Free Money! The Best Way to Get Your Cash Back

[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners once they become available here — Blue Cash Preferred from American Express ]

Free money is always useful, especially when it comes from your cash back credit cards. Although the U.S. government has reported the personal income rate to be increasing for many Americans, this winter might still get expensive, considering the holidays and heating bills. But before you cash in on your cash back to make ends meet, there are some questions you should be asking your card company to make sure you’re not losing any of your points. Sometimes, there are better ways to retrieve your bonus cash. You can usually reach a representative by calling the number on the back of your card, or on the card’s application website. Here are a few questions to ask.

Is There a Deadline to Get My Cash Back?

Some cards have a redeem-points-by-this-date-or-lose-your-money provision in their fine print, and it isn’t categorized by the bank. It’s categorized by the type of credit card you have. For example, an older card that was offered a few years ago, the Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card, has points that expire in 5 years if they’re not cashed in, but the newer BankAmericard Cash Rewards cards have points that “never expire,” Bank of America spokeswoman Lucie Fernandez said. Other related questions to ask are if your points are ever in jeopardy of being lost, and how, and if there is a minimum number of points you need to start getting cash back.

Is there a Higher Cash Back Percentage After I Spend a Certain Amount?

Sometimes, your points will increase in value the more that you spend, so you might not want to cash them in too soon. For example, if you have a Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card, you’ll want to get beyond 25,000 in points before cashing them in, because you’ll get $1 in cash back for every $100 spent. At the lower spending plateau —for less than 10,000 points — your cash back will only be worth 50-cents per $100 spent, Fernandez said.
(It may not sound like a lot of money, but if you throw all of your expenses on your credit card, every few years, you might get an extra $500 in cash back, depending on your spending habits.) But cards differ. Compare that to the newer BankAmericard Cash Rewards cards, which offers from 1-3% back immediately for anything you buy with the card. (The 3% is usually for gasoline purchases, and means $3 per $100 spent.)

Will I get more value by transferring my points to other things?

Some cards, such as the Bank of America Visa Signature Rewards card offer a 10% bonus if you deposit your cash rewards directly into your Bank of America checking account. And even if you have an airline miles card, and not a cash card, in some cases, it pays to ask. A Southwest Airlines Visa Plus card, for example, offers the option of converting your airline miles to gift cards, hotel stays and car rentals in addition to flights. (66,000 points, for example, are redeemable for 21 gift cards to Amazon, Macy’s, Lowe’s and other stores, each worth $25 each or $525 altogether, according to a Chase card representative. ) You can also transfer the miles to another rapid rewards account, so some family members might use flight miles as holiday gifts.

What are my most lucrative spending categories?

This answer can also usually be found on the card’s website, but you’ll need to know the exact name for your card, and not just the brand. Your bonus will vary per card. The Citi Double Cash Card, for example, offers 1% cash back on purchases, and another 1% when you pay for your purchases on your statement balance. The QuicksilverOne From Capital One offers 1.5% for every purchase, while other cash back credit cards run calendar-driven promotions for their cash back or points. If you have a Discover It card for example, in December you can get a generous 5% back on up to $1500 spent on Amazon, department stores, and Sam’s Club.
The Chase Freedom credit card’s 5% bonus category in December is for purchases at department stores, wholesale clubs and drug stores, and you can score an extra $150 after you spend $500 in your first three months. (source: https://creditcards.chase.com/credit-cards/chase-freedom) But both cards require you to activate them for each rewards category, and the rewards vary per calendar month or quarter.
Other cards, such as the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, offer cash back application incentives. If you apply for the Blue Cash card by January 11, for example, you’ll earn 10% on Amazon purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200, and if you spend $1,000 or more on anything within your first three months, you’ll earn another $150. Couple that with the whopping 6% you get back on grocery store purchases (including gift cards,) and this card can give you some serious rewards. Be aware, however: The cash is given to you as a statement credit and the annual fee for the card is $95. (Source: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/personal-card-application/blue-cash-preferred-credit-card/26129-10-0?intlink=us-CCSG-CardDetail-BCP-Apply-Mid)

What does the card offer beyond earn rates?

  “Earn rates are important, but in today’s marketplace that’s one of many considerations   When choosing a new credit card, it’s important to find one that helps you save time and money, and also helps you take control of your finances,” said Alli Sherman, spokeswoman for Capital One.

Even with lucrative cash back opportunities available, it’s also prudent not to overspend and to check the interest rates associated with each card. Revolving balances can accrue interest charges that gobble up the value of your rewards, and hurt your credit score, which will keep you from getting other lucrative offers, lower interest loans and mortgages. To keep an eye on how your spending is reflected in your credit history, you can see a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Citi Double Cash Card, Discover It and QuicksilverOne From Capital One are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post Free Money! The Best Way to Get Your Cash Back appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Ways to Get Max Value From Discover Cash Back Rewards

Discover has a generous and flexible cash-back program. Here's how you can make the most of it.

There are a lot of cash back rewards programs out there so it’s important to compare them and have a full understanding of what they each offer to make sure you find the one that is right for you.

With that in mind, we thought we’d break down what the Discover Cash Back Rewards program entails, give you some insights into a few ways to use the Discover cash back program so you get the most for your rewards and mention some of the cards that offer this rewards program. (Comparing cards and looking for more rewards program breakdowns? You can see six hacks for using the Citi ThankYou points program here.)

1. Cash or Statement Credit

Redeeming for cash or a statement credit is one of the easiest ways to get value through the Discover cash back program. There is no threshold for how much you have to earn before you cash out. Meaning, if you’ve only earned $5, you can cash out for $5 or you can wait until you have $100. You can apply the funds to your next statement, or transfer them to a bank account of your choice.

2. Gift Cards

One of the more interesting ways to use your cash back rewards from Discover is to receive gift cards. These gift cards can be from retail establishments, restaurants and gas stations. But what makes this an interesting option is that you receive $5 added to each gift card for free. While you might redeem $40 in cash back rewards, you could receive a gift card worth $45. Most of the gift cards come in the form of a physical card, which means you could have to wait up to 10 days before your card arrives. However, you can also receive eCertificates. These can be downloaded to your computer or on the Discover mobile app and used immediately.

3. Pay With Points

Discover has a relationship with Amazon that allows consumers to make purchases on Amazon.com and use their cash back to help cover the cost. It’s important to note that there is no value added when using your cash back on Amazon. One dollar in cash back equals one dollar on Amazon. Because of this, it may make more sense to pay for your Amazon purchase with a credit card, earn the additional rewards and then apply a statement credit toward the expense.

Earlier this year, Discover also announced an agreement with PayPal allowing cardholders to use cash back rewards on any purchase where PayPal is used. While this option has not gone live as of post time, it is expected to work the same way as the Amazon partnership.

4. Donate to Charity

While you will not earn anything extra, value wise, here, you have the option to help others and donate your cash back rewards to charity. Partners include the American Cancer Society, World Wildlife Fund and the American Red Cross. This can be a good option if you’re looking to donate money to one of these charities anyway, or if you’re simply in the giving spirit.

Earning Discover Cash Back Rewards

There a few cards that let you earn Discover cash back rewards. Let’s take a look at some of them. (Note: Most of the cards listed below require decent credit to qualify. Before you apply, you can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com so you can get an idea of if you’ll be eligible for the card you’re considering or not.)

Discover it Card

Anyone looking for a generous cash back card, without an annual fee, may want to have the Discover it card on their list of considerations. With this card, you can earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter. One quarter it might be at gas stations and movie theaters, and the next it might be restaurants and groceries stores. There is a limit of $1,500 in purchases each quarter that earn 5% back. All other purchases made with the card receive 1% back. Plus, Discover matches everything you earn with this card for the first 12 billing cycles. That means if you earn $200 in cash back rewards, you actually receive $400. This card comes with an introductory 0% APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. Afterward, the APR rises to a variable 11.49% to 23.49%.

Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card

If a lot of your monthly spending is focused on gas and restaurants, then the no-annual-fee Discover it Chrome Gas and Restaurants card could be a good option. With this card, you earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 each quarter on combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants. All other purchase made receive 1% back. Just like the Discover it card, Discover matches all your earnings during the first year as a cardholder. This card also offers an introductory 0% APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. Afterward, the APR becomes a variable 11.49% to 23.49%.

Discover it Student Card

The Discover it Student card works a lot like the standard Discover it card. You earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter. Plus, all other purchases earn 1% back, with Discover matching your earnings during the first year. With this card, students get rewarded for earning good grades. Each year you earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher, you receive a $20 bonus cash back reward. This card comes with no annual fee and has an introductory 0% APR for six months on purchases. After the introductory period, the APR becomes a variable 13.49% to 22.49%.

Discover it Secured Card

If you’re attempting to rebuild your credit, or are new to the world of credit entirely, the Discover it Secured card might be an option worth considering. This card is a little different than most secured cards because it allows you to earn cash back while you build a better credit history. You earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% back. Plus, like all other Discover cards, Discover matches your earnings the first year. There is no annual fee for this card. The APR is a variable 23.49%. (You can learn more about secured credit cards here.)

Image: PeopleImages

At publishing time, the Discover it, Discover it Chrome, Discover it Student Card and Discover it Secured Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

The post 4 Ways to Get Max Value From Discover Cash Back Rewards appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Seriously Simple Cash Back Credit Cards

These simple cash back credit cards are a good fit for folks who don't like to think too long or hard about what rewards cards are in their wallet.

Keeping track of the rewards you earn with credit cards can be a real headache. Some cards offer different cash back amounts for different categories of spending. Some cards offer bonus cash back on categories that change every quarter. Unless you have the time to keep track of everything, well, then, the struggle can be real.

If you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about what rewards credit card is best to use each time you swipe, a flat-rate cash back credit card might be just what you need. These cards offer straightforward rewards programs that net you the same amount of cash-back every time you make a purchase. (Just be aware: These cards tend to require good credit, so if you’re in the market for one, you’ll want to check your scores before you apply. You can do so by viewing your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Here are our picks for the best flat-rate cash back credit cards.

1. Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash card is one of the leading cash back cards on the market today. You have the chance to earn up to 2% back on every purchase you make. You earn 1% when you actually make the purchases, and another 1% when you pay it off. This card also comes with a lengthy 18-month introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on balance transfers. Once the introductory period is complete, the APR will change to the standard purchase APR of 13.49% to 23.49%, depending on your creditworthiness. The card carries no annual fee. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

The Citi Double Cash card also comes with Citi Price Reward. With this program, you can record your purchases and Citi will look for a lower price within the first 60 days. If they find one, you will receive the difference back to your account — up to $500 back per item and $2,500 per year. If you want more details about the Citi Double Cash Card, check out our full review here.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

One of the most recent additions to the Chase credit card line-up is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. With this card, you’ll receive an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. You’ll also receive a bonus of $150 after you spend $500 in the first three months. When you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same three-month period, you can receive an additional $25 bonus.

This card includes an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers. After that, the APR will change to a variable 15.49% to 24.24%. This card has no annual fee.

3. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

When you use the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card, you will receive 1.5% back on any purchases that you make. Plus, there is no limit on the amount of rewards you can receive and they never expire as long as your account stays open. When you become a cardholder, you can receive a $100 bonus if you spend $500 within your first three months. In addition to having no annual fee, you can also receive an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 9 months. After that, the APR will become a variable 13.49% to 23.49%.

4. Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard

With the Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard, you will receive an unlimited 1.5% cash back on any purchases made. When you sign up, you will receive a $100 bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days. Each time you redeem your rewards, you will receive a 5% bonus available on the next redemption. If you are looking to make a balance transfer, you will receive an introductory 0% APR for 15 months. Afterwards, the APR will change to a variable 15.24%, 20.24% or 25.24%. There is no annual fee with this card.

5. Capital One Spark Cash for Business

The last card that made our list is for small business owners. With this card, you will earn 2% back on every business purchase you make. You also have the opportunity to receive a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 in the first three months. You will be able to add employee cards at no additional costs and their spending will add to your reward total. Your purchase APR will be a variable 17.49%. There is no annual fee the first year, and then each subsequent year, it will be $59.

At publishing time, the Citi Double Cash, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards, BarclayCard CashForward World MasterCard and Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: pixelfit

The post 5 Seriously Simple Cash Back Credit Cards appeared first on Credit.com.