All over the internet, you can find tips on how to maximize your credit card rewards. All of these are complicated, involve many credit card accounts, and are not for everyone.
In short, credit card reward systems are not for the faint of heart…
Unless you simplify them.
One of the best things you can do for your budget is to simplify it. Simplifying will make your budget a lot easier to stick with and help you want to manage your money.
Complications create ambiguity and cost you time. I simplify everything that makes sense for me.
So why not extend that to credit card rewards?
Introducing my SSCCRS—my super simple credit card reward system.
(Also, I’m totally kidding about the acronym. Please don’t use the acronym.)
How it Works
One of the things I’ve realized over the years is that simplicity is key in managing your money. That’s why I only use two reward credit cards.
Yep. Only two.
The two cards I use are a Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and a Chase Freedom Card.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card gets me 1.5% cash back on every purchase I make.
The Chase Freedom card gets me 1% cash back on every purchase but has a 5% category that changes quarterly.
I use the Chase Freedom Unlimited card for almost every bill and purchase I make. My Netflix and Disney+ accounts are hooked up to it.
Literally every bill that I can possibly pay with a credit card is paid with my Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Except for expenses in the 5% cash back category of the regular Chase Freedom card.
The 5% cash back category on the Chase Freedom card is currently Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases. During a pandemic. When we’re supposed to stay at home and have stuff delivered to us quickly.
Thank you, Chase Bank!
In the past, the places you get 5% cash back at have been expenses like grocery stores purchased, gas stations, department stores, and internet, cable, or phone services.
They’ve also done fitness centers and streaming services for the 5% cash back category.
If I don’t use whatever category is giving 5% cash back (I don’t shop at Whole Foods), I simply keep using my Chase Freedom Unlimited card to pay for everything.
But that’s it. I pay almost all of my bills with my Chase Freedom Unlimited card and get 1.5% cash back on everything.
Then, I use the Chase Freedom card to get 5% cash back in the current category, but only if I actually use it.
Variations to Make it Work for You
The heart of everything I teach—hey, it’s in the name—is that you are unique. So here are some things you can change to make this simple system work for you.
1. Use different cash back cards.
I like to use Chase for both cards because the cards are with the same bank. I don’t have to sign into another bank’s online portal to pay off the second card.
I also think Chase’s bill pay portal is the best in the business right now from what I’ve seen, so I stick with it. But you don’t have to use them. There are plenty of credit cards out there that will give you some great rewards for no annual fee.
Another great card is the Citi Double Cash. It gives you 1% cash back on every dollar and then gives you another 1% cash back for every dollar as you make your purchase. This gets you 2% cash back so that might be a good one for you to use as well.
2. Use fewer credit cards.
Yep. You can make this even simpler by omitting one of the credit cards. Why would you want to do that? Well, for a couple of possible reasons.
To start, if you are trying to pay off debt or don’t want to use credit cards for any reason, you can choose to only use the Chase Freedom card and only for the 5% cash back categories.
That way you’re not using it much but can take advantage of some great cash back.
Another reason is that perhaps you don’t want to have to worry about managing two cards. You could just omit the card with the rolling 5% cash back categories and just use the unlimited 1.5% cash back card. Easy Peasy!
3. Only use some of the 5% categories.
Last quarter (April – June), one of Chase’s 5% categories was for streaming services. I personally don’t think it would be worth my time for me to change the credit card I use for my streaming services for three months.
So I didn’t. I kept them with my Chase Freedom Unlimited card earning 1.5% cash back.
Part of personal finance is realizing that your time is just as valuable building a budget that is right for you. If something doesn’t work for you or you don’t think it’s worth your time, then don’t do it.
Simple as that.
4. Use a different type of reward card.
Nothing says you have to get cash back. While I personally think cash back is more worthwhile, you may want travel rewards instead.
Find a reward card with some great travel benefits and us that for your purchases instead.
Better yet, you can find a hybrid. Some cash back cards allow you to use your reward points to book travel through their portal instead of using those points for cash. Chase lets you do this too, but there are others.
Find the card or two that is going to be perfect for your lifestyle, your dreams, and who you are.
So there you have it. This is my super simple credit card reward system that has earned me almost $400 so far this year.
That isn’t chump change. That’s a good amount of money! And I earned it by changing close to nothing throughout the year and putting minimal effort into it.
This system is not designed to absolutely maximize the amount of money you are earning with credit cards. It is designed to help you earn the most amount of money with the least amount of effort.
Why? Because that would complicate things and cost you time.
So should your credit card reward system.