My Personal Finance Journey

Personal finance observation, musing and decisions in a journey toward financial independence by 2020 with at least $3 million.

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Good Reward Card Deals Drying Up?

Contributed by mm | June 9, 2005 2:17 PM PST

For many months, I have been enjoying my portfolio of credit cards. First, the Cit Driver's Edge card gives me 5% rebate on every purchase. Plus, I'm receiving 10% discount for all my restaurant bills thanks to the MBNA Cashback Card offer I took a while ago. At 5% and 10%, rewards add up pretty quickly. Combined, I am able to collect about $150 in rewards every month from both cards. Can it be much better than claiming a three-figure subsidy every month?

Unfortunately, both promotions are about to end. The 5%-off-everything deal on my Driver's Edge card will expire in September, while June is already the last month I will be able to boast the 10%-off-dining-out experience. As I mentioned at PFBlog earlier, Citi and MBNA no longer offer such deals to new cardmembers any more.

So, what's my fall credit card lineup?

Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Card, which I discovered more than a year ago, is still around. It is actually a fat offer by itself: 5% cashback on everyday purchases (grocery stores, drugstore and gas stations) and 1% cashback on everything else. It will most likely become my primary card after September.

Maybe I am spoiled, but I don't see any other good reward cards that is worth mentioning. Yes, 1% cashback offer is still a dime a dozen, and the 1.5%/2% cashback for Fidelity-affiliated cards are not too bad either, but they are no compare to these 5% or 10% promotions.

Does anyone has a great card to recommend?

More PFBlog Articles You Might Find Interesting ...

This Post Has Received 16 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.

wuji Commented on June 10, 2005

I also looked at the Citi Dividends card, however after close inspection, I realized my AT&T Universal card was being managed by Citi. I checked the site and they had a 5% cashback program like Citi with the additional calling benefits of AT&T. That's 30 calling minutes a month on top of the citi cashback program. Check it out ;)

Dan Commented on June 10, 2005

What effect does the constant switching of credit cards have on your credit rating? Any?

Michael Commented on June 10, 2005

Love the site. Just something to think about...have you ever thought that you might be spending more than 5 or 10 percent because of the fact you are using credit cards over cash? Why else would these companies offer these rewards other than the fact that in the end they win and you lose. Check out Dun & Bradstreet's study which concluded that the typical American spends 18 - 20 percent more when buying with credit cards over cash.

nickel Commented on June 10, 2005

They offer these rewards programs to suck you into carrying a balance and paying high fees over the long term. If you can do this without changing you spending habits, then it's a great deal.

With regard to the reward programs drying up, I wonder if this isn't a seasonal thing... There were a ton of these starting around September of last year, and very little since the holidays. Maybe they time these to suck people in just before the holiday shopping season. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Dan Commented on June 10, 2005

Replying to the other Dan...

He's said before that his credit score is 700+. For a homeowner who already has a dozen or more cards, chasing these incentives probably doesn't have much of an impact. Especially if you're not running balances on more than one or two at a time.

For the rest of us...

If you only have a couple cards, applying for a new one can really bring down your credit score, since the average time of open accounts is a major factor.

Or if you're buying/refinancing a home, the number of credit inquiries in the last 12 months can also damage your score.

mm is in a position where he can do this and succeed. You have to examine your own situation.

mm Commented on June 11, 2005

Thank you for all the comments. Yes, I believe one should not use credit card if one cannot pay off the bill every month, and we should be mindful about cost control.

Dan, I love your suggestions!

Jamie Commented on June 11, 2005

I too use the Dividend Card from Citibank. The problem: a fairly weak limit on the dividend they pay you every year. My favorite is the Blue Cash from Amex. The dividend payout isn't as high at first, but it gets higher the more you spend (rather than the Citibank card where dividends abruptly end).

A side comment: I never carry a balance, but I put EVERYTHING on my card. I even go so far as to pay my rent through Paypal via Amex. I received more than $1k last year in dividends as a result.

Anonymous Commented on June 12, 2005

To the previous poster Jamie:
I'm interested in finding out how you pay your rent "through Paypal via Amex." I already pay for many things with plastic, but I'm trying to take it even further. Thanks in advance.

Jamie Commented on June 13, 2005

On Paypal: It's really easy... you just have to get your landlord's email address, enter your paypal account and then start sending your rent checks by "Send Money". Be sure to change the "Source of Funds" first. Some landlords don't like this entire thing, but they can be talked into it by telling them that they won't have to go to the bank to make deposits and the cash hits their accounts more quickly.

It really is a win-win deal!

Anonymous Commented on June 13, 2005

Jamie: Thanks for responding. Doesn't receiving the Paypal payment by credit card incur any fees for the landlord? If so, I'd expect that your rent had suffered a raise. Also, if your source of funds is a credit card, is it treated as a cash advance? Thanks.

anony: Commented on June 13, 2005

Anonymous: I don't know about your first questions (I'd guess they do pay some fee though), but I do know that if your source of funds for PayPal is a credit card it is NOT treated as a cash advance. It works great!

Anonymous Commented on June 14, 2005

Thanks, fellow Anonymous. :)

nickel Commented on June 14, 2005

PayPal in that price range costs the recipient $0.30 plus 2.9% of the transaction amount. Not a very good deal for the landlord, but you're right that it's convenient.

Anonymous 2 Commented on June 28, 2005

Chase is offering an Ultimate Cash Award Mastercard with up to 5% cash back (HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE/supermarket/gas station/drug store) and up to 2% everywhere Mastercard is accepted. ALSO, there is NO LIMIT to the amount of cash you can earn. This is according to their website

ja Commented on June 29, 2005

I like the Harley Davidson Visa card, you are entered every time you use the card for a monthly harley motorcycle. Also you accumulate points to turn into $25 dollar gift certificates to buy Harley gear at their stores.

vcm Commented on June 30, 2005

Some thoughts:

I've had a United Airlines card forever, but I spend less $$ on my card than I used to and the $60 annual fee stopped being worth it. I just switched to a free MBNA (I guess it's now B of A) card that has either 1% cash back OR gives you a mile per dollar. They claim to fly you on any airline with no restricted dates.

Does anybody have experience with these reward cards that give you miles on any airline you want? How does it work? Do you have to book travel thru your credit card company?

Also, my debit card from Wachovia gives me rewards if I use it as a credit card (which makes the retail establishment pay Wachovia a fee). The rewards get traded for gift certificates, etc.

I'm not terribly happy with my reward cards at the moment, but I do know that being overly fixated on the rewards tends to make me spend more money. I have been lucky never to find myself forced to carry a balance, but I do get some nasty surprises at the end of the month when I've been gleefully thinking of all the rewards I'm racking up. I like to have only one card because it's easier to plan to pay the bill.

I've thought about switching to Upromise (college savings) reward card thru Citi. The payback is 10% on groceries, 2% on gas, and 1% on everything else. But since I'm closing my United card after having it for maybe seven or eight years, I don't want to change cards again too soon cause of what it will do to my credit rating. I did buy a house last year and don't plan on needing to do so again for about three years, so I have time to rebuild some longevity on my credit history, but it makes me nervous to muck around with my credit rating too much.

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