Halfway through the year, I’ve redeemed $628 in cash back rewards. In terms of total dollars, I’m a little behind last year’s pace, when I totaled $1,602 for the full year. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve for the second half of 2019.
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I’m happy with how my credit card strategy is performing thus far in 2019.
Halfway through the year, I’ve redeemed $628 in cash back rewards. In terms of total dollars, I’m a little behind last year’s pace (when I totaled $1,602 for the full year, including $1,302 in cash back plus a $300 welcome bonus).
But my average return per dollar spent is considerably higher this year (2.4 percent compared with 1.9 percent in 2018). And I have a few tricks up my sleeve for the second half of 2019.
My wife, daughter and I are planning to return to Disney World in early 2020, and a big trip like that is ideal for scoring a credit card bonus, like I did last year. This time, I think I’m going to get the Citi Premier Card.
I would get 60,000 ThankYou points (worth $750 in travel) for spending $4,000 in the first three months. There’s a good chance we will spend $4,000 on the Disney trip, and hitting the bonus threshold with travel spending would be more efficient than using other purchases which could earn as little as 1 point per dollar. I can do better than that on my other cards.
It’s more than just the introductory bonus, though
Citi Premier gives 3 points per dollar on travel. On the face of it, that’s the same as a card I already have, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. But the Propel Card is a straight cash back card and its points are worth 1 cent apiece. Citi Premier points, meanwhile, are worth 1.25 cents apiece if you book travel through the Citi portal, and potentially even more if you transfer to Citi’s airline partners.
I’ve written many times about the Citi Double Cash Card and how I could boost my return on standard, non-bonus category spending from 1.5 percent (on the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card) to 2 percent with the Citi Double Cash (1 percent when you spend, and another 1 percent when you pay off your purchases). In 2018, if I moved all of my Quicksilver spending to the Double Cash, I would have come out $257 ahead. I’ve realized that’s no longer accurate.
Prior to adding the Propel Card to my wallet in September 2018, most of my travel and dining spending went on the Quicksilver because I didn’t typically have better options. Now that I have the Propel Card for travel and dining, I’m using my Quicksilver a lot less.
It’s not apples to apples because of other variables in my spending, but the pattern is clear. I’m only on track to earn $434 in cash back from the Quicksilver this year, well below the $770 I racked up last year. For the full year (projected), if I had the Double Cash instead of the Quicksilver, I’d only be up an additional $145.
That’s a lot less than I would have benefited pre-Propel. With no welcome bonus currently available on the Double Cash, this is another reason why if I’m going to add one card to my portfolio (and I think that’s all I want right now), it should be the Premier, not the Double Cash.
See related: 9 ways to make cash back more fun
It looks like I’m earning a little less from my Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express this year ($97 so far versus $205 for all of 2018), but I expect to use this card more frequently in the coming months. It will be my go-to for groceries until I hit the $6,000 annual limit that qualifies for 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 percent cash back after that). I took a break from this card in Q2 when I activated the 5 percent grocery store bonus on my Chase Freedom.
I fully expect to max out the Blue Cash Everyday’s U.S. supermarket limit, which is worth $180 in cash back each year, and hopefully I can take advantage of a few more Amex Offers to pad my total even further. I scored $20 last week by paying my life insurance bill via an Amex Offer.
My 2019 Chase Freedom spending should look a lot like it did in 2018, when I earned $177 in cash back. If I figure roughly $200 for the Blue Cash Everyday, $177 for the Chase Freedom and $434 from the Quicksilver, I’ll be at $811 in cash back by the time we ring in the new year.
My Propel pace will slow if I get the Citi Premier, but even if I end up with $375 cash back from the Propel (I’m currently at $225), I should score a big payday from the Premier card. The 60,000-point welcome bonus plus 3 points per dollar (valued at 1.25 cents apiece) on $4,000 worth of travel spending would add $150, minus the $95 annual fee.
That would bring me to $1,991 in rewards for the full year – 24 percent more than I earned last year. And with only one new card, just like I added one card last year. With a similar amount of spending, I’m fine-tuning my card strategy, and it’s paying off.