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« Your Money or Your Life, Evaluate Your Spending | Main | Help a Reader: Where to Keep Emergency Fund Dollars »

June 06, 2012

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I use the Discover Escape card for 2% cash back. It's not quite as simple as straight cash back. You can redeem in $100 increments whenever you charge at least $100 of travel expenses on the card. So, you might be sitting on 20k points (or $200) before you get around to booking a hotel, plane ticket or rental car, but when you do, you can just request a statement credit.

In my experience, this isn't a big inconvenience but it does require at least occasional travel. You can also redeem for gift cards or statement credit, but it dilutes your points so that it's not exactly 2%, perhaps 1-1.5%.

Again, not a straight cash back card, but it's accepted everywhere, works like a cashback card, offers 2%, and is not another AMEX since it doesn't sound like you want another one of those. Also, 25k bonus miles ($250) for signup (Although dispersed 1k miles/mo for 25 months).

FMF,

I understand why you would set up a credit card for automatic payments for tithing, but then isn't your church on hook for the credit card service fees (2-5%)? If they are exempt then I should look into how I can do that too, although physically writing the check each month does consciously remind me about why I give.

That's was thinking too when I read about the church. It's great that your doing 10%?, but to get your 2% (or less), your church is paying at least 3% in fees. This is going to the credit card company and ultimetely a 1%+ net loss of your generous giving.

FMF previously discussed credit cards and charities:
see
http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2008/09/is-it-ok-for-a.html
and
http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2007/05/donate_to_chari.html

Short answer is that : "people who work for charities assured me that there were advantages for charities accepting credit cards that outweigh the costs."

Playing the game requires work.

A laps of due diligence cost you.

I like to keep it simple. Two rewards cards make up 99% of the purchases on CC. The other 1% is not a reward card.

Jim --

Thanks! You beat me to the response I was going to give! :)

I can make more money and/or enjoy life more by doing things other than studying credit card rewards fine print and talking to credit card zombies on the phone.

Similar story...sometimes it's not a bad thing to take your lumps for not paying attention to the details. A few years back I had a credit card bill that had a balance due of something like $4,546 and I mistakenly transposed digits and made my payment out for $4,456.

I received the next month's statement and had to look at it about five times to figure out why I had a finance charge of around $65 when I've never had one in my adult life. Only after looking at the canceled check did I realize my error.

I could have called and griped and perhaps gotten the FC waived or applied only to the $90 shortfall. But because I didn't...that $65 comes to mind EVERY time I've make a credit card payment since, and will probably come to mind with every payment I'll make going forward for the rest of my life. An inexpensive (but lasting) lesson. I suspect you'll be doing the same in reviewing every rewards program offer going forward, as well.

Folks might also want to try the Priceline Rewards Visa card. It's a straight 2% rewards card. You don't get cash back however. Instead you redeem your credits ($25 minimum) for charges. So if you have 3000 points you can redeem that against a $30 or less charge (you cannot redeem it on a charger greater than $30).

Just stick with one or two cards that have good rewards programs. Matt hit the nail on the head- there's too much work involved.

For me, my time is way, way more valuable that saving an extra $100 or $200 by gaming the rewards system.

My cash back is going alright. I need to consider getting an all around better card but I just opened my most recent one about 4 months ago.

I guess I'm too lazy. I mainly just use one card that gives 1% cash back on everything, plus a store credit card for where I buy my work clothes that frequently gives really great credit rewards. I keep thinking of applying for another card with better rewards but it is so confusing to figure out the best deal--they change categories constantly and I don't use many of the categories they cycle through, or like what burned you, they top out the rewards so they aren't great after all. Also I'm not enthusiastic about changing because I expect that many cards with great rewards will just change them to not-so-great a few months after I join.

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