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There is a time and a place for everything, and that statement could never be truer than when it comes to using your credit cards. If you are looking to maximize your earnings, it is paramount you pay close attention to which card you use for each transaction. There are many cards that offer bonuses within specific categories like groceries, travel, restaurants, and office supplies among others. Are you using the right card at the right time?
Chances are (and we’re talking high chances; even your author succumbed to many of these mistakes in his research for this article) that you are missing out on mega points. Some credit card issuers make it very clear in which categories their merchants fall into for points earning. For example, Visa has this convenient search tool.
Follow this advice if you are looking to maximize category spend bonuses. Of course, each person’s spending habits will always vary. Remember: never carry a balance or you are in for a rude awakening come bill time!
Are you dining out?
Citi Prestige is the winner in this category forking over five points per dollar spent in Citi ThankYou points. It used to be that Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve held supreme here with 2x and 3x per dollar spent respectively. But, they have been trumped by the latest round of changes from Citi.
Even Uber Eats counts as a restaurant purchase. Be sure to switch your hunger pang account to the Citi Prestige card if you have one.
Are you flying?
Remember that some credit cards offer exceptional travel protection while others do not. This should factor into your decision if you are booking even a portion of your flights (let’s say taxes on a mileage redemption). Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve are known for offering solid coverage while other cards might leave you stranded.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with the ability to earn 3x points per $1 spent on travel and dining. Cardholders also get a $300 travel credit. Keep that in mind before you book a trip.
Still, we are all hungry for points. Flights will net the most points with the Citi Prestige, which awards 5x for every dollar spent when purchased either directly through the Citi portal or via other outlets. The Platinum Card® from American Express awards as many miles when booking airfare although trip protection perks are not as substantial.
When You’re on the Ground and Want Credit Cards to Earn Points and Miles
Frequent travelers know that ground transport can sometimes add up to the same amount as domestic airfare in some cities. Don’t miss out on bonus miles and points. You can earn 3x per dollar spent using the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card for transport services like taxis, buses, Uber, and other local transportation options like metro or subway tickets.
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn two points per dollar spent.
While the Platinum Card from American Express comes with $200 worth of Uber credit per year, it does not offer the most points per mile if you spend a lot on ground transportation. Don’t forget the Barclays Uber Visa Card, which earns 4% cash back on Uber Eats and 2% back on Uber trips.
Staying in a hotel?
If you are willing to book stays through hotels.com (thereby forgoing elite status perks and loyalty points directly with the hotel), the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a solid bet. It offers 10 miles per dollar spent when using its co-branded hotels.com link and paying with the card.
If you don’t have this card, the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve still award 3x points for every dollar spent at hotels. If you are staying at a Fine Hotels & Resorts property, The Platinum Card from American Express dishes out 5x points per dollar spent if you book directly through American Express.
If you book hotels through Amex Travel with Business Platinum® Card from American Express, you can earn 5x per dollar spent.
Stocking up the office?
If you are looking to keep the business running, some cards will reward you for that spend. This includes office supply, Internet, cell phone, and cable purchases.
The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card is a winner. It offers 5% cash back. But, those can be converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you prefer.
Don’t forget the multitude of things that you can buy from stores like Office Depot and Office Max. These include snacks, furniture, stamps, printing, and office supplies. Could you be missing out on this mega-earning opportunity by buying things like toilet paper and stamps elsewhere?
The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card delivers 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on the above categories (but also includes advertising costs online and via social media).
And for those that have Chase premium cards like the Sapphire Reserve, any Ultimate Rewards points can be plumped up in value by transferring them between Chase accounts. Reserve cardholders enjoy 1.5 cents per points versus 1 cent per point when it comes to spending with travel partners.
Grocery and Pharmacy Shoppers
You’re among the many categories often in the 5x points promotion for the Chase Freedom Card. These are among many other rotating categories that are worth paying attention to by signing up for this card. You can use these credit cards to earn points and miles with bonus categories if you spend big during the promotion.
However, note that you’ll only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in these bonus categories. They will get changed quarterly and to earn, you must activate your account through the Chase website. It’s great that you have new spending options every few months.
Remember that this is not comprehensive. Since everyone’s credit and spend tolerance is different, we are being cautious. Chase Freedom continues to be a long favorite thanks to rewarding 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on anything.
Just remember that it does not waive foreign transaction. Only use this credit cards to earn points and miles option domestically.
Always Pay attention to the Small Print When Deciding Which Credit Cards to Earn Points and Miles to Use
Remember that some purchases may be categorized differently with each card. For example, pharmacies within big box chain stores like Wal-Mart do not count as pharmacy spending. While it is confusing, be sure to inquire with your credit card company about how a merchant is tagged. Do this before making any large purchases that you wish to rake in big point bonuses.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.