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Finances & Money

How much did I earn on credit card rewards in 2009?

I recently upgraded from Quicken 2007 to Quicken 2010, and in the process, I decided to clean up some categories to see how much I’ve earned in credit card rewards last year.

Here’s how it broke down:

  • Chase Platinum Visa: $391.18 (I’ve considered trying out the Chase FreedomSM though)
  • Discover More(SM) Card: $100.00
  • Citibank: $57.01
  • Discover Business Card: $13.00
  • Pentagon Federal Visa Platinum: $3.03 (just got the card in December, but it’s my new favorite card)

Total Earned in 2009: 564.22

Wow, that’s a lot of cash back for buying things I was already going to buy. And the cool thing? I didn’t have to spend a penny in interest to any of these card companies! Because we pay off our balance in full each month on all our cards, we never get hit with interest on our balance. It’s certainly one benefit of being debt free!

Now I will admit that I don’t really try to optimize our spending based on the categories on each card, but I do try to remember which card pays the highest percentage in our common categories. For instance, I used my Chase card for gas purchases (3%) except when Discover offered 5% during its rotating categories periods, and now I use the PenFed card since it offers 5% on gas all the time. But sometimes I forget the Discover categories, or we go somewhere that should be covered in their 5% category, but they don’t take Discover. I don’t plan my purchases around my cashback options, but I do consider the options.

How do you use your rewards cards and how much did you earn last year?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I use the Schwab Cash Rewards Visa that pays 2% cash back on all purchases with no limits. For 2009, I earned about $370 for making purchases that I had already planned to make. For any large purchases, I make sure that I use the card for it and then pay it in full the following month. I didn’t pay them a dime in interest either and the card has no annual fee.

  • I use the Chase Freedom and Discover cards as well and pretty much use them like you do Clevr Dude. I try to utilize the Chase for most purchases except when I know that Discover pays more (like during the summer for gas) and I have not tracked each card individually but I do know that I had $200 in Chase rewards that I redeemed for $250 as there was a bonus if you could wait until $200.

    I have been redeeming my Discover card for CVS gift cards and Red Lobster gift cards and I know I have gotten a few $20 gift cards on each of those every few months. I consider my CVS gift cards to be worth even more than the face value because I combine it with CVS extra bucks and coupons and get things for FREE.

  • American Express – Costco Card. A little less than $500 but it has to be spent at Costco. Still a good deal since we spend hundreds of dollars there anyway.

  • I travel a lot of for business so my experience may not be typical. But I totalled all my rebates up and got back $1050 cash, mostly from Chase Freedom, and an additional $620 in rebates (which you can use for car repairs or new car purchase) on my Citi Drivers Edge card in 2009. How sweeeet is that! I charge all gas and groceries to my Citi Drivers Edge, and put everything else on Chase Freedom. Combine that with signing up for a couple of other credit card offers, and there you go…$1670 extra dollars of income!

    Granted, Chase Freedom (now Chase Sapphire) reduced their rebates in Q3 2009, so I unfortunately don’t expect to have the same results this year!

  • $500 from Costco Amex this year. The best part is that it does _not_ have to be spent there. They give you a check which you can either use to purchase there, OR put the purchase on your card (and earn a %) and they will give you cash.

  • @Dan I am a big fan of the Costco American Express True Earnings Card as well as that is the main card that I use personally. I like to employ a strategy of using cards from multiple issuers though so that I can max out my cash back rewards in the aggregate even when certain merchants don’t accept American Express or Discover.

  • Wow. That’s incredible! While it is clear that you have made a good deal of money from beating the credit card system, I’d like to make an argument for not using credit cards at all . . . even if you’ve never paid interest. For myself, I see the potential of going into credit card debt if I were to have a card even for emergencies. Quick access to a card could mean a balance that grows and grows until I cannot sustain it anymore. You’ve obviously done well, but please be careful with credit card companies! They pour millions of dollars into the rewards system for a reason . . . to take your money. Nevertheless, great post and you have a great website sir!

  • Another analysis that would be interesting is too see how your credit score changed with the number of credit cards. I found that when closing 2 store cards my FICO score actually went down by 30 points! Guess the more cards you have the better your credit.

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