Maximizing Cash Back Rewards
I have a number of credit cards that provide cash rewards and other benefits. By using the right card on each spending category, I am able to get cash back ranged from 2% to 6.25%. I will share how I am doing this.
I am not a fan of credit card churning which is “the practice of repeatedly opening and closing a credit card to earn its signup bonus over and over” per thebalance.com. This practice may lead the consumer to overspend to meet the requirement to receive the sign up bonus. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
My strategy is primarily focused on cash back however, I have the premium credit cards with high annual fee for not only cash back but also various benefits that are valuable to my lifestyle.
It’s a hassle to manage many credit cards and apply their ever-changing reward programs to my family’s spending. While this practice is a serious hobby for someone, a full-time job for some blogger or youtuber, it is just a small hobby to me. I am seriously considering to simplify the strategy to spend time and energy elsewhere.
I am not saying my strategy is the best and everyone should follow it. I know there are many ways to optimize cash rewards and am slowly working on it. I just wanted to share what I have been doing.
I always select to deposit them into my bank account instead of statement credit. It is because paying off the balance by statement credit will not give me any cash reward.
MR (Amex Membership Reward point)
Amex MR can be used for cash back, purchasing travel from amextravel.com, converting to airline points (mileages), etc. For more information, see https://www.americanexpress.com/us/rewards/membership-rewards/about/.
PR (Chase Amazon Prime Reward point)
Chase PR can be used for cash back, shopping at amazon.com, buying gift cards, or purchasing travel, etc. For more information, see https://www.chase.com/personal/credit-cards/amazon.
UR (Chase Ultimate Reward point)
Chase UR can be used for cash back, shopping at amazon.com, buying gift cards, or purchasing travel, etc. For more information, see https://www.chase.com/personal/credit-cards/ultimate-rewards.
Some reward credit cards provide options for purchasing gift cards or shopping at their site. Sometimes they have good deals such as 10% off from Apple iTunes card. In most cases, I simply cash back to my bank account, so I can save and invest them.
Amex MR 25%
Amex Platinum with Charles Schwab provides 25% of bonus when redeemed for cash back into the Schwab account (1,000 MR = $12.5). This means the spending that earns 5% cash back will actually earn 6.25%.
Bank of America 10%
BoA Cash Rewards card provides “a 10% customer bonus when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account …”, per the BoA web site.
Some reward programs limit the maximum amount of cash rewards from their higher bonus categories. For example,
Amex Blue Cash Preferred limits the 6% reward from spending on supermarkets to $6,000 per year. Once the limit is reached, the reward rate drops to 1%.
Chase Freedom and Discover It has a limit of $1,500 on spending for their quarterly 5% cash reward category.
Some reward programs changes the spending category that gives higher cash rewards on a quarter basis or let the user to select the category.
Chase Freedom and Discover It changes the category every quarter. You need to activate new category manually.
For BoA Cash Rewards card, I selected “gas".
For Simply Cash card, I selected “computer” (software, hardware, cloud computing).
I have some business spending that is well covered by Amex Blue Business and Simply Cash cards, such as cloud computing, mobile, etc.
I am considering the following changes.
Open a Chase Ink Business credit card to increase rewards on my business expenses
Cut Amex Blue Cash Preferred and save annual fee of $95. I have been using this card for years and I loved its 6% bonus on groceries. Now I have Amex Gold that I can get 5% through cash back via Schwab account.
That’s all for now. Hope this helps.