A low credit score might mean that you have to settle for less extravagant credit cards than you could get if your score was higher, but you would be surprised at the variety you can find even among cards in the lower tiers. The MBNA Platinum Plus credit card line is one of the more unusual entry-level options out there due to the way in which they actually incentivize lower spending. There are two MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard options: the cash back card and the rewards card. Both are easy to get with any kind of credit that isn’t outright considered to be bad, and both carry similar drawbacks but also excel at similar roles.
Option 1: Spend Money, Earn Reward Points
MBNA’s Platinum Plus rewards card is a classic no-fee rewards card that lets you earn reward points on some of the most basic purchases you make every month. It grants you 2 points per dollar on gas, grocery and restaurant charges and 1 point per dollar in all other circumstances, a rate which is middling in its generosity (although the fact that the boosts are applied to common purchase categories is certainly a welcome decision). It gets a bit more complicated once you’ve spent enough in the past year, though. There is a $5,000 annual cap on each of these bonus categories, meaning that only the first $5,000 in spending each year for each category will be awarded points at the bonus rate; however, none of that spending overlaps with any other category, so it should be relatively easy to determine how close you are to reaching that cap before you make any extra charges to your card. Once you hit that cap, even bonus rate-eligible purchases will get you just the one-point rate again, considerably diminishing the value of the card from that point on. You’ll still be earning points each time you buy something, but only half as quickly as you were before.
Option 2: Get Cash Back For Everyday Shopping
The cash back card works along similar lines, but incorporates a few key changes that need further examination. Each time you buy something with it, you’ll get some money back – 2% cash back on gas and groceries (limited to the first $500 in monthly spending in each category), and 0.5% cash back otherwise. This structure is somewhat less advantageous than the one that the rewards card has, since it limits you by month rather than by year – if you have a month of high spending followed by low spending during the rest of the year, you will still lose out on the extra money you could have gotten in that one month simply due to the timing of it. However, since your spending shouldn’t usually be so uneven, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. This is also a steeper drop in rewards than what the rewards card offers – 4 times less on non-bonus purchases instead of just 2 times less. On top of this, you’re losing out on the restaurant bonus category by choosing this card over the other one, a loss that you’ll definitely feel if you tend to eat out a lot. All of this is presumably because of the higher inherent value of cash over restricted rewards points, but it’s still an unappealing trade-off that might change some people’s minds regarding whether to choose this card or the other.
Using the MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard Line Right
The fluctuating reward rates that these cards use present a bit of a challenge to many users. The cash back version in particular is very much structured to cater to low spenders, to the point where it will actually be quite stingy to those who spend extravagantly or even moderately. At that point, you’ll be earning the low 0.5% rate on most of the things you buy, and you can do much better than that with almost any other entry-level credit card. Things aren’t too much different with the rewards card, given that MBNA’s reward points are worth a fair amount less than those of most other credit card systems – one solitary point isn’t going to get you very far, and that’s all you’ll get per dollar when your spending rises. As we mentioned, that card is the slightly more flexible option of the two thanks to the way in which it allows you to redistribute your spending without losing out, but that only marginally improves its utility.
However, these caveats do not mean that the card is useless to you if you aren’t on such a tight budget. The bonus rates that apply before you hit the caps are good enough that they might be worth doing a little extra legwork to still be able to take advantage of them despite this design choice. The easiest way to do this is with another credit card that you will use in tandem with one of these. Use your Platinum Plus card to purchase your monthly necessities until you hit around $500 in spending, then switch over to the other card if there are any more purchases to be made within those categories. Any non-incentivized spending should also be done with other cards. That way, you get the benefit of the generous boosted rates while also avoiding the far worse rates that you would be subject to outside of that.
Is an MBNA Platinum Plus Card the One For You?
The MBNA Platinum Plus credit card line is a specialized tool that is suited for a particular purpose, not general purpose use. Those who will be able to use these cards in the way that best suits its set-up are extremely small-time spenders and those who want to use this card in conjunction with another one to patch together some better bonus rate coverage between them. It is rather difficult to recommend them to people outside of those two situations due to the rewards cliff they will inevitably face when they start to exceed those moderately low spending caps. All the same, though, those who do end up with a Platinum Plus card and take care to keep their spending on them within those capped limits will be pleased by the amount of rewards they get. It just takes a careful hand to make sure you are getting the maximum benefits possible.