GREATER THAN 2%?: Yesterday we received a solicitation offering us 25,000 points for the PNC Points Visa credit card. 25,000 points will at least get our attention, but a closer inspection revealed that this is a lousy sign-up bonus and a confusing card, even for those of us (ahem) who actually enjoy scrutinizing the minutiae of credit card offers. But for all that, this card may be worth a serious look for a few of you. If you want to see how to (maybe) get greater than 2% on all your purchases without messing with Bluebird, Vanilla Reloads, and so forth, then read on.
The PNC rewards program is different from those of other issuers. Rather than offer 1 point per dollar spent on most purchases as is usual, PNC offers 4 points per dollar. But the points have a value of around a quarter cent each, so this is just a much more confusing way of offering a 1% rewards card. PNC’s rewards catalog is odd, too: take a look at it and you’ll see gift cards for most mainstream retailers going for $.002193 cents per point, or $.002315 cents for point.
It’s almost like they’re (a) intentionally trying to scam customers, and (b) daring us to figure out loopholes to exploit. And on that note, we did notice that you could get a $500 gift card for Bloomingdale’s or Talbot’s for 162,500 points, for a value per point of $.003077, which would make this a 1.23% card if you really, really like shopping at either of those two retailers.
But wait, there’s more! You can increase your 4 points per dollar by having certain other PNC accounts. Quoth PNC:
Get a 25% bonus on the base points you earn with a PNC Virtual Wallet.
Get a 50% bonus on the base points you earn with a PNC Virtual Wallet Performance or PNC Performance checking account.
Get a 75% bonus on the base points you earn – the best level of reward – with a PNC Performance Select checking account.
So if you value the points at a quarter cent each, this potentially becomes a 1.75% card if you have the right account open (you’ll need a $5,000 balance or $25K in investments with PNC). And if you’re a Bloomingdale’s junkie, this is actually a 2.16% card. Note that PNC also has a cash card which works the same way. A 1.75% cashback card is not bad at all; only the Fidelity Amex and the Priceline card are better.
We’re not done yet: there is a PNC points business card (but no cashback business card, alas) which offers 5 points per dollar spent. The obvious question is, can you get the 75% boost by having the Performance Select account open? The website doesn’t answer this clearly, but it does have this marketing blurb: “Combine your personal and business points to get even greater rewards.” This leads us to think that the 75% may indeed be in effect for the business card, though that’s not a given.
So let’s do the math: 5 points per dollar increased by 75 percent equals 8.75 points per dollar, and if those points are worth a quarter cent each your return is… 2.1875%! And if you’re going to Bloomingdale’s? Now we’re up to a 2.7% rewards card.
That’s as far as we’ve gone with this. We don’t have a lot of business expenses so we’re not going to bite, but others of you may find this worth consideration if you like their rewards options and enjoy using spreadsheets to figure out how to redeem your credit card points.