I am a big fan of cash back credit cards for good reason: this past year I’ve gotten back $1,294.18 from my two personal credit cards. Both cards have no annual fee and I pay my balances off every month and pay no interest charges. We are moving away from cash payments with our spending today and so it makes sense to get cash back on money you would have spent anyways.
This has certainly been a big spending year, with our wedding last October and a trip to Europe this August. Additionally, we spent over $20,000 in renovations and furnishings for our two new Airbnb properties in Hot Springs. You can check out our listings here: The Owl House and The Boho Loft. So, all the spending adds up.
Two Percent Cash Back
There are a lot of cards that offer 1 to 1.5% cash back, and those should be pretty easy to find. Today’s top cards offer 2% cash back, and there’s a good list of 2% cards on the Nerdwallet site. I’ve had the Fidelity Rewards Visa Card for years. It has no annual fee and gives me 2% cash back, deposited automatically into a Fidelity brokerage account each month. I can then transfer the cash out to my checking at any time. (My brokerage accounts are all at TD Ameritrade – I only keep the cash back at Fidelity.)
I don’t really worry about the interest rates on these cards since I never carry a balance. If you do have a balance, you’re probably better off finding a zero-interest balance transfer card and working on paying off your principal. I do prefer a card with no annual fee. And I’m not a big fan of hotel points or airline miles. I know others who are loyal to one airline and prefer an airline credit card, but I believe the airlines have made it harder to redeem points in recent years. (If you’ve had a great – or a terrible – experience with airline cards, I’d love to hear about it. Please send me a message.)
I’ve also had a Discover Card since 1999. It provides 1% cash back on everything and 5% cash back on a category that changes each quarter. So, I use my Visa for most purchases and the Discover card for the 5% categories. Here is the 5% Cashback calendar for 2022:
- January-March: Grocery Stores and Gym Memberships
- April-June: Gas Stations and Target
- July-September: Restaurants and PayPal
- October-December: Amazon and Digital Wallets
I don’t spend as much on Discover, except for the 5% categories. Customer service at Discover has been excellent.
Store 5% Cards
There are a number of store-branded credit cards which offer 5% discounts or credits. These may not be cash back, but if you frequent these stores, they may be a better deal than your 2% cash back credit card. Presently, the only one I have is the Target Red Card. The Red Card gives me an instant 5% discount off my purchases at Target. I set up the card to autopay from my checking each month and don’t think about it after that.
I’m also looking at three other 5% store cards. The Lowe’s Advantage Card gives a 5% discount on purchases. That’s definitely worth it if you are doing some big projects. Please note that if you get the 10% Military discount at Lowe’s (like my Dad), you cannot stack the 5% on top of the Military discount. However the 5% discount will apply to appliances, unlike the Military discount.
The second card I would consider is the TJX Rewards Card which offers 5% back in certificates to use at the store on future purchases. The card and rewards can be used at TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, or Marshalls. We’ve spent a bit there in the past year, but I’m not sure we need it going forward.
And third is the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa. It offers 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods, plus 2% back on restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores. There’s 1% back on everything else, and no annual fee as long as you are already an Amazon Prime member. This one may make the most sense for us, given how much we use Amazon.
Cash Back Credit Cards are a good deal for consumers. I’ve been getting 2-5% cash back on my spending for years, and it helps. I’ve also added a 1.5% cash back card for my business this year, which I probably should have done years ago! Some people are worried that opening new credit cards will hurt their credit score, but this will probably have little or no effect. And if you aren’t planning to buy a house soon, you shouldn’t worry at all.
It pays to do a little research and find the right card for you. Over time, cash back cards put money back into your wallet. And then you can contribute more to your Roth IRA like I’ve been suggesting, right? Helping you become intentional with your money goals is important to me, even if it is something as small as which credit card you use. Little decisions create good habits that keep you moving forward.