What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
munemaker
Posts: 1814
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by munemaker » Sun May 29, 2016 7:16 am

bta15 wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Marriott points aren't worth much. A night at a decent Marriott is like 40k points where a decent Hyatt might be 12k. That said, 80k points + a free night should be at least 3 nights, so maybe that is better. But the Marriott card does have an $85 annual fee after the first year.


My perspective is different. I guess it depends on your definition of "decent."

Maybe my standards are not too high. To get out of the winter, we stayed at a Residence Inn in Oldsmar (Tampa, FL) for 6 nights, totally on points. Nice pool, free breakfast, free wifi and free (light) dinner reception (reception during the week only and included free beer & wine). Location not the greatest. It was 20,000 points/night. Next door was a nice Marriott Courtyard at 15,000 points/night. Thing about Marriott, is 5th night is free. So take your 80,000 points for 4 nights, 5th night free, use the once/year certificate for the 6th night, plus any other points you accumulate for actually charging purchases.

By the way, flew free on Southwest with points, and had enough travel rewards on another card to cover the rental car.

I like free stuff.

munemaker
Posts: 1814
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by munemaker » Sun May 29, 2016 7:22 am

pennstater2005 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:I churn. I've opened 23 new credit cards in the last 2 years. 14 are still open. Problem is there are really not a lot of cards left that I'm interested in now that the Chase 5/24 rule is in place.

When not trying to hit an intro bonus, I've been spending on my Club Carlson card to get to the extra bonus you get once you spend $10,000. I'm just about there though so I'll probably start putting everyday spending on my Starwood or Southwest cards. I don't have one of those 2% cash back no annual fee cards (they don't have sign up bonuses worth pursuing) or else I'd use though. I chase category bonuses occasionally but the money there is pretty small potatoes. All the real money is in the intro bonuses unless you're manufacturing spending.


23 cards in two years! :o


I opened 14 of them between April and November last year. With the held of Redbird and Serve, I was able to manufacture enough spending to go through lots of intro bonuses in a short amount of time.


Would you care to elaborate? That sounds interesting.


When you both talk about these large number of cards, are these in your name only, or are you including cards your spouse opened as well? I am starting to have trouble getting approved for some cards (e.g. Capital One), even though my FICO score is well above 800. They don't really tell me why, but I am theorizing they don't like the churning.

ze233
Posts: 33
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:41 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by ze233 » Sun May 29, 2016 8:05 am

munemaker wrote:
bta15 wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Marriott points aren't worth much. A night at a decent Marriott is like 40k points where a decent Hyatt might be 12k. That said, 80k points + a free night should be at least 3 nights, so maybe that is better. But the Marriott card does have an $85 annual fee after the first year.


My perspective is different. I guess it depends on your definition of "decent."

Maybe my standards are not too high. To get out of the winter, we stayed at a Residence Inn in Oldsmar (Tampa, FL) for 6 nights, totally on points. Nice pool, free breakfast, free wifi and free (light) dinner reception (reception during the week only and included free beer & wine). Location not the greatest. It was 20,000 points/night. Next door was a nice Marriott Courtyard at 15,000 points/night. Thing about Marriott, is 5th night is free. So take your 80,000 points for 4 nights, 5th night free, use the once/year certificate for the 6th night, plus any other points you accumulate for actually charging purchases.

By the way, flew free on Southwest with points, and had enough travel rewards on another card to cover the rental car.

I like free stuff.


I'd have to agree bta15 on this one.. there's two Hyatt Places located in the Tampa area that are category 2 which costs 8k points/night.
They have free breakfast, free wifi, free parking, but no dinner reception. However 6 nights would still only be 48,000 points.
I suppose it also depends on the earning rate at each program, but if you were doing a transfer from UR points, it's 1:1 on both Marriott and Hyatt, so I think Hyatt would be the better deal.

ze233
Posts: 33
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:41 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by ze233 » Sun May 29, 2016 8:11 am

guitarguy wrote:
I also read that Sapphire 2% doesn't apply to gas. Can anyone confirm?


Confirmed. "Travel" does not include gas.
It does include parking, tolls, commuter rail, rental car, airfare, and hotel though.

The other great thing about Sapphire Preferred is it gives you primary insurance on car rentals. So if you are ever in an accident in a rental, you can decline the LDW and there is no need to claim your own insurance. Just call up the number on the back and they'll take care of it.

Bfwolf
Posts: 1575
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Bfwolf » Sun May 29, 2016 3:58 pm

munemaker wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:I churn. I've opened 23 new credit cards in the last 2 years. 14 are still open. Problem is there are really not a lot of cards left that I'm interested in now that the Chase 5/24 rule is in place.

When not trying to hit an intro bonus, I've been spending on my Club Carlson card to get to the extra bonus you get once you spend $10,000. I'm just about there though so I'll probably start putting everyday spending on my Starwood or Southwest cards. I don't have one of those 2% cash back no annual fee cards (they don't have sign up bonuses worth pursuing) or else I'd use though. I chase category bonuses occasionally but the money there is pretty small potatoes. All the real money is in the intro bonuses unless you're manufacturing spending.


23 cards in two years! :o


I opened 14 of them between April and November last year. With the held of Redbird and Serve, I was able to manufacture enough spending to go through lots of intro bonuses in a short amount of time.


Would you care to elaborate? That sounds interesting.


When you both talk about these large number of cards, are these in your name only, or are you including cards your spouse opened as well? I am starting to have trouble getting approved for some cards (e.g. Capital One), even though my FICO score is well above 800. They don't really tell me why, but I am theorizing they don't like the churning.


I'm single.

The only issuer that I've had trouble getting cards from is Chase because they have so many good ones, and I've gotten so many of their cards. So they wonder why I want another card from them when I've gotten 8 from them in the last couple of years. Even so, I've only been turned down and unable to reverse through recon phone call one time and that was a Chase business card. They're much more strict on the business side. On the personal side, once I offer to move some credit around, I get approved.

User avatar
pennstater2005
Posts: 2286
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:50 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by pennstater2005 » Sun May 29, 2016 7:12 pm

munemaker wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:I churn. I've opened 23 new credit cards in the last 2 years. 14 are still open. Problem is there are really not a lot of cards left that I'm interested in now that the Chase 5/24 rule is in place.

When not trying to hit an intro bonus, I've been spending on my Club Carlson card to get to the extra bonus you get once you spend $10,000. I'm just about there though so I'll probably start putting everyday spending on my Starwood or Southwest cards. I don't have one of those 2% cash back no annual fee cards (they don't have sign up bonuses worth pursuing) or else I'd use though. I chase category bonuses occasionally but the money there is pretty small potatoes. All the real money is in the intro bonuses unless you're manufacturing spending.


23 cards in two years! :o


I opened 14 of them between April and November last year. With the held of Redbird and Serve, I was able to manufacture enough spending to go through lots of intro bonuses in a short amount of time.


Would you care to elaborate? That sounds interesting.


When you both talk about these large number of cards, are these in your name only, or are you including cards your spouse opened as well? I am starting to have trouble getting approved for some cards (e.g. Capital One), even though my FICO score is well above 800. They don't really tell me why, but I am theorizing they don't like the churning.


Definitely including the spouse. Generally, if I open one for myself then once we meet the requirements for the bonus we cancel it and get one for DW. As I said earlier, I think we're going to take a break from the bonuses and go back to the FIA Amex and the Sallie Mae BC. The last offer I got was 50,000 points for the Amex platinum card. But, it's 5K in 3 months which is more than I typically spend. I'd have to be real careful to cancel that one soon because the annual fee is $495 :shock:
“Life is short, Break the Rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile" - Unknown

User avatar
blaugranamd
Posts: 386
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:57 pm
Location: D-lux apt in the sky

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by blaugranamd » Mon May 30, 2016 9:39 am

My strategy is simplicity. Fidelity 2% Amex (soon to be Visa!) for everything that isn't on Discover 5% for the quarter. Fido CB goes into the Roth IRAs, Discover CB goes for shopping.
-- Don't mistake more funds for more diversity: Total Int'l + Total Market = 7k to 10k stocks -- | -- Market return does NOT = average nor 50th percentile, rather 80-90th percentile long term ---

munemaker
Posts: 1814
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by munemaker » Mon May 30, 2016 9:55 am

ze233 wrote:
munemaker wrote:
bta15 wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
Marriott points aren't worth much. A night at a decent Marriott is like 40k points where a decent Hyatt might be 12k. That said, 80k points + a free night should be at least 3 nights, so maybe that is better. But the Marriott card does have an $85 annual fee after the first year.


My perspective is different. I guess it depends on your definition of "decent."

Maybe my standards are not too high. To get out of the winter, we stayed at a Residence Inn in Oldsmar (Tampa, FL) for 6 nights, totally on points. Nice pool, free breakfast, free wifi and free (light) dinner reception (reception during the week only and included free beer & wine). Location not the greatest. It was 20,000 points/night. Next door was a nice Marriott Courtyard at 15,000 points/night. Thing about Marriott, is 5th night is free. So take your 80,000 points for 4 nights, 5th night free, use the once/year certificate for the 6th night, plus any other points you accumulate for actually charging purchases.

By the way, flew free on Southwest with points, and had enough travel rewards on another card to cover the rental car.

I like free stuff.


I'd have to agree bta15 on this one.. there's two Hyatt Places located in the Tampa area that are category 2 which costs 8k points/night.
They have free breakfast, free wifi, free parking, but no dinner reception. However 6 nights would still only be 48,000 points.
I suppose it also depends on the earning rate at each program, but if you were doing a transfer from UR points, it's 1:1 on both Marriott and Hyatt, so I think Hyatt would be the better deal.


Thanks for your comments. I'll take another look at it.

User avatar
Just sayin...
Posts: 161
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:12 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Just sayin... » Mon May 30, 2016 11:16 am

I've simplified my CC rewards strategy as follows:

Citibank Double /Costco Visa (starting in June 2016)
Gas 2% / 4%*
Travel 2% / 3%*
Restaurants.2% / 3%*
Costco 2% / 2%*
Other. 2%* / 1%

Starred rewards are where we charge various purchase categories. It's not 100% optimized, but it's a plan my wife and both stick to.

eskouster
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:46 pm
Location: New York City

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by eskouster » Mon May 30, 2016 11:42 am

How much do you all spend on your credit cards each year?

I use a 2% rewards card and spend about $10,000 per year on it.

munemaker
Posts: 1814
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by munemaker » Mon May 30, 2016 12:13 pm

eskouster wrote:How much do you all spend on your credit cards each year?

I use a 2% rewards card and spend about $10,000 per year on it.


Very good question, but not an easy one for me to answer. I have so many cards and move in and haved moved in and out of them for the sign up bonuses...

We charge everything possible. Exceptions I can think of...taxes of various types, items through my employer that are payroll deducted, a few cash gifts to nieces and nephews, natural gas utility, vending machines at work, sometimes paying part of a family vacation that another family member booked, the very occasional vehicle purchase and very occasionally dealing with some obscure business that doesn't accept ccs (which I try to avoid to the maximum degree possible).

I estimate DW and I charge between $16,000 and $18,000 per year. That includes Kohls & Macy's charge cards, in addition to Mastercard, Visa, AmEx, Discover, etc.

guitarguy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:10 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Mon May 30, 2016 12:40 pm

Bfwolf wrote:
munemaker wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:
BW1985 wrote:
23 cards in two years! :o


I opened 14 of them between April and November last year. With the held of Redbird and Serve, I was able to manufacture enough spending to go through lots of intro bonuses in a short amount of time.


Would you care to elaborate? That sounds interesting.


When you both talk about these large number of cards, are these in your name only, or are you including cards your spouse opened as well? I am starting to have trouble getting approved for some cards (e.g. Capital One), even though my FICO score is well above 800. They don't really tell me why, but I am theorizing they don't like the churning.


I'm single.

The only issuer that I've had trouble getting cards from is Chase because they have so many good ones, and I've gotten so many of their cards. So they wonder why I want another card from them when I've gotten 8 from them in the last couple of years. Even so, I've only been turned down and unable to reverse through recon phone call one time and that was a Chase business card. They're much more strict on the business side. On the personal side, once I offer to move some credit around, I get approved.


This is interesting. Did you have more than 1 business card also? I feel like the Ink Plus might be a better one to keep around than the Sapphire Preferred. Both at $95/yr, and Sapphire just giving 2% on travel and dining which isn't all that great whereas Ink Plus gives the 5% on cable/phone/etc and also at office supply stores (where you could buy gift cards for Home Depot and other places. Since the Sapphire and the Ink both allow you to transfer the points to ultimate rewards partners, I'm wondering if the Ink would be better to keep around perminantely than the Sapphire.

I am the sole proprietor of my own business and show $50k+ income on my Schedule C each year....so I'm wondering if getting approved will be an issue for me or not.

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Mon May 30, 2016 1:57 pm

Well this is an interesting topic and of course most people want to think they have the most brilliant plan :D
My main goal is free travel.
Cards
SPG Amex....I believe the most generous hotel program with excellent transfer options to air miles as well
Southwest Visa.....I believe the most generous airline card by far if you can earn a companion pass
Venture rewards....because of the ability to use points to pay for anything travel related...mostly rental cars or occasional non Starwood hotels,trains,etc.Not the greatest nor the worst card but serves a purpose.
Chase ink.....5x points on all telephone,Internet,tv related charges which can be transferred into southwest if I want.
Lastly...The new Costco card for gas and everything Costco

We have a lot of points because I can buy a lot of my small business inventory with credit cards.I added the southwest business visa with the 50,000 point bonus and timed things pretty well.I got our companion pass in February 2016 and it is good the year you earn it plus the following year,so for almost 2 years my wife flys free.The best deal for flying without a doubt.They also have a very fair point system with the best cancellation policy bar none.Not high luxury but fine for us.
If I spent half my life I could probably do better but this works for me and I am happy with it.Just hoping the Marriott merger does not devalue the Starwood program. :annoyed
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

giesen5
Posts: 251
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:44 pm
Location: Bellingham, WA

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by giesen5 » Mon May 30, 2016 11:56 pm

eskouster wrote:How much do you all spend on your credit cards each year?

I use a 2% rewards card and spend about $10,000 per year on it.


Wife and I spend around $40K per year on cards.

Lindrobe
Posts: 384
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 9:35 am
Location: Mishawaka, IN

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Lindrobe » Tue May 31, 2016 12:37 pm

I estimate that I spend about $50,000 per year on our cards. Some years a little more. One year I put a $20,000 down payment on new vehicle and used credit card for entire down payments.

BW1985
Posts: 1600
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 6:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by BW1985 » Tue May 31, 2016 1:13 pm

Lindrobe wrote:I estimate that I spend about $50,000 per year on our cards. Some years a little more. One year I put a $20,000 down payment on new vehicle and used credit card for entire down payments.


I never thought about buying a car with a credit card. I wonder what portion of dealers would actually allow that. Definitely something I'll ask next time we buy.
"Squirrels figured out how to save eons ago. They buried acorns. Some, they dug up, for food. Others, they let to sprout, in new oak trees. We could learn from squirrels." -john94549

guitarguy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:10 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Tue May 31, 2016 2:14 pm

This thread has been so interesting...thanks to everyone that has chimed in. I hope others out there have learned as much as me from reading this stuff! :D

After the wealth of info I've taken in over the past couple of weeks...I'm still left wondering what is the best strategy for a type of family like myself and DW. We travel (any combo of some or all: fly, rent a car, stay in a hotel) just 1-2 times a year. We like to take an annual trip for our anniversary that typically involves a hotel and car rental, sometimes a flight and sometimes not. Maybe another flight to visit friends or family...without the hotel stay. We have aspirations to take another really nice trip in a few years for our 10th anniversary. I have to believe there are many many more people that fall into this category out there.

I just picked myself up a CSP for the 50k points, and another 5k for making DW an authorized user. We will use this card exclusively for our upcoming trip to Toronto (no foreign transaction fee and 2% on dining and travel) and we'll easily spend enough to hit the minimum spend by simply paying DW's fall tuition bill with it (about $3500).

I feel like we had a good strategy to maximize cash back, until everyone opened my eyes here about the upsides of travel rewards. But I can't help but wonder...for those of us that travel 1-2 times a year...is cash back still best?

Even if...say...all of the cash back is simply saved to use towards travel expenses on those 1-2 trips a year?

Or would it be beneficial to just say the heck with it, and start dumping everything into Chase Ultimate Rewards rather than messing with all the different cash back cards? Can this yield the best result when we're simply using our credit rewards to help pay for our annual trip?

I feel like I've learned a ton but I'm still as confused as when I started. Maybe more-so!! :confused :beer

Naismith
Posts: 348
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:58 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Naismith » Tue May 31, 2016 2:17 pm

BW1985 wrote:
Lindrobe wrote:I never thought about buying a car with a credit card. I wonder what portion of dealers would actually allow that. Definitely something I'll ask next time we buy.


Definitely ask. But when we bought a few months ago it was only $5,000.

ND Fan 1
Posts: 258
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2015 12:29 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by ND Fan 1 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:35 pm

My strategy is similar to others here
Groceries: AmEx Blue Cash preferred- 6% cash back
Gas: PenFed Cash Rewards- 5% cash back (working on getting this one set up)
Amazon Prime Store Card for Amazon Purchases- 5% cash back
Citi Double Cash- 2% cash back on everything else

We started chasing some bonuses this year, we did the Citi Premier Thank you for 50K of points, which we turned into gift cards for Christmas gifts. Now working on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Will get that bonus soon, still debating on what to do with the points. With 2 (soon 3) small children we don't travel much, especially don't fly. And being military we usually stay on base for cheap. Guess I could splurge and stay at a nice hotel or something. So I might just do the cash back. Then to avoid the annual fee, will downgrade to the Chase Freedom.

I have no problem chasing bonuses but I just don't see us traveling much for the travel rewards to make sense.

May continue to bonus chase, although it stresses my wife out. If we plan a trip, maybe I will dive in, but will most likely stick to the core 4 cards above. With those I feel like I have most of the staples covered as best I can.

Lindrobe
Posts: 384
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 9:35 am
Location: Mishawaka, IN

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Lindrobe » Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:50 pm

BW1985 wrote:I never thought about buying a car with a credit card. I wonder what portion of dealers would actually allow that. Definitely something I'll ask next time we buy.


I think it definitely varies by dealership. The $20,000 down payment was at an larger Mercedes/Audi dealership and they didn't flinch at all about me using a credit card for the $20k. On the other hand, I bought a F-150 at a small town Ohio Ford dealership that would only let me put $3k on credit card at most.

Bfwolf
Posts: 1575
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Bfwolf » Wed Jun 01, 2016 3:12 pm

ND Fan 1 wrote:My strategy is similar to others here
Groceries: AmEx Blue Cash preferred- 6% cash back
Gas: PenFed Cash Rewards- 5% cash back (working on getting this one set up)
Amazon Prime Store Card for Amazon Purchases- 5% cash back
Citi Double Cash- 2% cash back on everything else

We started chasing some bonuses this year, we did the Citi Premier Thank you for 50K of points, which we turned into gift cards for Christmas gifts. Now working on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Will get that bonus soon, still debating on what to do with the points. With 2 (soon 3) small children we don't travel much, especially don't fly. And being military we usually stay on base for cheap. Guess I could splurge and stay at a nice hotel or something. So I might just do the cash back. Then to avoid the annual fee, will downgrade to the Chase Freedom.

I have no problem chasing bonuses but I just don't see us traveling much for the travel rewards to make sense.

May continue to bonus chase, although it stresses my wife out. If we plan a trip, maybe I will dive in, but will most likely stick to the core 4 cards above. With those I feel like I have most of the staples covered as best I can.


The worthwhile Chase transfer partners are generally United, Southwest, British Airways, and Hyatt. So if you don't fly and don't use hotels, cash back may be your best option. But you might find a Hyatt award that is worthwhile to you.

You may want to look into the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. They've got a 40,000 point bonus which is worth $400+ in travel credit--you purchase with the card and then redeem the points for a credit against the spend later. Even if you don't travel much, surely there's a plane trip or a couple of nights at a hotel somewhere over the course of a year for you to use this redemption on.

FitnessNYC
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:19 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by FitnessNYC » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:32 pm

Anyone looking to simplify his credit card strategy may adopt the Capital One Quicksilver card (formerly the Capital One No Hassle Card). The card provides 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee. The card allows you to automatically apply the cash back to your next month's statement, so there are no mileage/points/rewards hassles to handle. Another benefit of the automatic application of cash back to your bill is the fact that you won't notice how much cash back you're "earning" by generating expenses. Not knowing how much rewards you're getting may reduce your total expenses, as it is true that people who acquire rewards cards tend to increase their total spending irrationally, due to their expectation of "rewards" cash/points. While I am aware that a strategy of multiple cards with over 1.5% rewards will generate a higher cash back savings, I personally enjoy the simplicity and psychological advantage (as described above, not being reminded of how much I "saved" via cash back) of my cap1 card. Perhaps this strategy won't be useful to most people here, as you probably don't mind spending a significant amount of time managing multiple cards and reaping the rewards they provide. I used to use a 2% fidelity card for all my purchases but I disliked having to move the cash back every month from my fidelity brokerage account (that i never once used) to my cap1 bank account. The final advantage of the cap1 card is being able to log into cap1 and see my bank accounts and credit card in a single institution. Simplicity is great if your time is valuable and/or you aren't good at managing lots of accounts/reward details.

HIinvestor
Posts: 1142
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:23 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by HIinvestor » Thu Jun 02, 2016 12:26 am

I like the CapOne Spark business Visa. It gives 2% back and you can have them send you reward checks as often as you like. I honestly don't feel it encourages me to spend more but I do reach for that card over others which provide NO reward if I'm buying and paying anyway. I think that's what the companies want. :-)

I still use others for specific categories.

TomCat96
Posts: 407
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:18 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by TomCat96 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:01 am

guitarguy wrote:This thread has been so interesting...thanks to everyone that has chimed in. I hope others out there have learned as much as me from reading this stuff! :D

After the wealth of info I've taken in over the past couple of weeks...I'm still left wondering what is the best strategy for a type of family like myself and DW. We travel (any combo of some or all: fly, rent a car, stay in a hotel) just 1-2 times a year. We like to take an annual trip for our anniversary that typically involves a hotel and car rental, sometimes a flight and sometimes not. Maybe another flight to visit friends or family...without the hotel stay. We have aspirations to take another really nice trip in a few years for our 10th anniversary. I have to believe there are many many more people that fall into this category out there.

I just picked myself up a CSP for the 50k points, and another 5k for making DW an authorized user. We will use this card exclusively for our upcoming trip to Toronto (no foreign transaction fee and 2% on dining and travel) and we'll easily spend enough to hit the minimum spend by simply paying DW's fall tuition bill with it (about $3500).

I feel like we had a good strategy to maximize cash back, until everyone opened my eyes here about the upsides of travel rewards. But I can't help but wonder...for those of us that travel 1-2 times a year...is cash back still best?

Even if...say...all of the cash back is simply saved to use towards travel expenses on those 1-2 trips a year?

Or would it be beneficial to just say the heck with it, and start dumping everything into Chase Ultimate Rewards rather than messing with all the different cash back cards? Can this yield the best result when we're simply using our credit rewards to help pay for our annual trip?

I feel like I've learned a ton but I'm still as confused as when I started. Maybe more-so!! :confused :beer



You know I used to travel to a convention in baltimore once a year. Because it was during a convention, hotels were especially pricey.
The starwood points had no blackout dates, and could be applied to the hotel based on category of the hotel, rather than being based on the price.

The result was a whopping 6% in rewards for every dollar spent on my starwood card. After that, I immediately changed my strategy from cash back to travel rewards. I could not be more happy I did.

People here get 2% cash back. That seems to be about the norm. Some cards give 5-6% cash back, but only up to a very definite limit.
In order to get $1000 in cash back, you need to spend a whopping 50k on your credit cards per year. (2% cash back of 50k being 1k)

I don't know about you, but traveling once or twice a year for me as a single guy costs far in excess of 1k. That means if I were in your shoes, 1-2 trips a year would easily be worth it. As a family, chances are even 1 trip a year would be worth it. Finally consider the fact that most points dont expire as long as you keep active, and its a no brainer.

At this moment, Im doing as you are doing: dumping all my points into Chase UR or Starwood. I actually stopped messing with acquiring too many credit cards. Not only are the points harder to manage, but apparently points often go unused. For example if you have 40k points, but end up using 30k for a trip...it's hard to spend the final 10k. It's hard to spend pocket change so to speak....

Ari
Posts: 426
Joined: Sat May 23, 2015 6:59 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Ari » Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:52 am

I have the credit card supplied by my bank. I can't seem to find any cards that are worth owning for me. :/ Basically, EU rules stipulate that cashback rewards can be no higher than 1%, and since I can't pay my rent by credit card, I just don't add up enough expenses to get much more cash back than the card fee.
All in, all the time.

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:17 pm

TomCat96,
You stated you were getting 6 pct back from your Starwood card.That is not accurate.Are you saying if you spend 10,000 you get $600 worth of hotel stays?Just does not compute.
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

Jags4186
Posts: 1111
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Jags4186 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:22 pm

hoops777 wrote:TomCat96,
You stated you were getting 6 pct back from your Starwood card.That is not accurate.Are you saying if you spend 10,000 you get $600 worth of hotel stays?Just does not compute.


He theoretically could but not at $10,000 spend.

Say he spent $100,000 and had 100,000 SPG points and parlayed those into a stay at a really nice hotel during peak season....sure he could get $6k worth of stays. Whether it's actually worth $6k if you aren't willing to outlay the $6k in cash otherwise is another thing.

guitarguy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:10 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:10 am

Jags4186 wrote:Say he spent $100,000 and had 100,000 SPG points and parlayed those into a stay at a really nice hotel during peak season....sure he could get $6k worth of stays. Whether it's actually worth $6k if you aren't willing to outlay the $6k in cash otherwise is another thing.


This is an interesting take, particular the part about calculating the worth of these points (not just this Starwood example...but points in general).

I've been mulling over the idea of trying to gather up a lot of points and miles and stuff over the next couple years with the ultimate goal of taking a vacation that I normally wouldn't be able to (or realistically, want to) pay for with cash. A hypothetical example, business class to Paris or Rome or something along with staying in a nice 5-star hotel for a week. Swanky. I feel like this is attainable with some more signup bonuses over the next few years coupled with some regular spending.

But...I would more than likely not be willing to throw down the cash to go on a vacation like this. If paying cash, the wife and I would normally fly coach and maybe try to find an AirBnB or something more reasonable. To me, that really doesn't diminish the value/worth of the points because it would allow us an experience we wouldn't normally be able to get.

OTOH...one difference is that our points will also be generated via bonuses and stuff rather than strictly via spend. To estimate the value there, wouldn't you say something like, well we're getting $6k of hotel stays for this $100k spend for points, but we could've/would've had $2k back in cash if we used a Citi DC card for all that spending instead. Is that fancy hotel stay worth sacrificing that $2k?

awval999
Posts: 1028
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:17 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by awval999 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:13 am

guitarguy wrote:
Jags4186 wrote:Say he spent $100,000 and had 100,000 SPG points and parlayed those into a stay at a really nice hotel during peak season....sure he could get $6k worth of stays. Whether it's actually worth $6k if you aren't willing to outlay the $6k in cash otherwise is another thing.


This is an interesting take, particular the part about calculating the worth of these points (not just this Starwood example...but points in general).

I've been mulling over the idea of trying to gather up a lot of points and miles and stuff over the next couple years with the ultimate goal of taking a vacation that I normally wouldn't be able to (or realistically, want to) pay for with cash. A hypothetical example, business class to Paris or Rome or something along with staying in a nice 5-star hotel for a week. Swanky. I feel like this is attainable with some more signup bonuses over the next few years coupled with some regular spending.

But...I would more than likely not be willing to throw down the cash to go on a vacation like this. If paying cash, the wife and I would normally fly coach and maybe try to find an AirBnB or something more reasonable. To me, that really doesn't diminish the value/worth of the points because it would allow us an experience we wouldn't normally be able to get.

OTOH...one difference is that our points will also be generated via bonuses and stuff rather than strictly via spend. To estimate the value there, wouldn't you say something like, well we're getting $6k of hotel stays for this $100k spend for points, but we could've/would've had $2k back in cash if we used a Citi DC card for all that spending instead. Is that fancy hotel stay worth sacrificing that $2k?


It just depends how deep down the rabbit hole you're willing to go.

If you really just want "one" card, your best bet would be an Amex PRG or Chase CSP which have transferable points. But if you're willing to apply for 10 cards each, over the course of a year or two, then you really open up the possibilities. In just 6 weeks, my wife and I are going to Europe on a trip we wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Yes we're flying coach, but staying in impressive hotels, and all for points + taxes. And the star of the trip, the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome is about ~700 Euros night. Very excited.

To be fair, the game is rapidly ending. Best strike now while the iron is hot.

Drew777
Posts: 594
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:53 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Drew777 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:28 am

Goal: I'm earning a combination of cash back, credit card points, hotel points, and airline miles. I just take advantage of whatever the best deal is at the time.

Cards: Here is what I currently have in my wallet:
- Citi Double Cash - 2% on everything
- American Express Hilton Surpass - 6x groceries
- American Express Simply Cash - 5% office, 3% gas
- Discover It - 5% restaurants (doubled, so 10%)
I also keep the following cards long term:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred - I earn a lot of UR from shopping portals and need to be able to transfer them to travel partners.
- Amex SPG Business x 2 - My wife and I each have an account. My employees put all business spend on these cards. SPG points are the most valuable points IMO. I kept the business rather than personal versions for the Sheraton lounge access.
- Chase IHG - Annual free night certificate good at any IHG property for just a $49 annual fee.

I have a lot of other cards, but all with AFs will be cancelled unless they waive the AF.

Rewards. How you redeem. For cash back it's pretty cut and dry, but could also include when you redeem. Save up all for holiday spending or get it monthly? For points/miles/etc it could be good to know how you transfer them, what specifically you spend them on, etc, to get the most out of them.

Rewards: Let's see... I'll just give some examples of redemptions I have actually made.
- 3 nights at The Mills House - 45k Wyndham
- 2 round trip flights from Atlanta to Honolulu - 63k American miles
- 2 nights at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach - 2 Hilton free night certificates
- 1 night at Doubletree Seattle Airport - Arrival miles
- 2 nights at Doubletree Palm Beach Gardens - 60k Hilton points
- 3 nights at Hilton Anaheim - 120k Hilton points
- 4 nights at Hilton Clearwater Beach - 1 free night certificate + 150k Hilton points
- 5 nights at Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach - 60k Chase UR points
- 3 nights at Park Hyatt Milan - 2 free night certificates + 30k UR points
- 4 nights at Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort - 1 free night certificate + 45k UR points
- 7 day Jeep rental in Honolulu, 4 day truck rental in Tampa, 4 train tickets in Europe, a couple hotels, other miscellaneous travel charges - Arrival/Venture/Spark miles
- 1 night at Sheraton Atlanta Airport - 3k SPG points
- 3 nights at Westin Atlanta Airport (separate stays) - 3k SPG points each
- 2 nights at Westin Palace Milan - 24k SPG points
- 2 flights from Atlanta to Milan and Geneva to Atlanta - 100k MR transferred to Flying Blue
- 2 nights Fairmont Montreux Palace - 2 free night certificates
- 1 roundtrip flight from Atlanta to Orange County - ~25k Southwest
- 2 flights from Atlanta to Liberia, Costa Rica - ~15k Southwest + companion pass
- 2 flights from Liberia to Tampa - ~15k Southwest + companion pass
- 3 flights from Tampa to Atlanta - ~12k Southwest + companion pass
- 2 roundtrip flights from Atlanta to Las Vegas - ~15k Southwest + companion pass

Next I'm looking at booking an 8+ night trip to Bali in business class

I accumulate points primarily through credit card signup bonuses, business spending, shopping portals, category bonuses, etc. I used to do manufactured spending as well, but I stopped because I can spend plenty with my business spending now. Between my wife and I we've opened about 35 new credit card accounts in the past year, and around 25 of those are mine.

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:08 pm

I have over a million Starwood points and 100,000 points does not get you $6000 worth of nights.A mid range level hotel is normally 10,000 points and the cash cost of those rooms is usually around 200 bucks give or take.
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

Jags4186
Posts: 1111
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Jags4186 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:13 pm

hoops777 wrote:I have over a million Starwood points and 100,000 points does not get you $6000 worth of nights.A mid range level hotel is normally 10,000 points and the cash cost of those rooms is usually around 200 bucks give or take.


Again it all depends on your redemption. Sure staying at a random Sheraton on March 17 won't be maximum value, but maybe staying at a St. Regis over New Years Eve in the Caribbean would.

Of course you could also transfer your 100k star points for 120k random FF miles and book a super expensive 1st class ticket.

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 4:03 pm

The math in reality does not work.For example to stay at the St.Regis in NY on the Fourth of July,it is 30,000 points or $637.They haves suites for over 2000 a night but you cannot use points and if you could it would probably be 100,000 for one night.Starpoints overall are valued at about 2.4 cents per dollar which make them the most valuable of all the hotel chains.
It is easy enough to go to their website and check the points vs dollars.
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

ze233
Posts: 33
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:41 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by ze233 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:53 pm

guitarguy wrote:This thread has been so interesting...thanks to everyone that has chimed in. I hope others out there have learned as much as me from reading this stuff! :D

After the wealth of info I've taken in over the past couple of weeks...I'm still left wondering what is the best strategy for a type of family like myself and DW. We travel (any combo of some or all: fly, rent a car, stay in a hotel) just 1-2 times a year. We like to take an annual trip for our anniversary that typically involves a hotel and car rental, sometimes a flight and sometimes not. Maybe another flight to visit friends or family...without the hotel stay. We have aspirations to take another really nice trip in a few years for our 10th anniversary. I have to believe there are many many more people that fall into this category out there.

I just picked myself up a CSP for the 50k points, and another 5k for making DW an authorized user. We will use this card exclusively for our upcoming trip to Toronto (no foreign transaction fee and 2% on dining and travel) and we'll easily spend enough to hit the minimum spend by simply paying DW's fall tuition bill with it (about $3500).

I feel like we had a good strategy to maximize cash back, until everyone opened my eyes here about the upsides of travel rewards. But I can't help but wonder...for those of us that travel 1-2 times a year...is cash back still best?

Even if...say...all of the cash back is simply saved to use towards travel expenses on those 1-2 trips a year?

Or would it be beneficial to just say the heck with it, and start dumping everything into Chase Ultimate Rewards rather than messing with all the different cash back cards? Can this yield the best result when we're simply using our credit rewards to help pay for our annual trip?

I feel like I've learned a ton but I'm still as confused as when I started. Maybe more-so!! :confused :beer


I think you're in the same boat I was 4-5 years ago. I used to do all cash back and thought it was the best redemption option. But knowing what I know now about travel reward redemption, I'll never go back to just straight cash back. Like you, wife and I take 1 and sometimes 2 trips a year. We don't need to stay in fancy hotels or fly in first class, so for us Hyatt Places and Southwest are good enough for us. The Chase Ultimate Rewards works well for us towards this.
Wife and I are currently on a trip to Atlanta right now and transferred 40,000 UR points to my Hyatt account. That, combined with a free award night included with my Hyatt card netted us a 6 night stay that was going for $200/night so that's a savings of $1200 right there for $400 worth of cash back points. That $1200 figure is not including the room and occupancy taxes added on. We also flew down via Southwest when they had a sale so each way is only costing us 3700 points. So for about 15,000 points, roundtrip airfare is covered for 2 people.

In 2012 we decided to splurge and do a trip to London with a Baltic Cruise afterwards.
For our flight to London, I was pricing out costs of $3500 USD for two round trip tickets that summer. However, I was able to use 70,000 points to transfer to Virgin
Atlantic, book an awards flight for 2 and only paid about $900 in fuel surcharges and fees (Unavoidable when flying to Heathrow). Saved us well over $2600 for that flight.
Additionally, I had just signed up for the Chase Hyatt card which included 2 free nights to any Hyatt. Using those free nights, and 40,000 points let us stay 4 nights at the 5 star Hyatt Regency Churchill in London. At the time the rooms were going for 399 GBP per night. With the exchange rate of 1.6 USD to 1 GBP at the time, it came out to around $600 USD per night. So I saved another $2400 right there, again not including savings on taxes/fees.

If I didn't have the ability to transfer points to other travel programs, I would never have been able to take that London trip. After that trip, I was sold on travel reward redemption as my sole credit card strategy, and in particular on Chase Ultimate Rewards.

It is great that you've gotten the CSP already. If you're going all in with UR points, make sure you get the Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited as well. If you are using Hyatt as your sole hotel, like I am, make sure you get the Chase Hyatt card.

For us, the travel rewards option opened up a big new world of travel that we would've never thought possible. If you go the travel rewards route, I hope it does for you too.

Jags4186
Posts: 1111
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Jags4186 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:19 pm

hoops777 wrote:The math in reality does not work.For example to stay at the St.Regis in NY on the Fourth of July,it is 30,000 points or $637.They haves suites for over 2000 a night but you cannot use points and if you could it would probably be 100,000 for one night.Starpoints overall are valued at about 2.4 cents per dollar which make them the most valuable of all the hotel chains.
It is easy enough to go to their website and check the points vs dollars.


Well you could book Four Point Sheraton Chelsea over New Years for 5 nights, 12,000 pts/night (5th night free so an average of 9,600pts/night) or pay $717/night cash. That breaks out to...$0.074cpp.

Like I said, you can find redemptions that are astronomical redemptions. Whether or not it makes sense is another thing.

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:44 pm

As I said the math does not work.Starwood does not offer rooms that cost 717 dollars a night for 12000 points.Four Points is their cheapest hotel and there are no rooms at over 700 per night.If that hotel had a special suite for $717 it was not available for 12000 pointsThe St.Regis and Westin are cheaper than a Four Points by a large margin?No.Sorry but you are misinformed.
If by some one in a million fliuke there was some mistake in their system,which I have not seen,it does not change the fact of what Starpoints are worth,and they are not worth anything remotely close to 6 cents on the dollar.
The more expensive the room,the more points it requires.It is as simple as that.
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

Jags4186
Posts: 1111
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Jags4186 » Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:22 am

hoops777 wrote:As I said the math does not work.Starwood does not offer rooms that cost 717 dollars a night for 12000 points.Four Points is their cheapest hotel and there are no rooms at over 700 per night.If that hotel had a special suite for $717 it was not available for 12000 pointsThe St.Regis and Westin are cheaper than a Four Points by a large margin?No.Sorry but you are misinformed.
If by some one in a million fliuke there was some mistake in their system,which I have not seen,it does not change the fact of what Starpoints are worth,and they are not worth anything remotely close to 6 cents on the dollar.
The more expensive the room,the more points it requires.It is as simple as that.


The only person misinformed is you.

I'm telling you that if you go on SPG.com and try to book the Four Points Chelsea from 12/29-1/3 in Manhattan it is 12,000 points a night (9600/night when you consider 5th night free) and the cash rate is $717/night--basic king bed room. Look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. Whether thats a redemption you want to make or not is up to you. You might have better utility using more points for a cheaper room in some place you'd rather actually go.

Here's another example. Say you plan to participate in the Boston Marathon. You book a room Westin Boston Waterfront from Saturday 4/15/17-Tuesday 4/18/17. It costs $562/night or 12,000 Starpoints--a 4.6 CPP redemption. Or stay a 5th free night and get a 5.85 CPP redemption.

Again, it's all about leveraging what you want. I personally booked a 4.8 cent per point redemption with Hyatt over New Years in Aruba. 25,000 points a night or $1200/night cash. I could have gotten an even better redemption by doing a cash + points--12,500 points + $150 per night. That would have been a 11.9 cent per point redemption (12500 points per $1,050). Or I could have done what I did last year and gone to the same hotel for the same number of points in November when rooms were only $450/night. I only got 1.8 CPP value out of that redemption.

If you don't want to believe me that's perfectly fine. I'm just telling you that yes for MOST redemptions you're going to get circa 2 CPP redemption value on star points. If you leverage your points for bookings at prime times when rates spike you make out because the redemption points per category hotel is fixed, while the cash value is supply and demand driven. Whether or not you obtain real value of 2cpp or 6cpp or 12cpp is up to you to decide. I'm sure you can find instances where you get an awful 1 CPP redemption on a Starpoint. That doesn't make them worth 1 cent each does it?

hoops777
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by hoops777 » Sat Jun 04, 2016 11:37 am

If you travel often your Starpoints value is going to average out to about 2.4 give or take.If you travel a couple times a year and only travel to a place where there is some anomaly in the point system,yes you can find a valuation like the Chelsea,whose average price by the way is about 70 pct below the crazy 717 you happen to find.We went to New York last xmas and stayed at the Element by Times Square and the room was under $200 and I think 10,000 points.

So you were right about your findings but they are not representative of the Starwood system for normal usage.In reality the 2 deals you found were actually priced correctly in terms of points vs their normal value.So spending the points for the those rooms was actually just a regular everyday value and nothing special.If someone actually paid $717 per night to stay at that hotel,which would be very idiotic,it is equivalent to paying $12 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks because all the other coffee places were shut down for some reason.So it really depends upon how you value the deal.What you found was actually just normal fair value for those hotels in terms of their everyday point value.

I understand your point but I just look at the system differently.Have a good day and happy hunting :sharebeer
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

TheGipper
Posts: 263
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:52 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by TheGipper » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:22 pm

Nice upgrade to BoA Cash Rewards card this weekend, upped quarterly cap to $2500 for gas/groceries and added Wholesalers (Costco, BJs) at 2%. For BoA Platinum honors folks this means 3.5% cash back at Costco and an extra $140-$210 per year cash back on gas (5.25%) and groceries (3.5%). Seems a good majority of Target and Walmart are coded as grocery, so 3.5% back here too. Not too shabby.

technovelist
Posts: 2238
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:02 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by technovelist » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:29 pm

azb wrote:Our credit card strategy is focused on maximizing the value we receive from our cards. Since we travel quite a bit, this means that we aim for travel benefits if it maximizes our value received. We do so through the Chase Ultimate Reward Program and the Citi Thank You Rewards program. Through Citi, we have been able to get 1.6 cents per point by using the points for travel on American. With Chase, we have gotten about 1.5 cents per point by using points for Hyatt. We recently did a trip to Hawaii and used points for airfare and hotels.


I think the AAdvantage cards are the best bet if you want to fly on American or any of their partners.

Flyertalk.com has a wealth of knowledge about these issues, by the way.
In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, they often differ.

User avatar
Cloud
Posts: 623
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Cloud » Sun Jun 05, 2016 9:53 pm

We use the following cards:

1) Fidelity Rewards Visa (New Elan Card)
    2% Cash back on everything
    No Fee
2) Barclay Sallie Mae Card
    5% Back on Books (AKA Amazon) up to $750/month
    5% Back on Gas up to $250/month
    5% Back on Groceries up to $250/month
    No Fee
    Card no longer taking new members
3) AMEX Blue Cash Everyday
    3% on Groceries up to $6,000/year (we don't spend enough for the Preferred Version)
    No Fee
4) Citi Costco Anywhere Visa (Starting June 20)
    3% on Restaurant and Travel
    No Fee
5) Discover It Card
    5% Rotating Catagories
    No Fee
6) PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa
    Used for Over Seas Travel because it's a true chip and pin card with no foreign transaction charges
    No Fee

User avatar
siamond
Posts: 3162
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:50 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by siamond » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:22 pm

<rant>The funny thing is that we obsess about cash back, but the truth is we (consumers) are not making any real money here. Sellers increase their prices based on their credit card fees, and those fees could be much lower if not for those cash back mechanisms. And yet, consumers have little choice, if we don't play the game, well, no cash back and the prices will stay as high because we'd be exceptions... The beauty of marketing... </rant>

Most of our spend is based on credit cards, and we use a low-hassle/high-rewards approach:
- Amex Preferred for groceries (6%) and gas (3%), and we have an Amex EveryDay for groceries over $6k/year (3%) - teenager at home!
- Amazon Rewards (3%) soon to be upgraded to Amazon Store Prime (5%), thanks to this thread. We use Amazon a lot.
- Barclays Barnes & Noble card (5%) for... well, you guessed. My wife buys a lot of books.
- And CapitalOne QuickSilver (1.5%, ultimate no-hassle) for everything else.

Chasing bonuses seems like way too much work for limited rewards. And I don't know, this doesn't seem entirely right to me, notably this manufactured spending trickery.

I probably should ponder a bit more about travels. Is there a credit card that would be good for Airbnb rentals?

EDIT: found some answers to my last question, see this NerdWallet article. I'd prefer a card without an annual fee though.

Carl53
Posts: 1401
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 8:26 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Carl53 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:31 am

Cloud wrote:6) PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa
    Used for Over Seas Travel because it's a true chip and pin card with no foreign transaction charges
    No Fee


No foreign transaction fees is accurate but it is a chip and signature card as I have been disappointed to have learned from trips to Australia, Honduras and Chile over the last two years.

We also use the following cards:
Sallie Mae card for gas, groceries and occasional Amazon. 5% up to limits
Barclay Priceline Visa for most everything else at 2%.
Amex Blue Cash Preferred for an effective 4.75% on groceries after the annual fee at the 6k limit. Also usually get enough benefit from bonus buys to offset fee. Last year we got around $500 in bonues (for a couple of flights).

Jags4186
Posts: 1111
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Jags4186 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:21 am

siamond wrote:<rant>The funny thing is that we obsess about cash back, but the truth is we (consumers) are not making any real money here. Sellers increase their prices based on their credit card fees, and those fees could be much lower if not for those cash back mechanisms. And yet, consumers have little choice, if we don't play the game, well, no cash back and the prices will stay as high because we'd be exceptions... The beauty of marketing... </rant>

Most of our spend is based on credit cards, and we use a low-hassle/high-rewards approach:
- Amex Preferred for groceries (6%) and gas (3%), and we have an Amex EveryDay for groceries over $6k/year (3%) - teenager at home!
- Amazon Rewards (3%) soon to be upgraded to Amazon Store Prime (5%), thanks to this thread. We use Amazon a lot.
- Barclays Barnes & Noble card (5%) for... well, you guessed. My wife buys a lot of books.
- And CapitalOne QuickSilver (1.5%, ultimate no-hassle) for everything else.

Chasing bonuses seems like way too much work for limited rewards. And I don't know, this doesn't seem entirely right to me, notably this manufactured spending trickery.

I probably should ponder a bit more about travels. Is there a credit card that would be good for Airbnb rentals?

EDIT: found some answers to my last question, see this NerdWallet article. I'd prefer a card without an annual fee though.


I don't necessarily believe this. I think margins get smaller. 20 years ago you really only had local options to purchase goods or mail order. You were a captive audience. Now you can cross shop pretty much everything online--even groceries now. You can always find a deal.

Remember large chain stores and online retailers all negotiate lower fees than you or I would if we were a local store owner. Case in point look at Costco. Costco dumped AMEX because they were able to negotiate 0% transaction fees with Visa and Chase and AMEX wouldn't concede. I'm sure Amazon isn't paying Visa or MasterCard 2% per credit card transaction.

Also, cash isn't free to use either. Stores have to A) not lose it, B) not give incorrect change C) not get robbed of it (and if you do get robbed of it, their insurance is priced accordingly when a claim is filed) and I'm sure other things that I don't know about because I'm not a store owner :-)

SRenaeP
Posts: 604
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:05 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by SRenaeP » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:37 am

eskouster wrote:How much do you all spend on your credit cards each year?

I use a 2% rewards card and spend about $10,000 per year on it.


Probably $25-30k per person per year at our house. We put pretty much everything over $5 on our credit cards, including household bills and charitable giving. We also travel a lot and that accounts for five figures of spending (included in the earlier amount) each year too.

-Steph

guitarguy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:10 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:08 am

ze233 wrote:
guitarguy wrote:This thread has been so interesting...thanks to everyone that has chimed in. I hope others out there have learned as much as me from reading this stuff! :D

After the wealth of info I've taken in over the past couple of weeks...I'm still left wondering what is the best strategy for a type of family like myself and DW. We travel (any combo of some or all: fly, rent a car, stay in a hotel) just 1-2 times a year. We like to take an annual trip for our anniversary that typically involves a hotel and car rental, sometimes a flight and sometimes not. Maybe another flight to visit friends or family...without the hotel stay. We have aspirations to take another really nice trip in a few years for our 10th anniversary. I have to believe there are many many more people that fall into this category out there.

I just picked myself up a CSP for the 50k points, and another 5k for making DW an authorized user. We will use this card exclusively for our upcoming trip to Toronto (no foreign transaction fee and 2% on dining and travel) and we'll easily spend enough to hit the minimum spend by simply paying DW's fall tuition bill with it (about $3500).

I feel like we had a good strategy to maximize cash back, until everyone opened my eyes here about the upsides of travel rewards. But I can't help but wonder...for those of us that travel 1-2 times a year...is cash back still best?

Even if...say...all of the cash back is simply saved to use towards travel expenses on those 1-2 trips a year?

Or would it be beneficial to just say the heck with it, and start dumping everything into Chase Ultimate Rewards rather than messing with all the different cash back cards? Can this yield the best result when we're simply using our credit rewards to help pay for our annual trip?

I feel like I've learned a ton but I'm still as confused as when I started. Maybe more-so!! :confused :beer


I think you're in the same boat I was 4-5 years ago. I used to do all cash back and thought it was the best redemption option. But knowing what I know now about travel reward redemption, I'll never go back to just straight cash back. Like you, wife and I take 1 and sometimes 2 trips a year. We don't need to stay in fancy hotels or fly in first class, so for us Hyatt Places and Southwest are good enough for us. The Chase Ultimate Rewards works well for us towards this.
Wife and I are currently on a trip to Atlanta right now and transferred 40,000 UR points to my Hyatt account. That, combined with a free award night included with my Hyatt card netted us a 6 night stay that was going for $200/night so that's a savings of $1200 right there for $400 worth of cash back points. That $1200 figure is not including the room and occupancy taxes added on. We also flew down via Southwest when they had a sale so each way is only costing us 3700 points. So for about 15,000 points, roundtrip airfare is covered for 2 people.

In 2012 we decided to splurge and do a trip to London with a Baltic Cruise afterwards.
For our flight to London, I was pricing out costs of $3500 USD for two round trip tickets that summer. However, I was able to use 70,000 points to transfer to Virgin
Atlantic, book an awards flight for 2 and only paid about $900 in fuel surcharges and fees (Unavoidable when flying to Heathrow). Saved us well over $2600 for that flight.
Additionally, I had just signed up for the Chase Hyatt card which included 2 free nights to any Hyatt. Using those free nights, and 40,000 points let us stay 4 nights at the 5 star Hyatt Regency Churchill in London. At the time the rooms were going for 399 GBP per night. With the exchange rate of 1.6 USD to 1 GBP at the time, it came out to around $600 USD per night. So I saved another $2400 right there, again not including savings on taxes/fees.

If I didn't have the ability to transfer points to other travel programs, I would never have been able to take that London trip. After that trip, I was sold on travel reward redemption as my sole credit card strategy, and in particular on Chase Ultimate Rewards.

It is great that you've gotten the CSP already. If you're going all in with UR points, make sure you get the Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited as well. If you are using Hyatt as your sole hotel, like I am, make sure you get the Chase Hyatt card.

For us, the travel rewards option opened up a big new world of travel that we would've never thought possible. If you go the travel rewards route, I hope it does for you too.


Very cool!! This is exactly what I think we're after here...your London vacation sounds like it must've been awesome!

We already have the Freedom, and I'm debating on converting an old Slate product to the Freedom Unlimited. However, I'm not sure if I should do it now, or do it a bit later after I get my Chase Ink Plus card like I'm planning on...just to make sure that it won't hinder me via the 5/24 rule by counting the product conversion against me.

The 5/24 rule from Chase is kind of hindering us a bit right now...I recently jumped on the Citi Double Cash thinking I had the best strategy in place...now I really wish I wouldn't have bothered with it. But oh well...it's a good back up card I guess.

I will likely keep the CSP around as well. Although it's probably not worth it via the 2X rewards on travel and dining alone due to the $95 AF, the ability to transfer those points is valuable enough to offset the fee. I will probably downgrade the Ink Plus to Ink Cash eventually, and just keep the CSP as my only Tier 1 card for the points transfer.

I think me and DW will both plan on getting that Hyatt card. With a free night annually, it will offset the fee easily. More than likely by double. There are several category 3-4 Hyatt hotels that are easily within driving distance for us. Even if we don't do any extended stays we could simply use our annual free nights back to back for free lodging on a weekend getaway every year.

Bfwolf
Posts: 1575
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Bfwolf » Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:08 pm

guitarguy wrote:I think me and DW will both plan on getting that Hyatt card. With a free night annually, it will offset the fee easily. More than likely by double. There are several category 3-4 Hyatt hotels that are easily within driving distance for us. Even if we don't do any extended stays we could simply use our annual free nights back to back for free lodging on a weekend getaway every year.


The Hyatt cards intro bonus is fantastic: 2 free nights at any Hyatt. Between you and your wife, that would give you 4 free nights, so you can plan a vacation somewhere with a really fantastic Hyatt property and go for free! Here's several posts that talk about some of the best places to use those free nights.

http://travelsort.com/blog/best-park-hy ... hyatt-visa
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/01/maximiz ... tificates/
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/10-hyat ... demptions/

Then as you mention there's the annual free category 1-4 night which is far more useful when you and your wife both have the card so you can make a weekend out of it. Worth the annual fee in general.

You may also want to consider the IHG card, though it's probably lower priority than the Hyatt card. Offers have varied but I was able to get an 80K intro bonus (which is OK but certainly not as good as 2 free Hyatt nights), BUT every year you get a free night at ANY IHG property, which is better IMO than a free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt as there are some nice Intercontinentals out there. And it has a lower annual fee. So it's a great card for a husband and wife to each have so you can get 2 free nights at a very nice hotel every year.
Last edited by Bfwolf on Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bfwolf
Posts: 1575
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Bfwolf » Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:08 pm

duplicate post

BW1985
Posts: 1600
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 6:12 pm

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by BW1985 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:19 pm

Bfwolf wrote:
guitarguy wrote:I think me and DW will both plan on getting that Hyatt card. With a free night annually, it will offset the fee easily. More than likely by double. There are several category 3-4 Hyatt hotels that are easily within driving distance for us. Even if we don't do any extended stays we could simply use our annual free nights back to back for free lodging on a weekend getaway every year.


The Hyatt cards intro bonus is fantastic: 2 free nights at any Hyatt. Between you and your wife, that would give you 4 free nights, so you can plan a vacation somewhere with a really fantastic Hyatt property and go for free! Here's several posts that talk about some of the best places to use those free nights.

http://travelsort.com/blog/best-park-hy ... hyatt-visa
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/01/maximiz ... tificates/
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/10-hyat ... demptions/

Then as you mention there's the annual free category 1-4 night which is far more useful when you and your wife both have the card so you can make a weekend out of it. Worth the annual fee in general.

You may also want to consider the IHG card, though it's probably lower priority than the Hyatt card. Offers have varied but I was able to get an 80K intro bonus (which is OK but certainly not as good as 2 free Hyatt nights), BUT every year you get a free night at ANY IHG property, which is better IMO than a free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt as there are some nice Intercontinentals out there. And it has a lower annual fee. So it's a great card for a husband and wife to each have so you can get 2 free nights at a very nice hotel every year.


On the free night stays do you still have to pay all the taxes?
"Squirrels figured out how to save eons ago. They buried acorns. Some, they dug up, for food. Others, they let to sprout, in new oak trees. We could learn from squirrels." -john94549

Bfwolf
Posts: 1575
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:19 am

Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Bfwolf » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:40 pm

BW1985 wrote:
Bfwolf wrote:
guitarguy wrote:I think me and DW will both plan on getting that Hyatt card. With a free night annually, it will offset the fee easily. More than likely by double. There are several category 3-4 Hyatt hotels that are easily within driving distance for us. Even if we don't do any extended stays we could simply use our annual free nights back to back for free lodging on a weekend getaway every year.


The Hyatt cards intro bonus is fantastic: 2 free nights at any Hyatt. Between you and your wife, that would give you 4 free nights, so you can plan a vacation somewhere with a really fantastic Hyatt property and go for free! Here's several posts that talk about some of the best places to use those free nights.

http://travelsort.com/blog/best-park-hy ... hyatt-visa
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/01/maximiz ... tificates/
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/10-hyat ... demptions/

Then as you mention there's the annual free category 1-4 night which is far more useful when you and your wife both have the card so you can make a weekend out of it. Worth the annual fee in general.

You may also want to consider the IHG card, though it's probably lower priority than the Hyatt card. Offers have varied but I was able to get an 80K intro bonus (which is OK but certainly not as good as 2 free Hyatt nights), BUT every year you get a free night at ANY IHG property, which is better IMO than a free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt as there are some nice Intercontinentals out there. And it has a lower annual fee. So it's a great card for a husband and wife to each have so you can get 2 free nights at a very nice hotel every year.


On the free night stays do you still have to pay all the taxes?


For the Hyatt card, I can say with certainty that you do not. I have not gotten my one year IHG anniversary free night yet, but I would be extremely surprised if I need to pay for the taxes when I use it. Award stays at all the major chains are 100% free including taxes as far as I know.

Post Reply