Maximizing Credit Card Rewards: Meeting Minimum Spend, Category Bonus and Holiday gifts for friends and family, all for free!!!

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One rule all travel hackers in this hobby swear by is to spend the least amount of time and money possible to accumulate points. Over the last five months, members of our Facebook community (free and paid) have used a couple of websites to meet the minimum spend on their new cards, meet the 5% category bonus on cards like Discover IT, which has 5% cashback on all Amazon.com and Wholesale Clubs purchases from October – December 2018, accumulate tons of points, and save lot of money on household products they would’ve otherwise purchased. And with Christmas just around the corner, many members nabbed products that would make great and expensive gifts, all for free(or almost free). You can also donate them to a charity.

Ready to jump in?

The two resources we’ve been using are RebateKey (affiliate link) and Extreme Rebates (affiliate link). On these websites, you get product discounts ranging from 50%  ~ 100%. You must be wondering why? The simple answer is, a lot of sellers want to make sure that their product is highlighted on platforms like Amazon, eBay, Overstock, Groupon etc and the fastest way for a product to become popular is through higher sales and user feedback. By providing these discounted, and often free products which you purchase from, say, Amazon, their product gets more hits. The platforms above have different models, but in the end, you get all the benefits.

(1) RebateKey.com

This is perhaps the most polished version of a Rebate website, and most of us have received thousands of dollars in Rebate back. You simply look up the products listed on the website, purchase them at full price (no coupons to be applied), submit the order confirmation number within one hour, and after 35 days, you receive your money towards the order as a check from RebateKey. Yes, that’s it.

I received this check two weeks ago, worth $903.67, and I am all set with gifts for Thanksgiving, Return of the White Elephant, Christmas and also Diwali!

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 11.16.31 AM

It also provides a dashboard of all the checks you’ve received, and future payouts.

RebateKey only has three conditions, and none of them will break your bank –

  1. Buy product at full – price (Do not apply coupons, even if available on Amazon)
  2. Products cannot be resold
  3. Once you click the ‘Buy Product’ button, you have one hour to purchase the product and submit the order number.

How does the math work out?

With my Discover it card, I was able to earn a $75 cashback reward by spending $1,500 on Amazon (via RebateKey) this quarter. So basically, I earned $75 without spending a single cent after receiving my reimbursement check from Rebatekey!

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You can make a better profit (5% cashback – no upper limit!) if you hold the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card by Chase  or the Amazon.com Store Card .

And by using almost any other card, you will accumulate at least 1 point/ $1, so yes, free miles! You could also consider buying Amazon giftcards from grocery stores if your local store offer fuel points ad save more money .

(2) ExtremeRebate.com

The other website we’ve been exploring is ExtremeRebate, which has a greater product range and feature set. A few items require you to write a review in exchange for a rebate, and the more reviews you write, the more products you can request from the website. The sellers also have some control over who they want to give out the product to, and if you have a blank Amazon public profile with no published review, sellers might refuse to send the product to you. Still, worth a try as you don’t pay for requesting products.

Similar to RebateKey, you make a purchase once the seller approves you to buy their product, and enter the order number to begin the rebate process. On the plus side, you receive a rebate within 7 business days of ordering a product. It’s important to note that ExtremeRebate sends the money via PayPal Business, so we bear a cost of 4.4% of the total rebate + 30 cents. Yes, there is a cost involved, but I’ve been able to buy products costing $200 in Home Depot for $9 from ExtremeRebate and receive the money within a week.

How did I maximize these two resources?

  • $75 cashback from Discover it (Earn $50 bonus by using this link) for spending $1500 at Amazon (Bonus Category Changes each quarter)
  • Use Amex Business card like Business blue that earns 2X MR points on first $50k each year or the Amazon Prime card for 3% rewards.
  • Saved $1200 on Holiday gifts and household items I would’ve otherwise spent money on.
  • Meet minimum spend on my AMEX Blue Business Preferred (10k MR sign-up bonus using the link) . This card is awesome as has no annual fees plus 0% introductory APR for 15 months and Chase will not count it towards 5/24 as it is a business card

Let’s get the ball rolling and score Free points and products!

Here are the links (affiliate) for you to get started with these groups –

Rebatekey

Extremerebates

Please consider using our Affiliate links, it helps us support the website and continue to bring such great tips and resources to you.

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Plastiq.com Overview

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In the various forums, groups, blogs, and articles out there revolving around the world of points and miles, Plastiq is often mentioned as one of the tools that can allow an individual to pay a bill with a credit card.  In this post, I’m going to go over the basics of Plastiq, some considerations, and some additional tips on earning extra points through using this service.

plastiq1

What is Plastiq?

Plastiq is a company founded by two college students who in their words “believed that making a payment as important as tuition should be as simple as buying a coffee.”  The website launched in 2015 and since then millions of users have been making monthly payments covering everything from rent, utilities, mortgages, and phone bills to paying for a variety of additional services like contracting and landscaping, as well as the purchasing of goods.

This is done through simply creating an account with Plastiq and entering various credit cards and the billing information of institutions that need to be paid.  Bills can be scheduled in advance or paid immediately.  The overall process is quite simple and while Plastiq often offers promotional deals, the standard fee applied is 2.5%.  Plastiq will charge your credit card and then cut a check (or send an ACH payment) on your behalf.

Why use Plastiq?

For anyone that is hooked into the points game there is this pain felt anytime something is paid for and points are not earned.  One of the most common areas for this (and most individuals’ single largest monthly expenditure) is the home mortgage.  By being able to pay these kinds of bills with a credit card, no longer are these valuable points being left on the table.

What limitations exist?

Just because Plastiq enables the ability to pay virtually any bill doesn’t mean that it is a free-for-all without restrictions.  Currently Plastiq notes that the following payments are not allowed:

  • Payments to friends/family (note that payments for legitimate services from a business run by a friend/family member are fine)
  • Deposits into retirement accounts or other savings plans
  • Payments to be sent outside of the US or Canada
  • Credit card statements

Another item to note is that on occasion Plastiq will require verification of a legitimate recipient.  This issue came up for me when I entered the name of an individual for payment.  This individual has a construction business that is just his name and he had done work on my roof.  I received an e-mail from Plastiq asking for an invoice and I provided the invoice and resolved the issue in under 24 hours.  I have had tenants pay me via Plastiq and they provided a copy of a lease and they too had the issue resolved in under 24 hours.

Plastiq allows Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover to be used on the site, but while Mastercard and Discover can be used for any type of payment, Visa and American Express have the following restrictions:

Visa: can be used for any payee with the sole exception of mortgages

American Express: can be used on the following payee types (from Plastiq’s website) – “Government, Utilities, Education, Residential Rent and Club Fees and Memberships”

Fees and Spend Coding

The overall fee is 2.5% for credit cards and 1% for debit cards.  While I wouldn’t recommend using a debit card on Plastiq, do note that the fee is lower.  Visa, Mastercard, and Amex gift cards CAN be used to pay bills and are treated as credit cards and charged the 2.5% fee.  Occasionally Plastiq offers discounts for specific card types or bill types or for scheduling payments in advance.  Taking advantage of these promotions can add up to a decent amount of savings.

A lot of people ask how these payments code on credit cards (are there category bonus opportunities) and currently I see the payments coding on my cards as “Utilities.”  Up until earlier this month the Citi AT&T Access More was coding as 3x, but that seems to have fallen off.  At this point, it COULD be reinstated, but I’d personally bet against that.

Plastiq also offers a referral bonus program where users can refer others and earn $1,000 fee-free dollars for themselves and $500 fee-free dollars for the new user.

Maximizing Value

Folks that are newer to the points and miles game might look at a 2.5% fee and view that as a losing proposition up against a card only earning 1 or 2x on the transaction.  Like most things in this world, “it depends.”  If you are using a straight cash back card, then yes, you are absolutely losing money.  In this instance, avoid using Plastiq.

However, for cards that earn airline or transferable points, even a 1x earn rate can be lucrative if you are able to redeem those points for greater than $0.025 each.  Many premium cabin redemptions using Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG, or Thank You points can easily top $0.10 per point.  Another consideration is using Plastiq to hit the spend necessary to trigger the sign-up bonus.  This is a great way to knock out an extra thousand dollars that would otherwise be inaccessible to hitting the credit card.

Lastly, my favorite way to utilize Plastiq is to pay bills by liquidating gift cards.  I purchase gift cards using my Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Cash at office supply stores in order to earn 5x points and thus am effectively earning 5x on the payment of a mortgage.

Hypothetical Annual Earning 

Looking at monthly expenses that can’t typically be paid by credit card, we can get a sense of the value that Plastiq can add.

 Expense Monthly Amount
Mortgage/Rent $1,500
Utilities $250
Car Payment $400

This comes to a monthly total of $2,150, which on an annual basis can give you the following based on these respective earn rates:

1x : 25,800

2x : 51,600

3x : 77,400

5x : 129,000

At 2.5% in fees on $2,150 per month, the annual total in fees is $645.  The ability to purchase 5x gift cards at break-even or even negative cost can greatly bulk up that earning power and with close to 130K in points just from paying bills is enough for a first class ticket anywhere in the world.

Bottom Line

Plastiq is a great option to pay bills on a wide range of services and also offers a very reasonable fee for the service.  This can allow for a boost to the monthly points accrual, creating significant value provided solid redemptions are made.  One thing to remember is that while Plastiq does offer reasonable fees, there are some specialized payment services that do beat them.  For example, I had been paying my power bill via Plastiq until I realized that my power company charges a flat $1.65 to pay direct on their website (up to $1000 per payment).  As always, do your homework and know that Plastiq is a great additional tool to have in your points earning arsenal.

In the interest of full disclosure, we will earn a referral bonus for anyone that is approved from the link above.  These are publicly available offers and all claims made in this post as of the posting date can be found in the offer language for the card.  We only provide the best publicly available offers and thank you for your continued support.

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Here Are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards And How To Maximize Their Benefits

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No matter how much we love the rewards from Airlines and Hotel programs, “Cash is King”. There are many cards in the market that offer Cashback as a reward for your spends.

Here is a quick comparison of all the popular Cashback credit cards available.

Cashback on purchases 5% Rotating Categories? Annual Fee Redemption Options
Consumer Cards
Citi Double Cash 2% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Chase Freedom 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it Miles 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
American Express Blue Cash Everyday 3% cash back at US supermarkets,
2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $0 Statement Credit
American Express Blue Cash Preferred 6% cash back at US supermarkets,
3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $95 Statement Credit
Bank of America Cash Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Bank of America Premium Rewards 1.5 – 3.5% No $95 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Capital One Quick Silver card 1.5% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card 3% First year, 2.5% after No $0 for first year and $59 after that Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Small Business Cards
Capital One Spark Cash 2% No $0 for first year and $95 after that Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Cash Select 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Classic 1% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services.
2% cashback at Gas Stations and Restautants
1% cashback on other purchases
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards, Better value by redeeming for Travel
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at Restaurants and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card 5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose and 1% on all other purchases No $0 Statement Credit
  • Citi Double Cash Credit card:

Citi DoubleCash

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback when you buy and an additional 1%  cashback when you pay for the purchases.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited:

Freedom Unlimited

$0 Annual fee and earns 1.5% cashback on all purchases.

  • Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback on all purchases. You can also earn 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in combines purchases.

chase 5%

5% Cashback calendar for Chase Freedom card holders

  • Discover it:

Discover it

$0 Annual fee and earns 1% cashback on all purchases. You could also earn                         5% cashback on purchases when you activate and spend at different places that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in purchases.

Discover 5%

Discover 5% Cashback calendar for 2018

For the first year of card membership, Discover will match the Cashback.

Also, when redeeming your cashback, Discover offers the option of buying various merchant Gift cards at a discounted price.

Discover_Gift_Cards

Some of the gift cards you could buy with your Discover Cashback

  • Discover it Miles:

Discover it Miles

Even though this card is called as Miles card, it is effectively a cashback card that 1.5% on all purchases.

Similar to Discover it card, your rewards will be matched by Discover at the end of your first year membership.

  • American Express Blue cash Everyday:

Blue Cash Everyday

3% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  • American Express Blue cash Preferred:

BLuecash Preferred

6% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$95 Annual fee

  • Bank of America Cash Rewards:

BankofAmerica Cash Rewards

1% cash back on purchases everywhere, every time, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/ wholesale club/ gas purchases each quarter.

No annual fee

Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

  • Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card:

BofA Premium Rewards

2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

$95 Annual fee

Preferred Rewards customers get an additional 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase

BofA Preferred

Three tiers of Bank of America relationship

If you could maintain a balance of over $100K+, you can enjoy 75% rewards bonus for being a Platinum Honors member. That means you could earn up to 3.5 % per $1 on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 % per $1 on all other purchases.

Remember this is tax season, you could pay taxes using credit card using services like Pay1040.com for a fee of 1.87%. When you compare 1.87% fee with the possibility of earning of 2.62% cashback, you could make money on your tax payments.

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card:

Cash Wise

Unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on net purchases

$0 Annual fee

  • US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card:

US bank Cash+

5%cashback on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose.

2% cashback on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% on all other net purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  •   Capital One Quicksilver card
   Capitalone Quick Silver

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

$0 Annual fee

  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit card:

Alliant

Earn 3% cashback on all purchases during the first year of membership and 2.5% after that

$59 annual fee, waived for the first year

 

Small Business Credit cards

If you own a small business, you could get one of the small business credit cards that earns Cashback.

 

  • Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

There are three variants of this card and offers varying amounts of cashback.

Capitalone business

Three variants of Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

  • Chase Ink Business Cash Credit card

chase Ink

Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.

Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn

No Annual fee

 

  • American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit card

Amex Business card

5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose. On purchases up to $50,000 at 5% and 3% per calendar year, then 1%

No Annual fee

 

How to maximize the benefits?

All the above mentioned cards offer cash back on all purchases ranging from 1-3.5% on all purchases. However, there are a few cards that offer additional cashback on purchases that falls in specific categories like Gas stations, Grocery stores etc..

For example, Discover it and Chase Freedom card offers 5% cashback on rotating categories that change every quarter. You could earn 5% cashback on  up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate.

Here are a few tips you could consider to maximize the

  1. Purchase Gift cards – Many Grocery stores sell gift cards of various merchants like Restaurants, Gas stations, Amazon, prepaid visa/Master gift cards etc. You could purchase gift cards and buy stuff from that merchant, effectively earning 5% cashback on that purchase.
  2.  Many gas stations also sell gift cards and could be a great opportunity to maximize your purchases.
  3. If you purchase regularly, you may consider stocking up the gift cards of that merchant for future use or you could buy items in bulk for future use.

Which cashback credit card do you hold and how do you maximize the benefits?

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