Amazon.com Rewards Card - good rewards program, but is that enough to keep your business?
Oct 13, 2005 (Updated Oct 13, 2005)
Review by jwhitakr
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Web Site Experience:
Pros:Good rewards program, good security features, no cap on rewards per year
Cons:Average customer service, rewards can be used only at Amazon.com
The Bottom Line: Good rewards program, good security features and no cap on rewards earned per year make this a good choice for a credit card
Recommend this product?
I've used a number of credit cards in the past 10 years, but only started using rewards cards about 4 years ago. I started with a Discover card with the traditional cash back program, then went to a Delta Skymiles card that rewarded frequent flier miles, and now I have been using the Amazon.com Visa card for close to a year. Why do I keep jumping around from one card to the next, you might ask? The answer lies in the initial sign-up bonus you usually receive with these reward credit cards. In the case of the Delta Skymiles card, it was free frequent flier miles. In the case of this Amazon.com card, it was a free Amazon.com $30 reward certificate.
I always pay off my balance at the end of each month, so the varying interest rates of each card do not make any difference to me. My primary goal with credit card use is to get rewards. Also, I find using a credit card easier (and safer) than carrying cash around with me.
Basic Information about the card
This rewards card is the only variety that Amazon.com offers, which makes it sound silly to call it a Platinum card. It does offer 1 reward point for every dollar spent outside of Amazon.com and 3 reward points for every dollar spent at Amazon.com. The reward points come in $25 increments and can be used only at Amazon.com. The 1 reward point per dollar is nice, because you earn a full 1 percent starting with your very first purchase. I cannot stand the program some other cards offer which require you to spend $X amount of money before you actually start earning a full 1% back on each purchase. I will never again use any credit card that has that type of stipulation earning a full 1% on some purchases and a full 3% on Amazon.com purchases is a much better program. Another highlight of this card is that it has no limit to the amount of rewards you can receive per year. This was important to me because I expect that my wife and I would exceed most of the other rewards program limits offered by other credit cards. Whenever you accumulate 2,500 points, they send you a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate. This is nice because you don't need to make a request to redeem the points you've earned a certificate is just mailed out to you automatically.
The initial sign-up bonus and promotional offer that came with the card was $30 off your first purchase of $30 or more at Amazon.com and 0% rate on balance transfers for 6 months. The offer has changed a bit, and it is currently 500 free points on each of your first three Amazon.com purchases and $20 off your first purchase of $20 or more at Amazon.com. The three purchases for 500 free points all must be made within a month of your first purchase, however, so you can't space out your first three purchases over a couple months and still receive the 500 free points on each of the purchases.
The 0% introductory rate on balance transfers was not useful to me because I never carry a balance on any of my credit cards. The $30 off your first purchase at Amazon.com was cool, because you could use it immediately after getting approved. However, if there is anything on your credit card application that causes additional research to be needed, be prepared to wait anywhere from 5 to 10 days before you actually receive your approval and credit card in the mail and can finally use the $30 promotional offer.
The fees for this card include:
- Late payment fee of $15 if your balance is less than $250, and $39 if your balance is over $250.
- Over-the-credit-limit fee of $35
- International transaction fee of 3% of the U.S. Dollar amount of the transaction
- Balance transfer fee of 3% of the transfer (minimum of $5 and maximum of $75)
- Cash advance fee of 3% of the cash advance (minimum of $10)
The current APR is 15.24% on standard purchases and 22.49% on cash advances. If you miss a payment, you will be charged the Default rate of 30.49%. There is no annual fee.
Three security features of this card stand out to me as very useful:
- $0 liability for fraudulent purchases --- This basically means that, as long as you can reasonably prove that you did not make a purchase, Visa will not make you pay for an unauthorized purchase with your card. This is reassuring because, even with the best intentions and safety precautions, there is always a chance that your credit card number could fall into the wrong hands and be used for purchases that you aren't aware of. If this happen were to happen, I don't want to have to pay anything for the fraudulent purchases.
- Continuous monitoring of your account --- Visa proactively monitors your account and, if there are suspicious transactions (a sudden burst of activity, for example), they contact you to make sure the purchases are valid. I never had Visa contact me to verify any purchases I made, so I'm not really sure if this is effective or not.
- Verified By Visa program --- This feature is available only for on-line purchases. It also only works for online merchants who participate in the program. Heres how it works:
o You log on to the Visa site and choose to activate the program for your card.
o After entering your card number and verifying your information, you set up a personal Verified by Visa password.
o When you shop at any of the participating online merchants, you go through the normal checkout process by entering your name, shipping and billing info and credit card information.
o Then, after your credit card number and billing information has been verified, a separate browser window pops up and requires you to enter your Verified by Visa password in order to complete the transaction.
So, basically, it is just an extra password that Visa stores on its own servers to verify that the person making the purchase is, in fact, the cardholder. It is not particularly imaginative, and it requires that you memorize yet another password, but it is an extra layer of protection nonetheless.
One positive to this Verified by Visa program is that quite a lot of online merchants participate in it. Visa does not give an exact number, but I counted over 200 online merchants in the listing of participants on the Visa site. Ironically enough, Amazon.com does not participate in this program!
I have not had a whole lot of experience with the Amazon.com Visa customer service. So far, I have called their customer service line just twice once to activate my card and once to ask about the limit on rewards earned per year. In my two experiences thus far, their service was decent. I had to call to active the card, and this was all done using automated prompts. I entered my social security number, zip code, mothers maiden name, etc. and voila! my card was ready to be used. The other experience was not extraordinary and only took a few minutes. It took 1-2 minutes to actually talk with a live person, and then it took the customer service rep about a minute to actually find the required information and confirm that there was no limit on the amount of rewards you can earn in a year. So, with my limited experience, I would say that there customer service was satisfactory.
My Experience with the Rewards
For the time I was actively using the Amazon.com card, I was happy with the rewards program. The points I earned showed up promptly on my statement each month, and they were accurate. I was able to use the $30 promotional offer immediately and did not have any trouble with it. Again, a nice feature is that after accumulating 2,500 reward points the $25 Amazon.com reward certificate is automatically mailed out to you. My experience was that the reward certificates would arrive anywhere between 3 to 7 business days after the end of the statement.
So, now the question is, were the rewards program, customer service and security features of this card enough to keep my business? Yes but only for about 9 months. I have now moved on to the Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards card. I still have my Amazon.com card, but use it very rarely. Overall, I was happy with the Amazon.com Platinum Visa card, but the rewards program was not as attractive as the Citi card. If you do a lot of shopping at Amazon.com, this card would probably make a lot of sense for you. But as for me
I have moved on to greener pastures.
My other Personal Finance reviews:
- Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards Card
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