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July 02, 2014


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$1,600 is amazing! I'm all about using credit cards with rewards programs. We just spend like we normally would, and we never carry a balance. I usually just take the cash back on my Chase card, but for my other reward cards I usually book free flights.

I recently was able to book 5 round trip flights for me and my friends, and this week I just booked a free flight to Florida all using my points

I think every credit card I have is a rewards card. Right now we are working on spending $2,000 on a Southwest card. Even though it carries an annual fee ($99) you receive 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. That will allow my spouse to fly to see an aging relative four times for free and still have some points left over.

I have a Discover card that I use for the %5 Cashback Bonus offers (this quarter it is gas stations, so not great). If you redeem for gift cards some of them have discounts attached to them (Under Armour, Nike, Staples, etc.) and some are available as ecards so you can redeem them immediately. If you shop online through Discover you can often receive 5% or more as a Cashback Bonus. I also use Discover at SAM'S Club because they do not accept Visa.

I have a Bank of America Visa card that gives 2% back on groceries and 3% back on gas.

$1,600 is a large amount -- congrats! I'm a bit surprised, however, to hear you moved it from Fidelity into a checking out. Seems like that would be super easy money to leave in an IRA or savings account and let it grow over the next [many] years.

I agree with others that $1600 a year is a lot. We average a few hundred a year on ours. We use the card for most routine monthly purchases, gas, grocery, etc. and for the pop ups like car repairs or new appliances when necessary. The commitment is to always pay it off each month, even after a bad month with many unexpected expenses (isn't that what an emergency fund and a budget for anticipated expenses for?).

I think if things got really tight we would likely use more cash because I do think we spend perhaps a bit more when using the credit card. But I don't include the cash we get back in our budget so that "bit more" is likely a wash anyway. Though now that I am thinking about that I'm curious and I may look into it more.

We use the Capital One 2% back card, exclusively. In the past I've dabbled with other reward cards, but the incremental rewards are, to me, not worth the hassle of paying additional bills.

We too charge *everything* that we can, including work travel expenses for which we get reimbursed. In the last year our bill has been about $8,000 per month, which gives us just about $2,000 in cash back per year.

Capital One's program is a little funky in that you only get the 2% back if you "redeem" your rewards by "reimbursing" yourself for travel expenses. I'd prefer cash back like the Fidelity AmEx or the late, great, Schwab Visa. But given that there's no limits on rewards, I'm OK with this program.

I frequently rant against what I consider "gimmick" reward cards. Mileage cards, rotating rewards, etc... Some people /may/ make those work for them. But if I have to spend any time thinking about which card to use for which purchase, and then explain to my wife why she should use a certain card for a certain purchase, it's just not worth the hassle. Like I said, the 'rewards' are small and incremental over what the 2% card gives you.

To clarify, the $1,600 was over two years, not one.

I came in at about $1300 worth of points since October 2012 (it's a little hard to tell exactly).

Do you not have your properties in an LLC? I'd think you'd want to keep your personal and rental-property expenses very carefully separated for liability purposes.

Sarah --

As others have pointed out, it's very difficult to keep everything completely separate. That's why I carry liability and umbrella insurance too.

Blake --

It goes to checking which then gets sweeped into a Vanguard account as needed. Since I have VG, there's no reason to have an extra Fidelity investment account.

You and your credit card roulette... not worth the time and effort, in my opinion.

Does your umbrella insurance cover liabilities incurred while engaging in business? I would expect the insurance company to put up a fight re: coverage if, God forbid, something awful happened at one of your properties and someone got a judgment and pierced the corporate veil on you. Just curious, as I've never actually looked at one of those policies.

We have $1778 banked in benefits from credit cards, plus $580 with AMEX and already cashed separately $378. Here is the detail:

1. Well, on our personal cards that we use very judiciously, we have already cashed out over $378 to-date in 2014, but the icing on the cake is the next one:

2. This year is that my son was traveling for one semester of International Studies. The program that his university used happened to accept Credit Card payment. Whalla! I applied for 9 new credit cards and used each one of them for their initial bonus point. They did NOT allow AMEX so I had to stay away from those.

Discover, Visa and Mastercards from various banks where there was a special bonus. I am not counting the points I get by charging $1 = 1 point, just the bonus.

3. The $580 comes from just using Chase Freedom for its 5%, 4% for Gas with Costco AMEX, 2% for the Fidelity Amex for any/all purchases (AMEX not allowed on all purchases), Chase Bold Business with 3% in Home Improvements, 1% to 5% for All Utility Bills and 2% BoA for Groceries. It seems like a lot of cards to remember, but I put a STICKER on each card and it is easy!

In short, a good tidy sum and it is all thanks to logs of blog reading including FMF and keeping the hunt for points and ensuring that for every purchase the 'right' card is pulled out. Bottom line the sum is tidy enough to make: Christmas Gifts are FREE or a Vacation is Free or Pay for All Annual Utility Bills for Free. Once the habit is formed, it is easy to compute and leverage.


I only have bills on credit cards. When I tried doing all our daily expenses we did end up spending more then we were making in cash back. It's easier to just swipe then use cash from an envelope. I wish we were more disciplined. Maybe someday bacause it's free money if done right.

So far in 4 months:

1. Chase Business 60,000 points. $600
2. Two Chase Hyatt cards. 2 free nights each
3. Two Chase Southwest 50,000 each
4. Amex Gold business 50,000 for $500

$3700 in two years time off of multiple cards (plus some of that is bonus for opening up Chase checking/saving accounts):

2% Priceline Rewards Visa - no fee, no limit on rewards, rewards redeemed as statement credits (I think for new applicants it is not 2% anymore). This is our main card.

5% gas/groceries/books Sallie Mae Visa - $250/month limit on each of gas/groceries, $750 limit on bookstores (includes Amazon!)

5% Chase Freedom on rotating categories - use this sparingly, but did use it all last quarter on dining establishments.

Our rewards are somewhat inflated by my wife using the Priceline card for lots of business expenses (all reimbursed).

$1600 over two years from just using Cash Back cards! Man I really need to sit down and sort myself out this weekend.

Well done! This is an inspiration for my to get onto this. :)

I have had the Chase Freedom for several years but have never seen 5% rewards for groceries. I use it for the 2 three-month periods of 5% for gasoline. The other 6 months I use a AAA card that gives 3% on gasoline automatically off each statement.

We have 4 credit cards.
Fidelity/AMEX - Fidelity/Mastercard - Costco/AMEX for me - Costco/AMEX for my wife.

For the last 12 months our cash back amounted to $541.

It used to be much higher in the days when we went on expensive overseas trips but we stopped travelling after our 2010 vacation for a couple of reasons. My wife's walking ability has deteriorated and the places where we used to travel involved a lot of walking during the daily sightseeing excursions, even on river boat cruises which we enjoyed a lot. We also had pretty much emptied our bucket list after retiring back in 1992. Another factor is that many of the places in 3rd. world countries that we visited are not nearly as safe for American tourists as they used to be.

And this is where a good rewards credit card pays off! If you can rack up these points and avoid interest you pretty well can get rewards without additional cost! Cash is not King as cash will not grant you any freebies like this.

I have a Chase Freedom and a Chase Sapphire Preferred. I don't like to play around with opening and closing cards and having lots of cards. I find with these two I can get some really nice rewards; the Chase Freedom has some extra points perks if you are a Chase checking customer also. The Sapphire card has a $99 annual fee and it is waved for the first year. The sign-on bonus of $400 worth of points basically made it free for the first 5 years. I use the Sapphire card for travel (2%) and there are no foreign transaction fees, which is great when you like to travel. We easily spend $80-90,000 on cards a year by charging most purchases. With the two Chase cards, in addition to being able to cash them out, I can also transfer and combine the points. Sapphire lets me transfer points to participating frequent travel programs with no transfer fees and at full 1:1 for British Airways, Southwest Airlines, United, Virgin, Hyatt, Priority Club, Marriott & Ritz-Carlton. That's useful if I end up with a pile of "orphan" traveler points, but not enough to claim a reward. I can transfer just enough to get the reward. Recently it helped me upgrade to business class on a flight to Hawaii that was cheaper by using miles than just to use cash.

I do have just about every bill directly charged to my Chase Freedom (including my $750/mth health insurance premium) as well as all purchases, so the points do add up quickly. Its the only card i have and use (i just like the simplicity of one credit card and one checking account). I did have an AMEX last year I opened and used for a month b/c they were offering a $750 rewards bonus i couldnt pass up.

I have a
Chase Freedom - 5% rotating categories and I transfer points to CSP
Chase Sapphire Preferred - 2% on travel and dining, my most used card as I can transfer and redeem the points at Hyatt for approx. 2 cents per point.
Delta Amex Reserve Card (I fly delta for work)
AMex Blue Cash Preferred - cash back only 6% groceries, 3% gas

It's a game but isn't hard to keep track of. Points are more valuable as cash back only gets you 1 cent per point/dollar value on the redemption side where points can be transferred and redeemed for much more value.

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