[update 4/29/15: I just called into US Bank to ask for compensation for the loss of the last-night-free benefit on the Club Carlson Business Rewards card. Instead, the representative offered me a product change, including to the Business Edge Cash Rewards card, which earns an uncapped 3% cash back at gas stations and a 25% bonus on all cash back earned during the calendar year, which is capped at $250. A quick calculation shows that you can maximize the value of that card by manufacturing $33,334 in gas station spend annually ($2,7778 per month), yielding $1,000 in cash back and a $250 bonus, for a total of 3.75% cash back. That's a phenomenal deal.
Additionally, the offer of a product change to a proprietary rewards card from a co-branded credit card is contrary to what I reported below from the myFICO fora. I don't know whether such changes are only possible for small business credit cards, or whether personal credit cards can also be changed from co-branded to proprietary rewards programs. YMMV.]
I currently carry all three of the US Bank-issued credit cards which I consider the most valuable for my current miles, points, and cash back strategy:
- Cash+. Has historically offered 5% cash back on up to $2,000 spent in the "charity" category each quarter. If you don't have ethical problems with Kiva (many of my readers do!), you can strategize to find high-quality, short-term loans, and earn 5% cash back each quarter on loans that last 3-7 months. That can work out to quite high annualized interest rates, although you will take on the risk of your borrowers defaulting.
- Flexperks Travel Rewards Visa Signature. I write about this card all the time, since it earns two Flexpoints per dollar spent at gas stations or grocery stores each month (wherever you spend more), worth up to 2 cents each for airfare and up to 1.5 cents each for hotels.
- Club Carlson Business Rewards. Until May 28 (or May 31 — reports are mixed) offers the last night free on award reservations. After that it will continue to earn 5 Gold Points per dollar spent everywhere, and a free domestic award night after spending $10,000 on the card each year.
Back in May, 2013, I first shared my experience freezing my IDA and ARS credit reports. In March, 2015, Kenny over at Miles4More described his experience achieving the same result through the mid-20th century magic of the telecopying transmitter-receiver (for some reason Kenny insisted on called this "the easy way").
There's no reason to believe the fundamental situation has changed: if US Bank has access to your IDA and ARS credit reports when you apply for credit through them, they will take into account factors that those agencies use and that the major credit reporting agencies do not. If US Bank does not have access to those credit reports, they'll rely on your credit report with a major credit reporting agency.
Whether that matters to you depends on your overall credit profile, but if you apply for new credits cards several times throughout the year, you'll want to freeze your IDA and ARS credit reports before applying for a US Bank credit card.
Deciding on cards
The most important thing to know about applying for US Bank credit cards is that you're eligible for as many signup bonuses as you're able to get approved for. They have somewhat vague terms and conditions prohibiting this, but my experience was those conditions are not enforced, and I haven't seen a single report to the contrary (of a signup bonus being denied for previously carrying the card).
For example, I applied for the Flexperks Travel Rewards card for the first time in the Spring of 2012, just before US Bank announced their promotion connected to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, under a 17,500 Flexpoint signup bonus. When the promotion was announced, I applied again and was approved for what ultimately turned out to be a 33,150 Flexpoint signup bonus.
In other words, you should apply first for cards with the most valuable signup bonuses, regardless of your ultimate plans, since the total amount of credit US Bank will extend you is limited while the number of signup bonuses you can receive is not.
Applying for cards
Doctor of Credit has noted that credit reporting agencies combine same-day credit pulls that appear to them as duplicates, which US Bank credit pulls appear to do. That means there's no risk to your credit score in applying for multiple US Bank-issued credit cards in a single day (there may be a risk to your relationship with US Bank, of course).
Requesting product changes
[Please see the update at the top of this post.]
The good folks at the myFICO fora report that It appears that US Bank, like Chase but unlike, for example, Citi, will not do product changes between co-branded credit cards and proprietary rewards cards.
So product changes between Cash+ and Flexperks Travel Rewards cards are possible, while product changes between a Club Carlson co-branded credit card and either of the former are not.
Your overall US Bank credit card portfolio has to depend on your goals.
For example, in the near term I intend to keep the Club Carlson Business Rewards credit card despite its devaluation since I take at least one weekend trip to Chicago each year; I'll certainly be able to use the free domestic award night and 40,000 Gold Point anniversary bonus at the Radisson Blu Aqua in downtown Chicago, where my partner and I have enjoyed our 3 stays so far.
If you're more interested in using credit card rewards as a way to generate cash back, redeemable each statement cycle in any amount, the Cash+ is a terrific card.
But the Cash+ card is even better if you get it through a product change from the Flexperks Travel Rewards credit card, where you'll receive a more valuable year-round signup bonus — and an even more valuable one if US Bank renews their Summer Olympic promotion in 2016.
Finally, if you tend to travel on domestic economy flights, the Flexperks Travel Rewards card gives you an opportunity to buy those tickets at a very steep discount by manufacturing spend at gas stations or grocery stores, or by making Kiva loans, which earn 3 Flexpoints (worth up to 2 cents each) per dollar lent.
Of course, no post about US Bank would be complete without noting that dealing with US Bank is never a walk in the park. Forewarned, forearmed, etc., etc.