With their outsized sign-up bonuses and promises of trips-of-a-lifetime, travel-rewards credit cards seemingly have a monopoly on travelers’ hearts and minds, and pride of place in their wallets.
But I have long counseled that cards featuring travel rewards should be most consumers’ back-up option, not their first choice.
Rewards cards typically award users with miles or points that amount to a rebate of between 1 and 2 percent, not including periodic bonuses that can improve the value proposition somewhat. The points are generally redeemable only for travel, from a limited number of suppliers. And most of the cards have annual fees, in some cases as high as $450.
What if there were a card that consistently returned 2 percent. In cash. And with no annual fee.
The Fidelity Investments Rewards card, issued by American Express, is just such a card. Cardholders earn two points for every $1 charged to the card, and after every $2,500 in purchases, $50 will be deposited automatically into the cardholder’s Fidelity account. The card’s annual percentage rate is variable, based on the Prime Rate, currently at 13.99 percent.
For the first time that I’m aware of, there’s a sign-up bonus for the card: 7,500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 60 days. That translates into a $75 contribution to your Fidelity account. It’s a limited-time offer, with no published end date, so it could be pulled at any time.
To be sure, the sign-up bonus is a decidedly modest one, especially compared to those routinely offered by travel-rewards cards. But the real value of the Fidelity card lies in its ability to deliver a solid cash rebate, day in and day out, with no hassle and no annual fee.
Miles and points are nice. But cash is king. It can be used to purchase anything, travel-related or not. Or it can be left in a Fidelity account and invested for the long term.
It’s not the only rewards card in my wallet—I too have succumbed to some of the eye-popping sign-up bonuses for travel cards. But when the bill comes due, the Fidelity card is the one I reach for most often.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.