Credit, Personal Finance 
15
comments

My Credit Card Strategy

Every savvy consumer these days should have several credit cards with each card earmarked for specific spend purposes based on their rewards programs. With the ever changing landscape of offers, it is impossible to find all of that in one single card. For me, I had the Citi Platinum Select, the American Express Costco True Earnings for 2% on travel and 1% at Costco (Costco only takes debit or Amex), and Citi mtvU for 5% for restaurants, bookstores (Amazon.com counts), record stores, movie theaters, and video rentals. After Citi ended the Dividend Select’s 5% on gas stations and supermarkets, I swapped that card out with the Citi Drivers Edge Card because it’ll give me 6% at gas stations and supermarkets for 12 months.

How you structure your strategy depends on how you spend and I know that I spend a lot on gasoline and supermarket purchases (6% Citi Drivers Edge) and on textbooks and eating out (5% Citi mtvU) so I found cards that gave me high returns. You will have to build your strategy based on your specific needs but below I’ve listed cards that give off the beaten track cashback rewards so that you can build your strategy. (All cards below have $0 annual fees, unless otherwise noted) If I’ve missed a good card that you currently use or know of, please do let me know!

Also very much worth reading, Samerwriter goes one step further in discussing his strategy, he tracks his spending and his % cash back and discusses his numbers.

If you’re looking to pick the best card for your spending, check out this list of the best cash back and reward credit cards currently available.


 Credit 
9
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Discover Gas Card Limiting Cash Rewards

Is it me or have many of the 5% cash back credit cards begun to scale back their promotional offers? First, AT&T Universal Cash Rewards gets shut down (many of their customers never received the letter). Then, Citi Dividend Platinum Select decides to end the 5% promotion (I never got that letter) and scaling it down. Now the Discover Open Road Card, which offers 5% on gas and automobile related purchases, will be reducing their rewards as well. Now, the Discover Gas Card will only return 5% for the first $1,200 in gas and automobile purchases and 1% thereafter.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Credit, Education, Personal Finance 
22
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Citi mtvU Grade Points Redemption Form

One of the great things about the Citi mtvU card is that you get Thank You points for good grades. One of the bad things is that in order to get the form, you need to scour the web to find someone who has scanned it or you call them up and they fax it to you. This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else, I’m tired of looking for the form so after I found it on Fatwallet, I’m posting it here.

mtvU Card’s Grade Points Redemption Form (PDF)

Here’s what you get for what grade:
Earn up to 2,000 ThankYou Points twice a year for having a good GPA
GPA = ThankYou Points
2.50 – 2.99 = 250
3.00 – 3.49 = 500
3.50 – 3.99 = 750
4.0 = 2,000


 Credit 
17
comments

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card Closing Too!

Wonderful, frickin’ wonderful Citi… first you close my #1 cash back card, the AT&T Universal Cash Rewards, and now the word on the street, including contact with customer service representatives and summaries from letters, is that the Citi Dividend Platinum Select card is closing too? And I just got the Dividend Platinum Select card a month ago… my credit history must be loving all this action.

Not only that, but there’s talk that it’s a move towards ending cash back cards and forcing everyone towards slightly devalued points so theoretically all cash back cards are at risk. Plus, the Citi Dividend card is going to lose some of it’s reward bite – 2% instead of 5% on your purchases at gas stations, supermarkets, and drug stores (though they added utilities). Allegedly, all of this will be effective October 13th, 2006.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Credit, Personal Finance 
11
comments

I Don’t Know If I Like The Citi mtvU Card

The Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card I applied for about a week ago came in today and along with it a directory of services. The card itself is part of the ThankYou Network program that Citi runs where you get points, instead of straight cash back, and it comes with a few perks you don’t usually see with a student card but I don’t know if I really like it…

PS. While this was a student card, I had to provide no verification that I actually was a student at Johns Hopkins though I don’t know if they called the registrar (I highly doubt it).

I mentioned last week that you get points for doing well in school, the official breakdown is:
GPA 2.5 – 2.99 = 250 points/semester
GPA 3.0 – 3.49 = 500 points/semester
GPA 3.5 – 3.99 = 750 points/semester
GPA 4.0 = 1,000 points/semester

Let’s say you’re a consistent 3.5 student, you would earn 1,500 points plus 300 on-time payment points automatically each year. That’s worth a $10 gift card each year to almost anywhere in the ThankYou Network just for using that card.

Now, you can get 5% points at a lot of various places (notably, movie theaters and bookstores) but you have to trade them in on a rate of 1,500 points to basically a $10 gift card. That means you conversion from dollars spent to actual gift card dollars is $150 to $1, or 0.66% “cashback.” So it’s a terrible card for anything you can get 1% back on a regular cashback card. At 5% cashback, you’re looking at a 3.3% rebate rate in the form of a gift card which is only 0.3% better than my American Express True Earnings Costco card.

Did you sign up because you’d get 5% back from Amazon? Go with an an Amazon card instead if you don’t mind getting Amazon gift certificates because you get a $30 coupon and 3% from purchases on Amazon anyway.

I suppose I can always just keep the card and get a $10 gift card each year… almost not worth the hassle of keeping it around.

Update: I take it back, I didn’t realize or know that you could get $25 towards your student loans for 2,500 points and since I have a lot of student loans, this puts the card back on track for 5% cashback. Thank you Miller and Brian.


 Credit, Shopping 
4
comments

Citi mtvU Platinum Select Offers 5% Rewards

In my wallet sit two credit cards that I use: AT&T Universal Cash Rewards card that gives me 5% at gas stations, supermarkets and drugstores; and an American Express Costco card that gives me 3% at restaurants and 2% for any travel purchases. Welcome Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students with 5% back on “restaurants, bookstores, record stores, movie theaters, and video rentals.” It’s a student card but I’m a student at Johns Hopkins so I hope that qualifies me. The best part is that Amazon.com is considered a bookstore so you get 5% on those purchases too, better than Amazon’s own credit card!

Here are some of the specifics:

Through the reward program, cardholders earn one point for general purchases and five points for every dollar spent at restaurants, bookstores, record stores, movie theaters, and video rentals. The program also awards 25 points when payments are made on time and spending does not surpass the credit limit. Twice per year, anywhere between 250 and 2,000 points may be awarded dependent on the student’s GPA (beginning at 2.5). These points can be redeemed for gift cards, CDs, a VIP mtvU Spring Break Pass, tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards, and airline tickets. There is a 75,000 yearly limit to the number of points that can be earned, and points will expire in five years. (more details)

No annual fee too (a pre-requisite for all credit cards nowadays).


 Frugal Living 
7
comments

How To Get 5% Cash Back At Home Depot

Waiting in the checkout line of my local Giant, I saw that they were heavily pushing gift cards including Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, and some local restaurants like a Bennigan’s. For those of you wanting to get the most cash back for your buck, get a 5% cashback at supermarkets credit card, buy a giftcard to a place you were already going to spend money, and use that instead of usual 1% cashback card. Instant 5% cashback.

I wouldn’t go to the grocery store specifically to get a Home Depot $50 gift card but if I happened to go there before a trip to HD, you’ll make a lot of those when you buy a house, then I might pick it up. (not worth the effort to make an extra trip…)

Any think of a reason why this wouldn’t work?


 Credit 
4
comments

SmartMoney Credit Card Picks (vs. Mine)

This month’s issue of SmartMoney magazine has a section all about credit cards and their picks and runner ups depending on what you’re spending on. As usual, I disagreed with some of their picks, you’ll probably disagree with their picks too, and I have pretty good reasons why they’re off-target. They broke their picks up into what you get as rewards from the card: Rewards (products), Travel, Cash-Back, and Low-Interest cards; which I think the wrong way to go about it. However, I’ll follow their paradigm in countering their picks.

Category: Rewards
SmartMoney Pick: American Express Preferred Rewards (Green)
SmartMoney Runner-Up: Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards
They picked the AMEX Preferred Rewards because the award values work out to be 1% of spending, so if you spend $10,000 then you’ll essentially get enough points to get a product worth $100 (that’s $100 retail by the way). The runner up is a card that my girlfriend uses, the Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards where you get rewards at a rate higher than 1%, there isn’t an annual fee and you get 5x that at supermarkets, gas stations, and drugstores. With the AMEX’s annual fee of $110, I don’t understand why they received top billing. I don’t see the point of a rewards card when there are cash-back cards available. It’s as if someone forced you to spend your cash-back, so you don’t actually get… cash… back.
Blueprint Pick: Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards

Category: Travel
SmartMoney Pick: Citi PremierPass Mastercard
SmartMoney Runner-Up: MBNA WorldPoints Visa
This category is for cards that let you convert points into generic airline frequent flyer miles you can apply to any airline. It’s a step above airline-branded reward cards but again you are dinged an annual fee and the rewards are still around 1%, with 3% on travel related expenses. Their runner up has no reward fee and earns a little more than 1%, but I suspect the manner in which you spend the points is more restricted.
Blueprint Pick: Bleach, no pick, I think these are worse than the rewards cards because you have to spend it on travel.

Category: Cash Back
SmartMoney Pick: Citi Dividend Platinum Select Mastercard
SmartMoney Runner-Up: Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards Visa
These are the moneymakers – cashback! With the Citi Platinum Select, you get a minimum 1% with 5% at supermarkets, gas stations, and drugstores. The only downer is that there’s an annual cap of $300 in rewards (which is really $30,000 anywhere or $6,000 at supermarkets/gas/drugstores) but there isn’t an annual fee. This is the card that I use for my gasoline purchases which is crucial these days with skyrocketing prices, 5% back is a solid amount.
Blueprint Pick: Citi Dividend Platinum Select Mastercard

I skipped the Low-Interest category because I know nothing about it (I never carry a balance, never ever). However, if you’re interested their top pick is MBNA Motley Fool Low Purchase APR and the runner up is the Pulaski Bank of Little Rock Visa Classic. Check those out if you need a low interest credit card but you can usually find a 0% balance transfer if you’re lucky elsewhere, can’t beat 0%.

One of these days they should do an analysis of credit cards from the other side – what card to use on what kind of spending to get the maximum cashback. For me, that’s using an American Express True Earnings card for all travel expenses (3%) and at Costco (1%, but the only card other than a debit card that they accept); Citi Dividend Platinum Select card at supermarkets, gas stations and drugstores (5%), and my Southwest Rapid Rewards (read my analysis of it’s value here) for everything else.


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