Maximizing What’s in Your Wallet Q2 2013


Welcome to the Q2 2013 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 Q2 2013, then read on.

Here’s how you should allocate your spending this quarter:

Gas – This is a no-brainer. It’s the same card year round. It is the PenFed VISA Platinum Gas / Cash Rewards Card. You’ll get 5% back all the time on gas purchases, and the rewards are automatically deducted from your current bill statement.  Sallie Mae’s Mastercard is offering 5% back as well though.

Groceries and Gift Cards – I have been very pleased with my Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 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 and the grocery spending is capped at $6k per year, but it’s still a great card.  Sallie Mae’s Mastercard is offering 5% back.

Restaurants – For me I’m using my US Bank Cash+ for 5% back in regular and fast food restaurants.  Chase Freedom and Sallie Mae’s Mastercard is offering 5% back as well. 

Department Stores – Your best bet is to buy gift cards for your favorite department store using the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express  or use your 2% card.

Home Improvement  – Discover it Card and Sallie Mae’s Mastercard is offering 5% at all home improvement stores while Chase Freedom is offering 5% back at Lowes only.

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.

Movies –  Chase Freedom is offering 5% back.

Utilities –  N/A

Drugstores – N/A

Amazon – I  use my Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express  to buy Amazon gift cards at a grocery store for the 6% cash back.  I also have the Amazon VISA for when I’m too lazy for that extra layer of work. When you buy through Amazon with the Amazon VISA you get 3% back and the first time you sign up, they give you $30-40 off your purchase depending on the offer at that time.

Everything Else – I use the  Fidelity Investment Rewards AMEX.  It offers 2% cash back across the board.

Two final thoughts: Sponsors are noted in red, and remember this advice is ONLY for people who don’t carry a balance…EVER.

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  • Bruce_1

    Thanks for changing the comment system. It’s nice to be able to post again!

    Just out of curiosity, why don’t you use the Chase Freedom card for restaurants and use your US Bank Cash+ card for a different category?

    • Thanks for commenting Bruce! It’s a good question. Mostly it’s because I’ve come to think of the card as a “restaurant” card like PenFed is my gas card, but I did switch my cell phone bill over to the US Bank card for Q2 and chose that category. Then I chose restaurants as my other category. So, that leaves fast food for Chase Freedom. This way higher end restaurants go on US Bank which is good since I get more than 5% back thanks to my platinum checking account bonus!

      • Bruce_1

        Thanks, Slug. That makes sense. I don’t have the US Bank Cash+ card, since you can only apply in branch and they don’t seem to have a branch within five states of where I live, but I’ll keep it in mind the next time I travel. Still, it really bugs me that they insist on dividing restaurants into two different categories. The other cards don’t do that.

        • Bruce, I agree that separation is really annoying, and I hope other card providers don’t jump on that wagon. FWIW I applied by phone for the card. Perhaps the rules have changed though.

  • Mike G

    Yes! Comments are back without having to log in to facebook! The US Bank card used to let you do 5% back on general household bill pay, which included phone, tv, and internet. It’s too bad they split it out into phone only. Ah the good ol days.

    Also, where do you see that the Sallie Mae card is offering 5% back on restaurants and home improvement?

    • Sallie Mae sent me an email. Here’s a temporary link: May only be sent to certain customers. I recommend calling CS if you’re interested.