The Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express has long been popular in the travel hacking community. The reason is simple: transactions are processed on American Express's network, so it can be used to fund Serve prepaid cards, but the card isn't issued by American Express, so it earns rewards on those transactions. In other words, it's an easy "set it and forget it" way to earn $240 per year in cash back at absolutely no cost.
That co-branding relationship has ended, and Fidelity's cash back offering is now being branded as the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card, which still has no annual fee and still earns 2% cash back everywhere, but is now issued by a US Bank subsidiary ("Elan Financial Services") on the Visa network.
This is great news
There's been some handwringing over the impending loss of the ability to load Serve with a 2% cash back card, and it's true that some people find change harder than others. But there's no shortage of American Express cards issued by banks besides American Express. Just get one of those. The US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards American Express is a good choice if you're going to use it for manufacturing spend in general, although I wouldn't get it exclusively for this purpose due to its $49 annual fee.
The really great news is that there will be a no-annual-fee 2% cash back card issued on the Visa network!
It's true that Citi offers their Double Cash card on the MasterCard network, which is fine for manufacturing cash back at brick-and-mortar locations. But being issued by Citi means using that card for online manufactured spend is often worse than useless: it's expensive! That's because Citi often codes online bank account funding transactions as cash advances, and charges their customers the corresponding hefty fees and interest charges.
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature is the Arrival+ killer
I've had a Barclaycard Arrival+ for a few years now, and have kept it year after year for two reasons:
- It's not issued by Citi;
- It's not issued on the American Express network.
That meant it was my go-to card for manufacturing spend online. That's true even though they've sharply reduced many of the card's benefits, cutting the card's award rebate from 10% to 5% and raising the redemption threshold from $25 to $100.
But for new Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature cardholders, and after existing cardholders are transitioned to the Visa Signature product, there will be no reason to hold an Arrival+ (unless you're fully enamored with the card's "true" chip-and-PIN functionality).
That's because the Arrival+'s $89 annual fee is essentially a wager, and it's a wager stacked heavily in Barclaycard's favor: will you or will you not spend more than $85,000 per year on the card? It's not that that figure is impossible to hit; it's that every year you don't hit it, you're paying Barclaycard more in annual fees than you're receiving in rebated travel redemptions.
There are a few marginal edge cases where people have legitimate complaints about the loss of their Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express cards.
As exhaustively documented by Milenomics, it's possible to redeem 25,000 Worldpoints (the currency the American Express card technically earns) for flights costing up to $400. If you don't have a US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card, that's a pretty good deal, although as Milenomics makes clear, achieving that redemption value isn't trivial. But if you're good at searching out qualifying flights, you may be better off in the status quo.
Another corner case is if you have a strained relationship with US Bank. It's currently unclear what will happen to people who are not currently able to open US Bank credit accounts when their account information is transferred over to Elan Financial Services.
And finally, if you currently transfer your Worldpoints to or from your Fidelity linked account in order to maximize the value of your other Worldpoints-earning credit cards, you'll lose that ability and that value once the transition is complete.
But if you just use your 2% cash back American Express to earn 2% cash back on purchases everywhere, you should be excited to learn that "everywhere" is about to get a lot bigger.