The $500 Cash Back Strategy

We let the cash back rewards accumulate on our accounts throughout the year or bi-yearly and buy something nice (and usually needed) or pay down balances with it.

Through normal, mostly budgeted purchases, we end up with $500 or more in cash back rewards for a year!

Here's the strategy that we use to get to $500 or more in cash back rewards!

Our cash back total is actually closer to $1000 for 2016 by doing the following!

  • We use our American Express card for grocery purchases only.  We can get 6% cash back on grocery purchases up to $6,000.  The key here is to not use the cards at other places that count against the $6,000 rewards limit.  The yearly fee is $95.  This leaves a net balance of $265 cash back on groceries.
  • We use the PenFed Visa rewards card for fuel purchases only.  At 5% on fuel purchases we get around $120 cash back on gas over the course of a year.
  • We use a Chase Ink card for paying utilities such as internet, TV, and cell phone and get 5% cash back.  This comes out to around $150 for the year.
  • We use Discover card and a Citi cash back cards for other purchases and they give 5% cash back on rotating categories quarterly.  The cash back here is usually around $300 combined over the year.
  • By using eBates (browser extension available) for online shopping, we get around $100 cash back.
  • By using apps (browser extensions) like Honey and WikiBuy we get another $50 or so off at checkout when shopping online.

If you have issues with overspending on credit cards, have credit card debt, or other annoying consumer debt then this will not work for you.  You may be able to get a nice balance but you’re losing in other areas by paying interest.  You need to focus on getting getting back into the black!

If you are good with the plastic and don’t carry a balance then you can make this work.  You have to treat the cards as if they’re cash and be sure not to overspend.  If you’re spending thinking “Well, the more I spend then the more cash back I’ll get!”, that’s the wrong mindset.  You must only use the cards for ‘normal’ budgeted purchases!

There’s the argument that you spend more with cards and it is easy to do but with the right budget (plan in place) and accountability, you can pull it off.

You could start by sticking to groceries, utilities, and fuel especially if you drive enough.  This would lessen the risk of rogue purchases with more cards.

I’m sure there are other cards and options out there for decent rewards.  I would stick with 2 or 3 primary and use them strategically where they give you the most cash back.  This also depends on the size of your family and what you deem as normal purchases.

Do you have any favorite ways to accumulate cash back?  What do you think about using credit cards primarily as a tool for this?