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How I’ve Earned Over $600 in Cash Back Using My Credit Card

See that picture above? That’s a real screenshot from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. Those are all the points I’ve received and redeemed since opening my Chase Freedom credit card in August 2014. The math is pretty simple, $1 = 100 points. In two years I’ve managed to get $600 cash back on just this one credit card. And I have a total of three credit cards, all of which are cash back credit cards which I use pretty evenly.

If you’ve never been convinced that cash back cards are a great way to save money, I assure you they are, IF you use them properly.

So how did I personally use my Chase Freedom card to earn so much cash back?

It’s pretty simple. Chase Freedom already offers pretty solid rewards right up front. Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases. This made it really easy for me to get a little discount on my everyday purchases. That 1% really builds up over time. But the real MVP is category rewards. The key is by using the right credit card at the right time, I’ve optimized my spending to give me the most rewards.

With the Chase Freedom card you can get an extra 5% cash back on rotating categories, up to $1,500 in combined purchases, every three months. Meaning if your normal spending were to max out your category rewards every quarter, you would have an extra $300 a year. Remember this is 5% is extra cash back. It’s on top of the 1% base they already offer on everything. Really you’re getting a whopping 6% on category purchases. That’s huge.

When I opened my Chase Freedom card, they also gave me a huge cash back bonus right up front. Right now Chase Freedom will give you $150 (15,000 points) if you’re a new customer and spend just $500 on in your first 3 months of account opening. On top of that, they’re also offering 0% interest free APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. On top of on top of that, this card has no annual fee! Sounds pretty good to me.

Chase Freedom® Sign up and earn $150 with your new Chase Freedom card

  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic.

But I’m not planning to stop at the $600 mark. In fact, I plan to get even more cash rewards this year without changing my spending habits at all. How?

While category-based cash back cards do offer great useful category bonuses such as groceries, gas, restaurants, and online shopping, they rotate. Meaning you’ll find that you’ll get more cash back on some quarters than other quarters, depending on your spending habits. This is why I’m also looking to get the Discover it card.

This card is just like the Chase Freedom card in almost every way. Really, they could be brothers. Discover it also offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a 5% cash back on top for bonus categories up to $1500 every quarter. It also has no annual fee and Discover is currently offering no interest on purchases or balance transfers for the first 12 months of account opening.

As I mentioned earlier, the key to use the credit card at the right time to optimize your rewards. Both Chase Freedom and Discover it offer great category rewards based on an annual schedule. But the kicker is their schedules don’t always match up.

If you’re a foodie like me and enjoy dining and eating out, you might find the restaurants category to be particularly useful. The Discover it had restaurants and movies as its bonus category through the end of June. But the Chase Freedom card, has restaurants as its category from July through September. By having both the Freedom and the Discover it card, you can potentially enjoy rotating categories for up to half a year! That’s 6% cash back on your favorite categories for 6 months instead of just 3!

Of course if you have a category you really like and might max out, if they fall on the same quarter, you can split your utilization between the two. You’ll not only get more rewards but also keep your balances and credit healthy. Discover it will help monitor your credit by including a monthly FICO credit score with your statement.

The Discover it card is offering a slightly different sign-up bonus right now than the Chase Freedom and honestly, I personally think it’s better. Discover it will automatically double all your cash back at the end of the first year. Yup. Everything you earned in cash back the first year, Discover it will match that at the end if you’re a new customer. If you earned $200 worth of rewards in one year, you’ll get another $200 through their Cashback MatchTM. If you earned $600…that $600 becomes $1200.

Discover it® - Cashback Match Double your cash back at the end of the year with Discover it

  • Earn 5% cash back now at Amazon.com, Department Stores, and Sam's Club on up to $1,500 in purchases through Dec 31st when you activate. Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

The combination of these two category cash back cards will save you literally hundreds of dollars per year. And the wonderful thing is that they both provide you pure rewards without worry about an annual fee that eats up those earnings. If you already have the Chase Freedom Card, consider adding the Discover it card to your combo set, or vice versa. If you have neither, I actually suggest starting with the Discover it card. At the time I got my Freedom Card, Discover had not started offering its Cashback Match. But I’ve got to say, it’s current Cashback Match for new members is just too good of a deal to miss out on. Take advantage of it before it’s gone!

 

How to Maximize Your Cash Back

Cash Back Rate
Annual Fee
Credit Required
1.
up to 5%
$0
Excellent/Good
2.
up to 10%
$0
Excellent/Good
3.
Pay attention to the rotating 5% categories to maximize your cash back

How to Maximize
Your Cash Back

Cash Back Rate
Annual Fee
Credit Required
up to 5%
$0
Excellent/Good
Cash Back Rate
Annual Fee
Credit Required
up to 10%
$0
Excellent/Good

3.

Pay attention to the rotating 5% categories to maximize your cash back