Author Topic: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?  (Read 9600 times)

windypig

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What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« on: September 30, 2014, 09:53:10 PM »
As we all know certain cards earn you certain percentages back at certain types of retailers for example some cards earn you up to 6% at grocery stores while others give you only a paltry 2% back.

What cards are in your repertoire and where do you use them:

I will get started with my hypothetical card scenario (I am looking to revamp)

Groceries................................Amex Blue cash preffered for use at grocery store: 6% back (~75 fee)
AMAZON.COM + EATING OUT....Amazon Visa for Amazon.com purchases and gas: 3% back at amazon and 2% back at restaurants (no fee)
GAS.......................................American express Costco True Earnings: 3% back (~50 costco membership required)
EVERYTHING ELSE ..................Citi Double cash: For everything else: 2% back on all purchases (no fee)


stlbrah

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2014, 11:01:46 PM »
amex for groceries, and gas when discover doesn't have gas deals

otherwise, discover on everything. Both offer 1% for everything not in promotion, but w/ discover I can get restaurant or retail gift cards at a lower rate

I thought about getting a capital one card to get the extra .5% on general purchases over the discover and amex (1.5% vs 1%) but I don't know if having to deal w/ another card just for that small difference is worth it.

schoopsthecat

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2014, 11:02:56 PM »
If you pay the $75 fee, then your first $1200 of groceries during the year just allows you to break even.  Depending on your food cost, you might be better off using a lower bonus no fee card.

I have a Pentagon Federal CC that pays 5% back on gas with no fee.  I use that exclusively for buying gas.  I have an Amex Hilton that I use when I travel for work most of the time.  I was doing what you are talking about and cycling through a bunch of cards, but now I'm pretty much just using a Barclays Arrival MC for everything besides gas and reimbursed hotel expenses.  2.2% back on everything.  There is a $75 fee, however I travel internationally frequently (my sister lives in South Africa), and paying that is worth it to me for no foreign transaction fees.

If you really want to get the most out of CC rewards, then always using a new card for sign up bonuses is probably worth more than any % rewards you get for your normal shopping.  I started doing that last spring, but for me it was more work and more to keep track of than it seemed to be worth it to me.  However, I'm open to doing this again if I get inspired.  The problem was that my methods for manufacturing spending dried up.  I know there are others out there, but the ones I'm aware of require more effort than is worth it to me.

LifestyleDeflation

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2014, 12:58:56 AM »
For when I'm not working towards a minimum spending requirement on a new card, my current set of cards is:
-Chase Freedom
-Citi Dividend
-Discover it

All of those cards have rotating 5% cash back categories, and no annual fee. I'll also be adding the PenFed gas card mentioned by another poster when I get around to it- that card is particularly valuable because it's one of the few cards the has chip and pin technology, and no foreign transaction fee, and no annual fee- and that's in addition to the cash back on gas! :-)

chasesfish

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2014, 05:03:18 AM »
I'm not as advanced as some folks anymore, but here it goes:

Hilton Amex (the main spend card)
Delta Amex (the $75/year fee is cheaper than what I'd pay in checked bag fees in a year)
Chase Sapphire (got the big reward, now is basically a plain vanilla 1% card redeemable with gift cards)

I also have a Fidelity 2% card, but it can't seem to find its way into the spending.  We always seem to get close on Hilton Points for a trip or Delta Miles for a free flight, so we alternate them.

thedayisbrave

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2014, 09:35:52 AM »
I'm slowly turning in a CC rewards whore but I love it :) It is a "game" for me so it fills in for no more stock trading... Not sure how that makes sense, but for some reason it works.

Just got out of school so I'm starting from scratch.  Still have access to my mom's card for emergencies but it's not part of my daily use. 

My plan: Got a Chase Sapphire Preferred a few months ago - spending enough on a new (to me) house to reap the bonus sign-up rewards.  After the first of next year, plan on getting a Chase Freedom and using it on the rotating categories, with the CSP being used for everything else (larger purchases).  Still have to use my debit card 30x/mo in order to qualify for the high rewards checking rate of 2%.  But between groceries, gas, eating out, coffee, etc. I expect it to work out.  If not, I'll sacrifice the return on my debit card (use lower than 30x gets 0.5% APY). 

The CSP is awesome because you can earn even more points if you shop through the Ultimate Rewards mall.  You just have to be careful and only spend on things you were going to buy anyway - otherwise that's where the trouble starts.

Other ideas to increase rewards/manufacture spend:
-Max out the rotating category limit on the CF by getting gift cards that I'll use later (groceries, gas, etc)
-When eating out with friends & they have cash, offer to put the bill on your CC and take the cash... in fact I do this all the time, not just with eating out.  For example my friend and I are attending a music festival next year.  I offered to put the hotel + ticket (it'll come out to about $300+) on my CC and have her just pay me back one lump sum.  Easier for her, more points for me :) You just got to trust your friends will pay you with this.  Haha.

eil

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2014, 10:06:33 AM »
Well Fargo offers a 5% rewards Visa on gas and groceries, but I believe that's only first the first six months. After that, it becomes a 1% card. (But I have to double-check.)

I have the Amazon Chase Visa, a decent rewards card.

I'm considering getting a Sam's Club Mastercard: http://www.samsclub.com/sams/pagedetails/content.jsp?pageName=creditMarketing 5% back on gas, 3% dining and travel, 1% everywhere else. No fee.

Oh, and Discover with its rotating 5% categories. I like their ShopDiscover site or whatever it is... click through to online retailers for more cash back options.



Key thing with these cards/programs is to make sure you're only using them for things you need to buy anyway. Never use "ooh, I'll get cash back of I buy X" as an excuse to buy frivolous shit.

ketchup

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2014, 10:18:23 AM »
Gas/Groceries/Amazon.com - 5% back with Sallie Mae Mastercard
Rotating Categories 5% back (1% elsewhere) - Discover, Citi Dividend, Chase Freedom
Catch-all 2% back - Priceline.com Visa, Fidelity Amex

windypig

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2014, 10:30:35 AM »
Absolutely, I am not or at least like to think I am not coerced into buying more than I need. Obviously not spending is better than getting like 5% money back, but lets face it money has to be spent, so might as well got some rewards back when its a requirement.

rmendpara

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2014, 10:43:12 AM »
As we all know certain cards earn you certain percentages back at certain types of retailers for example some cards earn you up to 6% at grocery stores while others give you only a paltry 2% back.

What cards are in your repertoire and where do you use them:

I will get started with my hypothetical card scenario (I am looking to revamp)

Groceries................................Amex Blue cash preffered for use at grocery store: 6% back (~75 fee)
AMAZON.COM + EATING OUT....Amazon Visa for Amazon.com purchases and gas: 3% back at amazon and 2% back at restaurants (no fee)
GAS.......................................American express Costco True Earnings: 3% back (~50 costco membership required)
EVERYTHING ELSE ..................Citi Double cash: For everything else: 2% back on all purchases (no fee)

For me, I opt for simplicity over complexity. Credit cards are no exception. Right now, I don't spend enough to warrant having multiple cards for different purposes, but the future may change.

I use Bank of America csh rewards, which offers 1/2/3% on everything/gas/groceries. I calculated the effective rate for the last 12 months and it appears to be around 1.4%. Not bad at all. In the future, it may be more useful to think/look elsewhere if my annual spending increases and a few % points starts to make a difference. At $10-15k, it's pinching pennies.

Two best cards out there, IMO, are probably the capital one quicksilver 1.5% flat everything, and the Barclay world card, 2% on travel redemptions (assuming you would get use of that).

Does anyone with <20k in annual spending manage to make much more than 2% net on credit cards (total rewards / total purchases)?

frugaliknowit

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2014, 11:48:49 AM »
I am a single household mustacian who is not a big spender.  I buy most groceries from an independently owned outfit, so I don't know if they come be seen as groceries.  I don't own a car, so there's no gas purchases.  I've been through the rotating categories game and it was nothing but a headache.  For me, Amex and Discover are a "P in the A" because not everyone takes them.

Target (very near my residence) 5% at the checkout
Capital One Quicksilver 1.5% on everything

I play with initial flight rewards.  I got a United card with 50,000 miles when you spend $2,000 with 3 months.  That has been spent.  I will use up the miles before the annual fee kicks in.  Next year I will probably do it on a different card (Barclay's Traveler?).

arebelspy

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2014, 11:50:11 AM »
I don't bother with trying to earn rewards from normal spending.  We don't spend enough.

You can earn way more from sign up bonuses on CCs.  So we've done lots of that recently.  But I don't bother with trying to do different cards for different types of spending.
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windypig

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2014, 12:18:38 PM »
I don't bother with trying to earn rewards from normal spending.  We don't spend enough.

You can earn way more from sign up bonuses on CCs.  So we've done lots of that recently.  But I don't bother with trying to do different cards for different types of spending.

Not even Groceries?

arebelspy

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2014, 12:57:51 PM »
I don't bother with trying to earn rewards from normal spending.  We don't spend enough.

You can earn way more from sign up bonuses on CCs.  So we've done lots of that recently.  But I don't bother with trying to do different cards for different types of spending.

Not even Groceries?

No, not even (groceries/gas/whatever).  I use one card for whatever I'm purchasing.  I tend to shoot for big gains and optimized simplicity.  :)
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Lis

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2014, 01:11:40 PM »
Target card for Target purchases (I get my pet supplies there, shockingly the best prices around me!) - 5% discount on everything
BofA Cash Back Rewards for Gas - 3%
Blue Everyday Amex for everything else - 3% groceries, 2% on some stuff, 1% on everything else.

None have fees. I really should crunch the numbers, I may be better off with the $75 card with Amex (that would give me 4% on gas and 6% on groceries). Something to look into...

LibrarIan

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2014, 01:18:11 PM »
I just use my AmEx blue cash preferred for everything. If I have to buy something that isn't groceries/gas, I buy a gift card at the grocery store and still get the 6% back on that purchase (thereby avoiding the pathetic 1% back rate for everything else).

seattlecyclone

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2014, 01:18:50 PM »
Gas/Groceries/Amazon.com - 5% back with Sallie Mae Mastercard
Rotating Categories 5% back (1% elsewhere) - Discover, Citi Dividend, Chase Freedom
Catch-all 2% back - Priceline.com Visa, Fidelity Amex

I have basically this same lineup. The Salle Mae card is great for the essentials, and the rotating categories cards can provide a little extra cash back from time to time. My strategy for managing this is to make a little card each quarter saying which card to use at which type of merchant. Then I carry this card in my wallet and consult it when I'm waiting in the checkout line if I don't remember which credit card is the best at that particular merchant.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2014, 02:46:41 PM »
Similar to other posters, we don't spend enough to earn mega rewards. Since our spending is low, we find it beneficial to just have two cards:
-American Express Starwood Preferred Guest: The best, bar none, hotel rewards points (in my opinion). We use Starwood points to stay in free hotels worldwide.
-Amazon.com Cash Rewards: This thing is amazing--we rack up free Amazon purchases every month. Plus, the card yields 2% back at gas stations, restaurants (pointless since we never go), & drug stores and 1% back on everything else.

What really helps out our rewards earnings is that Mr. Frugalwoods travels for work and is often able to stay at Starwood properties. AND, he buys a bunch of stuff for his office from Amazon, which means he gets reimbursed for cash-back eligible purchases. Without his business-related purchases (which he's reimbursed for), we wouldn't earn very many points :)

BrianT

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2014, 03:22:49 PM »
I shuffle my cards every quarter because of the rotating 5% categories on my Chase Freedom and Discover card.

Chase and Discover usually have at least two quarters where gas is offered at 5%, so during those two quarters I'll use one of these cards. When none offers it, then I use the Costco TrueEarnings American Express for gas. Everything else I use a 2% card (Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Amex - whichever I feel like). I keep it pretty simple. Sometimes 5% is offered for restaurants in which case I'll use that accordingly.

For introductory offers, I use that card on all purchases except for any categories where a 5% option is offered.

For the quiet quarters, where the 5% spending categories don't match my expenses, I use the Costco Amex for gas, and a 2% card for everything else.

johnhenry

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2014, 03:43:26 PM »
Well Fargo offers a 5% rewards Visa on gas and groceries, but I believe that's only first the first six months. After that, it becomes a 1% card. (But I have to double-check.)

I have the Amazon Chase Visa, a decent rewards card.

I'm considering getting a Sam's Club Mastercard: http://www.samsclub.com/sams/pagedetails/content.jsp?pageName=creditMarketing 5% back on gas, 3% dining and travel, 1% everywhere else. No fee.

Oh, and Discover with its rotating 5% categories. I like their ShopDiscover site or whatever it is... click through to online retailers for more cash back options.



Key thing with these cards/programs is to make sure you're only using them for things you need to buy anyway. Never use "ooh, I'll get cash back of I buy X" as an excuse to buy frivolous shit.

We just got the Sam's Club Mastercard a few months ago.  The 5% on gas and 3% on travel is very nice.  The only downside is it won't link in with Quicken.  I think we have a Capital One card that gives 2% on groceries.  I'd like to get something that gives 5% on groceries..... with no fee.  I saw the Sallie Mae mastercard that said 5% on gas/groceries, but it had some fine print that said only on the first $250 each month.  I didn't read closer to see if that was each category or both combined.

Hadilly

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2014, 04:51:15 PM »
We like the Fidelity 529 card, 2% goes into a 529 plan. Basic and simple. I have been contemplating starting the new card bonus game though.

Capital One for overseas travel with no fees.

Charles Schwab for free ATM withdrawals anywhere.

beeth_oven

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2014, 08:51:50 PM »
I have one or two long-term cards, and then get new ones purely for sign-on bonuses:

Longterm:
Discover It (best online shopping points)
Starwood (for hotels)

Short-term:
Chase Sapphire (45k points)
Amex Delta Skymiles (35k points)
Barclays Arrival (40k points)

I'll cancel the short-term ones once the annual fee kicks in and after I use up the rewards.

nvmama

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2014, 09:09:29 PM »
We did the rotating thing for a while, but mostly we stick to the following:

Groceries: the basic Amex blue cash 3% back, its not worth it for us to get the preferred card.
Gas: Penfed 5% cash back
Target: only when shopping at Target 5%
Restaurants/bookstores, movies: Citi Forward 5% (yes, we still order out about once a week)
Everything else: Fidelity Amex 2%

I'm thinking about getting the Citi Double to add for the rare moments that Amex isn't accepted, but for right now when that happens I just put the expense on my Capital one card, 1.25% back

My husband has the home depot and lowes cards for the 5% back, if he ever needs to get something.


flashpacker

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2014, 09:22:51 PM »
We have the Barclays Arrival Mastercard. It basically gave a $440 sign up bonus on meeting the minimum spend (redeemable as a credit against any travel purchases). My spouse and I both did this so got the equiv of $880. After the signup is 2.2% back.

We will ditch the card after a year as it has a fee and go back to using our BoA Travel Rewards card, which is somewhere between 1.5-2% cashback on everything.

Like @arebelspy, we don't mess around with different categories of spending. The gas station we use gives the lowest price for cash and the discount beats the cashback amount.

I need to figure out the next cards we should apply for to get signup bonuses.

Stellar

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Re: What is your credit card strategy for maximizing rewards?
« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2014, 06:43:24 AM »
I started using a Sears Citi card for my daily purchases (gas+groceries) about three months ago and I've had $200 in Shop Your Way Rewards since.  I'm not 100% sure what the rewards percentage is...

I received an offer for the American Express Blue Cash card yesterday (with no annual fee).  The application stated 6% on select grocers but the actual online access states 3%.  I will have to review the paperwork again.

I'm not sure which is best yet.  The only upside so far is my SO gets 4 tires for $50 with the shop your way rewards.