Card Review: US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature

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I’ll be honest, I’ve always turned my nose at fixed-value award programs because they limit the maximum value you can get out of the program. What’s the fun in getting a single measly cent per point? Fixed-value programs make traveling in expensive first class cabins, like my recent Cathay Pacific trip, nearly impossible since the redemptions are tied to the cost of the ticket- so a $10,000 trip would cost a million points. No thanks.

But the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t need international first class tickets or simply don’t have the time or flexibility to make award tickets work. Yes, my Cathay flight was amazing, but what would have happened if I had 4 kids to also bring with me on that flight? Fat chance I’d have been able to get us all in the first class cabin at the saver level pricing.

I’m also coming around to fixed-value programs because I’ve been redeeming a lot of miles lately and I’ve started to fall behind on my elite status since award tickets don’t qualify for elite miles. I’d love to have a nice stash of points to be used to purchase airfare so I don’t end up at a lower elite level. I’m ready to get a fixed value card and recently learned about the US Bank Flexperks Signature Visa, which will be a part of my next round of credit card applications and I’ll be digging into the program more once I’m a member.

Basic Program Info
FlexPerks is the proprietary points program of US Bank, just like Ultimate Rewards is to Chase, however the main downside is that you can’t transfer the points to any travel partner. You can only redeem the points for travel and gift cards, though I’d love to see US Bank add in transfer partners since they currently issue the co-brand cards for Aeromexico, Taca, LAN, and Korean airlines so all three alliances would be covered.

I actually used to be a US Bank customer when they issued the Northwest credit cards (which went away with the Delta merger), but after my Northwest card went by the wayside and they enrolled me in FlexPerks instead, I canceled the card because I was most focused on building up airline miles and credit card points with Chase and Amex. I never paid much attention to the program, but after researching it’s actually a decent program for those looking to redeem for any flight and earn elite status. (Or those who have simply maxed out on all of the good offers with Chase, Amex and Citi and need something new!)

Here are the current offer details on it through my link:

  • Earn 20,000 enrollment FlexPoints after you spend $3,500 in Net Purchases (purchases minus credits and returns) on your Card within the first four months of account opening.
  • Earn one FlexPoint for every $1 of eligible net purchases charged to your Card
  • Earn two FlexPoints for every $1 spent on gas, grocery or airline net purchases — whichever you spend most on each monthly billing cycle — and on most cell phone expenses
  • Earn Triple FlexPoints on eligible charitable donations*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees (based on creditworthiness).*
  • Award travel starts at just 20,000 FlexPoints (up to a $400 ticket value) on over 150 airlines with no blackout dates or online redemption fees
  • Receive an airline allowance of up to $25 with every award travel ticket to use toward baggage fees, in-flight food or drinks and more
  • Subject to credit approval.

In addition, the card has a SmartChip, which would be great for travel abroad. Cardholders also get travel accident insurance for up to $1 million, Silver-level membership in a travel booking service called Aficionado Club, and up to a 25% discount on National Car Rental reservations plus a free rental day coupon.

Other FlexPerks cards:
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Business Edge Rewards Card – 20,000 point signup bonus and $3,500 spent within the first four months – same basic perks as the personal card
No Annual Fee Personal Card– 1 point per $2 spent (not a good deal unless you are trying to build credit)

How FlexPerks Points Work
You can use your points to redeem for any available airfare at any time with no blackout dates. However, it more closely resembles Canada’s RBC Avion points where you redeem a certain amount of points on tickets up to certain dollar-value tiers, vs Capital One and Citi that give you 1 cent per point. You would also earn Elite Qualifying Miles as well as redeemable miles when redeeming FlexPoints.

Generous Redemption Levels
20,000 FlexPoints = Up to $400 ticket value
30,000 FlexPoints = Up to $600 ticket value
40,000 FlexPoints = Up to $800 ticket value
50,000 FlexPoints = Up to $1,000 ticket value
70,000 FlexPoints = Up to $1,400 ticket value
100,000 FlexPoints = Up to $2,000 ticket value
150,000 FlexPoints = Up to $3,000 ticket value
225,000 FlexPoints = Up to $4,500 ticket value
350,000 FlexPoints = Up to $7,000 ticket value
500,000 FlexPoints = Up to $10,000 ticket value

Value Proposition
So the most value you can get out of any of your points is 2 cents each if you push right up against the upper limit of airfare in each increment with the worst being 1.33 cents each if you are at the lower end of those price brackets- still much more  generous than most programs that only give 1- 1.25 cents per point. If you earn on average 2 points per dollar spent (not hard if you are a Platinum checking customer can spend in bonus categories) and you maximize your redemptions, you could be getting 4% back on all of your spend (double the Venture), which is extremely competitive even compared to Chase/Amex since you are earning miles all along the way.

Booking travel is easy too through the FlexPerks Rewards travel site, which is powered by Travelocity so it should find pretty much the standard best deals out there, or by calling the booking center at 888-229-8864. Cardholders must make the booking themselves, though the tickets can be purchased in anyone’s name.

You can also redeem points for hotels and car rental gift cards at a rate of 1 point per cent in 5,000-point increments for which you get gift certificates to use at chains like Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean.

Points are also redeemable for merchandise from shops like Apple, Sony, Bose, Canon and Dell, and gift cards from places like Amazon, Best Buy, Gap, Macy’s, Office Depot and Starbucks, or even just cash-back statement credits at 1 cent per point in increments of 5,000 points.

Note that FlexPoints expire 5 years after the end of the quarter in which they were earned, so no keeping your points alive simply by continuing to use the card. You’ve eventually got to use your points within that 5-year limit.

Who Is This Best For?
As always, fixed-rate points like these generally aren’t the best idea for travelers who want to redeem their points for international first and business class flights, though if you took advantage of the recent sub $2,000 business class flights to Europe, you could have scored them with 100,000 points and still earned elite status! Nor is this the card for people looking for airline or hotel-specific perks like with a co-branded card (though that $25 incidental credit per airline ticket booked with rewards would cover checked bags or onboard snacks, so that’s a perk).

Rather this card would be good for people who need to be able to book any flight- especially families whose school schedules aren’t flexible enough to work around peak award travel periods and who need multiple tickets on the same exact flight. For example, if you want to fly to Hawaii in coach on a $600 ticket, you can use 30,000 points per ticket and you’d earn miles and book as many tickets are available at that price vs. trying to finagle saver award tickets which start at 35,000 with most airlines and are heavily capacity controlled. This scenario works different based on your travel destination, cost of the tickets and what class of service you travel, but these programs can take the hassle out of using rewards points and allow you to earn miles on top of the redemption.

This card also makes a lot of sense for people who are US Bank Platinum checking customers and who also spend a lot of money in charitable donations as well as gas, groceries or airfare. While the Capital One Venture card gives two points per dollar on all purchases, the points are worth 1 cent a piece. If you can max out on the 2x and 3x WorldPerks spend categories and then redeem for up to 2 cents per point, you can come out way ahead (plus you get all the other perks like $25 reimbursements and Visa Signature and Smartchip benefits). Overall, depending on your habits, this is potentially the best fixed value travel card on the market right now.


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