You never see anyone brag that they’re still using their mobile phone from 10 years ago, but I know plenty of people who carry a rewards credit card in their wallet that’s even older. Yet, just like electronics, the credit card industry is intensely competitive and the products available today quickly make older ones obsolete.
Fortunately, one “small” bank card is keeping up with even the most fast-paced money habits: Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABOC) recently upgraded its Platinum Rewards card to offer an impressive 5x points on spending categories that change every three months.
How This Card Works
ABOC’s platinum card offers you one point per dollar spent on most purchases, and 5x the points on up to $1,500 spent each quarter on merchants in featured categories. For example, in the second quarter of 2019 (April through June), you can earn 5x points at home improvement stores and home supply stores, as well as on warehouse and wholesale club purchases. (Keep in mind, though, that since this is a Mastercard, you can’t use it at Costco stores, which only accept Visa.) Whenever you want 5x the points, you’ll just have to remember to “activate” this offer first — you won’t get the bonus points automatically.
According to Doctor of Credit, points are worth about one cent each towards travel rewards booked through the ABOC portal, but you’ll receive considerably less value if you redeem your points for gift cards. Points are also worth 0.75 cents each when redeemed towards statement credits.
Beyond the 5x bonus offer, this card has some other compelling features: New accounts receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. After the promotional financing ends, the standard APR will be 15.15% to 25.15%, based on your creditworthiness. You can also earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,200 on purchases within 90 days of account opening.
Otherwise, there’s not much else to worry about. This card has no annual fee, but you should probably leave it at home when you travel outside the US, because it does have the dreaded 3% foreign transaction fee.
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But Is It Really Platinum?
When comparing this card to others, the first thing you have to do is forget the name “Platinum.” There’s no universe in which this no-fee card compares to the ultra-premium (and ultra-expensive) American Express Platinum card, and these metallic monikers are now meaningless.
Instead, you’ll find that the terms and conditions of this card bear a striking resemblance to two other cards with no annual fee — the Chase Freedom and the Discover it cards. In fact, all three of these cards offer 5x rewards on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at featured merchants, and one point (or 1% cash back) on all other purchases.
So what’s different? The Chase Freedom offers a $150 sign-up bonus, but only after spending $500 within three months of account opening. And while the Discover it card doesn’t offer a traditional sign-up bonus, its reward for new customers is potentially even more valuable: Discover will match your cash back earned during your account’s first year, which could be worth hundreds of dollars in additional cash back.
The Chase Freedom offers new accounts 15 months of interest-free financing on new purchases and balance transfers, while the Discover it card nearly matches Chase with 14 months. Both have 3% balance transfer fees. Chase Freedom has a 3% foreign transaction fee while the Discover it has none, presuming the Discover card is accepted in the country you’re visiting.
The Bottom Line
ABOC will have an inherent appeal for anyone who just doesn’t feel like getting a card from one of the major card issuers. (The bank itself prides itself on supporting unions, too, if that is important to you.) But like the big guys, ABOC is offering outstanding bonus rewards for qualifying purchases. Its promotional financing offer comes up a little short, but those who need to finance their purchases are usually not the same customers looking to maximize their rewards.
Getting the ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard may not be as exciting as buying the latest smartphone, but it offers a competitive rewards program and low fees that are worth taking a look at — and you won’t need to swap it out in a year or two, either.
More on Credit Card Rewards
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