Maximizing What’s in Your Wallet Q3 2012


Welcome to the Q3 2012 edition of Maximizing What’s in Your Wallet!

As a reminder, this post is for all the credit card deadbeats out there looking to maximize cash back rewards. So, if you never carry a balance on your credit cards, have them set to auto-pay in full every month, and want to make the most of Q3 2012, then read on.

Here’s how you should allocate your spending:

Gas – This is a no-brainer. It’s the same card year round. It is the PenFed VISA Platinum Gas / Cash Rewards Card (a sponsor). You’ll get 5% back all the time on gas purchases. Just make sure you pay at the pump. I used to use this card for a lot more, but the rewards have been really scaled back such that only the 5% gas reward makes sense.  However, as a gas card, it’s a great choice.

Groceries – I have been very pleased with my Blue Cash PreferredSM Card from American Express  (a sponsor) which pays me 6% back on all grocery purchases.  It also pays 3% on gas and 1% on everything else, but I only use it at the grocery store.  The downside to the card is the card carries a $75 annual fee, but it’s worth it.

Restaurants – Use your Chase Freedom® Visa (a sponsor) for 5% cash back this quarter.

Drug Stores/Museums/Department Stores, and Clothing Stores – No special rewards this quarter. See the Everything Else category for a good fallback suggestion.

Home Improvement  – Your best bet is to buy gift cards for your favorite home improvement store using the   Blue Cash PreferredSM Card from American Express  (a sponsor) or use your 2% card.

Hotels and Airlines – Use your favorite hotel card.  Mine are the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (both sponsors).

Movies –  Discover it Card (a sponsor) is offering 5% the entire year.

Theme Parks – Discover it Card (a sponsor) is offering 5% this quarter.

Gifts – For gifts I use the Amazon VISA year round. When you buy through Amazon with the Amazon VISA you get 3% back and the first time you sign up, they give you $40 off your purchase. It’s well worth the sign up.  I am tempted to use my new  Blue Cash PreferredSM Card from American Express  (a sponsor) to buy Amazon gift cards at a grocery store for the 6% cash back.

Everything Else – I use the  Fidelity Investment Rewards AMEX  and Sallie Mae Signature VISA interchangeably.  They both offer 2% cashback.

Two final thoughts: Please remember to sign up at Chase and Discover to be eligible for their 5% rewards, and remember this advice is ONLY for people who don’t carry a balance…EVER.

Posted in Credit Cards Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
  • Mike Gr

    5% cash back with Chase Freedom was last quarter, not this quarter. This quarter it's 5% back on gas and restaurants.

    • Mike,

      I think you meant to include the word “groceries” in that comment. Good catch. It’s corrected.

  • Mike Gr

    Yes I did, thank you.

    P.S. Loving all my new cards so far. Still need to grab that Amex Blue Cash Preferred….

  • That AMEX Blue Cash Preferred is awesome if you have the grocery budget of offset the annual fee and still keep the cash reward net at 5%+.  I can do that on groceries alone, but it certainly helps to have the option of buying gift cards at the grocery store for other planned purchases.  It also obviates the need to get other cards.  Why get the 5% back Target or Lowes credit card when you can get 6% back/off by buying a gift card with the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred?

  • Mike Gr

    Btw, your link to that card appears to be dead. Looks like you've got some more housekeeping to do.

  • Thanks for pointing that out. The link is repaired!

  • Bruce

    I'm pretty sure the Sallie Mae 2% card has been discontinued for new applicants.

    Also, why don't you include the Citibank Dividend Platinum Select card?  It's a 5% rotating category card just like Chase Freedom and Discover:

    • Bruce,

      The Sallie Mae 2% card is no longer available according to my sources as well. I updated the link so there’s no confusion.

      I don’t include the Citibank Dividend Platinum Select card because I hate Thank You points. I’ve watched the point valuations get re-calibrated. I just don’t trust them so I don’t include them.

  • Bruce

    I feel the same way about Thank-You Points, but the Citibank Dividend Platinum Select is a cash back card; there are no Thank-You Points involved.  Really, it's just like Chase Freedom and Discover. 
    In fact, it's slightly better, in the sense that you're limited to $300 cash back per year rather than $75 cash back per quarter as with Chase Freedom and Discover.  It comes out to the same amount of spending, but the Citi card gives you the flexibility to concentrate all your spending in the same quarter if you want.

  • Bruce,

    Fair point.  I will look into Citibank Dividend Platinum Select.  If it's got a good sign on bonus, I may join yet another rotating rewards program.  At some point, it gets a little dilutive to have so many cards with points spread across them, but right now there is just no CC company willing to do it all and for the full year.

  • I checked Citibank Dividend Platinum Select and the rewards category this quarter is no good for me so I wouldn't be able to get the $100 except through 1% spending which I would never accept.  I will check again next quarter!

  • Bruce

    Yeah, I've put both my Citi and Discover cards away this quarter.  We'll see about next quarter. 

  • Mike Gr

    The Sallie Mae card isn't accepting new signups anymore? That's not a good sign. The end is surely nigh. Damn.

    • Yeah, it’s never a good sign. I use it so little now, I’m afraid I’ll never get to the points I need to redeem at the 2% level. Hopefully, they’ll give lots of notice when they’re going to screw us so I can re-direct my spending to make sure I can exit at 2%.

  • Mike Gr

    Ya I'm thinking of redirecting all of my 2% spending from the Fidelity Amex to try to make sure I hit the 25,000 points before they pull the plug.

  • Mike Gr

    Wow the site was down for a long time! What happened? I've been having withdrawals. When can we expect Maximizing What's in Your Wallet Q4?

  • jkbrennan77

    Glad to see your back.  Looking forward to WIYW Q4, I'm a Sallie Mae user and need to replace it.  Also, what do we do with our Sallie Mae points?  I'm just short of the 25K points needed to get the 2%.  AIUI the card switches on Oct 29th, any thoughts on if I should take the 20K point award (1.7%) before the 29th switchover?

    • Yeah, I really need to write that. Like you I was super disappointed in how quickly the Sallie Mae 2% deal vanished. I had just enough points to cash it in for the $250 2% level. Then, I stopped using it so I have a negative balance on the card. I called them to cut me a check for the difference, and they said they won’t for 60 days. Bastards! I would take the points before the switchover. I have no interest in that Barclays card.