Best Cash Back Credit Cards

A few years ago, cash back credit cards were everywhere. Today, the offers are harder to find as company hunker down and deal with the financial crisis we’re facing. Despite the economic climate, cash back credits are still out there and you can still get a little cash back on your purchases.

How do cash back credit cards work? Each credit card company does it differently but the basic idea is the same. Every time you make a purchase with the credit card, your cash back or rewards account goes up in value. When you reach a certain threshold, you can cash out your cash back. Some companies will write you a check (Citi), while others will directly credit your account balance.

Is cash back worth the hassle? The answer is it depends. Some cards offer high cash back percentages on certain purchases and you can optimize your cash back by using several cards. Many of the best credit cards have rewards. I don’t recommend using more than two or three cards because the return on your time will decrease as you get more cards (you may find it helps to write down the cash back categories on the card itself).

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Buy Costco Gas without Costco Membership

Costco Gas StationsCostco has since closed this loophole so you’ll need a Costco Membership to get gas there.

A friend of mine just tipped me off on this trick where you can buy gas at Costco without a Costco membership. All you have to do is swipe an American Express card first, when you would normally swipe your membership card, and then swipe it again for payment. Afterwards, it will let you buy the sweet sweet nectar of condensed dinosaur bones at rock bottom prices without the $50/year membership. It’s that simple.

Normally, you have to swipe your Costco Card or the American Express Costco TrueEarnings card in order to authenticate in their gas station systems. It appears that you can simply use any American Express card in the authentication phase because the American Express Costco TrueEarnings card is just an AMEX with a Costco bar code.

I’ve confirmed that this works in Maryland and others have reported success in other states (except those that require an attendant to pump your gas, like New Jersey and Oregon). Locate a Costco nearby (check to make sure it has a Gas Station) and give it a try, Costco gas is usually many cents cheaper than local competitors.

(Photo by shindohd)

 Personal Finance 

Five Accounts You Absolutely Must Have (And Four You Don’t)

There are five finance related accounts in the personal finance world that I think every single person must have and they should get it as soon as possible. They run the gamut of the obvious, an accessible checking account, to the not so obvious, a high yield savings account (as surprising as it sounds, this is not obvious to most people because they are amazed when I tell them you can get 5% from a regular savings account). So, please enjoy this list of five accounts you absolutely must have and three that you absolutely must avoid.

These Five Accounts You Absolutely Must Have

1. High Yield Online Savings Account

Number one definite must have account is a high yield savings account getting you at least 4%, at the very very least. If you assume inflation at around 3%, anything less and you’re losing money. Take your pick of ING Direct, FNBO Direct, Emigrant Direct, Citi, and you’ll get over 4%. My recommendation is that if you have a Citi or an HSBC bank account, go with one of them because your transfers will be instant between accounts. If you don’t, I use FNBO Direct but both they and HSBC offer 5.05% APY.

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Reward Credit Cards – What’s in My Wallet?

Every year around this time, I don’t re-evaluate my reward credit cards but since a whole bunch of other bloggers do, I figured I might as well do the same. My basic strategy is that I don’t really want to use more than three or four credit cards and each one of the cards has to serve a distinct purpose in order to make it into my wallet. Here are the three that currently make the cut and why:

1. Citi mtvU Platinum Select – For Movies & Restaurants
Usually a points credit card is a deal breaker for me, I prefer cash all the way, but I can convert Thank You Reward Points into payments towards my student loan debt so for the benefits I let this one slide. I chose the Citi mtvU card because it offered 5% cash back on bookstores ( included), restaurants, and movies. The mtvU card also has the added benefit of giving me points for good grades and paying my bill on time.

3. Citi Platinum Select MasterCard – For Supermarkets
Speaking of the Platinum Select card, I keep this in my wallet because it still offers 2% on supermarkets and drugstores (better than nothing I suppose) and because there really is no reason to cancel the card.

4. American Express TrueEarnings Costco Card – For Everything Else
I shop at Costco when I can and the only cards they accept are debit cards and their own American Express. This card doesn’t have an annual fee if you’re a Costco member (I don’t see a reason why you’d get it if you weren’t) and it gives you 1% on everything payable annually. It’s really just my catch-all card when I don’t get bonuses on anything else.

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