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:
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?
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)
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.
Any other details we might find interesting. Get your Jerry Springer on.
We try to maximize cash back. It's easy to follow and it's all earned on stuff we would buy regardless.
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 ). For holiday shopping we use it as applicable, and if Amazon is included we use this instead of the Amazon Visa during that timeframe.
Redeeming is pretty straight forward for us. I typically redeem on a monthly basis.
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.
I will start by saying that we accumulate a lot of rewards and we use them strictly for cash back. For years we have used the rewards that we redeem once per year around Christmas time and we don't even budget for Christmas anymore since. We just use the cards and do the statement credit back to zero balance or obtain gift cards for presents. I haven't gone through the entire thread, so maybe some of these are listed. We have been doing this for years and it's zero effort because we don't stress about what the max rewards are. It is free money (so long as people pay the balances each month), so why not. Most people aren't paying them off so I know I will always be safe in beating the card issuer at their game without them kicking me to the curb for not making enough on me in return. They do get transaction fees from merchants, however.
1. Amex - Used for everyday spending
2. Chase Freedom - Usually stays in the safe, but every once in a while we take it out for a 5% rotating category.
3. Discover IT - Same as Chase above
Here are the interesting uses and I will only name the few just to keep this as short as possible.
4. Barclay's Sallie Mae (X 2) - 5% gas and 5% groceries. We use two of these because they cap at $250 ea. per mo. per category so we need 500 ea.
We don't stress out about the exact dollar amounts spent and we each carry one card. We usually take turns grocery shopping so it works out balanced between the two. We only shop at Kroger, so we also get a fuel bonus points reward at the pump in addition to the card rewards. On Kroger double and x4 fuel rewards weekends, we sometimes buy gift cards to make sure we max out the monthly rewards. We used to also use the card to transfer funds at the register onto a prepaid Amex card that they sell at Target because Target was considered a grocery store. We let the college student daughter have the prepaid card (safer) at school for certain spending. We haven't done this for a while, so not sure if it still works.
5. Huntington Voice - 3% on a you choose categories list. We choose utilities, which includes cell phone, gas/electric, and cable. I forget the max amount per quarter, but we go over anyway and we don't really add it up. We pay the utilities by habit each month with it and pay off anyway. This is one card that I know for sure isn't as popular or well known. I have heard stories in the past that it's only used in certain regions, but not sure. This also stays in the safe and not carried.
So, basically, we only carry 2 cards at once. (Amex and Barclays).