The Card to Recommend to Your Friends Who Don’t Travel Much

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Citi® Double Cash Card

I’m trying to get in better shape. I put a treadmill next to my desk, and there’s a board across the top that I can set my laptop on. That way I can walk and read and walk and type, which is better than sitting and doing those things. I’m also meeting a trainer twice a week.

People aren’t super interested in hearing about my day job but when they figure out what I do with this blog they want to talk about it, and can’t wait to pepper me for advice. This week the question was, What credit card should I get?

I start by asking questions rather than offering answers.

  1. How much do you spend on credit cards each month?

  2. What do you spend that money on?

  3. What are your reward goals?

For someone who doesn’t spend a bunch on credit cards, I can encourage them to put all of their spending there of course. And that’s great for some people. But I also emphasize that’s not for everyone. If you’re going to get the most out of credit cards it’s important that you don’t spend more money because you’re spending on credit cards versus seeing your balance drop in a checking account.

Someone who doesn’t want to travel internationally, or in premium cabins, isn’t always best off with points that transfer to airline miles. Buying coach tickets to visit family in Florida? I think cash is often best for that, buy the tickets you want when they’re on sale and don’t worry about award availability. You’re not going to trade flexibility for outsized value on most advance purchase domestic leisure tickets.

And someone who doesn’t spend a ton on cards isn’t going to be earning a lot, and it doesn’t make sense for them to pay high annual fees.

I learned that my trainer:

  • Doesn’t travel often, maybe once a year tops: domestic and in coach.

  • Doesn’t spend a lot on credit cards, about $300 per month.

Their current card is Capital One Venture. A 2% return is good, though since you need to spend the money on travel that’s not the best and maybe not the best for them. But after the first year the card’s $59 annual fee is killer.

If they’re really spending just $3600 a year on the card they’re earning $72 in travel rewards for a $59 fee. That’s a net of $13.

My advice was to keep it simple. A no annual fee card that doesn’t require work or separate accounts. And the strongest cash-earning possible for a card with the broadest acceptance because they aren’t going to juggle cards.

The simple solution I offered was Citi® Double Cash Card.

There’s no annual fee, Mastercard acceptance, and as an ongoing cash rebate as you can possibly get (without depositing $100,000 or more in a Bank of America account, anyway).

For the broadest set of people out there, not looking for outsized value in premium cabin travel or elite travel benefits, it’s best to keep it simple. We’ll ease them into the best card signup bonuses

Which card would you have recommended for my trainer?

Citi® Double Cash Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. I realize that you need the referral money, but the Fidelity Visa is a better choice for most people. A true 2% card, NAF, and a Visa so it is accepted at Costco. If you do make the odd international purchase 1% Forex vs 3% on the DC.

    The only advantage of the DC is a lower minimum redemption.

  2. @PeteyNice disagree — remember this is someone who spends zero time and puts zero effort into credit cards, not going to open a fidelity account. they do not travel internationally, the title of the post is “friends who don’t travel much” so forex fee comparisons really aren’t on point — certainly not enough to cast aspersions at motives. sheesh.

  3. Even if you say the Forex difference is irrelevant, the better acceptance of Visa (especially at Costco) and being a real 2% card puts the Fidelity over the DC. They won’t create a Fidelity account but they will create a Citibank account?

    Even if you don’t travel internationally, that doesn’t preclude someone from buying things from a foreign country online and having them shipped to you in the US. Comparing two NAF cards, with similar earnings rates, you have to accentuate the differences.

    So marginally better earning rate, lower Forex, and better acceptance are in favor of Fidelity vs the lower redemption threshold and easier redemption process – I assume, I have never had a DC so I don’t know how redemption logistics works – in favor of the DC.

    The only way I would recommend the DC to someone over Fidelity is if they weren’t going to spend $2,500 a year on the card.

    No shame in wanting referral money. Man’s gotta eat.

  4. The Fidelity card might be just the final motivation to open a Fidelity account. I recommend to all friends that they invest. Even just investing in a fund that tracks the stock market is easy and cheap at Fidelity. And the 50,000 miles/year just might motivate the friend to travel. That latter reason is why we run our websites, right?

    .

  5. You don’t need a Citibank account to get the cash back on the Citi Double card, so I think it actually is simpler than the Fidelity Visa in that regard. Also, the Citi Double has virtual card numbers which can come in handy, and Fid Visa doesn’t as far as I can find. I have both cards and they’re both good, but for someone looking for the very simplest approach who doesn’t already have a Fidelity account, I’d go with Citi Double also. If someone is looking for a simple approach and doesn’t really have any other cards, it actually would make sense to have both cards – one to use as your main card, and one as a backup – then you’ve got your bases covered.

  6. I have the Citi Double Cash card as well as various hotel/travel rewards cards (including the recent 100K-point signup Amex Platinum). While Double Cash cards have a 3% foreign transaction fee, this Citi card also has a useful Virtual Account Number feature that lets you get a one-time-use CC number to give to online merchants when you don’t want to submit your regular/permanent card number. That’s a awesome feature when you don’t want a merchant/publisher to automatically charge a subscription renewal to your card. Although I don’t use it much, it’s a nice card to hang onto for the long haul.

  7. Do they have a Costco membership? If the do the Costco Citi is a great option. Assuming they spend decent $ on eating out and gas (as well as some travel), those 3 and 4% rewards will add up nicely, as will the 2% at Costco.

  8. Been very happy with my DC card. It’s a “true 2%’ card for me because I’ve never carried a balance on a card since my very first card post-college. “Setting up a Citibank account” was just applying for the card. They email me when I have a balance and I tell them to cut a check. Easy Peasy. I agree with Gary that DC could be a great card for Gary’s trainer IF HE PAYS OFF HIS BALANCE EVERY MONTH. If he doesn’t keep a clear balance, then perhaps Fidelity is a better choice. I have other cards with 0% Forex for the once every couple of years that I get to go international. That said, if there’s a decent (did I hear 50k ?) signup with the Fidelity card, I may need to look into that one as well.

  9. @ Jim Smith:
    The 50k miles referenced above is related to depositing $100k in a Fidelity account for 9 months. With today’s savings rates, it’s a much better return then having your money sit in a savings account (unless you have a better investment option.)

    With respect to the debate about DC or Fidelity, I prefer the Fidelity card and recommend it to all of my friends that aren’t interested in signup bonuses. I think it’s the one card that’s greatly undervalued and overlooked by the bloggers (for a reason.)

  10. @ JP – thanks. I went to the Fidelity site but missed that. I would guess that it’s not reported on much because it’s a very small segment (even among big time biz travelers) that have $100K to move around. I do, and will definitely look into it.

  11. @Jim Smith – I have never seen a way to navigate to the miles offers on Fidelity’s website. I suppose they are listed on the airline sites. Anyway, we bloggers and webmasters have them listed. Here are the links:

    United Airlines offer (Sign up by October 31, 2016) https://www.fidelity.com/united
    American Airlines offer (Sign up by September 30, 2016) https://www.fidelity.com/aa
    Delta Airlines offer (Sign up by December 31, 2016) https://www.fidelity.com/delta

    All of these will probably be extended, as they have been in the past.

  12. @Gary Steiger – Excellent. I was wondering what currency the Fidelity awards would be issued in. Thanks…

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