Maximizing What’s in Your Wallet Q4 2012


Welcome to the Q4 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 Q4 2012, then read on.

My apologies for the lateness.  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 Preferred® 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 – For me I’m using my US Bank Cash+ for 5% back in regular and fast food restaurants.

Department Stores – Discover it Card (a sponsor) is offering 5% and Chase Freedom is offering 5% back at Kohls.

Home Improvement  – Your best bet is to buy gift cards for your favorite home improvement store using the Blue Cash Preferred® 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).  Also Chase Freedom is offering 5% back on hotels and airlines.

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

Online Shopping – Discover it Card (a sponsor) is offering 5% this quarter.

Best Buy – Chase Freedom 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 Preferred® 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.  It offers 2% cash back across the board.

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.

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  • Bruce

    Discover More is offering 5% cash back at department stores and online this quarter.  Saying "Drug Stores/Museums/Department Stores, and Clothing Stores — Discover More Card (a sponsor) is offering 5%" makes it sound like it's also offering 5% cash back at drug stores, museums, and clothing stores, which isn't the case.

    • Thanks for catching that!

  • Mike Gr

    For those that still have the Sallie Mae card (now Barclays Mastercard), they now offer 5% back on groceries and gas up to $250 a month on each category. For those who spend less than $325 a month on groceries, it makes more sense to use this card rather than the AMEX Blue.

    • Mike,

      Nice point. It’s actually a pretty good fit for me too since I buy a lot of food at a co-op that won’t take AMEX. I’m trying to get over the inertia of using my US Bank Cash+ card there. I’m also not in the mood to track $250/mth in food spending. Pretty laborious. Finally, I just don’t trust these cards that have been baiting and switching on rewards lately. It makes me want to support the cards that are far more stable in how the rewards program operates.