Credit cards

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According to The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing, the financially sound use of credit and debit cards takes advantage of the convenience such cards can provide, as long as one always pays the balance due each month, avoiding interest charges. [1] Some credit cards provide programs that rebate a percentage of purchases back to the cardholder. The following tables provide information on credit card cash rebate programs for selective credit card issuers.

Cash back credit cards

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These tables are intended as examples to show the variations among card issuers. They are not recommendations. Read all of the Terms and Conditions in the card issuer's agreement, as exceptions can be subtle and potentially influence a decision.

These cards return high rates of cash back to their holders, whether in all purchase categories ("Everything" in the table below) or in specific categories. Many also offer one-time sign-up bonuses, such as $100 cash back when the user spends $1,000 in the first three months as a cardholder. NerdWallet has a frequently updated database of credit cards, and offers tools to estimate cash back rewards based on individual spending patterns.

Gas and grocery cards

Name Issuers Annual Fee Cash Back Categories Notes
Gas
Groceries
Restaurants
Entertainment
Airlines
Hotels
Everything
Blue Cash Preferred

American Express

$75

3% 6% 1%
  • Also gives 3% on Department Stores
Blue Cash Everyday

American Express

2% 3% 1%
  • Also gives 2% on Department Stores
Visa Platinum Cash Rewards

PenFed

5% 0.25%
  • Cash is automatically credited each month
"—" denotes that there are no bonuses beyond Everything.

Everything else

Name Issuers Annual Fee Cash Back Categories Notes
Gas
Groceries
Restaurants
Entertainment
Airlines
Hotels
Everything
Fidelity Rewards American Express

FIA/Bank of America

2%
  • Must open a Fidelity Account, or redeem by check in $250 increments, for full 2% redemption rate
Capital One Venture Visa

Capital One Bank

$59

2%
  • Must use cash back against travel expenses for full 2% redemption
  • No foreign transaction fee
Priceline Rewards Visa

Barclays

2%
  • 5% back on "name your price" priceline purchases
  • Redemption by selecting specific charges to credit points against
Fidelity Rewards Visa

FIA/Bank of America

1.5%
  • Must open a Fidelity Account for maximum lower tier redemptions
  • 2% on purchases above $15,000
NGFCU Cash Rebates Mastercard

Northrop Grumman

1.5%
  • No foreign transaction fee
"—" denotes that there are no bonuses beyond Everything.

Rotating cash back categories

Several card issuers offer cash back cards whose categories rotate periodically. For example, Discover More offers 5% cash back on categories which vary as follows:[2]

  • January through March: Travel and Restaurants
  • April through June: Home and Fashion
  • June: Grocery and Drug Stores
  • July through September: Gas, Hotels, Movies and Theme Parks
  • October through December: Restaurants and Fashion
Name Annual Fee 5% Cash Back Calendar Notes
JAN
FEB
MAR
APR
MAY
JUN
JUL
AUG
SEP
OCT
NOV
DEC
Discover More

Travel, Restaurants Home, Fashion Home, Fashion, Grocery, Drug Stores Gas, Hotels, Movies, Theme Parks Restaurants, Fashion
  • Only gives .25% on the first $3000, and 1% after in "Everything" categories
Chase Freedom

Grocery, Drug Stores Home Furnishing, Home Improvement, Lawn and Garden Gas, Hotels, Airlines Dining, Department Stores, Movies, Charity

Multiple credit cards

Many credit card users obtain cards from several issuers, then optimize their spending patterns to maximize the cash reward. For example, one might use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card for all grocery purchases, and the Capital One Venture card for all other purchases. While using multiple credit cards is tempting, there are a number of considerations which may dissuade card holders from this approach:

  • The effort needed to track multiple cards is significant.[3]
  • Many cash back cards require a minimum amount of cash back to be earned before it can be redeemed. Using several cards, one will accumulate cash back more slowly on each card, and therefore it may take longer to actually earn a redeemable amount of cash back on any one card.
  • It's easy to forget a payment or lose a card. The fees, interest charges, and credit score impact of such an oversight can quickly ruin any savings you might have earned.[4]
  • Opening multiple credit card accounts can help your credit score, but this technique may backfire and lower your score as well.[4]
  • Card issuers often coordinate their cash back categories (similar categories during the same time period), which results in minimal benefit to using multiple rotating-category cards.[3][5]
  • Cash back categories have spending limits. Spreading purchases over several cards to avoid these limits is complex to track.

Credit report

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Many users request their credit report from only one of these three companies at a time; by rotating among the three companies, you can view your updated credit report every 4 months in this way.

AnnualCreditReport.com is a centralized service for consumers to request free annual credit reports. It was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - and is the only service authorized for this purpose.

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.[6]

See also

References

  1. The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing Taylor Larimore (Author), Mel Lindauer (Author), Michael LeBoeuf (Author), John C. Bogle (Foreword), Wiley; 1 edition (January 3, 2006), pp.10-13.
  2. Discover cards. Note that there are dollar restrictions for each time period, e.g. $200 limit for groceries purchased in June.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rotating 5% back categories for Credit Cards, forum discussion
  4. 4.0 4.1 How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?, from Investopedia
  5. Credit Card 5% Cash Back Rotating Categories: April to June 2011
  6. Your Rights: Credit Reporting, from the Federal Trade Commission

External links

Investopedia links

Bibliography