Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Credit Card Cashback Year In Review

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Here is the 2nd annual breakdown of how I did on my various credit cards from 2013.  Here is my yearend review from 2011.  Hopefully, we can all take some lessons about to do even better in the future!

Some words of introduction

  1. Credit card sign up offers netted me over $2,000 this year have skewed some of the numbers.  I will present my results both with and without any sign up bonuses since these are one time bonuses.  
    1. I valued miles at 1 cent per point, for ease of calculation, but in truth I will probably end up redeeming them at higher values.
    2. I wouldn't suggest that most people sign up for as many cards, but you certainly can get back significant money if you are willing to do a little bit of work and follow my blog, of course :)
  2. I have included any American Express bonuses that I would have otherwise spent money on, therefore my American Express numbers are better than the rest of my cards.
    1. For example, I included when American Express gave me $20 for spending $200 at Best Buy, which I did about 10 times.  I counted it as $205 of spending and $20 of rewards.  This is because I bought VISA gift cards for $205 and got $20 back for a cashback % of close to 10%.  I also counted Small Business Saturday as rewards without spending because I would have bought the same stuff anyway.
      1. The AMEX cards I get lower percentage on is because I use them more frequently and not just for the promotions.

My goal is to get at least 2% back on every purchase.  I use the Fidelity American Express card which gives 2% on every purchase, so if the purchase doesn't fall into a special category, at least I can use the Fidelity card and get the standard 2% back.

Here is the breakdown from my different Cards in alphabetical order - Most have some sort of Sign Up Bonus when you click on the links

American Express Blue Everyday - 15.26%
American Express Blue Preferred - 9.26%
American Express Blue Sky - 27.35%
American Express Fidelity - 4.32%
American Express Starwoods - 28.91% (Sign up Bonus)
American Express Starwoods Business - 67.91% (Sign up Bonus)
Chase British Airways - 452% (Sign up Bonus)
Bank of America Cash Rewards - 3.38%
Bank of American Cash Rewards #2 - 89.1% - (Sign up Bonus)
Chase Freedom - 4.1%
Chase United Credit Card - 0.91% (Annual Fee)
Citi AAdvantage - 65.25% (Sign Up Bonus)
Citi Dividend - 31.23% (Sign up Bonus)
Discover it™- 3.9%
NFL (barclays) - 31.92% (Sign up Bonus)
Target - 5%

Overall - 

  • 17.38% with sign up bonuses and 7.19% without sign up bonuses.
    • If you take out all of my American Express cards, the percentage drops down to 3.46%
Keys to my success
  • Gift Cards - Many promotions require you to spend a lot of money right away, especially sign up offers.  I take big advantage of buying gift cards to gas stations, Amazon (which I consider like cash), and Visa (comes with a fee so are last resort) and using them over time.  
    • Serve® from American Express - makes life a lot easier.  I hate having lots of small Visa gift cards around.  You can combine all of them onto your Serve card and just carry around the one card.
  • American Express Promotions - American Express has cards with great cashback, the real reason you get American Express cards is for all the promotions they run throughout the year.  I will continue to keep you informed.
  • Staying on top of my credit report - I use Credit Sesame to monitor my credit report so that if anything negative pops up, and it has before, I can take care of it right away.
    • In case you are wondering, my credit score, according to both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma is over 770, so opening credit cards has not hurt me at all.

My analysis:

This past year 

American Express Cards -  I have already explained that I used bonuses to achieve very good results.  I added the Blue Preferred late this year so hopefully that will help for next year as well.  sed to be my 2% card because it was a Visa but that program was discontinued and changed to the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card.
Chase Freedom is my main backup when when AMEX wasn't accepted, or when a purchase is under $10 and also has 5% rotating categories.
Discover - same as Chase Freedom, except all the rewards can be multiplied by 1.25 if you take rewards in gift cards instead of cash.
Target - Target gives 5% off every purchase.  We buy diapers there and have started to spend more money there when we stopped being members of BJ's.

What to Change for Next Year

  • In about a year or so, I may need my credit to be as good as possible so I will only sign up for a credit card if the sign up bonus is too good to pass up (over $300 with no annual fee), otherwise, I am going to stick with what I have.    
    • This means, of course, that I don't expect my numbers to be nearly as high next year.
  • I am going to try to use Bluebird prepaid cards to pay more of my bills that don't accept credit cards.  I will "only" get 1.2% back if I use my Fidelity, but 1.2% is still better than 0%.
    • My overall percentage will go down, but the name of the game is more money, not higher percentage.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing this.  

Questions or Comments?  Feel free to be heard!