My Chase Freedom Card is currently my credit card of choice. I got a $50 cashback bonus for signing up, there is no annual fee, and every month I get 3% cash back in my top three spending categories and 1% cash back on everything else.
In order to make the most of this program, though, it is important to read the fine print. (Personally, I'm trying to find out which of my credit cards would be best to buy my hardwood floors with to maximize my rewards.) (And yes, I'm going to pay the bill off in full--trying to maximize my rewards would be meaningless if I was just going to turn around and start paying interest on my purchase.)
-Once you've reached $50, you can redeem your cash back--and you actually get money, you don't have to get gift cards or coupons like you do with many other credit card rewards programs. If you prefer gift cards and the like, though, you do have the option of earning points instead, and you can switch back and forth once each billing cycle.
-However, if you have the patience to wait until you've accumulated $200 in cash back, you can get a $50 bonus, or $250 total cash back.
-However, rebates expire 36 months from the month in which they were earned, so if it it takes you too long to reach that $200 threshold, you'll lose cash.
-There are only 15 spending categories, and everything else is considered "other." So if you're planning to make a large purchase and are expecting to get 3% cash back on it, you won't unless it falls into one of these 15 categories:
1. grocery stores (does NOT include warehouse clubs, superstores, or discount stores)
2. gas and convenience stores.
3. quick service payment/fast food restaurants
5. cable/satellite TV providers/Internet service providers
6. movie theaters
7. local and suburban commuter transportation (including ferries, bridges, tolls, parking garages, taxis/limos)
8. video rentals
9. department stores
10. dry cleaners
11. pet supply stores and veterinary services
12. beauty shops (salons and spas)
14. gym/recreation memberships
-The other catch is that the merchant has to have categorized itself in this category with Visa/Mastercard. In my experience, some small retailers, in particular, may not have categorized themselves the way you'd want them to.
-You do not earn rebates or points on balance transfers or cash advances.
-The maximum bonus rebate is $12 per month, or $600 worth of purchases in the top 3 spending categories/3% cash back category. So if you were going to go to a department store and spend $5,000 on new appliances, you won't be getting 3% of that back.
-However, there is no monthly maximum on the 1% back you can earn, including net purchases in bonus categories after you reach the monthly limit. So on that $5,000 appliance purchase, you would get 3% back on $600 and 1% back on $5400. So your total cash back would be $12+$5.40=$17.40.
$17.40 back on $5,000 doesn't really sound like much, does it? But it's about the best you can do these days.
Photo by Ross C.
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