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September 10, 2007

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Thanks for the tip. I have a Citibank Dividend card and it had a 5% rebate on gas, groceries and pharmacies/1% everything else until last fall, when they switched us to 2% on G/G/P & certain utilities/1% everything else. Obviously we were not happy and have been thinking of switching out, but have yet to find the right card.

I earned the maximum $300 the last year of the 5% program but have only earned about $150 this year. I think the Chase Freedom would really help us increase our rebate. I have a Chase card currently (for backup only - haven't used it in years), so hopefully they will let me upgrade to the Freedom card if they realize how much new business it will bring them.

I'm even doing better, I use the Chase Cash Rewards card for 5% on gas, groceries, and drugstores (I don't think it is 5% for new applicants, sorry guys) for $300/year. Then I use the Citi Professional card for 3% back on restaurants, office supply stores, and autorentals for about $100 per year. And of course everything else is 1%, which is gravy on top of the $400/year I'm getting. So only 2 cards, $400+.

Awesome post... I have a Chase card right now, and I got an offer in the mail for a Chase Freedom one. I was thinking about upgrading because it had better features. I dont spend too much every month, so the Freedom looks good. This post helps me confirm that switching to Freedom would be a good idea! Thanks!

So, Ryan:

1. How much do you charge in total every year?

2. Are most of your charges in those categories you note above?

3. How did you get the 5% card and yet new applicants can't get it?

1. I use the Chase Cash rewards for gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases only which gets me steady $50 check every 2 months. I spend approximately $300/month on groceries, $150 on gas, and $50 at drugstores (walgreens easysaver rebate purchases of course). I spend about $275 a month at restaurants for the other card, a good portion on TDY at work (reimbursed) and vacations. About $600 a month on other purchases on average.

2. Most of them are, but not all. I spend an additional $600/month or so on other purchases.

3. I'm pretty sure they completely discontinued the card to new applicants due to the newer Freedom card.

I use Chase Freedom for groceries, gas and fast food, they rebate 3% (as you know), but only for the first $600 of charges, after that they rebate (those three categories) at 1%. That being the case, I download our transactions daily and run a quicken report; when we hit $600, I then switch the groceries, gas and fast food to credit card #2 below. The cool thing about Chase Freedom is that if you wait and redeem when you get to $200, they'll send a check for $250. Right now I have $283.77 waiting to get redeemed (I guess I should do that now).

My second credit card is one I never see ANY PF blogger write about, it's called a "True 2% cash back" from HSBC. They give 2% on EVERYTHING, NO LIMIT. Right now I have $315.65 waiting to be redeemed. At the rate we're going, I think I'll net $850 or so in cash back between both cards.

My ONLY problem with the HSBC card is that the limit is really low ($2,500), so I always have to be careful to get near it by sending in payments ahead the due date. I've applied to get it upped, but I think because we're doing the credit card arbitrage, we show about $70 outstanding in cc debt, so they declined (even though we never go over the limit and always pay on time).

It's funny that we get so much credit from all other banks, but HSBC is really stingy, this is the absolute lowest CC limit either my husband or I have ever had. At times (vacations, or hubby business trips, we have to switch over to Chase simply because I can't keep track and don't want to run into the limit!)

Through the end of August, we've charged $27,500 on both cards combined, so I calculate a cash back average of 2.4% or so (I added the $50 extra chase bucks in to the calc); I'm pretty happy with that.

Mom --

I can't find anything about the HSBC card you're talking about (I've searched the web several times.) Do you have a link to their site?

When I click on the Freedom card link there is conflicting information that comes up. The big add says the 3% you talk about, but the small print at the bottom says it is 2%. Am I missing something?

m3kp --

It reads:

"In addition to the 1% cash back, you will also earn 2% cash back for each $1.00 of eligible Net Purchases made at retail establishments that classify their merchant location for Visa as a gas station, grocery store or fast food restaurant, on the first $600 in spending in these categories each billing cycle."

1% + 2% = 3%

Yes, it's a screwy way of saying you'll get 3% back, but that's "credit card company lingo" for ya! ;-)

does "1% on everything else" really mean, EVERYTHING ELSE? i was prepared to put my prep class tuition of $1150 on a card, and if i can earn some rewards on it, the better. Since the school only takes Visa/MC, i'm out of luck since i only use a Blue from Amex. Would this Chase Freedom Card (dynamic) be the best card for me?

Dave --

1. If you can charge it, they'll give you credit on it.

2. It may or may not be the best card for you (based on your purchase amount and spending habits), but it will certainly be no worse than the "industry standard" of 1% cash back. And, as shown above, will be much better if you use it the right way with your Amex card.

Thanks FMF!

I spoke to a CSR from Chase and they verified that the 1% on everything else, truly included all other purchases. I just applied and was approved. Now I need to hope that my card arrives quickly so that I can activate and pay my tuition on-time.

I don't usually spend much per year ($5k-10k, usually on the lower end). As far as my Amex, I've realized that in order to get the most from the card, you really do need to spend more than I am, which is part of the reason I'm looking for another card. This is all probably off-topic, so I'll cut off here. Thanks again!

Dave --

Good for you! And not off topic at all. This post is about finding the best card for you (which is likely different than the best card for someone else.) As I say above, what is best for any one person depends on their spending habits and amount charged.

It's likely that with a lower annual spending level that the Chase card will be better for you than the Amex card. I hope it gets there in time too! :-)

It's also worth throwing a Discover in there just for smiles if you don't mind carrying and tracking an extra card. Discover has bonus spending categories ("Get More") that change quarterly--usually relevent to the time of year--paying back 5%, some of which you don't typically see as "bonus" categories from other cards, such as waterparks, museums, bookstores, tuition, clothing, auto repair.

And it's nice to have the option of taking the rebate in either cash or passing up the cash for increased-value giftcards. I cashed in $600 in accumulated rebates over the last few years for $750 in giftcards from stores we are already frequenting, making the effective rebate 6.25%. (Other stores offer sweeter giftcard offers, but we don't shop at them.)

They have tightened up the rebates in the "Get More" categories of late, limiting them to perhaps $400 or $500 in spending per quarter. But every little bit helps.

Using my Chase Cash Rewards for g/g/d (grandfathered at 5% for the time being), Costco Amex (3% restaurants, 2% travel), Chase Professional MC (3% restaurants, office supply, home improvement/hardware), and Discover (5% for whatever bonus categories happen to be in effect), purchases on which I get back only 1% are now the exception. Thanks to these comments, if I can find the HSBC 2% card, I'll get one of those.

I did the calcs and came in at 3.6% overall last year.

The print version of your posts is lacking. You need a style sheet for print.

I found the 2% HSBC card under the name Orchard Bank. Check it out on Bankrate's list.

http://tinyurl.com/3drwpq

Mel --

Good find. I found this on the HSBC card fine print:

"You will receive 2% earnings redeemable for cash (with a maximum of $400 annually) on new net retail purchases charged to this credit card. Cash redemptions will be made in increments of $25 USD only. Upon approval, you will receive the Rewards Terms and Conditions."

So it's not without catches (what is, huh?), but still looks good. I may need to do a three-card competition on the next post. There's probably a way to use all three of these cards to make even more. Then again, at some point it gets so complicated that it's not worth the marginal gain.

WHen I signed up for Chase Freedom Visa, I got $250 rebate check after my first purchase with the card. Check out the thread in the Hot Deals Forum of slickdeals.net. Search for Chase Freedom.

This post is not complete without mentioning the Fidelity WorldPoints card, 1.5% on everything with no cap redeemable in $75 increments. I use this card in conjunction with the Chase Cash Rewards (5% on gas/groceries/drugstores) which unfortunately is no longer available for new applicants (5%). Slightly better than the AMEX Blue Cash because of no lower tier and don't have to wait to redeem.

http://personal.fidelity.com/products/checking/content/investment_rewards_card.shtml

Mel:
Thanks for the 2% HSBC card link. But is it worth the annual fee?

Application fee and Annual fee will vary depending upon creditworthiness. Annual fee: between $39-$79. Application fee: between $0-$49.

UPDATE: When I submit my information for pre-approval, I was offered the 2% HSBC card at $0 Annuel Free and $0 application fee(I have a 800 credit score so maybe that helped). I went ahead and applied the card =)

A few thoughts:

Brandon -- Seems like you'd do better with the HSBC and Chase combo (it would bring you up from 1.5% to 2%).

Eric -- 2% on HSBC is good, but did you read my post? If you charge a decent amount, the Chase/Amex combo can earn you over 2.6% -- much better than he HSBC card alone.

All -- The point here is to run the numbers using your spending levels and what you spend on. The "right" answer will vary from person to person based on where they buy and how much they charge, but the main point remains: you can earn a TON more than the 1% that credit card companies like to throw around.

To help with the calculations between these AmEx Blue Cash, Chase Freedom, and other cards, you might find the rewards calculator at creditcardtuneup.com to be useful.

You can plug in any spending profile and it'll do the calc's for you.

Pick the second Orchard Bank listing from Bankrate's list. I just applied, the card is on its way, and all the disclosures say that there are no fees.

i have the chase cash plus rewards card which i don't think they offer any more (at least not on their site): it is by far the better deal with 5% back (like some other posters) on groceries, gas, drug stores, and 1% on everything else. out of curiosity i even checked that the 1200 points i got last month correspond to my spending and they do --

i get $50 back every 6 weeks and bill most of my recurring charges to this card. on my fancy schmancy amex gold card for which i paid a hefty annual fee, i have 6600 points and not much to spend them on after a year.

the chase card is my go to card for everything, although i put all paypal stuff and travel stuff on a miles card.

Am I missing something here? Nowhere in the article or any of the comments is the question raised of how much more interest these cards charge over cards that do not "give back" money. I believe they are charging more interest "giving back" money and the card companies are the ones coming out ahead. There ain't no free lunch.

dnharris14:

I think, since most of us here are a blatantly penny-pinching bunch, that it goes without saying that we pay our balances off in full each month so we never pay any interest. As far as I'm concerned, a credit card can have a set interest rate of 39.99%. I don't care; I'll never pay it.

I'd say in general, if you HAVE to carry a balance, look first at the interest rate, and get the lowest interest rate card you can. After that, use any rewards program as a tie-breaker.

But really, if you're paying credit card interest, the rewards game probably isn't for you.

Chris.

dnharris14 --

Basic principles in having a credit card:

1. No annual fees.

2. Don't carry a balance (and thus no worries about interest rate.)

Ryan, sushi105, Brandon, MelMoitzen and perhaps others have mentioned the Chase 5% Rewards card for g/g/d. I HAD one of those, and Chase, without so much as a "by your leave" switched it to the Chase Freedom Rewards as described. I was not a little peeved, but I figured that they were phasing out the 5% card altogether, and that everyone would get so switched. I guess I was wrong. I wonder why it was just me?

'Course, I didn't complain too loudly, because at the same time (late June) I discovered that I had already maxed out my Chase 5% rewards for the year. (Actually, I hadn't realized prior to that that that old Chase card had a reward limit of $300.) So, for the remainder of 2007, the Chase 5% card would have been earning 0%. With the Chase Freedom card, I at least get 1.25%, no matter how much I spend.

I'm curious if any of the rest of you will get "automatically" switched to the Chase Freedom card. Maybe it's only if you've hit the maximum rebate for the year? Hmmm...

Chris.

MelMoitzen:

LOL, your scheme seems as complicated as mine:

My Discover Platinum for whatever the 5% bonus is for that quarter (up to the paltry limit), Discover More card for auto maintenance (5%), my Chase VISA (3%) for Drug, Grocery and Telephone bills, my CostCo Amex Business card for Gas (5%), Restaurants (3%), Travel (2%) and CostCo (1%), Chase Business MasterCard (3%) for Home improvement, office stores and restaurants which don't take Amex,
and my BofA PetRewards VISA for pet-related purchase (4%) and everything that doesn't fit another of the categories (2%).

Since you seem to be a CostCo member, you might want to look into the CostCo Business AmEx card. You have to upgrade to a CostCo Business membership, but that's the same cost and benefits as the regular membership (plus I think extra shopping hours at some CostCo locations). The CostCo Business AmEx still does the 3%/2%/1% on restaurants, travel and everything else, but also gives 5% on gas station purchases, at CostCo or elsewhere. Don't know about near you, but our local CostCo is quite often the lowest gas price around (particularly during price inclines), but I had stopped getting gas there because I couldn't use my Chase VISA, and the difference between 1% back (on the AmEx) and 5% (on the Chase) almost always obliterated any price advantage (CostCo would have to be about 12 cents lower than a place where I could use my Visa card). Now I have the best of both worlds; I can go wherever the price is lowest, CostCo or otherwise, and get 5% off using the AmEx Business card. That would also come in handy if Chase automatically switches you to the Freedom card like they did me, or if you are approaching your annual maximum reward on the Chase. Save the rest of your annual rebate for grocery and drugs; use the AmEx for gas. Just a thought.

Happy saving!

Chris.

Mel,

I just got the Costco Business Amex as well. Costco gas is always the cheapest by me and it is nice to get the cash back on top of it all. It's nice to get the 5% cashback on gas anyway since it is 3% for me now (used to get 5% with Citi until they dropped it to 2%). My wife and I eat out a lot so it will be nice to have that 3%, and it will be nice to finnally get some cash back at Costco (this is my first Amex). I guess the only drawback is cashing out once a year, but that's fine with me.

My current card is the Chase Perfect Card. Rewards are applied to your statement each month so you don't have to worry with requesting your rebate. 3% on Gas,etc 1% everything else.

I'm thinking about trading my Perfect Card in for the Chase Freedom Signature Card. You get 3% back on your top three spending categories for each month (out of 15 they have identified). So maybe it would be worth using as your only card for the three categories you pick out at the least. I like to keep to a limit of two cards in the wallet though so I think I might just use this one only and let it rotate categories depending on what I spend. Has the $50 bonus if you wait until $200 to cash out.

I am new to this forum and have been researching the best rewards card available. I have a couple of rental homes and have not seen anything about charging your mortgages on a card. Does anyone have info on that and insight into which card would be best? I would be charging approximately $5,000 per month in mortgages and plan to use the card for all other recurring bills and purchases as well. Thanks for any help!!

I use the Citi Drivers Edge card. It's not technically a cash-back card but it's better than all the programs mentioned here. Like some other people on here I used to have the Citi Dividend card until they screwed us and changed the rebates.
The Drivers Edge card gives 6% back at g/g/p for 12 months and 3% after that. 1% on all other purchases. AND they also give you $0.01 for each mile you drive in a car that you enroll. The catch is the money can only be used to pay for auto expenses. But lets do a little math here:
3000 miles x $0.01 per mile = $30 = Free oil changes
The reward money is a bonus on top and you can use it to buy a new or used car or pay for maintenance costs. I just had a $400 repair bill that was covered from having this card for about 9 months.
https://www.citicards.com/cards/wv/showSearchResults.do?family=DRIVERS_EDGE

Eric,

A mortgage is a secured debt instrument with no leeway--if your payment is $2,000/month and the mortgage servicer knows they're going to get it from you, what incentive do they have to pay perhaps a 1% ($20) discount fee for processing your payment every month when it costs them a few pennies to process your check or electronic payment?

I suspect that if do you manage to find one who'll take a credit card, they'll most likely tack on a "convenience fee" that some institutions (the IRS and utility companies) are allowed on credit card payments that would negate the value of any rebates received. It looks like Amex tried to get something off the ground, but with fees (and in cahoots with the belly-up American Home Mortgage):
http://www.thestreet.com/_aol/newsanalysis/banking/10358516.html

Finally, using one credit instrument to pay another could easily send the wrong message to both creditors (no, this isn't the same as balance transfers when you open a new CC account). We know you're trying to rack up the rebates, but they may misinterpret your action as a desparate maneuver.

kshipp:

Well, I wouldn't say it's undeniably "better than all the programs mentioned here." It is certainly a good deal for the first year, garnering 6% on g/g/d (though it only gives 1% on other stuff). But after that first year, the AmEx Blue has it beat with up to 5% on g/g/d and 1.5% on all other (versus 3% and 1%). And even in that first year, you'd benefit greatly from the hybrid approach: use the Citi card for g/g/d purchases and the Chase on everything else, and you'd be earning 6% on g/g/d and 3.75% or 1.25% on everything else, versus the 1% you'd be getting on the Citi card. After the first year, add in the AmEx Blue and use the AmEx/Chase combination. Make a small single yearly purchase on the Citi card just to keep the free oil changes coming, use the Chase for three essential categories (other than g/g/d) and get 3.75% on that, use the AmEx for everything else and get 5% on g/g/d and 1.5% on everything else. I think you'd find that this would garner you much more cash than the Citi card alone, and in actual spendable cash. Again, though, I have to add the disclaimer would be that everyone's spending patterns are different, so you have to run the numbers and see what works for you.

Chris.

Another hybrid approach. If your spending is less, get TWO Chase Freedom Cards (a Visa and MC). Use one for g/g/d and use the other for other expenses. This way, you have SIX categories where you can get up to 3.75%. You might be able to get a 3rd or 4th card, but with diminishing returns. Can Chris run some numbers on this?

Chris --

Do you see this as a viable strategy? How about adding any of the other cards talked about here to the mix? Can we get to 3% using cards that anyone can get today? (not grand-fathered in cards)

So what you're telling me is that goods and services would cost 3% to 5% less if everyone used cash?

Don't forget the BP Chase card that gives 5% on BP gas, 2% for travel & restaurants. Plus, all that's doubled the first 60 days (10%/4%). The 2% is great for all the hotels, car rentals, and plane tickets I buy every week. Rewards are unlimited.

I too was switched against my will from the Chase Cash Rewards card to a Chase Freedom. The most annoying part was that the letter alerting me of this change clearly said that, with my new card, I would enjoy "The same benifits" as my old card. If 5% back on gas and groceries is considered a benefit, the letter contained a blantant lie.

I loved that Cash Rewards card...

I just got my HSBC/Orchard Bank (2% back on everything, $400/year maximum rebate) card.

The only challenge I wasn't expecting is that the credit limit is only $2,000, far below my other accounts (I suppose this may be what happens when you apply unsolicited). So you would have to be pretty vigilant about averaging $1,667 on it monthly without going over $2K in order to maximize the rebate.

I will give it a month or two and close some other accounts before requesting a credit limit increase. Or I suppose I could make an extra payment monthly to create more wiggle room under the credit limit.

I have a new card to throw into the mix but it would only work for people living with this store in your town.

For years I swore by my AMEX Blue Cash card, and by averaging spening about $1500 per month, I would end up with $300-$350 rebate by the end of the year. I would put everything we buy onto that card to try and max up my rebate without spending above our limit.

2 years ago, when we moved to Cincinnati, I got a Kroger 1-2-3 Rewards Master Card, which does the following. You earn 1 point for every $1 spent on purchases made outside their family of stores. You earn 2 points for $1 spent in their family of stores (including their fuel centers). And, you earn 3 EXTRA points per $1 spent on their family of brands. That means you could earn a maximum of 5 Points for $1 spent.

For every 1000 points you earn, Kroger gives you a $10 rebate check that can be used in any way at any of their stores. Rebate checks are mailed every 3 months,for a total of 4 times during the year.

Using my same spending habit of staying around $1500 month in charges using the Kroger Card whenever possible, I have averaged about 9000 points each period, for a rebate check of $90-$100.

My wife prefers this card since we get the rebate checks and she can spend them like cash at the Kroger store where we do all of our grocery shopping...as opposed to the AMEX Blue Cash that just credited our statement once a year.

I also want to add that by using the Kroger Rewards Mastercard, and spending over $100 a month on groceries, you also earn a 15 cent credit for every gallon of gas that you buy at their fuel centers.

I am interested to hear your take on this plan.

Thanks again for all the GREAT info. From all that I have read, I may get the Chase Freedom Card as my back-up card. Right now we use a Disney Visa Card from Chase, where you get Disney bucks that you can spend as cash in their parks. We go there every year.

Matt

One thing to note about the AMEX Blue Cash card is that the cash reward can only be claimed at the end of the year. Most other rewards cards let you claim at the $50 mark. For an entire year, your reward sits in AMEX's accounts, earning them interest. No thanks, AMEX.

DS Dan:

Well, you are technically correct, but practically only if comparing plans with the same % cash back. Thus, if I have two cards which both give me 1% cash back then, yes, I'd prefer the one which gives me the cash back during the year as opposed to waiting until the end. But if a card will give me a smidgen more than 1%, I'll take it, even if it means waiting till the end of the year.

To simplify things, let's just say I've just opened two cards, one which earns 1% cash back which I can redeem in $50 increments throughout the year, and one which gives me 1.5% at the end of the year. I spend $5,000 the first month. The first card would give me $50 after my first statement is cut. Yipee! I put that in my savings account at 6% (which is a stretch). At the end of the year, it will have accrued to $52.56. If, on the other hand, I used the 1.5% card, at the end of the year I'd have $75. I think I'd much rather have $75 at the end of the year than $50 now. You can do your own calculations. Let's say you have an sure-thing investment that could get you 20% ROI. Invest that $50 and you'd still only have less than $60 at the end of the year. If you had a card that even averaged 1.25% cash back, you'd still be better waiting till the end of the year to collect your $62.50.

So, to reiterate, if you're comparing plans with the same cash back %, then by all means, give the bias to the card which gives you the $ now. But if another card gives just about any measurable % advantage, go with that one, even if it means waiting till the end of the year to collect.

Chris.

Matt:

I've looked at the Kroger card before, and while it does have some interesting features, I am hard pressed to find a significant advantage of the Kroger MasterCard over the AmEx Blue Cash, unless one buys a huge percentage of Kroger-brand groceries.

For simplicity, I'm stating things in percentages. I know the Kroger is a points-based system, but as you redeem 1000 points for $10 in rebate, that works out to one penny per point, or 1% on regular purchases, 2% on Kroger, an extra 3% on Kroger brand, etc. Just makes the comparison easier.

One question: does gas purchased at a Kroger qualify as a Kroger-brand purchase? If so, would I thereby earn 5% on those purchases (2% Kroger + 3% Kroger brand)? If not, I can't come up with a reasonable scenario whereby the Kroger card prevails.

The obvious reason is, even if you do all of your grocery, gas and pharmacy purchases at Kroger, you're getting a max of 5%, and that only on Kroger-branded products. The AmEx gives you 5% on all grocery/gas/drug purchases, regardless of what brand or what store. True, the AmEx does make you spend $6,500 before you earn the full 5%/1.5%. But even at that, it was hard to squeeze the numbers to get the results you state. I'll give you my assumptions; I'd be interested to hear what your actual speding patterns are like in comparison with what I came up with.

Spending $1,500 a month, if you did all of your grocery/drug and gas purchases at Kroger, and spent $300 in groceries, of which $200 were Kroger brand, and spent $180 in gas, that would leave $1,020 for everything else. Making my above assumption about Kroger-brand gas (at 5%), I come up with $349 for the AmEx and $93.60 per period ($374.40 for the year) for the Kroger card.

But it's hard for me to believe that that's a realistic scenario for most people. I think most people would do at least some non-Kroger g/g/d purchases, traveling if nothing else. Making even a modicum of g/g/d purchases at non-Kroger stores, or not buying a predominance of Kroger branded products, and the balance shifts quickly toward the AmEx. And if I'm wrong about the gas being at 5%, then I can't quite figure it at all.

The fact that your rebate comes in the form of Kroger rebate checks is, to me, a slight
negative. It means that you're not earning any points on the purchases you make with your rebate check, as opposed to a card where you get a depositable check (or a statement credit), and can then use your credit card to earn more points for a future reward. A minor point, true, but it bears mentioning.

Now, I may be missing something about this card. I don't want to come across as a know-it-all. I keep learning about new tricks all the time, and can easily be swayed if someone can convince me how the numbers can be run differently. And, of course, there's no solution that's perfect for everyone. I'm just always trying to find the best deal.

Now, that 15¢ off per gallon for spending $100 at Kroger could be a reason to use the Kroger card. I daresay that it'd be worth spending $100 at Kroger (particularly on Kroger-brand products) every month to get the 15¢ per gallon off, and put everything else on either the AmEx Blue Cash or the Chase Freedom.

Chris.

OK, quite a while back, someone suggested using multiple Chase cards to further exploit the flexible rewards concept. I've been busy with other things, but I finally got around to running the numbers.

As expected, it does pay off. You do get diminishing returns, particularly as the more money you divert from spending on the AmEx Blue Cash, the longer it takes to get over that 0.5%/1% hump, but actually I was surprised by how little impact that really made.

Looking at the $2,000/$700/$300 example, the single-Chase hybrid approach increases your rebate by $69 over the solo-AmEx approach. A two-Chase card scenario ($2,000 total spending, $700 in g/g/d, $300 in three 'essential' categories, and $300 in a different three categories) bumps it up by another $66. Throwing in a third Chase card ($2,000/$700/$300/$300/$300) would bump the total rebate by $48. Of course, that presumes that you can find $600 (in the two-Chase scenario) or $900 (in the three-Chase scenario) of spending in six/nine categories or less.

Actually, the multiple-Chase card strategy would have served me well last month, as my wife charged $585 in drug-store purchases, which meant that effectively only the first $15 in grocery purchases got 3% cash-back, and none of my ($75+) in telephone bills got 3%. I may get another Chase card and dedicate it to drug stores only, and use the other for grocery, telephone and satellite.

I do try to stay sensitive to the fact that many people start to get frustrated carrying lots of cards and remembering to use the right card for the right purchase, and keeping track of paying off all of the cards on time. Forget to pay one card could result in a late fee and/or interest, and you've then effectively wiped out quite a bit of your cash back benefit. As for me and my wife, I print out stickers on each card to designate their use (currently I'm carrying seven cards for various categories), and have my computer remind me when credit card payments are due. If you're up for that, I'd say go for it; get as many cards with cash back on specific categories as you can use, like the Discover (5% on the quarterly bonus category), PetRewards (4% on pet-related purchases), CostCo AmEx (5% on gas, 3% on dining), Orchard Bank (2% on everything). But for the rest, I'd recommend a two-card solution, like the AmEx Blue Cash, plus a single Chase Freedom Rewards card.

Chris.

I've heard people on this forum and other similar venues recommend CreditCardTuneUp.com to find the best credit card offers. And, I'll have to admit, it's a really slick tool, which provides lots of information on cards, and a neat way to enter your spending levels and have it provide rebate results. And it would be great. If it were correct.

In fact, CreditCardTuneUp.com's calculations are sometimes FLAT OUT WRONG. Try this example. Enter a total monthly spending of $3,000, with zeroes for any of the listed categories. Look at the AmEx Blue Cash line. It shows an annual rebate of $475, which is correct. Now, put in $450 of gasoline and $400 of grocery, and recalculate. The AmEx Blue Cash rebate has now dropped to $424.

Sorry, folks, that's just mathematically impossible. It looks like what they are doing is figuring the $6,500 tier *per category* instead of as an aggregate. So, they're saying you'll only earn 1% on the first $6,500 of groceries and 5% on the groceries beyond that, only earn 1% on the first $6,500 of gasoline and 5% on the amount over that, etc. My understanding (and FMF or someone else with the AmEx Blue Cash card can correct me if I'm wrong) is that there is only one rebate tier; as soon as you hit $6,500 in *total* spending for the year, your rebate jumps to 5%/1.5%.

In fact, my calculations show that in the $3000/450/400 example, the AmEx Blue Cash would rake in $781 in rebates, not $424. That would move the AmEx rank from #14 to #2.

Also, they do not currently Chase Freedom Dynamic Rewards card. Perhaps that's because when they did have it listed, they failed to describe its features properly, and did not calculate the rebate correctly on that card either.

There may be other examples; I didn't do a through analysis of the results. These were just the cards with which I was intimately familiar, so it was easy for me to spot the defects.

I wrote to the listed address for feedback, but my email bounced.

So, while I would suggest that CreditCardTuneUp.com is a good resource to find out about cards you might not have discovered otherwise, I would take its calculations (and resulting rankings) with a HUGE grain of salt.

Chris.

Well I have a challenge for all of you experts:

I will be spending $420,000/month until Dec 31, 2007 (after that $5000/month) on plastic goods for distribution (non-everyday spend). I can have any American Express personal card. (I don't have an SSN, and the only card that was willing to take me was Amex- trust me I've tried.)

Which Amex personal card will offer me the best bang for the buck? My total spend until Dec. will be $840,000. I can use the blue cash and get 1.5%, or the SPG and get 840,000 starwood points, or Delta etc? I don't mind whether it is cash or miles- as long as the value is the highest...

Thanks guys!

Kness

chris

can you explain what you meant by:

"as my wife charged $585 in drug-store purchases, which meant that effectively only the first $15 in grocery purchases got 3% cash-back, and none of my ($75+) in telephone bills got 3%."

how come only the first $15 got 3% off? how much did the rest get? 1%? i'm looking around for a cash back credit card but i dont know which one to get. i'm a college student so i dont spend much, maybe $400 a month. should i have a linked cash back credit card with my parents since they do spend more than me on groceries and drugstore purchases.

The Chase Freedom gives 3% off the three categories you spend the most in, up to a max of $600 of total category spending per month. Any spending over that amount gets 1%, like all non-category spending. Frankly I don't know how Chase's computer actually calculates things; it could be that I got 3% on some combination of grocery and drugs and 1% on some other combination of both. Bottom line is the same: I get 3% on the first $600 of category spending and 1% on the rest.

I'd say if you were going to get your own card, the Chase Freedom would be a good fit at your spending level. If you were going to get a linked card with your parents, I'd say maybe look at the AmEx Blue Cash.

The AmEx works best with higher spending levels. At your spending level alone, it doesn't seem like it would be worth it. And it'd be a big waste to get two of those, because you'd have to reach the $6,500 threshold on each account before you started getting the higher cash back. So, definately, if going with something like the AmEx Blue Cash, use one account with multiple cards.

With the Chase, on the other hand, the only advantage to getting a linked card there is that you'd get to a redeemable reward level sooner, but the overall cash back would be the same, as long as the categories were the same. But remember, with multiple Chase accounts, you could choose different categories on each account and get 3% on more categories. That would be a serious plus to having your parents get a Chase account and you get a seperate Chase account.

Chris.

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