The Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Card is a travel rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee. It has a tiered rewards program that favors airline, hotel, and restaurant spending, but earns a modest baseline (roughly $0.01 per $1 spent) on all purchases, with no caps or restrictions. Comparable cards include the ever-popular Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite MasterCard, both of which have annual fees near $100.
Though Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card is not as well known as those products, nor many other credit cards backed by household-name financial institutions, it’s nevertheless legitimate. After all, it’s backed by Flagstar Bank, a popular Michigan bank with a network of branches throughout the Midwest and South.
Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has some other useful benefits, including a decent sign-up bonus, a powerful airfare discount, and a slew of American Express-backed fringe benefits that make traveling easier and more affordable. Its 6-month 0% APR purchase and balance transfer promotion isn’t bad either.
If you’re in the market for a new travel rewards credit card that pays you to purchase airfare, hotel rooms, and restaurant meals, Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card deserves your attention. Here’s what you need to know about its features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability.
When you make your first purchase, you receive 7,500 bonus points. That’s worth up to $75 when redeemed for cash back or merchandise, and potentially more when redeemed as part of a larger airfare purchase. There’s no minimum or maximum purchase size. The competing Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can net you 40,000 miles after signing up – a $400 value.
Earning Rewards Points
Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card earns unlimited 3 Rewards Points per $1 spent on airline purchases, unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on hotel and restaurant purchases, and unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There are no caps or restrictions on the number of points you can earn in any given period. However, points expire 5 years (60 months) after they’re earned.
Redeeming Rewards Points
Accumulated points can be redeemed for cash back (statement credits or bank account deposits), savings on hotels and other purchases, gift cards, general merchandise, and airfare.
Cash back redemptions value points at $0.01 apiece, while other redemption options may have higher or lower values. For instance, airfare redemptions value points at up to 40% higher than the cash redemption rate. However, you need at least 25,000 points to exchange points for airfare. Each 25,000-point tranche is worth up to $325 at redemption.
Air Savings Program (Amex CONNECT)
When you book domestic flights (contiguous 48 states only) through the Air Savings Program at Amex CONNECT, you’re eligible for 10% off the full-price airfare – for instance, $40 off a $400 ticket. There’s no limit to the number of times you can invoke this benefit, nor to the total amount you can save.
Luxury Hotel Program
When you stay at any of the nearly 1,000 hotels that partner with Amex, you enjoy complimentary perks and amenities not available to the public. Plus, at select properties, you can take up to 20% off the lowest available published, non-restricted room rate.
This card has a 0% APR introductory promotion on purchases and balance transfers – a useful tool if you’re trying to get out of credit card debt fast. The promotion lasts for 6 months from the day you open your account.
Once the introductory APR period ends, the purchase and balance transfer APR rises to range between 13.49% and 24.49%. Your exact APR will vary based on your personal creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is set at 24.49% on the day you open your account, but can vary thereafter with prevailing rates. There is no penalty APR.
The annual fee is $95 and is not waived during the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers always cost $5 or 3%. Cash advances cost the greater of $5 or 3% to $20 or 4%, depending on how they’re executed. Late payments cost up to $37, while returned payments cost up to $35.
Overdraft Protection for Flagstar Bank Deposit Account Customers
Flagstar checking account holders enjoy optional overdraft protection with this card.
If you have overdraft protection and attempt a checking account transaction that would normally result in an overdraft, Flagstar automatically and immediately draws an advance on your card’s cash advance credit line (which may be lower than your spending limit). The advance allows the transaction to go through as usual, less a $10 fee charged to the credit card account.
Note that interest begins accruing on these advances immediately after they’re executed. It’s therefore in your best interest to pay off overdraft cash advances in full as soon as practically possible.
Visa-Backed Cardholder Benefits
Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has a wide lineup of fringe benefits for travelers and general consumers. The most noteworthy of the include:
- Personalized concierge service for travelers
- Complimentary loss and damage insurance on rental cars purchased in full with the card
- Complimentary extended warranties on items with existing warranties of one year or less
- Return protection (refunds) for certain items purchased in full with the card
- Early or exclusive access to certain ticketed entertainment events
This card requires excellent credit. Any notable credit history blemishes could jeopardize your application.
- 3% or Higher Return on Airfare Spending. Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card earns 3 points per $1 spent on airfare, with no caps or restrictions. When redeemed for cash back, that’s equivalent to a 3% return on spending. When redeemed for airfare in tranches of 25,000 points or more, the return is even better – north of 4%.
- 2% or Higher Return on Hotel and Restaurant Spending. This card’s return on hotel and restaurant spending is pretty good too. Every $1 spent in those categories earns unlimited 2 points, equivalent to a 2% return on spending when redeemed for cash and a nearly 3% return on spending when redeemed for airfare.
- 10% Discount on Airfare Purchased Through Amex CONNECT. When you purchase airfare through the Amex CONNECT loyalty portal, you get a 10% discount on the total cost of your ticket, provided you pay in full with your Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card. This benefit can be used as many times as you like, has no minimum purchase requirement, and is not subject to any blackout date restrictions.
- Nice 0% APR Introductory Offer. This card has a 0% APR introductory promotion on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months from account opening. This is a relatively rare benefit in the travel rewards card category: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card is one of the few competitors with a comparable offer.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has no foreign transaction fee. If you’re a frequent international traveler, this is no doubt music to your ears.
- Affordable Overdraft Protection for Flagstar Deposit Customers. If you have a Flagstar deposit account, consider opting into this card’s overdraft protection program. At just $10 per overdraft transfer, it’s cheaper than many comparable programs, which can charge upwards of $15 per transfer.
- No Penalty APR. Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has no penalty APR. That’s great news for cardholders who occasionally miss payments (or worry about missing payments) due to temporary liquidity issues. Popular competitors, including Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express, charge penalty APR as high as 30% for months or years after a missed payment date.
- Has an Annual Fee. Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has a $95 annual fee that’s not waived during the first year. Though many competing travel rewards cards also have annual fees, this is still a big drawback for frugal cardholders looking to earn rewards on travel spending without paying a recurring charge for the privilege.
- Travel Bonus Points Apply to Airfare and Hotel Purchases Only. This card’s travel bonus categories are narrower than some competing cards’. They apply to airfare and hotel purchases only, not travel purchases writ large. That’s a drawback relative to Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclays Arrival Premier, both of which earn attractive returns on airfare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and pretty much any other type of travel purchase. (Barclays Arrival Premier earns 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases, in fact.)
- Medicore Sign-up Bonus. For a travel rewards card with a $95 annual fee, Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Credit Card has a pretty lame sign-up bonus: just 7,500 bonus points, good for $75 when redeemed for cash back. By contrast, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s sign-up bonus is worth $400.
- Points Expire in 5 Years. This card’s points expire 5 years after they’re earned. Remember to redeem your rewards periodically, even if you only use this card once in a while. Otherwise, your points might not be around when you need them.
Flagstar Bank is no Bank of America. Unless you live in the industrial Midwest or parts of the South, you’ve probably never even heard of it. I’m one of a relative handful of Americans who does have firsthand experience with Flagstar, and that’s only because I lived in Michigan for a spell.
Despite its low profile, Flagstar Bank’s credit cards are competitive. That’s doubly true for the Flagstar Travel Rewards American Express Card, which stands up to bigger, better-financed competitors. If you don’t travel much, don’t sweat – Flagstar also has great cash back credit cards, including Flagstar Visa Bonus Rewards PLUS Card. There’s something for (almost) everyone here.