Since I shared my latest credit card strategy last fall, I've given a couple updates (like how much I earned in 2011 and the fact that I lost $280 in rewards by not paying attention), but I haven't posted any details about what I'm doing on a daily basis to get the most cash back I can. Since I've recently made several moves, I thought now would be a great time to give you an update. Here's what's happening:
- I redeemed $100 of cash back rewards I had due on my Citi Dividend card. The card was a special offer I received in the mail. It was a 1% card which had a bonus 1% for the first year (making it a 2% cash back card.) It's also the card I hit the limit on and lost $280. Any way, they only redeem rewards in increments of $50, so I took $100 out and have $7.27 left. If I close the account, I lose the $7.27, but I can't use the card (since I've hit the ceiling this year) until October at which time it's only a 1% card. So I'll likely just close it (once I get my $100), lose the $7, and be done with the hassle.
- I canceled my Chase Sapphire Preferred card (I had my outstanding rewards transferred to my Chase Freedom card). I used it to get $625 in free travel (which saved me a ton on my cruise) as well as save on foreign transaction fees while on the cruise, but it was coming up for renewal and they have a $95 annual fee (it was waived in year 1, so I didn't pay anything). Since I don't use it as an on-going card, what's the use of keeping it around? I may re-apply for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card later this year since they are offering $500 in bonuses for travel and we're looking at going back to the Caribbean.
- I got a Fidelity American Express card that gives me 2% cash back on every purchase if I put it into a Fidelity account. I don't have a Fidelity account now, so I need to get one. I have the alternative of redeeming its rewards through Amex's points system, but the rep on the phone told me this equates to only 0.5% rewards, so I'm not interested in that option. I am using this card as my main card when I can't get bigger bonuses.
- The Blue Cash Preferred remains a top card for me since it gives 6% cash back on supermarket purchases. And we make a lot of purchases at our grocery store. For instance: 1) we spend roughly $5,000 on grocery food purchases each year, 2) we buy gift cards at the grocery store for restaurants, home repair stores, the Nike outlet, and the like, and 3) our "grocery store" is a Meijer -- which is basically a Walmart Super Center (so it has all sorts of general merchandise -- even things like discounted amusement park tickets which we recently purchased there). So we probably spend $7,500 or so per year at the grocery store. At 6% cash back, that's $450 per year. So even with a $75 annual fee, it kills a 3% cash back card ($225) with no annual fee. Plus they gave me $150 in bonus cash at the get-go (which they still offer BTW), so it's like getting the card for two years free anyway. I will certainly be renewing it when the time comes.
- The Chase Freedom card is still going strong for me as well. This quarter I'm rocking the 5% cash back on gas and restaurants (when I don't have a gift card I bought at the grocery store) and next quarter I'll get 5% on airline and hotel purchases for both work and vacation. Because they have such good bonuses in highly used categories (plus they give a $100 cash bonus for signing up), this card remains at the top of my list of the best cash back credit cards. One other note that makes this card especially good for me: I get even more cash back because I'm a Chase banking customer. If you're a Chase customer as well, this card is a no-brainer for you.
- I still use my Costco Amex for all Costco purchases as well as gas purchases when 1) I don't have a gift card and 2) the Chase Freedom card doesn’t have its bonus on gas.
- I use my Delta American Express occasionally -- whenever I fly. It's saved me $100 in baggage fees so far this year, so it's doing its job.
- I applied for and got an Ink Cash card (also from Chase). Not only does it offer a $250 bonus, but it gives 5% cash back on cable, internet service, phone, and office supplies. That rate will net me $50 alone from my Comcast bill. Add in the other costs and it will easily be a $100 per year earner that I don't have to do anything with other than set up the automatic payments.
Well, that's where I stand as of now. I'll let you know if things change significantly.
BTW, each time I write a piece like this someone asks about the impact of opening and closing cards on your credit score (FYI, mine was 798 last time I checked.) The bottom line: neither has much of an impact. For specifics you can read How Getting a New Credit Card Impacts Your Credit Score and How Much Closing a Credit Card Impacts Your Credit Score.