November 25th, 2013
Rewards credit cards are the best kind of cards out there. If you use credit cards without reaping corresponding rewards, that’s plain wrong.
Many people presume that using rewards cards isn’t worth the trouble since cashback is so small, usually 1%. But the truth is that it’s possible to reap rewards much higher than 1% if you’re paying attention, and besides, even small cashback can add up with time.
However, before we proceed, there are three conditions for anyone who is considering using rewards credit cards for profit. Make sure you qualify or face potentially dire consequences.
- You’re not a shopaholic.
- You have good credit.
- You pay your balance in full every month.
Presuming that you qualify, here is what you need to know.
Which Card is Right For You?
Rewards credit cards come in all kinds of different flavors, and you need to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper or a laptop to make sure you choose the right one. Do you like dining out? There are rewards cards for that. Spend a lot on groceries? Ditto. Shop online or at specific department stores? There are cards for that too. Running a business? Same there. Love to travel? The best rewards cards in existence are there for your perusal. The best way to optimize your money-saving strategies is to know yourself, your spending patterns, and your interests.
The next step is to assess your organizational skills. Will you remember which cards to use every time you shop? This is important because nothing is more frustrating than to get just 1% cashback on a big-ticket item only to realize later that you could’ve snatched 5%. For expensive items, the difference can be quite substantial. There are many sites like Card Watchdog that can help you track your cards and their specific bonuses.
If you are not sure you want to track each of your rewards cards and their corresponding perks, there is a card for you too. The American Express Fidelity card offers an uncomplicated 2% cashback on everything. While you can definitely get more with other cards, this card is very valuable if you want it to be as easy as possible. And believe me, I don’t blame you if you do.
Having said that, if you’re down with making the most out of some of the best rewards cards out there, here are some options:
No annual fee cashback cards such as Discover It, Citi Dividend, Chase Freedom, etc.
These are good cards that give you more than just a penny on a dollar. The way they work is you get 5% on special categories they set for every quarter, plus 1% on everything else. Right now, Discover It has 5% cashback on online purchases, and Chase Freedom on department store shopping, which is wicked good if you ask me. Another good point for these cards is they don’t carry an annual fee.
Annual fee cashback cards such as Amex Blue Cash Preferred
To be honest, Amex Blue Cash Preferred stands in a category of its own. It offers 6% cashback on groceries and 3% on gas stations and select department stores. Yes, you will have to dole out $75 in annual fees, but look for a sign up bonus. It often comes with a sign up bonus after you spend a certain amount of money. That alone will cover your annual fee for one to two years! There is also a simple Amex Blue Cash without an annual fee, but it only gives you 3% cashback on groceries, 2% on gas, and 2% at select department stores. Just do the math and you’ll realize that you’ll most likely still get ahead with Cash Preferred despite the annual fee.
Store specific credit or charge cards like the ones from Kohl’s or Macy’s.
If you have a favorite store, it might make sense to apply for their charge cards, since they often send their customers card-related coupons and discounts (Kohl’s is especially active in this regard). The TJ Maxx charge card offers flat 5% cashback to their charge card customers as well.
Annual fee business reward credit cards.
The best business credit cards, in my opinion, are Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus. Not only do they offer 5% rewards on business purchases made at office superstores such as Staples, but they also offer 50,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $5,000 in three months. While their points are not exactly cashback—they can be used with Chase Ultimate Reward Shopping and Travel portals, they are very easy to convert into cash if you so desire. They also waive their $95 annual fee for the first year.
They also have no-fee versions: Ink classic and Ink cash, but I would advise against them, at least for the first year when the annual fee for a better card is waived anyway. See if you are coming out ahead first, then you can always cancel.
Of course, we haven’t covered every card; not even close! There are so many rewards cards that it would take several posts like this to cover them all. But at least, this will get you started. Good luck!
Geoff Whitmore is lead traveler/writer at NoobTraveler, a blog dedicated to educating its readers on reward travel.
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November 11th, 2013
Let’s face it. There are more romantic conversations to have with your partner than one about finances. But the “money talk” is important to have, no matter what stage your relationship is in. Financial problems can cause tension between partners-- surveys often find money is the number one reason couples argue. So how to do you know what money conversations you should be having with your partner? This really varies depending on how long you guys have been together. Here are some suggested conversations for different stages of your relationship:
September 18th, 2013
Yesterday I shared our July retail credit card data. It isn’t a surprise that many Credit Karma members have fallen into the trap of signing up for a store credit card. Let’s face it, it isn’t always easy to tell the very persistent store clerk that you don’t need the extra discount. So if you fall into that group and can’t turn down a credit card offer, or if you’re already carrying a retail credit card, here’s some advice from me and our Facebook fans on how to use it wisely.
September 17th, 2013
These days, almost every time you shop at a retail store you’re offered a discount in return for opening up their newest credit card. Many times, the offers are very enticing and hard to turn down. I can’t lie… even I’ve given in to the temptations before! According to our July credit card data, those discounts are also enticing many Credit Karma members:
August 29th, 2013
“If only I made more money” is usually how a sentence starts when someone is trying to figure out how others have mastered their finances. But if you asked money-savvy people what their secret to financial bliss is, they’ll have a simple answer. The answer is that financial independence is based on three simple practices. Without these sound financial practices in place, reaching financial bliss is a difficult and seemingly unattainable goal.
August 13th, 2013
It seems like every day in the mail either myself or my husband receives another credit card offer. The problem is; how do you know which one is the best one? For most people all the information can be overwhelming. It’s hard to see through all the shiny extras to know the real value. Credit Karma decided to do something to help. We used our exclusive data to compile an unbiased list of the best travel reward credit cards to help make it easier to choose.
July 19th, 2013
Launched last year, Barclaycard Ring MasterCard is already proving itself as a creative, community-driven credit card. Initially, the card attracted consumers with its low, 8% interest rate, no annual fee and $0 balance transfer fee. Now the card has gotten even more interesting.
June 26th, 2013
Capital One has launched two new credit cards—Quicksilver and QuicksilverOne Rewards. These cards replace the Capital One Cash Card and aim to make earning cash back simpler and more straightforward.
April 23rd, 2013
Everyone remembers their first...credit card, that is. I opened mine last spring and was instantly dazzled by its shininess and silvery cool reflection. My credit limit seemed like a ton of money back then. A few months later, when I learned that you should stay under 30% of your credit utilization rate, I began to feel a little restricted. So I decided if it was time to shop around, I might as well earn something from my spending and open a rewards card.
January 23rd, 2013
Would you get a prepaid card endorsed by Suze Orman? How about Justin Beiber? The prepaid card market shows no signs of slowing down. Banks are looking for new ways to make revenue and, according to DailyFinance, prepaid debit cards are the new goose that laid the golden egg. A faster way to get that goose in the hands of American consumers is to slap on a celebrity endorsement.