The U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Select+ American Express® Card is a travel credit card for the rest of us. With a modest rewards program and limited fringe benefits, it’s not going to end up on our list of the best travel rewards credit cards anytime soon. But, with no annual fee and a solid sign-up bonus, it’s a great place for frugal travelers to start earning rewards that can be redeemed for award travel with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
If you’re in the market for an upscale travel rewards credit card, look to the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card, whose $85 annual fee subsidizes potentially valuable travel benefits and a generous rewards program. Or look to FlexPerks Gold competitors like Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you’re not as concerned with creature comforts and eye-popping rewards rates, FlexPerks Select+ is more your speed. Read on to learn more about its features, strengths, weaknesses, and overall suitability.
When you spend at least $1,000 within the first 4 months, you get 10,000 bonus FlexPoints. That’s worth up to $150 when redeemed for airfare, hotels, and car rentals, and $100 when redeemed for cash or other items.
Purchases made with this card earn 1 FlexPoint per $1 spent, with no caps or restrictions on how much you can earn. FlexPoints can expire in the event of account dormancy, so check the fine print on your cardholder agreement to ensure that you don’t inadvertently lose out. The expiration date is generally 5 years to the month after points are earned.
You can redeem your accumulated FlexPoints for pretty much anything in the FlexPerks marketplace: cash, travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more.
Travel Rewards, a special type of loyalty currency that can be exchanged for travel purchases in cash-like transactions, generally offer the best value. When you redeem Travel Rewards for airfare and other travel purchases, including hotels and car rentals, your FlexPoints are worth up to $0.15 apiece. That’s a better value than many competing general-purpose travel credit cards.
On the airfare front, you can redeem with more than 150 airlines and never have to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions. Airfare redemptions start at 20,000 FlexPoints for a round-trip ticket.
If you’d prefer not to redeem for airfare or other travel purchases, you can choose cash-like redemptions, such as statement credits, bank account deposits, or gift cards. You can also redeem for general merchandise, subject to variable point values and redemption minimums. The minimum redemption for cash-like items is 1,000 points, worth $10.
FlexPerks Select+ has some useful, potentially valuable travel benefits:
- Global Dining Program: With the Global Dining Program, you’re entitled to special discounts and benefits at thousands of restaurant partners worldwide.
- Boston Coach Discounts and Preferred Treatment: As a FlexPerks member, you’re entitled to preferred rates and treatment with Boston Coach, a livery service operating in hundreds of cities around the world.
- Complimentary Rental Car Insurance: As an Amex cardholder, you’re automatically entitled to complimentary loss and damage coverage for car rentals paid in full with your card.
FlexPerks Select+’s additional benefits include:
- Overdraft Protection for U.S. Bank Deposit Account Holders: You have the option to link your Select+ card with your U.S. Bank deposit account to protect against overdrafts and NSF transactions. When you opt into overdraft protection, deposit account transactions that would normally result in negative deposit account balances are automatically executed as intended. U.S. Bank then draws on your FlexPerks Select+ card’s cash advance credit line to cover the resultant shortfall. Your credit card account isn’t charged a fee for this service, but your deposit account is: For most accounts, it’s $12.50 per day, but potentially less for premium accounts with higher monthly maintenance fees. Overdraft protection transfers also incur interest at a higher cash advance rate as soon as they’re completed. Do your budget a favor and pay them off as soon as possible.
- CONNECT from American Express: CONNECT from American Express is a members-only program for Amex cardholders. It brings you exclusive access to sought-after entertainment events, VIP experiences, and special offers from online and brick-and-mortar retail partners.
- Retail Protection: This Amex-backed benefit protects you in the event of certain adverse shopping events. Reimbursements are subject to limitations and restrictions. Read your account agreement and disclosure for more.
- Concierge Service: This Amex-backed perk orients you at home and on the road. It’s great for snagging hard-to-get reservations, discovering exciting new entertainment and dining opportunities in unfamiliar places, and arranging complex travel or transportation transfers in the U.S. and abroad.
- Emergency Assistance: This benefit protects you against unforeseen events on the road. If third-party service is required, you may be on the hook for out-of-pocket fees or charges.
FlexPerks Select+ has a 9-month, 0% APR introductory promotion for balance transfers. Qualifying transfers must be made within 60 days of account opening. After 9 months, regular interest rates apply on the full amount of the balance transfer(s). There’s no corresponding introductory APR promotion for purchases.
There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 2% to 3%, depending on how the transaction is denominated (U.S. dollar transactions are cheaper). Cash advances cost at least the greater of $5 or 3% of the advanced amount, but certain types of cash advances (including overdraft protection transfers) cost more. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount. Late payments cost $38. Returned payments cost $35.
This card requires good credit.
- No Annual Fee. FlexPerks Select+ has no annual fee. That’s great news for frugal travelers who don’t want to lose any of their hard-earned money to recurring levies.
- Useful Benefits from CONNECT from American Express. CONNECT from American Express is a low-profile fringe benefit that can be pretty useful – and potentially valuable. Use it to snag discounts and exclusive access at restaurants, entertainment venues, VIP events, retail outlets, and more.
- 0% APR on Balance Transfers for 9 Months. FlexPerks Select+ charges no interest on balance transfers for 9 months from account opening. If you’re struggling with high-interest credit card balances elsewhere, this is a solid opportunity for you to pay down debt at minimal cost.
- Solid Sign-Up Bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus is worth up to $150 when redeemed for airfare, hotels, and car rentals. You have 4 months to meet the required $1,000 spend – a moderate climb for frugal cardholders, but definitely within reach for those who use this as their primary spending aid.
- Looser Underwriting Requirements. FlexPerks Select+ doesn’t hold applicants to rigorous qualification standards – at least, not to the same degree as premium U.S. Bank travel cards, such as FlexPerks Gold and FlexPerks Travel Rewards.
- No Penalty APR. FlexPerks Select+ doesn’t charge penalty interest. If you carry a credit card balance and occasionally miss payments due to unforeseen cash flow issues or unexpected expenses, this can save you a boatload in out-month interest charges.
- Modest Return on Spending. FlexPerks Select+ offers only a modest return on spending: 1 FlexPoint per $1 spent. That’s a maximum rate of return of 2%, assuming you redeem for airfare or other travel purchases, but your overall rate of return is likely to be lower. For a better, more predictable return on spending, look to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent, a 2% rate of return).
- No Favored Spending Categories. This card doesn’t have favored spending categories or tiers that could boost your total return on spending. That’s a disadvantage relative to fellow FlexPerks cards. FlexPerks Gold earns unlimited 3 FlexPoints per $1 spent on restaurant purchases, making it an excellent choice for people looking to save money dining out at restaurants.
- Limited Travel Benefits. FlexPerks Select+’s travel benefits are not very generous, to put it mildly. Most are standard-issue Amex-backed benefits, such as complimentary rental car insurance when you pay in full with your card. That’s something, but it’s not going to change your life or significantly affect your long-term financial position.
- No Point Transfer Allowance. This card doesn’t have any point transfer arrangements with airlines or hotel companies. Some competing premium travel cards do have such arrangements, sometimes at super-generous rates. For instance, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express has 1-to-1 point transfer arrangements with several airlines, potentially magnifying the already-high value of cardholders’ Starpoints.
- Foreign Transactions Cost 2% to 3%. This card adds 2% to 3% in surcharges to every foreign transaction, depending on how they’re denominated. Most premium travel cards, including Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, waive foreign transaction fees altogether.
You have to start somewhere.
That’s my takeaway from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Select+ American Express® Card. It’s certainly not the most generous travel rewards credit card in the world, or even in U.S. Bank’s lineup. However, it costs nothing to keep in your wallet, isn’t too hard to qualify for, and has enough useful features (such as a 0% APR balance transfer promotion) to keep things interesting. Used responsibly and consistently, it’s perfectly capable of serving as a springboard to bigger, better, and more rewarding travel rewards credit cards.