Which cards should you carry in your purse? The ones that make you the most MONEY!
FIRST LET ME SAY—this is a post for all you fabulous folks who don’t carry a balance. In today’s economy, this is easier said than done, but crucial to the Thrifty Girl lifestyle. If you are paying interest on a balance, do your best to pay that off right away. Those interest rates are doing damage to your bottom line!
NOW—if you pay off your cards every month, congratulations! You are ready for the next step, turning the tables on your cards so you MAKE money. Below are my recommendations based on personal experience for the best cards out there.
Cash back cards
These cards come in two categories—revolving categories and flat rate.
- Revolving categories
>Chase Freedom and Discover have these revolving categories. It works like this—you get 1% on every purchase, but you get an additional 4% back on purchases you make on categories that change quarterly. For example, July-September 2016, you’ll get 4% additional cash back on restaurants. Last quarter it was grocery stores. Honestly these type of cards are a pain because you need to register for the additional 4% by replying to a text or something. That’s annoying. However, 5% is higher than you’re going to get anywhere. So, if you don’t mind the hassle, go for it.
- Flat rate
Your second option in the cash back category is flat rate. It’s much less to organize. These generally pay 1.5%-3% cash back on every purchase. It’s kinda boring but some have good bonuses.
>Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% plus $150 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months (double check on all of these offers as they change constantly). Easy to redeem cash. Nerdwallet’s Claire Tsosie recommends using this card in conjunction with the Chase Freedom card.
>CapitalOne Quicksilver is also $1.5 % with a $100 bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months (again, double check). Last time I checked this card had no international exchange fee. Easy to redeem cash.
>Amazon also has a cash back card–3% back on Amazon orders, 2% on restaurants, drug stores and gas stations, 1% on everything else. Plus there is usually a bonus. Easy to redeem cash through Amazon.com at the checkout.
One of life’s biggest questions is, “Are airline miles worth it?” It depends. They tend to work best if you travel a lot and live in a major city or a hub city. Most start with a hefty bonus—30k-60k miles. 60k miles is usually enough for a free round trip ticket to Europe! The problem is most of the time miles are an absolute freaking hassle to redeem. Every time I book a flight with miles it takes at least twice as long and a glass of wine. And, sometimes you need to spend more miles than the standard reward. However, they offer some benefits. Here’s what’s good about them.
- International flights
Round trip and one-way international flights where you have some flexibility or you can plan in advance are generally much cheaper with miles (if you figure a mile is worth about 1-2¢). I recently purchased a one-way ticket from Barcelona with 30k miles (around $450). It would have cost me $1,300 without miles. Huge savings!
- Free checked bag
On most major airlines if you check in with your airline miles credit card you can get a free checked bag. Look into this before you fly—sometimes you need to purchase the ticket with that card also. This saves you $25-35 a pop!
- Major city or hub city
If you live in either a major city or a hub city it is way easier to use miles. Do a little bit of research on your nearest airport to find out which airlines call it home. For example—Chicago (United) Dallas (American), Atlanta (Delta). Then choose your mileage card accordingly.
- NOTE: My experience is that Delta, United and American have much better miles programs than Spirit Airlines. I’d avoid the Spirit World MasterCard at all costs. Both the card and the miles are basically worthless!
Please note that there are several miles cards that are not associated with a particular airline, for example the CapitalOne Venture Rewards card. This seems like a solid idea, but I have no experience with these cards and I can’t recommend them.