Transitioning From Earning Frequent Flyer Miles To Cash Rebates

Mr Credit Card is going to guest post today. He is going to tell us about how he switched from earning frequent flier miles to earning cash rebates on his credit card once he stopped traveling. You can find out what he thinks are the best credit cards and best business credit cards on his site.

Recently, Money Beagle mentioned about switching from earning frequent flier miles to earning cash back when he stopped traveling. I myself had a similar experience. When I first entered the job market 16 years ago, my company provided me with a company business credit card. I racked up lots of frequent flier points. But 10 years later, I found myself traveling less and started questioning if I should still be racking up points for frequent flier miles. I eventually switched to earning cash rebates (though I am now switching back again). In this post, I am going to share how story about using frequent flier miles and how I chose the right card when I transitioned to earning cash rebates.

How I used rewards card – The corporate card that I was issued was the American Express Business Charge Card. As an employee, I was allowed to earn Membership Rewards points for myself when I charged any business expenses to myself. I traveled at least once every quarter internationally so I guess I did rack up quite a few reward points. Plus, I got to fly business class.

To earn even more points, I got myself a personal Amex card! I had to pay a fee (think it was about $10 back then to “connect” my membership reward points from both my personal and corporate card. But with this combination, I sure earned lots of points.

Rewards that I earned – Because Membership Rewards points do not expire, I could actually wait until I racked up quite a bit of points. I usually waited until I could redeem two international business class tickets for myself and Mrs Credit Card. And we did earn enough points to do this a few times through out a 10 year period.

Transition – But eventually, there came a time when my job description changed and I had to travel less. I still had the corporate card. And I still used my personal charge card from Amex. But I was accumulating points at a much lesser rate. Eventually, a new job came up that totally did not require any travel at all. That was when I realized that I had to stop accumulating frequent flier points and simply earn cash rebates.

But that required a total reorientation because for my whole life (until then anyway), I was using points for free airline tickets. But due to the fact that I no longer have business travels and my do not have much business expense anymore, it simply made sense to switch to cash back cards.

How I chose my cash back credit card – The first thing on my mind was what card to get. After much research, I concluded that most cards in the market were not worth getting because all they did not was pay a standard 1% rebate. They better cards paid more than 1% on some items. For example, I found out that some cards paid 5% on gasoline and supermarket expenses.

I also found out about things like spending requirements and tiers. Some cards required you to spend a certain amount every year before you could earn their best rebates. Some cap you on how much rebates you could earn a year. Different credit cards also paid you differently.

Amid the confusion, I did the following things

  • I mapped out and categorized my expenses
  • I worked out which card would earn me the most rebates
  • I also decided to go with just one card rather than get a few card (like some do) and nickel and dime their way to lots of rebates
  • I also set the criteria that I wanted my rebates to be automatically credited into my account since I am a very forgetful person

Ultimately, I ended up choosing the Amex Blue Cash and I’ve earned over 2% rebates every year on average. These days things have evolved and we have things such as credit card shopping portals and rotating categories where spending on certain items during certain periods earn you more rebates.

So that’s my journey – So that’s my journey from earning reward points to cash rebates. I think the lesson here is to get a credit card that suits your lifestyle and spending habits. Very often, folks are either lured into a “prestige card” that is costly and does not serve the purpose for the individual or they carry a card that pays no rewards, which is really leaving money on the table (IMO anyway).

Well, that’s my story and I hope it will inspire you to reexamine your credit card and see if it is the best fit for you.

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