Credit-Card Genius
Maximizing Your Cash-Back and Benefits
Last published on Jan 2, 2019 by Koshy John

Calling this out before you go any further: This post is U.S.-centric and may not have much value for people outside the U.S. It is also a work in progress and will evolve over time. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

Over the past several years, a few of my friends and I have been optimizing the return on our spending habits by establishing a set of the best cards we've researched and then matching specific spends against the most optimal card in the set. We've each saved thousands of dollars along the way thanks to this. Since I often get asked about these strategies, I've decided to create a compile around my favorite cards to point people to. And since this knowledge is useful to a much wider set of people than just who I know - I'm making this available to everyone here!

What you'll see below is just the tip of the iceberg in what you can accomplish and you may soon want to read more advanced blogs around the internet to really get into the game.

Your Spending Profile

This post as-is is primarily biased towards people who have a spending profile something similar to the following:

  • Flies domestically and/or internationally at least once a year
  • Has a grocery + Amazon spend of around $500 a month or more.
  • Dines out a sizable amount in a year

You may have to look at the motivations behind getting each of the cards below and evaluate if they are the best for your general spending patterns. But in any case, it should set you thinking!

An important thing to note is that this is completely about cash-back and benefits. We fastidiously pay off our accumulated balances before any interest accrues (often once a week habitually), so the interest rates of the cards are not given any consideration in this analysis.

Show Me The Money!

A Couple of Things

Please note that the rewards listed against the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Freedom cards are marked 50% higher as transferring the reward points over to the Reserve card before spending it on travel nets you 50% more.

If you're not into travel and dining at all, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may not make a whole lot of sense for you. And consequently you should also ditch the Chase Freedom Unlimited in favor of the CapitalOne Venture (which is also a travel rewards card but is more flexible on the points spend).

American Express Blue Cash Preferred is a no-brainer if you spend more than $200 a month on groceries and Amazon purchases combined (~$200 is the break even point where the card pays for itself over a 2% card).

Some other things you'll notice are that you can get yourself up to 2 yrs of additional warranty on products purchased with the Blue Cash Preferred (but you'll have to see if the cost of a warranty extension is less than the additional cash-back you gave up). Amex also has great seasonal offers like $30 back on $300 at BestBuy, 10% back up to $200 with you internet and cellular provider, etc.

Referral Links

You can apply directly for any of the cards above, but if you use one of the referral links below, apply and get approved, I'll get credited an amount (disclosed against each card) with no consequence to your own rewards (or, as an important note, your privacy).

Earn a $250 bonus with American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($75 referral benefit)

Earn a $150 bonus with Chase Freedom Unlimited. Learn More. ($100 referral benefit)

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