Maximizing What’s in Your Wallet Q4 2011


Welcome to the Q4 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 cashback 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 2011, 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. 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 new  Blue Cash PreferredSM 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, but it's worth it.

Restaurants – Either use your Discover® More Card! (up to $300 in total rewards) or Chase Freedom (up to $1,500 in total rewards).  Hopefully, you saw my post on and took advantage of that amazing offer.

Home Improvement  – I've got nothing.  DIY or use your 2% card.

Department Stores, and Clothing Stores –  Either use your Discover® More Card! (up to $300 in total rewards) or Chase Freedom (up to $1,500 in total rewards).  There's an extra bonus of 5% if you use your Chase Freedom at Kohl's – that's 10% back!

Hotels and Airlines – Use your 2% card or your favorite hotel card (mine's the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card).

Movies – Chase Freedom has the market cornered this quarter as the only card offering 5% back.

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  to buy Amazon gift cards at a grocery store for the 6% cashback.  If I can be more planful about such purchases, I will probably do this.

Charitable Organizations – For charities, again Chase Freedom has the market cornered this quarter as the only card offering 5% back so give liberally to your favorite charity!

Everything Else – Frequent readers know I love my 2% cashback Charles Schwab Invest First VISA card. Unfortunately, as I've chronicled ad nauseum, FIA has discontinued the program as of 10/31.  Thus I will be transitioning to a roughly equivalent card in the Fidelity Retirement Rewards AMEX which also offers 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.

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