Subscription week: "old" Blue Cash

[As I explained Sunday, this week I'm re-running 5 "classic" Free-quent Flyer Blog posts, with the hope that readers, both regular and new, will decide that this blog is worth supporting through a weekly or monthly PayPal subscription. Today's post is by a huge margin my most popular, and highlights a key difference between this blog and many others in the travel hacking space: since I don't and have never received any affiliate money from credit card companies, I can write about incredibly lucrative but – because of affiliate agreements – essentially ignored products like what's known as the "old" Blue Cash card, from American Express. While the post has aged well, there are a few oversights: Reward Dollars can be redeemed for statement credits, not cash directly deposited into a bank account. Additionally, my claim that American Express doesn't code 7-11 store locations as gas station was hyperbolic; 7-11 stores with gas pumps are frequently coded as gas stations by American Express. This post originally ran on January 3, 2014 — see that original post for comments.]

I wrote early last month about my search for a new "workhorse" card to replace my Citi ThankYou Preferred card which, during my first 12 billing cycles, earned 5 ThankYou points per dollar spent at grocery stores, gas stations, and drug stores. With just a week left in that promotional period, imagine my excitement in seeing this FlyerTalk thread.

By opening this link in a new browser, "private browsing" session or "incognito" window, it's still possible to apply for what people are calling the "old" Blue Cash card. This "old" card has a totally different earning structure than the "new" Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred:

  • On your first $6,500 in purchases made with the card: 1% cash back at gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores, and 0.5% everywhere else;
  • after spending $6,500: 5% cash back at gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores, and 1% cash back everywhere else.

In other words this card is roughly comparable to the Citi ThankYou Preferred offer that's expiring for me, and I plan on applying for this card later today (after I decide on some additional cards for this impromptu application cycle).

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your net annual earning rate will be slightly less than 5% because of the lower earning rate on your first $6,500 in spend;
  • but unlike ThankYou points, which must be redeemed for mortgage checks, student loan rebate checks, or travel through the ThankYou booking tool in order to get a full 1 cent per point in value, Blue Cash "reward dollars" can be redeemed directly for cash;
  • 5% cash back is only awarded on gas purchases of up to $400;
  • and in my experience American Express does not code 7-11 store locations as gas stations and does not award gas station bonus points for purchases there.

Here on the blog I tend not to make explicit recommendations, since every reader's travel goals and application timelines are different.

In this case I'm inclined to make an exception and say that if you are able to take advantage of these bonus categories, you should strongly consider applying for this card right now. This offer will not last forever, and you will regret not carrying this card when you start reading about how much cash back other members of the community are earning.