Credit Card Comparison Spreadsheet

Old Apr 2, 14, 3:06 pm
  #1  
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Credit Card Comparison Spreadsheet

I wanted to share comparative analysis tool I put together when I started evaluating different card products. It looks like a couple folks have shared spreadsheets in the past, but I've been surprised that there are not more templates around. Thought this might be useful to someone, and I was interested in confirming some of my estimates, so I've created a publicly editable Google Spreadsheet with some dummy spend figures:

Link to product comparison spreadsheet

I've got my own original copy. I'd suggest that if you want to actually use this, you make a copy of it. Otherwise, feel free to comment on formulas, add products, etc

1. The first sheet takes inputs from sheet 3 (spend) and gives a granular breakdown of rewards by category, signup and annual bonuses, fees, other benefits with cash value, etc. and aggregates into both initial and subsequent year "value," an effective rate of return based on cost, and a multi-year projection based on spending.

2. Sheet 2 is an attempt to aggregate all non-rewards benefits into one place, which has been frustrating for me to keep track of. I was curious to compare things like insurance coverage terms and limits, as well as more extensive and fringe perks for travel, transportation, lodging, all that good stuff--I have not seen this info captured in one place anywhere.

3. Sheet 3 is the actual spending variable, and valuations for reward program points. The values entered right now were focused on awards for cross-country and international airfare. Obviously you would want to update your own version with how you plan to redeem points.
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Old Apr 2, 14, 8:20 pm
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It's a great start. I don't know why it's so quiet here. I guess just want to look and that's it.
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Old Apr 3, 14, 6:41 pm
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Heh, thanks Strawboy. I'm actually a little surprised too! Thought there would be more numbers geeks on here. I really think it would help cut through the subjective sense of valuation to punch in some concrete numbers and see how/where value really breaks down.

I'm noticing quite a bit of movement, mostly people playing with spend figures (cool) and for some reason creating lots and lots of new, blank sheets. Not sure what people are trying to do. Let me know if there would be any useful changes .(I had to lock the front page because a couple folks started directly entering rewards for some reason)

Hopefully someone is finding it useful to make their own copy and playing with that. I'd love to hear insights!

I for example am surprised frankly at how well stacked the Amex products seem to be (assuming you are targeting award travel) compared to Chase, even though the CSP seems to have stronger mainstream support.

The CSP can have a bit of an advantage at lower spend levels, but if you primarily use one card, it really loses ground quickly.

Why don't more people talk about the Mercedes Benz Amex revolver?

The Everyday cards are killer on paper. The Preferred version has such a lead I don't even bother comparing it.

It's also interesting to see how the cash cards cleanly take a back seat if you are planning award travel. Even the favored Barclay Arrival, which is cashback-like and sounds great for a simple flat 2%, doesn't actually stack up wonderfully compared to any of the travel cards--again, unless you specifically will not use award travel and just want generic statement credit.
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Old Apr 3, 14, 9:16 pm
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super helpful, thanks for sharing!

does the "old" tab have any relevance?

Last edited by MDtR-Chicago; Apr 4, 14 at 8:07 am Reason: merge consecutive posts
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Old Apr 3, 14, 9:33 pm
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Originally Posted by SpunkyGD View Post
Why don't more people talk about the Mercedes Benz Amex revolver?
Very solid and thorough analysis! however if you change the "typical benefits" to $400 (2 x $200 per calendar year for airline reimbursement) - the value of this card increases quite a bit. however the long term analysis (beyond 1 year) is a bit trickier to calculate bc it depends on how many annual fees you pay and how many $200 reimbursements you receive.
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Old Apr 4, 14, 6:09 am
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Originally Posted by bg26892 View Post
Very solid and thorough analysis! however if you change the "typical benefits" to $400 (2 x $200 per calendar year for airline reimbursement) - the value of this card increases quite a bit. however the long term analysis (beyond 1 year) is a bit trickier to calculate bc it depends on how many annual fees you pay and how many $200 reimbursements you receive.
Newb question but what's the Mercedez Amex Revolver? Is that the normal card or the plat?
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Old Apr 4, 14, 6:16 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Strawboy1230 View Post
Newb question but what's the Mercedez Amex Revolver?
Revolver should = Credit Card (with a revolving credit line). This one:

https://www304.americanexpress.com/p...edit-apply-top
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Old Apr 4, 14, 6:35 am
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Originally Posted by mia View Post
Revolver should = Credit Card (with a revolving credit line). This one:

https://www304.americanexpress.com/p...edit-apply-top
Ah, understood. Thanks mia.
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Old Apr 4, 14, 9:25 am
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Originally Posted by bg26892 View Post
super helpful, thanks for sharing!

does the "old" tab have any relevance?
Nope, forgot that was in there. It had been hidden, just a previous iteration of the sheet.
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Old Apr 19, 14, 11:28 pm
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Ah, interesting! I made (and shared on FT) my own CC sheet as well a year or two ago. It, too, got very little traction, and I haven't bothered updating it recently .

To answer your question about the fawning over the CSP card vs. less excitement over the Everyday cards...

CSP card:
- $95 annual fee (much cheaper than most for-fee Amex cards)
- Get a human immediately when you call
- Transfers 1:1 to United, which, well, used to be really valuable <sigh>.
- Neat looking, solid card.
- When coupled with the Freedom or Ink cards, you can earn 5x points pretty easily with little work.
- Earns 2x on all restaurant and travel spend, and with no caps! For those who travel for work a lot (e.g., a lot of FT'ers ), this = a lot of additional points.

Amex cards:
- Typically high annual fees
- Everyday cards are a pain in the tuckus... 20-30 charges/month to get the bonus? Sure, it's possible (hello, $1 Amazon gift cards!) but for busy people, meh.
- Everyday Preferred has a $6K annual cap on bonus spend (at least in the grocery store category). That seems not awful to me, but most Manufactured Spending fiends have dismissed it as pathetically small when they can easily churn that much monthly.
- And -- while it's kinda silly to note -- apparently the Everyday cards are uuuuuuugly.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 9:16 am
  #11  
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Oh, I didn't see this before. I might try to incorporate some of this into my own when I get a chance!

Did not know about the Chase service rep, that does count for a lot! I've only ever called into the card services number on my Plat with Amex so maybe my experience has been different.

I agree on paper the CSP looks strong, especially in combination with the Freedom and Ink... 7% dividend, 5x on select categories.... what's interesting is that in addition to Freedom's $1500 quarterly cap, and the rotating categories end up dictating your behavior rather than fitting your actual spending patterns (unless you devote the time to gaming the system).

Adding an Ink Plus/Bold puts annual fees into or beyond Amex territory, and unless you can really max out that office category (which I assume entails some MS or again, gaming the system) it seems pretty hard to offset the additional $95.

Personally I try to assume a ~3 year+ relationship in which the issuers address easily exploited loopholes, and I don't blow time trying to micro-manage rules (which at almost anyone's "market rate" is probably a losing effort!)

Totally agree on the travel categories if you fly around for work a lot, although these days the flights are so expensive, getting 3x or 4x on those can be a lot more significant than dining and hotels. Might be very different for extended stays, I tend to make fairly short trips.

I have to create some pretty contrived scenarios where the Chase combos come out ahead, so maybe I'm just calculating things wrong?
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Old Apr 20, 14, 4:43 pm
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Originally Posted by SpunkyGD View Post
I agree on paper the CSP looks strong, especially in combination with the Freedom and Ink... 7% dividend, 5x on select categories.... what's interesting is that in addition to Freedom's $1500 quarterly cap, and the rotating categories end up dictating your behavior rather than fitting your actual spending patterns (unless you devote the time to gaming the system).
I'm not sure I follow you here. CSP and Ink have fixed categories so the only time you have to spend "gaming the system" is pulling the right CC out when you purchase something. Freedom's 5x categories only change once a quarter, so not much time or effort required there either.

Originally Posted by SpunkyGD View Post
Adding an Ink Plus/Bold puts annual fees into or beyond Amex territory, and unless you can really max out that office category (which I assume entails some MS or again, gaming the system) it seems pretty hard to offset the additional $95.
Chase is pretty consistent about giving retention bonuses on their Ink cards so I consider them no AF CCs for all intents and purposes. Even if I had to pay the $95 AF without an offsetting retention bonus, my cell phone and cable bills alone more than pay for the AF, and both of those are on auto-pay so no time or effort required.

Originally Posted by SpunkyGD View Post
Totally agree on the travel categories if you fly around for work a lot, although these days the flights are so expensive, getting 3x or 4x on those can be a lot more significant than dining and hotels.
Is there a CC that earns 4x in flexible CC points on flights? I thought the best MR card for that was PRG at 3x, comparable to the CSP's 3.21x when you book through the UR website.

Originally Posted by SpunkyGD View Post
I have to create some pretty contrived scenarios where the Chase combos come out ahead, so maybe I'm just calculating things wrong?
Can you describe some scenarios where a different combination (MR or otherwise) comes out ahead of the Chase Freedom/CSP/Ink combo?
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:52 pm
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nice template, i will use it to assess how to approach my next AOR, thanks!
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Old Apr 25, 14, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by bribro View Post
I'm not sure I follow you here. CSP and Ink have fixed categories so the only time you have to spend "gaming the system" is pulling the right CC out when you purchase something. Freedom's 5x categories only change once a quarter, so not much time or effort required there either.
Point being that rotating bonuses, even quarterly, probably incentivize account holders on a large scale to spend more in categories (or with specific merchant options) they may not otherwise have done so. Presumably if you would be spending on those specific merchants and categories over the year you might be able to time some things to maximize the benefit, which is more "gamey" (at the very least, takes more effort). Otherwise you rely on the categories aligning with your passive, unbiased spending patterns, which I have some trouble with is all.

I'd guess, based on how people tend to idealize in hypothetical behavior, that some consumers are overly favorable and calculate a best-case scenario where 5x applies to everything possible. It's hard to factor this even in a pretty robust model.

Originally Posted by bribro View Post
Chase is pretty consistent about giving retention bonuses on their Ink cards so I consider them no AF CCs for all intents and purposes. Even if I had to pay the $95 AF without an offsetting retention bonus, my cell phone and cable bills alone more than pay for the AF, and both of those are on auto-pay so no time or effort required.
Great! That's excellent. I would not personally characterize a card as effectively being zero fee based on some variable, which fuels the psychology that can make these instruments become insidiously expensive (e.g. driving higher spending, which is well documented). For some people, it may also lead to making false comparisons to products in different categories, which further reinforces the value image ("It's essentially zero fee for me yet has all these other great perks! It's as if it's for free!")

There is a fee, or there is not a fee. Just as valid a way of looking at it is that "x" reward is wiped out by overhead of an annual fee! I think it's best to acknowledge there is a fee, but there might be a greater aggregate return given specific conditions.

Originally Posted by bribro View Post
Is there a CC that earns 4x in flexible CC points on flights? I thought the best MR card for that was PRG at 3x, comparable to the CSP's 3.21x when you book through the UR website.
Booking on the Amex travel website yields an additional point per dollar on full MR cards. So the PRG actually does provide 4x MR for airfare booked on their travel site, if I am not mistaken. This applies to Platinum as well, so you do technically get 2x MR on airfare through their site. It may not be the best value vs booking through other channels.

Originally Posted by bribro View Post
Can you describe some scenarios where a different combination (MR or otherwise) comes out ahead of the Chase Freedom/CSP/Ink combo?
Hey, play with the spreadsheet!!

I haven't yet bothered plugging in a model with the Freedom because I'm not certain on a fair way to factor in the bonus timing. That said, if you are a single person with a total ~$18K spend:

• Cell phone and high speed internet (~$170/mo?)
• Grocery spend around $75/week (half of this poll)
• $200/mo or $6/day on restaurants
• $500-700 or so in other tuff

Places the Chase Ink/CSP and combined (1.9-2.6%) well ahead of PRG (1.7%) but neck-in-neck with Everyday (2.4%) and far below the Everyday Preferred (4%). At this budget point the cell phone and internet become some of the biggest expenditures (which kind of blows hard) and the Chase Ink alone isn't a bad deal.

However this all assumes point values as if redeemed with a transfer partner (around 2). At lower spend levels are you getting enough to usefully apply toward award travel? It seems to me that across the board, with lower budgets it might actually be more useful to look at cash rewards, and redeeming UR for statement credit or cash (1) you are much better off with the Blue Cash Preferred or Cap One Quicksilver.
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Old Apr 26, 14, 8:21 am
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Nice work on the spreadsheet.

Just one question - what's your $50 subjective benefit for the PRG?
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