App-O-Rama: Making money from credit cards

DollarSignDisclaimer: This is free money but it costs seed money to make money, and it can cost you big-time if you overspend what you can afford. One should never get into this intending to carry a balance. Seriously. Don’t do that.

This is a thing I’ve done a few times in the past (name courtesy of Fatwallet Forums) and had been considering another one, but what with all the traveling and planning, hadn’t quite the brain power to kickstart the process.

Then, last fall, PiC voiced the niggling little thought at the back of my mind: We should get new credit cards and juice the bonuses, right? With all these wedding expenses coming up …

Man after my heart. OF COURSE WE SHOULD.

I did some research and picked the following cards, getting overly ambitious along the way. My main requirement was that the annual fee had to be waived for the first year and after that it was just a matter of how high the bonuses could be:

1. American Express Business Gold
50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of Card membership.

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Earn 40,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months from account opening

3. Chase Ink Bold
50K Ultimate Rewards bonus points for $5,000 spend (3 months)

4. Citi Hilton Visa
40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after making $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 4 months of opening your account.

5. Marriott Rewards Visa
60,000 bonus points* after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months from account openingĀ  + 1 FREE night stay* (Category 1-4) after account approval

At this point, we have ‘managed to spend’ enough to hit all the Bonus limits on all the cards.

I probably should have been more discriminating in selecting cards for more specific bonuses. At the time, it didn’t matter so much because I didn’t have any plans for them, but now that I’m starting to plot and plan, well, it would have been nice :)

As we’re still working on cleaning up our combined finances and accounts, we’ve decided to cancel a few of our existing cards and are considering keeping one of the above as a replacement. They generally have decent rewards, I don’t like their annual fees, but I’m needing one card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Or at least the “emotional” side of me does. Before I make the call, I’ll have to do the math and see how much I have to save on transaction fees and other benefits – it might not actually be worth it!

My AmEx Starwood is the strong favorite card that I’m keeping as the hotel and hotel–> airfare transfers are great. Typically my rule of thumb is no annual fees, period, but since we redeem for at least a few hundred or more dollars’ worth of hotel stays every year, that offsets the $65 fee pretty handily.

:: What’s your favorite credit card? Why?

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17 thoughts on “App-O-Rama: Making money from credit cards

  1. Just remember that you only make money if you don’t spend money you don’t have. Credit mentality causes problems for too many peoples.

  2. My favorite is my Discover card. It has no annual fees and I’ve had an account since 1989. Back then, there weren’t different kinds of Discover accounts, but now it seems they have an It account and a More account. I may change mine from a More account because the rewards seem better for the It account. (Who names these things?! Or is it only me that finds them ridiculous?) Discover is not accepted outside the US very much, but they are expanding their network and make a point of pointing out they don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

    To help me when I’m traveling outside the US, I opened a Capital One World Mastercard. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, either. It’s a rewards card that pays 1% cash back on groceries and gasoline purchases, so I’ve shifted my spending patterns to pay for those items regularly with this card.

    That’s if for my credit cards. I pay in full every month (of course!), and I really enjoy cash back rewards rather than points because they are so flexible. for me. I just can’t make the time to juggle multiple card programs so I don’t really take advantage of them.
    Linda recently posted…How to survive a Chicago winterMy Profile

    • Discover was my first card ever, I think. Even though I haven’t used it in ten years, I still hold onto it out of sentimentality.
      Those names are silly :) but I may reevaluate them if they’re being accepted more.

  3. Huzzahhh!! My 2 favorites.. couldn’t just choose one.. Are the Chase Sapphire Preferred & Starwood AMEX! With Costco nearby I’m constantly using the Starwood for gas & groceries :D I like the flexibility of the Chase points and we’ve had good experiences redeeming Cash & Points for Starwood. Yay miles and points!!! :D :D :D That reminds me I need to figure out what card to do next.

  4. I have used my B of A Visa for years. About once a year they call me and ask if they can do anything else for me. Last year I requested they raise my limit so I could use it on a shopping trip to purchase furniture and some jewelry. I froze my credit reports several years ago so that I wouldn’t have to worry about identity theft and because I never borrow money. They asked what limit I wanted and raised it accordingly. I pay my balance approximately each week, as I have it linked to my accounts and I refuse to pay interest. However, I do pay for nearly all my expenses with it and they are getting vendor transaction fees each time. I use the rewards for payments on the account when the points become significant. It’s simple as I have it in place and it’s no work for me at all.

    • 100% agree on refusing to pay interest. I’ve maybe been charged interest a few times in the last 15 yrs because I accidentally overlooked a payment but have always had it waived. They get quite a bit of income from the use fees, no need for me to help out with the interest too! :)

  5. I have a CapitalOne cash rewards card – no points or miles – just cash back. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees (that was a big reason I opened this card)

  6. I got the Chase Sapphire card before moving to Tokyo because there are no foreign transaction fees. I always use the points for statement credits and have found that redeeming has been hassle free. Great experience overall.

      • I have the Preferred card. I can’t say that I would have bothered to get this card for life in the US (because I have other cards with no annual fee), but this one has been great for living abroad.

  7. Oh, a full review of my cc’s was on my list for this weekend. :) Must do tonight.

    I love love loved Sapphire Preferred, but then couldn’t justify the annual fee, so downgraded to just Sapphire. I regret it.

    I’ll be doing an app-o-rama soon to try to get more airmiles! I haven’t paid for a US–>NZ flight in years. Well worth it, Round trips are around $3500 NZD now.

  8. Mine? Costco’s cash-back AMEX card, with no annual fee. I want cash dollahs, not “points” or “airline miles.” They mail a check to you; you take it to Costco and either spend it on merchandise there or demand the money. I always ask for the money and then deposit it directly in the bank.

    CitiBank Mastercard also has a cash-back deal, but I think it’s not as generous as the Costco AMEX thing.
    Funny about Money recently posted…A Budget for Retirement: Annual, not Monthly?My Profile

    • I do like the Costco card, it’s one we already have so didn’t list it. Chase also does a decent cash back option on the points.

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