How I've Earned $1250 in Free Money This Year

We often hear about how much money people lose to credit card companies and banks every year due to interest, late charges, overdraft charges, and fees, but did you know that there is a way for you to actually make money from these institutions? Many credit card companies and banks give out opening bonuses and referral fees, and if you have a good credit rating, you'll probably be able to take advantage of most of these offers. The offers change periodically, but I like to keep up with the latest ones by reading My Money Blog. Here are some offers I took advantage of this year that really added up. The only time and effort it cost me to take advantage of these offers was a couple of minutes to fill out a credit card application, a few minutes to follow up and make sure I earned my reward, and a few minutes to cancel the cards and close the accounts that I didn't really want.

1. Rebate Checks from my Citi Dividend Card
My Citi Dividend Card gives me 5% back on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases and 1% back on everything else. Too bad they've discontinued new applications for this card and I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before they cut me off (probably when my card expires next year, if not sooner). Since there's a $50 threshhold to cash out your rebate, I'm not cashing out any longer until my card expires, which will ensure that I get my entire cash back reward and also give me a fat bonus all at once.

2. Redeeming Thank You Points for Gift Cards
When I signed up for the Citi Diamond card, the Citi Professional card (twice), and the Citi AT&T card, I got 10,000 Thank You points for each card, which translated to $400 in gift cards. I chose to redeem my points for gift cards that are as good as cash to me: gas,, and Target. Total: $400

3. Taking Advantage of Credit Protector Freebies
I got $20 for each credit card I have with Chase and a $100 gas rebate certificate through Citi for signing up for credit protection programs. The programs were free for 30+ days, then had a monthly fee of $10-15. I made sure to cancel before the monthly fee kicked in. The credit card companies, of course, are banking on your forgetfulness. Keep a calendar and make some extra cash. Total: $140

4. Sharebuilder Account Opening Bonus
I signed up for Sharebuilder to get their new account promotion. The bonus gave me $65 since I have a Costco membership. If I didn't, I still could have banked $50. Following Jonathan's suggestion, I purchased less than $1 worth of stock, then took my bonus money and ran since I don't invest in individual stocks and certainly don't want to pay $15.95 per trade to sell them.

5. Trade King Account Opening Bonus
I earned $100 for opening an account, moving some money around and placing one trade. Net gain after trading fees: $90

6. ING Referrals
I convinced two friends to open an ING account. Total: $20. If I were a new customer, I also could have gotten $25 for opening an account. (Actually, I got a better, $50 promotion that was being offered when I opened my account a few years ago.)

7. American Express Business Credit Card
Just for opening the card and making a purchase, I got a $250 statement credit. Their customer service got very mad when I took my bonus and canceled the card immediately, but that's not my problem. I just don't feel guilty about taking money from a company that rips off thousands of consumers every year and feels no remorse about it.

8. MBNA $100 Opening Bonus Statement Credit
I made one small purchase, and a $100 statement credit was all mine.

9. Sony Card $100 Statement Credit
Have I mentioned that I love statement credits? They're the shortest path to free money.

All in all, I made about $1250 doing these things, and it was very easy. If you'd like to give it a shot, I recommend creating a spreadsheet to help you keep track of your new cards and accounts, when you opened them, what bonus they are offering, when you should receive the bonus by, and when you need to cancel the card by in order to avoid an annual fee (if there is one). Otherwise, you're likely to forget about one of your accounts and possibly incur some hefty fees. That's what the credit card companies are hoping for, of course, but you're in this game to win it! So keep you eyes peeled for offers, stay on top of your accounts, and beat the credit card companies at their own game.

Photo by evanleavitt


chessiq said...

Very nice blog. Keep up the good work!
I got some gift cards from redeeming capitalone cc rewards points $50 x 6, and opening new bank accounts, $150 x 2. I haven't done as well as you have, but I am pretty pleased with the free money.
Let me go and enjoy some of your other posts ;-)

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