I haven't written much about credit card rewards lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been using cards that pay rewards. I have been using them -- and as much as possible.
I've discussed previously that I prefer to use cards that offer cash back as I can then use the money on whatever I like -- not just on what the rewards programs offer. Plus many of those points programs seem a bit shaky, designed to give you much less back than you think you're getting.
I use two main cards these days as follows:
- Fidelity American Express -- Pays 2% cash back on every charge made. The rewards are deposited automatically in my Fidelity account. This is my most used card.
- Chase Freedom -- Pays 5% in rotating categories which change quarterly. It's used mostly when either groceries or gas are offering 5% cash back.
I have one supporting card that I use for one purpose as follows:
- Chase Ink -- Gives us 5% cash back on cable charges. I have our Cox Cable bill paid automatically each month by this card.
And I have several that I use very infrequently and will likely cancel. They are:
- Hilton American Express -- I used to use this when I traveled to get 5% points (yes, this was my only points card) on charges at Hilton hotels. Most of these charges occurred when I traveled for business. But my new company has a corporate credit card we use, so there's not much need for this card. I do still travel some personally, but I always seem to forget to use this card at those times, so it might not be worth having it simply for the sake of simplicity.
- Delta American Express -- I also used to use this on company business a lot, but now 1) I have the company credit card and 2) I very rarely fly Delta these days. If we use it one time a year to travel personally, it pays for its annual fee since we save $25 on each bag each way of a trip. We didn't travel this year because of the move and I'm not sure we'll use it next year either, so this one may go too.
- Menards Credit Card -- We used to shop a lot at Menards and this card gave us 2% back (they don't take American Express). But there's no Menards in our new city, so I'll be canceling this one.
- Costco American Express -- My last employer paid for my Costco membership and I used the Costco American Express whenever we shopped there. But there isn't a Costco in my area (we joined Sam's, but it's a poor imitation IMO) and since changing employers, I no longer have a membership anyway. They started sending me notices that I was no longer a member and needed to fix that to keep the card, but I instead just cashed out my earnings and canceled the card.
The big news though is that I just cashed out a bit over $1,600 from the Fidelity American Express, quite a nice reward for buying stuff I'd buy anyway (don't give me the "you spend more with credit cards" line, we've been through that debate -- the numbers say that happens for some people, not everyone using a card, and I think I've shown to be a lot more disciplined than the average bear). And that's only in the past two years! Doing the math you'll see that 2% rewards earning $1,600 means we charged over $80,000 in those years, something most people can't do. But we put everything on the card including:
- Some purchases for our rental properties (especially the new appliances, which we have in every unit)
- Work travel costs (which were significant every year and for which I was reimbursed)
- Business expenses (for FMF)
- We went on a cruise with my parents a year and a half ago
- Basic spending like food, clothing, etc. -- anything that wasn't on the 5% quarterly program with the Freedom card
It had been some time since I'd logged in to see my balance, but when I saw it was over $1,600, I was quite excited. I moved the amount from Fidelity and transferred it to my checking account. Nice.
How about you? Do you use any credit cards with reward programs?