Monday, January 9, 2012

Saving Money Challenge: Maxing the Benefits of Credit Card benefits

My favorite credit card is the Discover Card.  It was my first one I ever opened back in 1999.  I love the rewards that go along with it.  I recently had to call Discover to activate my new card.  The lady was super nice and was trying to tell me about promotions - so as she was pulling up my account, she said "Wow, it looks like you already know how to take advantage of our CashBack program!"  She informed me that in my lifetime with Discover, I have earned over $1,500 in CashBack bonuses.  That's probably really bad.

So how do I do it?

Shop Discover

First, if I buy online, I go through ShopDiscover.  Even my new computer earned me $42 in cash back savings.  ShopDiscover is like Ebates - they give you a percentage back of your online purchases.  I found that Discover's percentages are typically higher than Ebates.  You just have to use your Discover Card.  Well I would anyways.

Quarterly 5% Cash Back Program

Every three months, Discover issues merchants that will give you 5% back on all your purchases.  For January-March, they'll give you back 5% on gas, museums & movies.  With a max of $1,500.  April - June is restaurants and movies - with a max again of up to $1,500.  July - September is gas, movies & theme parks, and October-December is Department Stores, Electronic Stores, Toy Stores, & movies.

So for this quarter, I figure I spend about $50 a week on gas.  There's 13 weeks to this quarter.  That's $650.  At 5%, I'll earn $32.50 back in rewards.  Money that I would have spent regardless with or without the rewards.

Discover Gives You Added Rewards to Giftcards

So say you rack up $70 in Discover's CashBack Bonus.  Here's the great part - when you redeem them for a merchant gift card (there's over 150 to choose from), they give you MORE than what you're actually "paying".

For instance, cash in $45 for a $50 CVS gift card.  Same with Lowe's, Kohl's, Applebee's, Barnes & Noble, etc. etc.

Some are a higher percentage back:  $20 for a $25 gift card.  At places like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Bath & Body Works, Gap, L.L. Bean, etc. etc.

And some are even a matching 50/50 (i.e. spend $20 of your reward balance, get $40 in gift cards) at places like Universal Studios, Sandals Resorts, Mrs. Fields, etc. etc.

Most credit cards have some sort of rewards program.  If you don't have Discover - take a few minutes to figure out the ins and outs of your credit card reward program so you can maximize your benefits with them.  Hey - if you're going to be charging crap anyways, might as well get some sort of kickback, right?

This post is partially inspired by the group challenge Precious started at Frugal Makes Cents.

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