Posted by Chuck on March 2, 2015
Manufactured Spending

Published on March 2nd, 2015 | by Chuck

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The Noose is Tightening on 5% Everywhere

This is another post in our Manufactured Monday series. We try to offer some insights into manufactured spend each Monday. You can view all posts in this series by clicking here.

We have a few options of credit cards with strong 5% bonus categories. But the noose is tightening…

5% Options

Here are the main 5% options available:

  • Old Amex Blue Cash – earns 5% on grocery, drugstore and gas
  • Wells Fargo Rewards – earns 5% for the first 6 months on grocery, drugstore and gas
  • TD Easy Rewards – earns 5% for the first 6 months on grocery and gas (Update: this card is now more limited)
  • Citizen’s Bank Cashback card – earns 5% for the first three months on grocery, drugstore and gas
  • INK from Chase earns 5x rewards at office supply stores

I wrote some thoughts on these cards a while back, see 5% vs 5% vs 5%.

INK from Chase is a great card, but there doesn’t seem to be any easy way of getting $500 gift cards at office supply stores. It also has a cap to the 5x rewards at $50,000. And as we know, Old Blue from Amex is now limited to $50,000 per year of spend. Both are nice cards to have, but no unlimited 5% machine here.

The Citizen’s Bank card is limited to 3 months of 5%, and I believe I’ve seen that they’re stingy with credit limits, which makes it hard to make good use of. [UPDATE: It has now come to our attention that this card has been discontinued, see  Citizens Bank & Charter One Eliminate Their 5% Cash Back Card.]

[Read: 5%+ Cashback Credit Cards]

Let’s look at the two remaining candidates, Wells Fargo Rewards and TD Easy Rewards…

Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo Rewards card has its share of issues:

  • They only approve existing customers for their credit card product, making it necessary to first open a checking account with them a number of months before applying.
  • There’s a clause in the terms which state that if you have a Wells Fargo credit card you may not be eligible for the 5% bonus. This is very important, since many people have the Wells Fargo Propel card. One Flyertalk member was denied the 5% bonus since he had the Propel card. [UPDATE: In the comments to this post, there are conflicting reports on this point. One report confirms it, but a second report says that this was not the case for them.]
  • If you make a payment from an external (non-WF) account they’re known to often take a couple of weeks until they release the available credit line.
  • There are reports of accounts which are limited in the dollar amount they could spend in bonus categories. The card is not frozen and can be used for small transactions, but any large purchase at a bonus merchant is coded to be declined. Calling in doesn’t help.
  • Reportedly, they recently added a clause in the terms which excludes gift cards from earning points. This gives them more leverage to confiscate rewards on gift card purchases.

TD 5%

The TD Easy Rewards was another good 5% option. This card always had a few limitations, but it’s been getting worse.

Here’s the old news:

  • Only available to those in the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  • Like Wells Fargo, TD will only approve those who have an existing relationship, making it necessary to first open a checking account with them in order to be able to apply.
  • People report that certain large payments (coming from non-TD sources) will trigger a security freeze on your account for 8 business days, or close to two weeks. This is worse than the Wells Fargo issue mentioned above, since they completely freeze the account, it’s not just a hold on the credit line.
  • It’s been noted by a number of Flyertalk members that Walmart and Target are not earning 5%, even when they are coded by Visa as grocery stores. I can attest to this myself: I made Target purchases at a grocery-coded Target and in the TD login itself it’s called a grocery store, but it doesn’t earn 5%. [I believe I’ve seen that Wells Fargo does earn 5% at the Targets (and presumably Walmarts) which are coded by Visa as grocery stores.]

Recently, there’ve been numerous reports of TD being more proactive in holding up accounts which have high-dollar bonus spend going through them. I haven’t yet seen any reports of accounts which were shut down (a la Old Blue), but there’s a recent spike in reports of accounts being reviewed and temporarily frozen. Since the 5% bonus period is only for 6 months, they are perhaps pursuing a strategy of running out the clock. Or perhaps they’re trying to figure out what to do.

Here are the more recent developments:

  • They’re freezing accounts more often for review. Officially, the review is supposed to be a day or two, but it drags on for weeks.
  • They are limiting amounts of spend at bonus merchants. The card is not frozen, but if you try putting large transactions on it, the transaction won’t go through. “Real-time score”, it says as the reason.
  • They seem to be slowing down the pace that rewards move on to payable, possibly as a scare tactic, or as part of revamping the speed of the rewards for everyone.

Churnability

As a side note, I just saw today a report on Flyertalk of the TD 5% being churnable. This Flyertalk member closed his TD account and applied for a new account 8 month later and he received the 5% bonus on the second card. He was told that so long as the last card was closed for 3 months, you’re eligible to receive the bonus again.

Conversely, the Wells Fargo 5% card is reportedly not churnable, according to the Flyertalk wiki.

My Thoughts

I have the Old Blue and TD cards, but not the Wells Fargo card. Old Blue I’ve been using moderately. Since I already met the $6500 initial spend threshold it’s worth using, but I’m not sure what I’ll do when my year is up. If I was comfortable that Amex is okay with $50,000 then it would be worth it for me, but if they’re still making problems I may just keep it as a fee-free Amex for things like Small Business Saturday.

As for TD, it’s a shame because I was just getting into it over the past couple months, trying to maximize my last few months at 5%, and now the noose is tightening. A couple months ago, I got a two week freeze on my account due to a large payment. Just recently, I got limited in my transactions to a $1500 per transaction. Interestingly, there isn’t any limit on how many times I can swipe $1500, it’s just a $1500 swipe limit. Not terrible, but it makes it harder to deal with.

Anyway, now that I see Flyertalk reports of account freezes, I may cool it a little, and just use it moderately for the last month or so.

Another thing I noticed (mentioned above) which I didn’t see anyone else mention, is that they clearly slowed up something in the processing of the rewards. It used to be like clock-work: swipe, wait 2 business days until it went from pending to complete, wait one more business day until the rewards become available. Now, it’s much choppier and slower, though the rewards are still hitting within a week or two which is a very nice speed.

Let us know in the comments your experiences with WF and TD 5%.

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Dave
Dave

I’m one of those affected by the TD card. I had been going very hard. It was my last 5% card left, so everything has just kind of frozen. I’m finding myself back to resorting to applying for credit card bonuses, ugh!

I know of somebody who can’t get a $500 card even, so you are lucky if you can still do 1500. Can you do 1500 back to back to back?

For me, I’m not sure of my new limit…it’s less than $3500 but more than $13. I guess I’ll keep exploring.

Steve
Steve

“…if you have a Wells Fargo credit card you may not be eligible for the 5% bonus.” Timely post, I checked my WF statement a couple days ago and saw the 5k I put into a Target coded as grocery didn’t earn the 5X. Couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t earning 5x until now.

Live & learn.

KC
KC

Make sure you go to your rewards section. Any earned rewards won’t show up on the main page until after your statement closes. It takes a couple days for the transaction to show in your rewards section but it will break it down into two segments, 1% and the bonus 4%. You may have already done this but thought I would mention it.

For me, I got the Propel card just a few months prior, applied for this card and got it and the 5%. I did not have a checking account at the time (do now) but I did have an HSA account with a small amount of money.

Over the last 4 months I’ve made payments in various ways, through MO deposits to WF checking which when applied to the CC, is immediate and so goes the CL. Paid through Serve and GoBank as well through BofA. Never had to wait more than 5 days for the payment to process. CL always has gone up once payment accepted except once when it went up, immediately went back down then up again 2 days later.

I load to Serve and GoBank at WM via Kate as well as get MO with Vanilla Visa at a few stores in my area. Churn the CL 3x a month. Fraud alerts are not as consistent as before but they are all autogenerated now, excellent not to talk to a human.

It’s been well worth it, to say the least. I believe others have and can have similar success.

shruti
shruti

Wells fargo has many flavors of 5X/5% card- Wells Fargo Visa Signature® card, Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa Signature® card, Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa Signature® card, Wells Fargo Rewards Visa® card, Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa® card, Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa® card. Are all of them considered the same, which means having one will render your chances of getting the other?

Jon
Jon

The 5% WF card is a slight pain to use but so far has been very lucrative. To get the funds to clear and the credit limit to raise, I keep funds in a WF savings account. The credit limit will reset usually within 12hours when paying this way. As for making large purchase, if you call and let the CSR know, they can flag the card, basically bypassing the computers opportunity to decline the transaction. Once I started calling ahead, I have had zero problems.

Abe
Abe

Also affected by the TD “under review” hold. Weeks hold, no answers. They’re doing something.

How did you find out about your “$1500 swipe limit”? Did a CSR tell you? Had you been declined or account locked for attempting large purchases?

Kampung
Kampung

i just received my WF 5% CB card last week and i used it for the 1st time on Friday. Reading all the reports about declined transactions, i called WF ahead of my visit to Target about an impending purchase of $1500 and was informed that it should go smoothly.

Sure enough, when i used it to load Redbird, the card was declined. So called them again, and this time it was approved. Then attempted to do a 2nd load and just to be on the safe side, called WF to give another heads up but it was pointless since the card got declined anyway. This time WF called me and after answering some verification questions, they confirmed it should be good to go. Since i was doubtful, i put them on hold while i attempted to load – lo and behold, declined again !! The CS was clueless as she said everything was clear at her end. What was suprising is that she mentioned that she was from a external co and not WF’s own fraud dept and that i would need to call WF customer service for further assistance.

I then called for WF CS general line and after being transferred twice, and spending 10min answering another round of questions, was told to try again.. and thankfully this time it worked!

Looks like this is how it’ll be for some time until a spending pattern is established. ALso giving a heads-up seems to be useless, at least at this stage of the card’s life.

HoKo
HoKo

So do you think it’s even worth getting the TD 5% Card, I had been avoiding doing any apps for months cuz I heard TD is really sensitive to inquiries. Was actually planning on getting the TD 5% card either this month or next…but based on this report I’m debating if its even worth it

Raul
Raul

I’m keeping my Old Blue card but going to look into 2% and 3% cash back grocery cards to use with multiple redbirds.

barrytuneup
barrytuneup

My WF card 6 month 5% ended 3 months ago. never had a WF checking acct. Every Fri and Sat AM I went to branch in CT and handed teller 4 MO of 499.00 or 999.30. That’s 8 per week for about 3k per trip. never a problem and $ was credited within 48 hours and CL raised back up. I just said I want to pay this card. Maybe I had balls. But one teller in Ct told me she can not do that.. it’s illegal. I said thanks and went to work in NYC. I went to a branch near work and no problems.

trackback

[…] We recently noted that TD seems to have been tightening the bolts on the 5% bonus and trying to limit people who abuse the benefit. We have not heard of anyone who was shut down by TD, but they sometimes will put a freeze on the account. See The Noose is Tightening on 5% Everywhere. […]

trackback

[…] around. If that’s the case, then this would be the last chance to get these cards. Remember, the noose is tightening on 5% cards and there aren’t a lot of options […]

Bryan
Bryan

Does anyone how to track the individual transactions/points earned for the TD card? I keep searching around the Eazy Rewards site but can’t find anything. Any help would be appreciated.

Jan B
Jan B

It will be a help to end usage of the TD Rewards card after the 6 month 5% promotion. Their fraud alerts are so often, it’s become a stress. For me, in regard to my spend attempts, and my AU’s attempts. Text alerts are nice but can’t come quick enough when one is in a line at a register.

Does anyone know if I can cancel my checking account and still retain the TD credit card for my overall credit utilization/ratio with only emergency spending? With AFs pending in July for other credit cards, I would like to keep the TD card with the CL and a zero balance. Thanks.

Jan B
Jan B

Kampung, others: No matter what the CS says, it’s all up to the automation. Did you notice her reference to everything fine on her end? The word there is “limited”. The automation is what is triggered when initial spending starts.

Matt27
Matt27

thinking about applying for the WF Cash Back card but I don’t have any existing relationship with WF. Is it necessary to open a checking account prior to applying for the CC? and if so how long do you have to have the checking account open before applying for the CC?

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