.875% (LOL). I found a CVS very close to me that has so far allowed me to purchase Vanilla Reloads on my Citi HHonors card. But I don’t know if I really feel that 1500 HHonors points for $3.95 is a good deal, so now I’m thinking about changing my 2% category to drug stores and using my Cash+ instead. But I definitely don’t want to do anything that will get me in trouble with US Bank and jeopardize my accounts, so I’m hesitant to use my Cash+ to purchase VR’s.

Then there is Kohl’s. I love Kohl’s. My wife and I are MVC’s. We regularly get 15 – 20% off deals, and usually get 30% deals 4 – 5 times a year. We tend to save our purchases until we have one of these deals, and we’ve always used our Kohl’s charge to get the extra discount. I never really thought of using a different credit card at Kohl’s until a week ago when we bought a Dyson. We had quite a bit of Kohl’s Cash and a $100 gift card, so we used all that combined with our 30% off and put the balance on our Kohl’s charge. When I got home, I studied the receipt. The Kohl’s cash came off first, then the 30% was applied to the balance. After that, the $100 gift card and then the balance on our Kohl’s charge. So I can use gift cards in conjunction with the precious 30% as long as part of the balance goes on my Kohl’s charge. Great news! Now I’m thinking of ways to buy Kohl’s gift cards to get points on another credit card and use them to cover most of my Kohl’s purchases in order to get the MVC discounts and Kohl’s Rewards points. I know Kohl’s is a department store – has anyone had any luck buying gift cards in store at Kohl’s using the Cash+ with department stores set as one of the 5% categories? This should net me an extra 6.875% on almost everything I buy at Kohl’s as long as it works. Plus, Kohls has a gift card rack for other merchants as well, so that offers an opportunity to increase my cash back on other everyday categories. Thoughts? Is there an even more lucrative way to get Kohl’s gift cards?

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[…] from a take-out place, does that purchase qualify for a restaurant bonus?  Fortunately, in the comments of a different post, a few readers shared a very helpful website (Thanks Rob and Nick!).  Visa, provides this website […]