Late summer 2011, Capital One added two new MasterCards to the Aspire family, to replace their old tiered cash-back reward cards. These include two new versions: World and Platinum. Both are purely cash-back cards, with no tiers, earning limits, minimums, or annoying restrictions that many other cards have.
Aspire Cash™ World MasterCard® (Discontinued)
- Earn 50% extra cash rewards every year and pay no annual fee!
- Earn 1% cash rewards on all purchases
- Earn a $100 bonus cash reward on your first purchase
- No annual fee
- Annual interest rate of Prime +16.8%
- Please Note: A requirement of this card is a minimum personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.
- No limit to the amount you can earn
- Add an authorized user for $0, and earn even more cash
- Valuable World MasterCard benefits including Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty
- World MasterCard Benefits include:
- Travel Emergency Medical: 22 days if younger than 65, otherwise 8 days.
- Other insurance includes: Travel Accident Insurance ($500K), car rental insurance, flight delay, trip interruption/cancellation, baggage loss, baggage delay
- Price protection: $100/item if a lower price is found in 60 days, up to $500/year
- Extended Warranty: Doubles manufacturer’s warranty for up to TWO additional years (typically 1 year with other cards).
- Purchase Assurance: Insures most purchases against theft, loss or damage for 120 days (typically 90 days with other cards).
Aspire Cash™ Platinum MasterCard®
- Earn cash rewards and pay no annual fee!
- Earm 1% cash rewards on all net purchases
- Get 25% extra cash rewards every year
- Get a $50 bonus cash reward on your first purchase
- No limit to the amount of cash you can earn
- Annual interest rate of Prime +16.8%
- Valuable Platinum benefits, including Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty
- Add an authorized user for $0
And for the sake of comparison, here are the details of the Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® that I reviewed last year:
Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®
- Earn more reward miles – on everything you buy!
- Earn 2 reward miles for every $1 – on all purchases
- Get 35,000 bonus reward miles with your first purchase
- Get 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year
- Redeem for travel, cash, merchandise and gift cards
- World MasterCard benefits, including Travel Emergency Medical Insurance and Trip Cancellation Insurance
- Add an authorized user for $0
Please Note: A requirement of this card is a minimum personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.
While this is considered by some as being a “travel card”, it really is just a 1.5% cash-back card that gives you 2% cash-back to those who travel occasionally and are willing to save up 60,000+ miles. Because you even get to keep the miles on travel that you charged and redeemed for, the total reward is really a 2.02% return (not counting the annual fee and bonus). You can read my full review of the Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® here.
All of these Capital One cards have a interest rate of Prime + 16.8%, and thus are a very poor option for people who carry a balance. For the World level cards, Capital One says they are “a good choice for personal income of $70,000”, but this isn’t a strict requirement, as other factors are considered in the approval process.
Many people have applied for the Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® with income lower than this, and were approved. If your income is much lower though, your spending might not even be high enough to justify the annual fee that the World level cards have. The suggested personal income for the Platinum card is $30,000 which probably means that anyone with a job and good credit could be accepted.
For those who already have a Capital One card and want to switch to one of the new ones, you’re unfortunately going to have to re-apply and then cancel the old card. The downside is that your credit history will show a cancelled card and there’s a hard credit check when you apply, but shouldn’t affect your score a whole lot.
The upside is that you will get the sign-up bonuses, which would normally not be given to existing customers. If you have existing rewards, they can be transferred to the new card. A representative from Capital One said they are working on a better process for switching cards, but I was told the same thing a year ago.
How do these cards compare to each other?
Ever since Capital One eliminated the annual fee on the Aspire Cash World card at the end of March 2012, it’s been a no-brainer as to which version is better. Who doesn’t want a higher return and great benefits for no extra cost? The Platinum is really only there for those who can’t qualify for World.
If you use Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® only for cash-back, it returns 1.5% but its anniversary bonus will only pay for $75 of the $120 annual fee, so in this case you’re still better off with the Cash World. However, if you use Travel World for redeeming travel expenses, then you get a 2.02% return and $100 off the annual fee. The point where the extra 0.52% reward is worth paying the annual fee occurs when you redeem, on average, $177 per year in travel expenses – but being careful of the tiers to ensure you get at least close to the maximum return. For example, lets say you were to spend $20K per year on each card, and you travel once and it costs $333 or some multiple of this number.
On the Aspire Cash World, you get $200 plus an anniversary bonus of $100. With Travel World, you get 40000 miles plus 10000 miles bonus, you redeem 35000 of them to get a credit of $333, and redeem another 13333 for $100 cash-back. After paying the annual fee, that leaves you with $313 reward and 1667 miles leftover (worth at least $12.50 in a future year). So you’re effectively ahead of the Cash World card by $25 just from that one travel redemption which wasn’t even done at a full 2%. And if you spend $30K per year and have a $650 flight, the difference increases to $117! It really all comes down to how much you travel, and whether you’re willing to save up your miles and redeem them for the maximum benefit.
How do these cards compare to cards from other banks?
The question of “what is the best cash-back card?” used to be answered with quick replies of “MBNA Smart Cash“. Getting a non-tiered 1% cash-back with 3% on gas & groceries, all with no annual fee, is pretty hard to beat. But the Aspire Cash World is also no-fee and has a net annual return of 1.5% on all purchases. So comparing these two is going to depend on how much you spend on gas & groceries.
For those whose total annual spending is under $29000, if 25% of your expenses are on gas & groceries (and don’t exceed $600/month), then the annual cash-back works out to the same. More than 25% favors Smart Cash, and under 25% favors Aspire. Over $29K spending will always favor Aspire Cash World no matter what percent is spent on gas & groceries, due to the $600/month cap on Smart Cash.
If you don’t qualify for Aspire Cash World, the break-even point on the Platinum version vs Smart Cash is when 12.5% of your credit card spending is on gas & groceries. Adding to the mess is another card that may appeal to large families or those with expensive prescription drugs: the Scotiabank Momentum VISA Infinite. To choose the best card for your level of total spending and gas/grocery spending, use the following formulas to see which one gives you the highest reward per year after accounting for the annual fee and bonus:
a = annual spending on the card,
g = monthly gas & grocery spending, but do not use higher than 600 for MBNA
d = monthly drug store purchases and recurring bill payments
Aspire Cash Platinum: (a × 0.0125)
Aspire Cash World: (a × 0.015)
Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®: (a × 0.015) – 45
MBNA Smart Cash: (a × 0.01) + (g × 0.24)
Scotia VISA Infinite: (a × 0.01) + (g × 0.36) + (d × 0.12) – 99 Note: Subtract another 30 if you want a supplementary card.
Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard® used for travel: a × 0.0202 – 20
Other cash-back cards, like the CIBC Dividend Visa and Costco Amex, have tiered rewards and produce a lower return than the Aspire cards. But if you know of another card that can outperform the ones above, please mention it in the comments!
So far, these cash-back cards have only been evaluated as being used alone. Some people are willing to carry two cards around and use one for gas & groceries and the other for everything else, in order to maximize their rewards. Usually the best combination is MBNA Smart Cash with one of the Aspire cards. But Scotia’s card will outperform Smart Cash if your gas & grocries regularly exceed $825 per month and/or you spend a lot at drugstores or on recurring bills. For example, the two are equal at $600/month g & g and $225/month drugs & bills. These calculations assume no supplementary card.
People would have to spend a lot on gas & groceries in order to see MBNA Smart Cash outperform the new Aspire Cash World card, but both used together is even better. There are also quite a few people who have considered the Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®, but decided that 0.52% extra wasn’t worth the hassles of having to save up points and redeem them on travel. They will be very happy to see a pure cash-back card with a 1.5% return and tons of insurance benefits.
Check out how these cards stack up against other no-fee cash back credit cards in Canada.
About the Author: This is a guest post by Elbyron – A credit card rewards fanatic who can be found on the many personal finance and deals forums around the web.
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