Widespread yet obscure, the Elan credit card division may be one of the biggest issuers you’ve never heard of. That’s because Elan, a division of US Bank, works behind the scenes as the credit card issuer for numerous smaller financial institutions. Some of the more prominent partners of Elan include Woodforest National Bank Credit Card (the one inside Walmart) and Associated Bank Credit Card. They offer several different types of credit cards, including a couple of Amexes, so let’s have a look and see if there’s anything of value here.
As per its website, Elan has five different credit cards aimed at the general consumer market:
Elan cards with no annual fee
Platinum: No rewards whatsoever! This card is aimed at people who don’t pay off their balances every month.
Bonus Rewards: One point per dollar spent, plus they give you an additional quarter point which they excitedly call a BONUS so that they can call this card the Bonus Rewards card. (This is how marketing departments handle low-information consumers.) Needless to say, if you’re earning 2% on your Citi DoubleCash or Fidelity Amex, you will want nothing to do with this card.
Bonus Rewards Plus: This one is actually even worse than the Bonus Rewards card. You get 1.5% on your purchases, but for some reason they charge you a $50 annual fee for the privilege of earning half a percent less than you can earn on your choice of no-annual-fee cards. Avoid this one like the plague.
You might be thinking at this point that you want nothing to do with an Elan credit card, and you’re probably correct to think so. But, the offerings at least get a little more interesting from here.
High-end Elan credit cards
Cash Rewards American Express
Now things get at least a little interesting. Did you know you could get an Amex from Elan? I didn’t. You get 3% cash back on gas (capped on $6K in purchases) and 2% cash back on supermarket purchases, and there’s no annual fee. If you’re one of those people who can never have enough Amex cards, then you may conceivably want one of these. Money Metagame had an interesting post on the value of an Amex recently and he came up with a value of $187 in his case. I had a similar post a little further back.
Travel Rewards American Express
This one gives you 3 points per dollar on airline spend and two points per dollar on hotel and restaurant expenses… but it’s got a nasty annual fee of $95. 25,000 points can be redeemed for a $325 plane ticket, giving you a theoretical maximum of 3.9% on your airline spend and 2.6% on hotels and restaurants. No thanks.
In addition to the cards above, Elan also offers business versions of the Platinum, Bonus Rewards, and Bonus Plus; college and secured cards; and a private banking product. Looking into the private banking offerings, it seems there are two different flavors: a Visa Signature and an Amex.
Looking at the Elan private bank offerings from Comerica, the Amex is the one that looks the most interesting (though still not interesting enough): 2 points per dollar on air, hotel, car rental, and restaurant purchases. But you can redeem 25,000 points for a $450 ticket, making those points worth as much as 3.6 cents on the dollar. I can’t figure out what the annual fee is, but a comparable offering from Webster Bank charges $175 per year. And this is interesting: looking into the terms and conditions on the private bank Amex, it seems that you can get get reimbursed for five lounge visits per year at $50 each. So, there’s a $250 annual benefit right there.
Overall though: not much to see here for most people. In all likelihood you’d be better off without an Elan credit card. The default option for consumers who don’t want to spend a lot of time messing around with credit card rewards is a simple no-annual-fee 2% cashback card, and no such product is offered by Elan.