HomeDebtI Have No Idea about Credit Card Rewards

I Have No Idea about Credit Card Rewards

stack of credit cardsThe Wife and I have had similar views on credit cards for as long as I can remember – they are neither good nor evil, but rather just tools.  Well since the hammer that was beating me upside my head (e.g. debt) has finally ended, and with the start of the new year The Wife and I would like to start using a credit card like a useful tool.  Since I have been a credit junkie for most of my life, I had no idea where to start.

I figured the first step in order to use a credit card as a useful tool is to obtain (or use one I already have) that has the optimum rewards points tailored to my family.  Does that mean getting one with cash back? an air miles credit card? a Gas credit card? etc.

Instead of doing my own research right out of the gate, I contacted the blogger/website owner, Credit Card Chaser.   CCC was nice enough to ask me a few questions about my credit wants/needs and my life to help me determine what card I should get to build credit card rewards.

Information Needed to Create a Credit Card recommendation

Family Situation

Evan: “Just Me, The Wife and our Little Dog for now. Hopefully, a Child will be joining us soon but for the next 9 months its just us.”

Debt Situation

Evan: “We have a manageable mortgage, law school loans, and a car loan, but relatively no credit card debt. The Wife and I only plan on using the chosen card for monthly expenses which are to be paid off on a weekly basis (i.e. groceries, gas, dry cleaning, etc.).”

Current Cards & Experiences

Evan: “Between the two of us we have a lot of credit cards even though there isn’t any debt on them: Couple of Discover Cards, Bank of America Visa Signature, Citi Premier Pass, Carnival Sea Miles, and Amex Blue Card. I love my 5%/1% Discover Card, but the Wife refuses to use them since most places do not take Discover, and I often feel awkward giving it to a restaurant since 92% of the time I would get rejected. I used my Carnival Sea Miles for years and when I went to redeem my 10,000+ points it equaled $75 off of a cruise. $75! For 10,000 points!”

Ideal Credit Card

Evan: “The Wife and I want a card with no fees, whose points actually mean something (unlike the Carnival Sea Miles Card). APR is less of a concern since we have full intentions (and more importantly a plan) of paying off the Card every single month, in full. The points can be cash, flights, vacations, pretty much anything as the amount of points are in line with the redemption. I really like the Chase 1% towards your mortgage CC, but my mortgage is with HSBC.”

CCC then wrote up a whole Credit Card Recommendation for me:

  1. Continue using my Discover at places that accept Discover since it has one of the best cash back programs
  2. Consider applying for AMEX True Earnings since they are accepted at more places.  This is the card that CCC uses, but you need to be a member of Costco, which I am not.
  3. Consider applying for the Chase Freedom Credit Card since it is accepted everywhere Visa is taken.

After discussing CCC’s recommendations with The Wife, it came out that she believes that rewards points should be just that, “a reward.”  So she thinks we should get them in the form of air travel vs. cash back.  I am not sure I agree with her, it really comes down to whether the points earned for travel are worth more than the cash back, and I am just not sure they are.  I will have to check with CCC for his expert opinion, or hopefully he is nice enough to comment on this post.

If you’d like to read CCC’s Full Reviews and Recommendation Check out the Credit Card Chaser.  Feel free to contact him for your own recommendation or check out his really cool Credit Card Rewards Calculator.  This was not a paid post, I get absolutely nothing if you check out his site, but you may learn something!

What are your thoughts about reward points?



  1. Thanks for the nice words Evan and glad that the post was hopefully a little bit of a help. I am similar to you in that I feel more comfortable with the cold hard cash and black and white numbers with cash back percentages rather than sometimes confusing rewards programs but rewards credit cards are definitely very useful and some may end up being even better than cash back cards depending upon if one actually travels a lot.

    • The kind words were my pleasure you really helped out, even if it was to get the discussion rolling with The Wife about the subject.

  2. I had applied to an AMEX Blue card years back when they offered me 0% interest for a year. They also have a rewards program and we’ve been using that as our main card for the rewards points. I’ve cashed them in a few times already, mostly for gift cards.

    • FFB,

      But are you spending $30,000 to get $100 in gift cards? That is what is making all this a daunting task.

      I literally had 10,000 points from my Juniper Carnival card, and they offered me $75 off a cruise. A $75 COUPON! COME ON

  3. You know, it could be that I send $10K for $100 but I’m not trying to spend to get the reward. Any reward is a bonus and doesn’t affect my spending habits. It wasn’t worth it for us to open up another card because of their reward system and we were already satisfied with AMEX. If you are looking for a rewards card then by all means you should shop around.

  4. It appears to me that you spend a whole lot of money for very little rewards. Secondly, if you don’t pay if off each month guess who really gets the reward…the CC company. Their interest is your interest!

    • Ken,

      You are 1000% correct, but I am not looking to spend to earn points. I am simply trying to efficiently use money. Either way I am going (well The Wife is going) grocery shopping – and just today she used the debit card for $93 and change.

      If she used Discover that may have been $4 bucks back in my pocket – or 93 points towards a flight, etc.

      Like I said I would only use it for expenses that I would pay off right away anyway.

    • Your spending habits should not change based on what your method of spending is (credit, debit, cash, etc.) because the real issue is to make sure that one lives within their means and sticks to their budget.

      You may not think that 1% to 5% back is a lot at first but I would encourage you to play around with a cash back credit card calculator to see the long term benefits of getting cash back

      For many people the cash back could end up being quite significant after 25 years. Just imagine if you start using the card after the birth of your first child and then just save the money from all of those cash back checks – when it comes time for your child to go to college it is not unlikely that you could have enough to pay for the first year of college just from those cash back checks – and that is not even taking into account if you decide to take those checks and put them into an interest bearing or investment account!

      (Of course to make it worthwhile one has to pay off the card every month but there is no reason why someone that can stay within budget using a debit card couldn’t do the same with a credit card)

  5. Although your wife and your decision is “an opinion” on travel rewards vs cash rewards. With the new CARD act of 2009 going into effect, there is a much higher chance that travel rewards are worth less, (ie a 25,000 miles ticket might cost 30,000 miles) this can change at any time, including restrictions and blackouts.

    Cash rewards is king, the value of the dollar remains unchanged, and there aren’t restrictions on cash, so I am in agreement with you on the Cash rewards card. The downfall here would be cards reducing rewards from 3% to 1% on purchases, which will probably happen as well.

  6. I would recommend setting up some bills that you pay each month on automatic charge to the credit cards and continue using cash for groceries and eating out. It is much easier to go over your budget for food when using a credit card. This way, you can pay all your bills on time every month the the credit card, pay the credit card bill once a month, and still reap rewards from using it on something you were going to pay for anyway. I used an American Express Card for this and receive points which I can cash in for restuarant gift certificates and store gift certificates. I have gotten several. I like it. Amex is one of the easiest credit card companies to work with too. 🙂


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