Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Amex perks

Last year, I responded to American Express' sign-up bonus offer of 25,000 points (which translates into a $250 gift card), and got their Gold Rewards Business Card. Generally, when you sign up for an Amex card, they waive their hefty annual fee for a year. Well, a year just came due on my Gold Rewards card and they charged me $125. I called them to cancel the card and refund the annual fee. I never pay annual fees on any credit cards, in principle.

Amex customer service reps are apparently trained to try to retain you as a member, no matter what. Their CSRs are very cooperative and soliticious. So Amex gives you an additional 10,000 points ($100 gift card) just for renewing their card after the initial year, and the CSR offered me another 5,000 points ($50 gift card) if I didn't cancel the card. So basically, I'd be getting a $150 in gift cards for my $125 membership fee. So I decided to stay. I use these bonus gift cards all the time. The last $250 that I received from Amex was put towards a new Dell Hybrid that just arrived on Friday.

American Express has great cards and great sign up bonuses. They have excellent customer service and if you get a business card, the service perks are phenomenal.

For example, if you sign up for their Car Rental Insurance Plan, they will charge you $20 when you rent a car and you get $75,000 worth of damage coverage on the car. That's $20 per time you rent, not per day, and it's primary insurance, which means that if I do get into an accident, I don't need to report it to my regular insurance company. There is no fee to enroll in this plan, and the coverage is automatic whenever you get a rental, so that you can waive the expensive rental agency insurance.

They also offer you a Hertz Gold Membership with the first year's fee waived, which is another phenomenal benefit. This means I get preferential treatment (zero waiting time at airports, free GPS) when I rent a car from Hertz, not to mention a ton of discounts and upgrades on my rental. And Amex automatically gives you a 5% cashback on all Hertz rentals, after all the perks and other discounts have been applied.

They offer you an additional 5,000 points ($50 gift card) if you sign up to be able to extend payments over time. I am against carrying credit card balances in general, as you can get into a lot of trouble that way, but I signed up for the program just to get the gift card.

Whenever I get a new client referral, I usually reward the referrer with an Amex gift card (which is more or less like cash). If I buy the gift card with my Amex credit card, I get 5% off of those too. Nice little perk as well.

BTW, this is not an issue for me, but you don't have to actually have an incorporated business to get a business credit card...as long as you operate some sort legitimate freelance commerce, you can get one. You can even get one with your name shown as the business name.

I just got a new Simply Cash Business Card from American Express. This is my second business card with them. Again, they are waiving the fee and instead of points, they give you 3% back on gas purchases and 5% back on office supplies and cell phone bills. I plan on using it exclusively to pay my cell phone bill.

And remember, all of these credit card perks are tax free. For some bizarre reason, if you earn $3.21 of interest on a savings account at a bank, the government taxes you on it, but if you get $500 in gift cards or cash back from a credit card company, it's scott free. Weird.

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