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2023 Credit Card Rewards wrap up

January 16th, 2024 at 05:56 pm

I make a lot of free money from credit card rewards for a little bit of work.  I have a lot of credit cards and we don't carry a balance and I do NOT recommend this for anyone who carries balances.  It's a nice bonus of tax free money if you are responsible enough.   This is dense post, but if you have questions ask.

Let's start with Costco rewards.  We have a executive membership which costs $120 a year.  We make 2% in rewards which this year appear to be $225.57 which means we spent $11,278.50 at costco this year.  Makes sense since we buy most groceries and all of our gas there since it's 1.5 miles from our house and pretty much the closest grocery store.   We also earned on our costco citi credit cards $282.73 and $136.08 in cash back for a total savings of $644.38 with a net of $524.38.  

Next up is simple cash back rewards.  We earned $288.82 with discover.  Typically I can redeem this for restaurant giftcards at a minimum 10% off so 1.1 redemption rate so $317.70 is the value of this cash back, but for simplicity I just used $288.82.  Discover I keep for the 5% rotating categories cash back and it's $0 annual fee.  We also have the Wells Fargo active 2% cash back card.  We earned $478.67 in 2% cash back and I typically apply it to the charges.  It is also a $0 annual fee credit card.  Finally we have the Chase Amazon CC also for $0 annual fee and 5% back at amazon.  We earned $211.40 for spending $4220 at amazon this year.  YIKES.  I had no idea my DH spent that much let alone me.  That does not include my mom's spending at amazon so I guess we netted $61.40 for our amazon prime annual fee.

Now we're getting to complicated rewards.  But we'll start with the easy Alaska Airlines CC.  We have two CC, one for each of us.  The annual fee is $95 and we mostly use it for the companion fare coupon.  The companion fare costs $150 in taxes and fees for a free ticket to travel together.  This year i used it on Hawaii at Christmas so the tickets were $1017 roundtrip.  So we ended up saving $867 x 2  (each credit card) minus the $95 annual fee x 2.  So we basically netted $772 in rewards per credit card.  That and of course free luggage when booking (never use this), and 3x miles for alaska airlines purchases.  While this card is barely use the companion fares for us is worth just having.  We've had it for about 10 years and I think it pays for itself annually.  This is the type of credit card reward where even if you don't really use the card if the benefit is greater than the annual fee it's worth it.  This year they have an interesting deal where you spend $10k on the card and get 4k in EQM bonus up to a maximum of 20k miles so I'm trying to earn that for DH and myself, i'm not sure I'll be able to make it.  I also used the miles to book our trip next summer.

We also got a chase marriott card.  It's annual fee is $95 and we got three free nights  up to 35k points for opening the credit card. Again I think the $95 fee worth 1 night in a hotel.  You also get silver elite and 15 nights a year as well as earning some points when you charge on the card.  Typically we use it when we happen to book marriott and I've found that we can find one brand of marriott usually where we want to stay.  We also earned 19,186 points for 2023 because they give 3x points on grocery stores and 16x points on marriott stays.  Typical redemption says it's worth 1 cent a point or $191.86 for cash value.

For the Chase rewards I have the Ink $95, Sapphire Preferred $95, and Freedom $0.  I earned 48,475, 11,769, and 94,313 points for 2023 respectively for the credit cards = 154,557 points.  That is worth $1545.57 if we use 1 cent per point which is the cash equivalent redemption.  However I used it for flights this summer to singapore so I got closer to 2 cents per mile.  With the sapphire preferred I get a $50 hotel credit once a year to help offset the annual fee.  My daily driver card is the chase freedom earning 1.5% back on everything because I can redeem it for 1.25 on travele on the Ultimate Rewards portal and typically get 2% or 2 cents per mile transferred.  So the redemption rate is closer to 3% or more.

Finally the big expensive cards are our American Express.  I had the gold this year to try out.  The annual fee is $250.  I get $200 in uber credit which I used and $60 in dining credit (I stupidly missed 6 months) which i spend by buying a $10 shake shack gift card monthly for free.  So $260 in free cash but the real earnings this year was the $75.99 in Amex Offers on the card which I redeemed for charging stuff like internet, or cell phone and getting statement credit.  So I earned $335.99 cash back on the card last year. I also negotiated a $125 credit towards the annual fee this year.

DH got the Amex Platinum Charles Schwab for an annual fee of $695.  But CS gave us a $200 credit for accounts with them.  He also got $200 hotel, $200 airline, $189 clear, $60 Amex Offers statement credit, $240 digitial credit (NYT, WSJ, Sirius), and $171.24 for Walmart+ (we use for paramount subscription) for a total cash back of $1260.24.  We also earned 123,607 point = $767 in statement credit according to Amex.  The net credit card reward is $765 for the year.  Not including the $100 statement credit for fine hotels bonus or free breakfast for 2 at the hotels.  So that's usually worth another $60, so we had a bonus $160.  I actually used it this weekend for my overnight and saved $160 bonus on top of the $200 hotel credit for 2024.

So wrap up is we spent $1490 in credit card fees, costco/amazon membership for 2023.  We earned back $5002.96 in cash rewards and 297,980 in points equivalent to $2979 in cash back.  So we netted $3512 in tax free money by just our spending on our credit cards alone.  

It also did not include the value of the points I used to purchase tickets.  Pretty good for just using credit cards and getting tax free bonus.

double dip credit card bonus

December 11th, 2023 at 08:03 pm

Oops.  This quarter Discover is giving 5% back in cash rewards for shopping at Amazon or Target.  I used it to buy $900 in gift cards over the December 2nd - 3rd weekend at Target.  Target was running at 10% off special once a year.  That was $45 in rewards.  I also bought $400 in Airbnb gift cards from Target that gave a $40 gift card back as well.  This also earned 5% for $20 more in rewards.

Then if you use the discover cash back rewards to buy resturant or other shopping gift cards you can add another 10-20% on top of the cash back value.  So $40 or $45 for a $50 gift card to Dave and Busters, Panera, etc.  I typically do this to stretch the cash back rewards.

I only use the discover card typically with the rotating 5% quarterly bonus rewards.  Typically it pays back nicely but it maxes out at $75 a quarter or $1500 in spending every 3 months.  If you don't have this check it out.

credit card annual fees

December 6th, 2023 at 06:54 am

Decided to add up my credit card fees annually.  I know it's a lot because we have a lot of cards.  How much?  $1420 for the year.  Yowsa. How'd it breakdown?

Alaska DH $95.00
Alaska LAL $95.00
Sapphire Preferred $95.00
Chase Ink $95.00
CS Amex Platinum $695.00
Amex Gold $250.00
Marriott Chase $95.00
Total $1,420.00

The alaska cards we get a companion fare and I used both already this year for $1000 tickets to hawaii.  So $95 for $1000 coupon.  Win.  Plus a free checked luggage when traveling.

Sapphire preferred gives a $50 hotel credit plus 1.5 points for travel booked through their website.  So $45 for the bonus 50% travel credit?  Keep.

Chase Ink - $95 is maybe a lot for an occasional use card. I mostly keep it to charge all my business expenses on it and keep it straight.  But it also gives better earnings in travel and business expenses.

Charles Schwab Amex Platinum with the $695 price tag.  This is for DH alone but we get $200 credit from Charles Schwab for having accounts with them. Annually these are the savings I use

$200 Hotel Credit 

$200 Airline Credit

$189 Clear

$100 saks

$240 digital credit - NYT, WSJ, Sirius, 

$180 walmart+ - use for free paramount plus

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

So $1509 in credits for the year means it's a keep.  I did drop the extra card which was an extra $175.  Still debating on that one.  I have $60 in pending american express offers statement credit so we'll see if it works.

Amex Gold I got when I downgraded my Amex Platinum and switched it to DH getting the amex platinum.  $250 is really steep and I'm not sure it's worth it.  

$120 year ($10 a month) Dining Credit

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

Even with the $320, I only kept it because when I tried to cancel they gave me $125 bonus to stay, so it became $125 annual fee. I also made $71 in Amex Offers with the gold card which helped offset the costs.

Finally the marriot chase card for $95.  This one I'm also not sure but disneysteve swears by it.  And $95 for 1 night in a hotel seemed like a no brainer to try it out.  Just got it and we'll see how it goes.

I've settled into a routine of credit cards.

I've been rolling in the bonuses this year with Amazon CC and Costco CC.  Those plus the points i've gotten on chase since my daily CC is Chase Freedom card where you get 1.5% back on everything and 3% on eating out.

What credit cards do you like?

40 credit cards

July 25th, 2016 at 04:06 pm

Over the years I've accumulated probably at least 40 cards. I am one of those people who never cancelled cards. As long as there wasn't an annual fee if we opened and tried it I left it opened. So this weekend I don't know why my DH started looking at our paperwork. When we moved we literally threw stuff into boxes because we didn't get to it. I had debit cards expiring in 2005 from Washington Mutual. 4 of those cards and papers I found in our box of paper. I also had debit cards from chase that expired in 2008. So this obviously a long term problem. We haven't had either accounts since 2005.

We got to the decluttering easy stuff like clothes, kid toys, etc. But older harder stuff we are still working on. I mean we still have boxes of unopened stuff to look through in the garage. But the reality is that we have a ton of cards that I have no idea when I opened them or what is going on.

So yesterday I started organizing some of the cards and calling to see if there were closed. I had over 40 cards and had I think over 20 that were closed so I started to shred them and the paperwork. I still have a few more to work on but now it's a small stack that fits in a box.

I can't close any that we don't use and are open still because we want to buy a house in the next year and I don't want to hurt our credit scores. I need to pull our credit reports soon to check and make sure everything is okay. My credit dropped from 835 last July to 804 this July. It says because I have too high credit loan balances to credit limit. This is from discover and not an actual score. But I'm worried of course. My DH is 816 but it says the same level of credit used to credit limit is problem. Ugh.

Some of this is because Uncle J passed. We're trying to be motivated to get more organized. We shredded and got rid of 200 pieces of paper. I'm up to 958 things I've gotten rid of this year. Perhaps I am on track to get rid of 2016. But seriously I know we have a ton of paperwork still.

So I found a CC

September 29th, 2015 at 02:45 am

So I found a credit card today in the parking lot of the grocery store I was entering. I stuck it in my pocket and gave it to the cashier as I checked out.

I felt a lot of guilt because I wonder if the person who dropped it will get it back? Perhaps I should have talked to the manager? I mean I get tons of good karma with all the wallets returned to me when I lose them. So I am trying again to pass along good karma. I've returned a wallet before I found in a shopping kart to the customer service desk. But this was a smaller grocery store I don't think with a customer service so I just handed it over.

It was a bank of america card and I know I probably could have driven to a branch and given it to them. But I didn't feel like dealing with getting the kids in and out of the car.

Do you think I did enough? I am feeling really bad like I should have done more than say "Oh I found this in the parking lot."

Money Saving Tip #3

June 6th, 2014 at 01:23 pm

I use credit cards a lot, for everything. I don't do anything like chase rewards but I do try to maximize the rewards I can gain through the cards I have. I've contemplated getting an airlines rewards card or chasing bonuses, but right now it's difficult to find the time to pay bills or keep on top of our spending with two small kids. Plus I know we're moving so rather than opening cards I'm keeping our credit scores high since each inquiry is a hit.

Last year in 2013 we earned $954 in rewards and trading some in to discover closer to $1000 in credit card cash rewards. We spent approximately $25k on the credit cards giving me a return rate of 4%. Plus another $108 Costco rewards. That's extremely high. It'll be higher this year.

Because of my high return rate I've definitely maximized our spending over using a mileage credit card. Why? Most times it's only worth using miles on an airlines ticket if you can get 2 cents/mile. Why? Because miles aren't that valuable. Meaning a ticket costing 25k miles, costing less than $500, most rabid mile collector (go to flyertalk to learn) say it's not worth it.

Personally I always try to maximize our mileage as well typically getting close to 3-4 cents/mile. My most recent trip to Hawaii I spent 17.5k miles on a one way ticket costing $800 = 4.5 cent/mile. Like I said maximize miles. People use miles when they don't want to pay, but true mileage collectors (and I'm best friends with one) helps me calculate the true cost of using the miles.

But back to credit card rewards. How did we get so much? Well we only use 4 cards discover it with it's 5% rotating categories and 1% back on everything else. I use this for most things since I can redeem it for gift cards that are also discounted for further rewards! Like a $45 for $50 Panera gift card or $45 for $50 starbucks (hello teacher gifts). I also ALWAYS use shopdiscover, because it gives 10% back right now on groupon and living social. It also gives great rebates on other sites too for extra savings and you can still use coupon codes on other sites.

We have a Citibank Simplicity cash rewards. Probably never heard of it. We got it 10 years ago and it gives us 5% back on gas, 5% pharmacy stores like cvs/walgreens, and 1% back on everything else. I use this for gas and most everywhere I can't use my discover since it's a mastercard.

Finally my DH and I each have a Costco Amex. We love costco and my rebate check since we have an executive membership for $110 was $108. We are getting close to getting over that hump. We get 3% dining out, 2% travel, great for international travel since it covers the exchange fee, and 1% everything else.

So that's it in CC. I should consider maximizing our CC rewards, but right now I think we're doing relatively well. Except for people who open cards for rewards I don't know that many people get a better value using their CC.

I have considered switching to a mileage or hotel (starwood) CC. My biggest issue is that I would never spend more than $100 on a hotel room between priceline and deals, so it's hard to get a card and use it on a room that cost $300. But perhaps if people sell me on it.

Do you have a favorite card? What's your redemption rate? Do you get great rewards.

I will end with if you overspend on CC or can't pay in full don't use them.

My secret urge

May 29th, 2014 at 05:33 pm

Is to charge everything I want on a credit card and not worry or consider how I'm going to pay or afford it. Then at the end of the month not pay it off.

For the record I've never done this so I've always wanted to know what it feels like. My DH and I have always been responsible with money. We were raised that that way.

But I want to know what it feels like to be irresponsible. I want to know a little bit of the thrill of not worrying about how can I afford this.

And the second part would be I'd like to see a paycheck where DH and I saved nothing. Where we just had taxes taken out and the entire thing would be deposited. Sounds nuts?

Truth is even though we make a good income I think the biggest check we've seen deposited has been $3k a pay period. When I see online people posting monthly budgets for $7k or more I wonder what it would be like to spend that much. What would I do with that much money? I know if we didn't save could potentially have that much deposited. And when we get bonuses we do see a really large cheack. But would I really feel better able to spend?

Have you paid off a lot of debt? Was it hard? Or were you always responsible? Did you change your ways? How did you change from overspending on a CC to paying it off?