What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

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guitarguy
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What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 10:15 am

There are lots of threads that talk about what the best credit card deals are, ones specific to travel rewards, best cash back cards, etc. I thought it might be helpful to have everyone post their strategy they have for earning/redeeming/maximizing credit card rewards. This would be good info, and wouldn't be specific to any one type of card or type of reward. It also wouldn't really take into account signup bonuses...rather than churning for bonuses I think it's interesting to know what cards we keep for the long haul and continually use. It could also help those of us who might try to go for both cash back and other perks at the same time because the thread won't be confined to discussing one or the other.

Some good areas to address are:

Goal. Are you out to earn cash back, travel points, hotels, or other perks, airline miles, etc? Anything else you're out to achieve by using rewards credit cards?

Cards. Your cards, their rewards (i.e. what % back on what types of purchases) and other perks, fees, limits, and how you use them strategically (i.e. use this card for that, etc)

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.

Final Thoughs. Any other details we might find interesting. Get your Jerry Springer on.

I'll start.

Goal. We try to maximize cash back. It's easy to follow and it's all earned on stuff we would buy regardless.

Cards. We regularly use 5 cards:

1. Amex BlueCash Preferred
  • 6% back on groceries ($6k limit - which we hover on annually), 3% at dept stores, 1% on everything else
  • $75 annual fee
  • Used for groceries and when we (very rarely) shop at a dept store

2. PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Plus Visa
  • 5% back on gas, no foreign transaction fee
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for gas and as needed when we travel abroad

3. Chase Amazon Rewards Visa
  • 3% back on Amazon purchases, 2% back on gas, restaurants, drug stores, 1% on everything else
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for Amazon purchases only

4. Citi Double Cash MasterCard
  • 2% back on all purchases (1% on purchases, and 1% on payments)
  • $0 annual fee
  • Generally used for anything that we buy that can't yield higher than 2% elsewhere

5. Chase Freedom Visa
  • 5% back on quarterly rotating categories up to $1500 per quarter, 1% on everything else
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for the 5% rotating categories only. The categories are typically some form of gas, grocery, restaurants, and holiday shopping. We skip the gas quarter and just use PenFed as always. Typically we max the out the $1500 limit on Home Depot or other gift cards (for things we will buy anyways) at the grocery store during that quarter, and we use it when we eat at restaurants during that quarter (but we never hit $1500...that would be un-Boglehead-like I suppose :mrgreen: ). For holiday shopping we use it as applicable, and if Amazon is included we use this instead of the Amazon Visa during that timeframe.

Rewards. Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.

Final Thoughs. Overall, although we have to juggle a few cards and I occasionally get a text from the wife about what card should I use today...I think our strategy is pretty sound. Carry one card for groceries, one for gas, one for everything else, now and then mind the quarterly rotating 5% categories, and leave that Amazon visa as the account default. Rewarding and not terribly complicated. 8-)

Gideont
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Gideont » Wed May 25, 2016 10:48 am

My usage is vey similar to yours, Guitarguy.

I use all the same cards you use, except Amazon Visa.

I also use Discover It for the rotating rewards. They also offer a 5% gas reward every year and credit the rewards immediately.

I'm thinking of not using the Pen Fed gas card anymore, after I accumulate the next $25 reward. It takes so long to accumulate since I only use it for 6 months a year.

I also activate rewards on the AMEX card. This month I received $30 for paying my cable bill and $30 for paying my cell bill, in advance using the card. It was the best reward this month.

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dodecahedron
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by dodecahedron » Wed May 25, 2016 10:53 am

B of A cash rewards Platinum Preferred 5.25% on gas and 3.5% on groceries (maximum $1500 per calendar quarter in combined purchases on those categories); no annual fee.

B of A Travel Rewards Platinum Preferred 2.65% on everything else, no annual fee, no purchase ceiling

Also use Discover for their rotating 5% categories

I pay most routine bills (e.g., monthly health insurance premiums, annual auto/home insurance, phone, Internet, trash pickup, etc.) with my 2.65% credit card, effectively getting a discount on those bills.
Last edited by dodecahedron on Wed May 25, 2016 10:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 10:54 am

Gideont wrote:I'm thinking of not using the Pen Fed gas card anymore, after I accumulate the next $25 reward. It takes so long to accumulate since I only use it for 6 months a year.


Are you thinking of a different card? PenFed credits the cash back on each statement automatically, no minimums.

Gideont wrote:I also activate rewards on the AMEX card. This month I received $30 for paying my cable bill and $30 for paying my cell bill, in advance using the card. It was the best reward this month.


This is a good point I forgot to mention. There are several "offers" that pop up that I have also added to the Amex BCP card. Most recently, $25 back on a $75 purchase from Petco (which we used to stock up on stuff we'd normally buy anyways).

Da5id
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Da5id » Wed May 25, 2016 10:55 am

guitarguy wrote:Rewards. Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.

Final Thoughs. Overall, although we have to juggle a few cards and I occasionally get a text from the wife about what card should I use today...I think our strategy is pretty sound. Carry one card for groceries, one for gas, one for everything else, now and then mind the quarterly rotating 5% categories, and leave that Amazon visa as the account default. Rewarding and not terribly complicated. 8-)


Oddly, I use 4 of 5 same as you, don't have Pen Fed. I expect to get the new Costco visa when it is released, really nice. I'll use it for gas/Costco/restaurants. Will be interested to see what "eligible travel" is, as 3% there also seems nice.

I have an insert in my wallet about which card to use, mostly second nature except for rotating Freedom categories.

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Toons
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Toons » Wed May 25, 2016 10:58 am

5%-3%-1% Sams Card- back depending on what type of purchase
5% back Amazon Prime Card Purchases
:happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

OnceARunner
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by OnceARunner » Wed May 25, 2016 11:01 am

Sam's Club Mastercard - 5% on gas, 3% on restaurants and travel, 1 % everything else. We use this card on gas, restaurants, hotels, plane tickets, and rental cars. We get a rebate check in the mail annually that can be redeemed for cash at the Sam's Club around the corner from our house.

BoA Cash Rewards - 3% on gas, 2% on grocery, 1% on everything else. We use this card for groceries and anything we get at Wal-Mart. The one near me comes up as grocery spending, including the $1,000 flat screen TV that we bought. I typically cash out this one when the rewards level reachings $100. We also get a 10% bonus for direct depositing the reward into our BoA checking account.

These are the only two card we use regularly.

gkaplan
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by gkaplan » Wed May 25, 2016 11:01 am

I have four credit cards, but I only use two on a regular basis: American Express Blue Cash Preferred and Bank of America MasterCard.

I use the American Express card for all grocery purchases, except for Farmers Market, where some vendors don't take credit cards. I use the MasterCard for all other purchases, which generally are online purchases.
Gordon

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midareff
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by midareff » Wed May 25, 2016 11:23 am

guitarguy wrote:
To put everything in context we are retired, I'm 68 and we travel some both domestically and internationally.

Some good areas to address are:

Goal. Are you out to earn cash back, travel points, hotels, or other perks, airline miles, etc? Anything else you're out to achieve by using rewards credit cards?

My first priority is to get cash back. Succeeded to the extent of >$2100 last year. I also find some AMEX airline cards beneficial despite the annual membership charge. As an example AMEX Delta Airlines with priority boarding and first checked bag free. I just used the initial bonus miles to book two tickets from Miami to Spokane for a Columbia and Snake River Cruise, less $11.12 in taxes. The cruise was put on a 2% cash back card which was in addition to my early booking credits and another booking courtesy. Interestingly enough we leave for Russia in two weeks and are flying Delta there and one of it's partners back. More miles, yummy.

Cards. Your cards, their rewards (i.e. what % back on what types of purchases) and other perks, fees, limits, and how you use them strategically (i.e. use this card for that, etc)

AMEX Blue Cash Preferred which has 6% cash back on groceries up to $6K annual, $75 annual fee and used only for groceries. Fidelity Visa 2% cash back used for as much else as possible except PenFed's 5% cash back gas cord. used only for gas. Just took a AMEX United card for the free checked bags, priority boarding, waived first year fee and a $50 statement credit for the flights back from Portland. Will spend the needed $1K minimum to get $35K signup miles, + the roughly $6K trip miles = just about 2 one way tickets :-). Also used Discover card for breakfast out with wifey this AM as this quarter they are 5% cash back for movies and resturants.

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.

AMEX grocery card is statement credits redeem in increments of $25 as is the Citi 1% + 1% except it is cash to bank, Fidelity's Visa is cash to Fidelity account, Discover is cash to bank.

Final Thoughs. Any other details we might find interesting. Get your Jerry Springer on.

Normally carry three.. Blue Cash Preferred, Fidelity Visa and PenFed gas. It's all a big game and every card we have is set to pay in full on the due date. No mistakes, no interest due and we never buy anything we don't need or would not buy for cash. Their goal is to put you in a situation to generate interest and mine is to get every penny, nickel, dime and quarter back on the things we do everyday that I can. Internationally I will carry the Fido Visa and an AX card but will take the United Airlines AX Card this trip since I need to get another $548.90 on it for my sign-up bonus miles.

I'll start.

Goal. We try to maximize cash back. It's easy to follow and it's all earned on stuff we would buy regardless.

Cards. We regularly use 5 cards:

1. Amex BlueCash Preferred
  • 6% back on groceries ($6k limit - which we hover on annually), 3% at dept stores, 1% on everything else
  • $75 annual fee
  • Used for groceries and when we (very rarely) shop at a dept store

2. PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Plus Visa
  • 5% back on gas, no foreign transaction fee
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for gas and as needed when we travel abroad

3. Chase Amazon Rewards Visa
  • 3% back on Amazon purchases, 2% back on gas, restaurants, drug stores, 1% on everything else
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for Amazon purchases only

4. Citi Double Cash MasterCard
  • 2% back on all purchases (1% on purchases, and 1% on payments)
  • $0 annual fee
  • Generally used for anything that we buy that can't yield higher than 2% elsewhere

5. Chase Freedom Visa
  • 5% back on quarterly rotating categories up to $1500 per quarter, 1% on everything else
  • $0 annual fee
  • Used for the 5% rotating categories only. The categories are typically some form of gas, grocery, restaurants, and holiday shopping. We skip the gas quarter and just use PenFed as always. Typically we max the out the $1500 limit on Home Depot or other gift cards (for things we will buy anyways) at the grocery store during that quarter, and we use it when we eat at restaurants during that quarter (but we never hit $1500...that would be un-Boglehead-like I suppose :mrgreen: ). For holiday shopping we use it as applicable, and if Amazon is included we use this instead of the Amazon Visa during that timeframe.

Rewards. Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.

Final Thoughs. Overall, although we have to juggle a few cards and I occasionally get a text from the wife about what card should I use today...I think our strategy is pretty sound. Carry one card for groceries, one for gas, one for everything else, now and then mind the quarterly rotating 5% categories, and leave that Amazon visa as the account default. Rewarding and not terribly complicated. 8-)

BW1985
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by BW1985 » Wed May 25, 2016 11:31 am

Currently churning for bonuses. If/when I hit all the bonuses I'll go back to Chase Freedom for 5% categories and Chase Unlimited for 1.5% on everything else, then convert to ultimate rewards.
"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

rgs92
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by rgs92 » Wed May 25, 2016 11:33 am

By the way, the Amex Blue Cash with the 6% rebate on groceries has an annual limit on the 6% cash back ($360 I think). Is there any easy way to keep track of this without manually keeping your own records? Thanks.

Da5id
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Da5id » Wed May 25, 2016 11:35 am

rgs92 wrote:By the way, the Amex Blue Cash with the 6% rebate on groceries has an annual limit on the 6% cash back ($360 I think). Is there any easy way to keep track of this without manually keeping your own records? Thanks.


Each statement shows rewards in each category for the month and I think cumulatively too.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by alaskantraveler » Wed May 25, 2016 11:35 am

I churn regularly,

These days most of my natural spend is on various credit cards that me and the wife are meeting minimum spend requirements. Just picked up two AMEX Plat, 1 Arrival +, 1 Hilton Surpass for $12k spend in 90 days. After I meet minimum spends, I am frequently spending on retention or bonus spend offers for one of my many cards. If all of that is complete then I spend on my Citi Double Cash for CB. To help meet minimum spends I use gc.com with 1.5% cb, leaving me with a cost of $1.63 per $1k of ms.

These days I don't focus much on category bonus spend. I am not a big natural cc spender. between my wife and I approx. $24k per year with most of that not in non bonus categories. I do a lot of my grocery shopping at WM because I am often there liquidating MOs. And they are the cheapest for groceries in my city. I would consider CCs with grocery bonuses, but WM doesn't qualify. Everyone's situation is different, but for me and my wife making sure to use the best cc in every situation whether it is 3x on gas or 6x on grocery or 2x on restaurants just not worth it, when it might yield an extra $250/year in benefits if I utilized the perfect spend strategy. For me, opportunistically chasing the best cc sign up bonuses yields far better returns than focusing on everyday spending. Just picked up 2 Amex Platinums for 200k MRs. That's like 8 years of natural spend with two CCs.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by midareff » Wed May 25, 2016 11:40 am

rgs92 wrote:By the way, the Amex Blue Cash with the 6% rebate on groceries has an annual limit on the 6% cash back ($360 I think). Is there any easy way to keep track of this without manually keeping your own records? Thanks.


Right on their website they have a reward tracker that shows the spending for the year.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Meg77 » Wed May 25, 2016 11:41 am

I too use Amex Blue Cash preferred for all grocery and gas spending; when I got the card they said it's 6% back on groceries, 3% back on gas and 1% on everything else. This may have changed because they recently called me and I found out there's 3% at department stores too which I didn't realize. Do they not rebate gas anymore? I don't care as I fill up only like 6-8 times a year but am just curious.

I use Citi Doublecash for all other spending, except when I'm out of the country. My Nordstrom Visa (usable everywhere) has no annual fee and no international fees. I think my CapitalOne Quicksilver also has no international fees, but I quit using it when I got the Citi card (capital one cash back is less at 1.5% on everything).

I always redeem for cash, but recently I've started to consider optimizing my airline miles and doing some of the churning for bonuses stuff. I feel like I'm leaving a lot of free trips/hotels on the table - we travel a lot and usually pay full price for whatever we need. Are these strategies really worth cluttering up my credit report and wallet with a bunch of random cards? I only recently just started using airline miles; I'm a legit newbie when it comes to that kind of thing and never used to think miles were worth much, but I know a lot of folks really know how to game that system.
"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

SuperGrafx
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by SuperGrafx » Wed May 25, 2016 11:43 am

Rewards. Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.


How are you redeeming on a monthly basis?

Out of my 3 primary rewards cards (BOA Cash Rewards, Citi Double Cash, and Discover), only Discover allows me to redeem at any time.
The other 2 require you to hit at least a minimum of $25.00 in rewards before you can redeem or cash in.

Da5id
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Da5id » Wed May 25, 2016 11:45 am

One addendum to my previous post, I also use a Kohl's card as needed to enable 30% off coupons. Kohl's card itself has no reward, but using the Kohl's coupons usually requires using a Kohl's card....

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jharkin
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by jharkin » Wed May 25, 2016 11:52 am

We have a lot of the same cards. I focus on maximizing cash back as we don't travel enough to make airline miles worth it at this stage in life (young kids). I haven't added it up but as a guess I would imagine we generate over a thousand a year in cash back.

As a secondary benefit, I find using specific cards for specific categories of spending help me keep track of budget easier (though Im probably not optimizing the rewards because of that)


Amex Blue Cash Preferred
- Using this for all groceries and gas for the 6%/3% rewards

Chase Amazon Rewards Visa
- Using this for all amazon spending (3%). we are prime members

Target Red Card
- We buy most of our household staples (cleaning supplies, etc) at target and get 5% back

Discover
- Ive had this card forever and keep it because it helps my length of credit history. I put a number fixed bills on it (cell plan, internet/TV, insurance premiums) to keep the account open. I should probably have it converted to a Discover It card for more points.

My wife also has a number of department store cards that she uses for discounts, and then we each have a rewards card that we use for our own personal spending that doesnt fit any of the above categories. (I have a Citi Dividend Elite Card - i should convert this one to DC; she has Capital One).

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by simmias » Wed May 25, 2016 11:54 am

I use three cards regularly (I think two aren't available any more):

Sallie Mae Mastercard (5% Amazon, Grocery, Gas): this card has monthly limits ($250 grocery/$250 gas/$750 Amazon) but I never meet them. Redeem for statement credit whenever I have $25 to redeem.

Priceline Visa (2% everything): Redeem for statement credit against existing charge whenever I have $25+

US Bank Visa (5% in rotating categories): Use for big box electronics stores (always 5%) and occasional fast food or restaurants (usually 5%). Redeem for statement credit when I have $25.

Other than those, if I'm using something else it's to meet a minimum spend for a signup bonus. Got to get them while the getting's good - who knows how much longer these great new card bonuses will stick around?

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 12:01 pm

midareff wrote:
rgs92 wrote:By the way, the Amex Blue Cash with the 6% rebate on groceries has an annual limit on the 6% cash back ($360 I think). Is there any easy way to keep track of this without manually keeping your own records? Thanks.


Right on their website they have a reward tracker that shows the spending for the year.


Yep. Just click on explore rewards and it breaks it all down for you right there, year-to-date.

rgs92
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by rgs92 » Wed May 25, 2016 12:06 pm

Thanks for the Amex advice!

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 12:07 pm

SuperGrafx wrote:
Rewards. Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.


How are you redeeming on a monthly basis?

Out of my 3 primary rewards cards (BOA Cash Rewards, Citi Double Cash, and Discover), only Discover allows me to redeem at any time.
The other 2 require you to hit at least a minimum of $25.00 in rewards before you can redeem or cash in.


I don't redeem all of them monthly. PenFed redeems automatically on each statement with no minimum, and we spend enough every month to get $25 from the Amex. So those 2 are monthly. The rest we redeem when they reach the minimums.

EDIT: most months we spend enough to hit $25 on the Citi too. I should tell the wife to start spending less $$. :twisted:
Last edited by guitarguy on Wed May 25, 2016 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

arsenalfan
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by arsenalfan » Wed May 25, 2016 12:07 pm

Anyone using Amazon regularly should consider the Amazon Store Card - basically a line of credit you can only use at Amazon, and get 5% back.

viewtopic.php?t=181150

Don't know why Amazon doesn't advertise more. Like OP, I was using the Amazon Visa for 3% back until I found this card.

Pretty great, given how much one can buy from Amazon.

minneapples
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by minneapples » Wed May 25, 2016 12:15 pm

I use Chase Freedom Unlimited, 1.5% cash back. 2/3 of our monthly spending is day care for our two children, which we can put on a credit card. So far as I know, 1.5% is the best reward we can get on that expense, and I don't want the hassle of managing multiple cards.

Before we switched to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I was with a Capital One card that had 1.5% but the customer service and online interface were just awful. I originally got the Capital One card about a decade ago and stopped using it after two months because of a truly incompetent customer service SNAFU; I decided to try it again briefly when our second child started day care, for the rewards on day care. They're still horrible, but shortly thereafter I got the option of switching to a 1.% Chase card, and I've always been happy with their service.

We are straight up cash back people. Right now all cash back is going to principal payments on my husband's student loan.
Last edited by minneapples on Wed May 25, 2016 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 12:15 pm

arsenalfan wrote:Anyone using Amazon regularly should consider the Amazon Store Card - basically a line of credit you can only use at Amazon, and get 5% back.

viewtopic.php?t=181150

Don't know why Amazon doesn't advertise more. Like OP, I was using the Amazon Visa for 3% back until I found this card.

Pretty great, given how much one can buy from Amazon.


I wish I knew about this before getting the 3% card last November. :annoyed

Having got both that, the Citi, and also a Hilton Hhonors Amex all within the last 6 months...I don't want to pop for another new one right now.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 12:18 pm

minneapples wrote:I use Chase Freedom Unlimited, 1.5% cash back. 2/3 of our monthly spending is day care for our two children, which we can put on a credit card. SO far as I know, 1.5% is the best reward we can get on that expense, and I don't want the hassle of managing multiple cards.

Before we switched to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I was with a Capital One card that had 1.5% but the customer service and online interface were just awful. I originally got the Capital One card about a decade ago and stopped using it after two months because of a truly incompetent customer service SNAFU; I decided to try it again briefly when our second child started day care, for the rewards on day care. They're still horrible, but shortly thereafter I got the option of switching to a 1.% Chase card, and I've always been happy with their service.

We are straight up cash back people. Right now all cash back is going to principal payments on my husband's student loan.


Assuming you pay the bill in full each month and the day care accepts MasterCard...Citi's Double Cash gives 2% on everything. I also looked at the Freedom Unlimited for our "everything else" category...but there really wasn't a good reason to pick that over Citi aside from the signup bonus.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by arsenalfan » Wed May 25, 2016 12:20 pm

Guitarguy I empathize with your frustration.
After ~8 years of using the 3% Amazon Visa, I saw the Amazon Store card on a banner ad earlier this year - and was excited/annoyed.
Not sure how long it has been around.
FWIW, it was a 1 minute application process, since I already was logged into my Amazon account. Understand you may be more concerned about credit score etc.

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 12:24 pm

arsenalfan wrote:Guitarguy I empathize with your frustration.
After ~8 years of using the 3% Amazon Visa, I saw the Amazon Store card on a banner ad earlier this year - and was excited/annoyed.
Not sure how long it has been around.
FWIW, it was a 1 minute application process, since I already was logged into my Amazon account. Understand you may be more concerned about credit score etc.


Yeah...for me it's not the time taken to apply...I'm sure that would be quick. It's another hard pull on the credit report. Eventually maybe. Meh. Just wish I would've seen this baby...it stings because I just got the last one so recently.

minneapples
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by minneapples » Wed May 25, 2016 12:27 pm

guitarguy wrote:
minneapples wrote:I use Chase Freedom Unlimited, 1.5% cash back. 2/3 of our monthly spending is day care for our two children, which we can put on a credit card. SO far as I know, 1.5% is the best reward we can get on that expense, and I don't want the hassle of managing multiple cards.

Before we switched to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I was with a Capital One card that had 1.5% but the customer service and online interface were just awful. I originally got the Capital One card about a decade ago and stopped using it after two months because of a truly incompetent customer service SNAFU; I decided to try it again briefly when our second child started day care, for the rewards on day care. They're still horrible, but shortly thereafter I got the option of switching to a 1.% Chase card, and I've always been happy with their service.

We are straight up cash back people. Right now all cash back is going to principal payments on my husband's student loan.


Assuming you pay the bill in full each month and the day care accepts MasterCard...Citi's Double Cash gives 2% on everything. I also looked at the Freedom Unlimited for our "everything else" category...but there really wasn't a good reason to pick that over Citi aside from the signup bonus.


Thanks! I will look into it.

azb
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by azb » Wed May 25, 2016 12:28 pm

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.

Still, for much of our spending cash back gives us the best value

Our cards:

AMEX Blue Preferred--get 6% back for groceries. there is an annual fee, but we find that various AMEX offers over the year more than cover the annual fee (e.g., $25 cashback if use card at Staples). Cashback

PenFed Visa 5% on gas--use for gas only. Redeem for gift cards

Chase Sapphire--2% for dining and travel; use for travel in Ultimate Rewards program.

Chase Freedom--5% for changing categories. We combine with our Chase Sapphire card and use points to get travel using Ultimate Rewards Program. (Without a Chase Sapphire card, this would be a cash back only card)

Chase Ink--a business card; 5% back for telephone services and office supply stores (a good place to get gift cards to places like Home Depot)--use for travel in Ultimate Rewards program

U.S. Bank Cash plus--lets you choose 5% categories up to $2000 per quarter. We use it for Charitable contributions

Discover--5% cash back on various categories.

Citi Premier--3% on travel. Use to get travel in Citi thank You rewards program (usually to get American airlines travel)

Fidelity Visa (legacy card)/Fidelity AMEX--2% chas back into a Fidelity account. We use this as our catch-all when we can't do better with another card.

We also sign up for new cards for bonuses periodically--that has been the best source for points that can be used for travel.

In the end, we do pretty well--about $5000 in travel benefits (thank you bonuses!) and about $2500 in cash each year.
Last edited by azb on Wed May 25, 2016 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Da5id
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Da5id » Wed May 25, 2016 12:30 pm

I'd also note that there are non-cash rewards that are worth keeping in mind.

The Citi Double Cash card has a price rollback feature. I've actually used it recently (Nexus 5x bought at $350 fell to $300, I got the $50 back). These features tend to be a bit obscure, but very cool when they actually work...

takeshi
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by takeshi » Wed May 25, 2016 12:33 pm

I'm out to maximize reward value on our spend whether it's cash back or redeeming for travel. The latter is a bit trickier to sort out but it can be done with some effort. Most spend goes into Ultimate Rewards since I can best leverage higher value redemption options with it than other programs like Membership Rewards. However, I do have some cards with 5% categories that do better than what I can get per UR point. I'm still under the Discover double cashback deal so it is also considered.

guitarguy wrote:Cards. Your cards, their rewards (i.e. what % back on what types of purchases) and other perks, fees, limits, and how you use them strategically (i.e. use this card for that, etc)

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.

Are these not tactics rather than strategy? :mrgreen:

Sharing such lists can be illustrative but really one needs to look at where one's spend is going and select the tactics that maximize rewards on that spend instead of just looking at the earn rates on cards.

guitarguy wrote:It also wouldn't really take into account signup bonuses...rather than churning for bonuses I think it's interesting to know what cards we keep for the long haul and continually use. It could also help those of us who might try to go for both cash back and other perks at the same time because the thread won't be confined to discussing one or the other.

I'm not really into churning though I did recently close an Ink Cash so I could apply for an Ink Plus for the bonus. Also opened a MileagePlus Explorer Business for the bonus. Same with the SPG Business. The latter doesn't have a favorable conversion rate to United but it's still 25K miles in the end.

We certainly have cards for perks like the UMPE and AmEx Platinum. Seems like it would be good to include perks in the subject if that's an intended subject.

Gideont wrote:I'm thinking of not using the Pen Fed gas card anymore, after I accumulate the next $25 reward. It takes so long to accumulate since I only use it for 6 months a year.

Accumulate? The PPCR automatically issues a statement credit every cycle. Do you have the Platinum Rewards card?

rgs92 wrote:By the way, the Amex Blue Cash with the 6% rebate on groceries has an annual limit on the 6% cash back ($360 I think). Is there any easy way to keep track of this without manually keeping your own records?

Hit Statements & Activity on the AmEx site. Filter as desired.

Meg77 wrote:I too use Amex Blue Cash preferred for all grocery and gas spending; when I got the card they said it's 6% back on groceries, 3% back on gas and 1% on everything else. This may have changed because they recently called me and I found out there's 3% at department stores too which I didn't realize. Do they not rebate gas anymore?

AFAIK it has been this for a long time:
https://www.americanexpress.com/us/cred ... -learnmore
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations; 3% Cash Back at select U.S. department stores; and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
Last edited by takeshi on Wed May 25, 2016 12:51 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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ray.james
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by ray.james » Wed May 25, 2016 12:38 pm

I have looked at rewards game but am not sure how people manage to do it. Apart from rent, we spend roughly 30-35K an year for 2 people. A 2% card covers most of it. Lets say we optimize it. Last year we spent 7K on food/dining, 7K on airlines/hotels, the rest were all over the place with no category above 3K. Even with in food 2.2K went to Costco. It is really hard to aggregate it on bonus specific cards.

Recently I am using Gas cards from ebay to get effective 15% off on the gas purchases. I have looked and found discounted gift cards are good deal to get 15-20% off. So I managed to pick 4-5 stores where I purchase frequently and effectively buy 10-15% effective discount using ebay ebucks/Portals/2-3% CC rewards etc., (JC Penny, target, Staples, EXXON/BP, ). Using this method, this year I reached ~7% cash back effective as my rough estimation on all purchases. I know some people swear by travel rewards. I am yet to grasp them.

Signup bonuses are different and I use limit churning to 2 bonuses per year.(4 cards for 2 of us.)
Last edited by ray.james on Wed May 25, 2016 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joey_Freshwater
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Joey_Freshwater » Wed May 25, 2016 12:38 pm

You can use points earned from Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited on Ultimate Rewards if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Did not know that.

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JDCarpenter
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by JDCarpenter » Wed May 25, 2016 12:39 pm

Our primary card is BoA travel rewards platinum preferred and its 2.625% on everything. (technically only applied for statement credit on "travel" expenditures, but that term is very broadly defined.)

We also still use Citi AA card for booking flights that we pay for, and several others (7 or 8 total, I think?) that we keep active.

Good thing about this card is that it is mindless; don't keep track of which card to use, but still get good payback.

Before retirement, we are likely do some more churning, which has been a periodic thing for us.
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munemaker
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by munemaker » Wed May 25, 2016 12:40 pm

1. First I take advantage of 5% opportunities:
- Sallie Mae (no longer available) = 5% on gas, groceries, Amazon (until the limits are hit)
- Discover - 5% quarterly categories (such as restaurants which is the current one)
- Chase Freedom - 5% quarterly categories

2. Second, any cards I am actively working on an introductory offer, if any (e.g. charge $3,000 in first 3 months, receive $400 or $500 reward of some type - travel expense refund, hotel nights, airline miles, whatever)
- The best of these cards charge an annual fee that is usually waived for the first year.
- I usually do not bite on the $100 offers.

3. For anything beyond the above, use one of the 2% cash back cards
- Fidelity American Express (which will shortly be changed to VISA)
- Citi Double Cash

SRenaeP
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed May 25, 2016 1:05 pm

GOAL - My goal is minimize the cost of things we would do/buy anyway with minimal fuss.

CARDS (to keep) - Primary is Delta AmEx, secondary is Citi Hhonors, backup/oldest card is Chase Freedom.

CARDS (to churn) - In the past, Southwest, Barclay Arrival, Chase Sapphire, Hyatt, probably some others I can't remember. Currently, SPG, Marriott, IHG and PNC. With the exception of IHG, I will cancel these before the annual fee hits. The IHG has been a surprisingly good value despite the fee ($49/year).

REWARDS - Obviously, travel rewards. DH and I travel a lot so we are always redeeming/accruing.

I consider myself a churner-lite. I'm willing to go after low hanging fruit but am not willing to spend too much time or energy chasing deals.

-Steph

auggiedoggies
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by auggiedoggies » Wed May 25, 2016 1:17 pm

GOAL: Initially my goal was to build a large stash of points that could be used whenever we want for travel. Now that I have built up this sufficiently large stash, I plan on simplifying my strategy down to a couple of premium cards with valuable perks, and a few everyday spending cards.

CARDS: I have about 25 rewards cards. Never paid a cent of interest or late fees. Credit score is in the high 700s. Opening these cards has allowed me to build up a substantial points balance, in addition to ~2k of cash and Amazon gift cards. I've spent quite a bit of points over the past few years. I currently have:

250k Chase Ultimate Rewards
600k Amex Membership Rewards
90k Delta Skymiles
60k United Miles
180k AA Miles
240k Marriott Points
60k SPG points
140k IHG points


As far as everyday use, it goes:

1. Whatever card I'm hitting minimum spend on (Currently Amex Platinum Benz Edition)

2. 5% categories (Freedom and Discover IT)

3. Any 2 or 3% categories (Amex Premier Rewards Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Prestige)

4. Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5 UR per dollar)


REWARDS: Mostly used for trips to sporting events, visit friends, or go to the beach. Have used for a few large international trips (Maldives, Dubai, Caribean, Jamaica, etc). It's been quite nice to not have to worry about flight or hotel costs if we want to go somewhere. Now that we have a newborn, we will probably blow most of the points on a massive international trip in the next year or so, while baby stays with the grandparents.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Credit cards are awesome, if you have discipline. Most of my friends thought I was foolish, but now several have opened a few cards and use them frequently. I will say, it can be a bit daunting if you're not organized....

guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 1:19 pm

Joey_Freshwater wrote:You can use points earned from Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited on Ultimate Rewards if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Did not know that.


Yep, they all combine into one spot. I don't have the Sapphire Pref though (yet).

azb wrote:Chase Sapphire--2% for dining and travel; use for travel in Ultimate Rewards program.

Chase Freedom--5% for changing categories. We combine with our Chase Sapphire card and use points to get travel using Ultimate Rewards Program. (Without a Chase Sapphire card, this would be a cash back only card)

Chase Ink--a business card; 5% back for telephone services and office supply stores (a good place to get gift cards to places like Home Depot)--use for travel in Ultimate Rewards program


This is a combo that I've read can be very valuable. I may go for the Sapphire card next year or something and try to take advantage of the signup bonus to go on a vaca with the wife.

What I'm curious is, for anyone that knows, how can you redeem travel rewards across multiple ultimate rewards accounts??

For example, say wife and I both get the Sapphire...how can we plan a vaca together and still utilize all of these signup bonus rewards and/or ultimate rewards points we've accumulated already prior to then? How would we book a flight together, for example, when using points from 2 different accounts? :confused

EDIT: Google told me the answer to this. You can simply transfer them! Nice!! :sharebeer

Lindrobe
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Lindrobe » Wed May 25, 2016 1:41 pm

I collect hotel rewards points. My husband's job is about 80% travel, so between the points he earns for stays and the points we earn for credit cards, we usually get about 2 nice vacations (Cabo, Hawaii, etc.) per year with our points. I do not use points to stay at cheaper non-resort type hotels. Currently, we have about 800,000 Hilton points (more than enough), so I recently started collecting Marriott points and I am at about 150,000. We have the following cards:

1. Hilton Citi Card, no annual fee
2. Hilton Amex Card, no annual fee
3. Marriott Chase Card, $85 annual fee and I just got 80,000 bonus points for hitting the spend limit and 7,500 for adding spouse as user. Also, I get one weekend night stay for free, so that pretty much pays for the annual fee.
4. Chase Sapphire Preferred, $95 annual fee and I got 50,000 bonus points for hitting the spend limit and several thousand more points for adding spouse. These points convert to Hilton, Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Ritz-Carlton. I plan to convert my points to Marriott points. Not sure if I will keep this card or not. Mostly just wanted the bonus points.

I charge EVERYTHING to one card (currently Chase Sapphire or Chase Marriott since I am trying to increase Marriott points) including cable bills, cell phone bill, insurance to get as many points as possible.
Last edited by Lindrobe on Wed May 25, 2016 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Shallowpockets
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Shallowpockets » Wed May 25, 2016 2:05 pm

I am curious about churning cards.
Let's say you get 50,000 miles to an airline card after you spend 3k. First year is free for the card, then $95 year. You spend the 3k, get your miles to your account and then what?
Does the airline honor those miles if you cancel your card so as not to get the $95 charge for the second year? O do you use the miles before that first year expires?

Lindrobe
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by Lindrobe » Wed May 25, 2016 2:07 pm

Shallowpockets wrote:I am curious about churning cards.
Let's say you get 50,000 miles to an airline card after you spend 3k. First year is free for the card, then $95 year. You spend the 3k, get your miles to your account and then what?
Does the airline honor those miles if you cancel your card so as not to get the $95 charge for the second year? O do you use the miles before that first year expires?


With the Chase Sapphire, you transfer the points to the travel partner of your choice, then close the card. No need to keep it open 1 year. With the Hilton and Marriott cards, the points transfer directly to the hotel partner each month, so you can close the card at any time.

an_asker
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by an_asker » Wed May 25, 2016 2:07 pm

Meg77 wrote:[...]Are these strategies really worth cluttering up my credit report and wallet with a bunch of random cards? I only recently just started using airline miles; I'm a legit newbie when it comes to that kind of thing and never used to think miles were worth much, but I know a lot of folks really know how to game that system.

Absolutely! Once upon a time, I used to feel guilty about getting rewards off the banks. Since the mortgage crisis of the 2000s - and since I learned how rewards (and credit cards) really work - I don't feel guilty anymore. That said, I haven't "churn"ed the cards yet, in the sense that I am yet to reapply for a card that I already got rewarded for - though my understanding is that Chase has a 24 month cooling off period. So I might start once more ...

Besides, I have two legitimate credit cards that I pay annual fees for (for an annual free night apiece) - Chase Hyatt and Chase IHG.

rai
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by rai » Wed May 25, 2016 2:11 pm

had the Amex blue reward but didn't want the $75 fee. I thought it ate up a lot of the great rewards. So I dropped that, they have a different (free) reward card that gives 3% at grocery stores.

I use Fidelity reward Amex and Visa to get 2% on everything.

I use Discover but only when they have the 5% cash back and then I use that for the reward like gasoline, or Amazon, or restaurants.

Pay them all in full each month of course.

I don't pay a single fee to use a card.
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guitarguy
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by guitarguy » Wed May 25, 2016 2:20 pm

rai wrote:had the Amex blue reward but didn't want the $75 fee. I thought it ate up a lot of the great rewards. So I dropped that, they have a different (free) reward card that gives 3% at grocery stores.

I don't pay a single fee to use a card.


To each their own. We hover right around $6k per year on groceries (and other stuff we buy from the grocery stores).

$6000 x 0.03 = $180 back
$6000 x 0.06 = $360 back - $75 fee = $285 back

Just sayin. It depends on how much you spend as to which is the better choice.

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pennstater2005
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by pennstater2005 » Wed May 25, 2016 2:21 pm

BW1985 wrote:Currently churning for bonuses. If/when I hit all the bonuses I'll go back to Chase Freedom for 5% categories and Chase Unlimited for 1.5% on everything else, then convert to ultimate rewards.


This. Did the Citi Bank bonus for my wife and myself. Got $1,000 worth of gift cards between Wal Mart and Lowes (both invites for 50k points with 3k in 90 days). Just finished American Express gold card for wife also 50k bonus points for 2k spending in 90 days. Got $500 in Home Depot cards.

Just applied for the Chase Freedom for $150 back after $500 in spending first 90 days.

Usual cards are American Express for 2% and Sallie Mae card for 5% gas/groceries.

I'm done churning for awhile after the Chase card.
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SRenaeP
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed May 25, 2016 2:23 pm

Meg77 wrote:I always redeem for cash, but recently I've started to consider optimizing my airline miles and doing some of the churning for bonuses stuff. I feel like I'm leaving a lot of free trips/hotels on the table - we travel a lot and usually pay full price for whatever we need. Are these strategies really worth cluttering up my credit report and wallet with a bunch of random cards? I only recently just started using airline miles; I'm a legit newbie when it comes to that kind of thing and never used to think miles were worth much, but I know a lot of folks really know how to game that system.


Only you can determine if it's 'worth it' for you. I don't care too much about the credit aspect. My score has dropped from 804 to 792 so I can still get the best rates out there if need be (e.g. when refi'ing our mortgage last year). I don't keep a bunch of cards in my wallet. Typically I keep two cards on hand (AmEx and something else in case AmEx isn't accepted). Everything else stays in a drawer at home. When I need to hit a minimum spend, I remove those two and only carry the 'fresh' one. I have a virtual sticky on my home computer that lists what cards need to be cancelled and when. I also have a sticky that shows any rewards that have an expiration (e.g. free nights, etc). I'm not a heavy churner and I don't do MS so I don't need a giant spreadsheet to keep up with everything.

For me, travel rewards have a better ROI than a simple cash back card. I typically redeem my FF miles for international or other expensive flights. I redeem my hotel points for properties that would have been cost prohibitive otherwise. Latest example - I was on the fence about keeping the IHG card because of the $49 fee but decided to because DH has a bunch of one off stays during race season for his triathlons. He doesn't need anywhere fancy but even a Holiday Inn will run you more than $49. However, I had been wanting to get up to NYC for a while. I had a business trip nearby so spent two nights in the city. Even Holiday Inns were $300+/night so I ended up using my IHG free night and points for a two night stay at an EVEN property. Without IHG, I either wouldn't have stayed the weekend in the city or would have ended up in a tiny room like Yotel or Citizen M for $175/nt or more.

-Steph

BW1985
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by BW1985 » Wed May 25, 2016 2:42 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:
BW1985 wrote:Currently churning for bonuses. If/when I hit all the bonuses I'll go back to Chase Freedom for 5% categories and Chase Unlimited for 1.5% on everything else, then convert to ultimate rewards.


This. Did the Citi Bank bonus for my wife and myself. Got $1,000 worth of gift cards between Wal Mart and Lowes (both invites for 50k points with 3k in 90 days). Just finished American Express gold card for wife also 50k bonus points for 2k spending in 90 days. Got $500 in Home Depot cards.

Just applied for the Chase Freedom for $150 back after $500 in spending first 90 days.

Usual cards are American Express for 2% and Sallie Mae card for 5% gas/groceries.

I'm done churning for awhile after the Chase card.


My wife thought I was a nut job at first, then she started seeing the gift cards and cash rolling in. Now she's totally on-board. Lol

I don't care about the credit aspect as long as it stays high enough to get approved for new cards to churn. I already have a mortgage and wouldn't borrow money for anything else.
Last edited by BW1985 on Wed May 25, 2016 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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traveler90
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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by traveler90 » Wed May 25, 2016 2:45 pm

My only goal is miles. I get a decent amount of miles on United through work so I want credit card points that I can transfer over to United to use.

Chase Sapphire Preferred - main card
Chase Freedom - for 5% rotating categories

Transfer over points from both to United when I need them, sometimes transfer to Southwest instead.

Right now I am also using the United Mileage Plus Explorer card for the 50k sign up bonus.

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Re: What's Your Credit Card Rewards Strategy?

Post by JimmyD » Wed May 25, 2016 2:59 pm

My primary goal is cash back, so we put all purchases on our Citi Double Cash MasterCard which earns us approximately $75/month. We typically use this cash once a year to help pay for one of our trips out of town.

Every once in a while, when I see a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles or so, I'll bite to collect the rewards which often times ends up being worth $500 or so. I might do two of those a year, but I find myself becoming less patient and willing to put up with the administrative overhead of really getting into churning. Between our jobs, commutes, taking care of our 2 year-old son, and doing a part-time MBA program, I'm running in too many directions in this phase of my life to complicate anything any further, lucrative or not.

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