Free Cash: Why We Use Cash Back Credit Cards

We use cash back credit cards for just about every purchase that we possibly can.  Why?  The answer is simple, because we earn free cash and it adds up to a good amount.  Below is how much cash we’ve earned in the last twelve months.

Costco Visa Card

This is our primary spending card.  It has the most rewards that we use.  We get 4% cash back on gas, 3% at restaurants, 2% at Costco, and 1% on everything else.

They issue a certificate once per year that you take into the store to cash.  This year we’ll be getting $281.88.

American Express Blue Everyday Card

When Costco switched from American Express to Visa, we took an offer to open one of these cards.  We primarily use this at grocery stores, as we get 3% cash back.  We do make other purchases on here as well.

Since we opened this last year, we’ve earned $159.32 in cash back.

In addition to this, American Express has the best ‘offers’ of any card I’ve seen.  In addition to the above, we’ve saved money on statement credits just for using American Express to pay our cell phone bill, visit a Mobil station, or even just to sign in to their online app.  Plus we got a big statement credit just for spending a certain amount on the card within 90 days.  Without looking, I’d say we got over $350 in statement credits on top of the cash back.

Citi Dividends Cards

These were the first cash back cards we ever opened, and I don’t think you can even get them as new members anymore.  But, for these (just like everything else) we get 1% cash back on everything, plus 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter.

We pretty much keep these because they’re our oldest cards, and having a card established for that long is good for our credit scores.  We’ll use this for camping reservations or other purchases that don’t give bonus money on any other card.

Between my card and my wife’s card, we have earned $125.41 over the past twelve months since we last cashed out.

Grand Total Earned From Cash Back Credit Cards

Adding all of that up, we have earned $566.81 in cash back just by using our cards.  We pay our cards off in full every month, so we aren’t paying a nickel in interest.  Nor do we pay an annual fee for any of these cards.  That’s basically us buying things or making purchases on things we’re going to anyways, and ending up with over $500.  That is a pretty good deal if you ask me.

In the past, we’ve used our cash back rewards cards to purchase electronics.  All of our flat screen TVs have been purchased with cash back rewards money.  We’ve also applied this toward a vacation in years we haven’t needed anything new.

Readers, do you use cash back reward cards?  Do you make sure to use them to your full advantage?  If so, what tricks or tips do you have?  Please let me know how things work for you in the comments below.

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Fix Financial Hiccoughs In The New Year

More than just your waistline could be hurting after a very merry holiday. The season has a way of getting out of control despite your best efforts. Between travelling, handing out presents, and all of the extra seasonal accoutrements that come your way, you can end up going over budget. Before you know it, it’s a new year and you’re stuck with the financial consequences of 2016. At least there’s an easy way to fix your financial discretions, and it all starts with a direct lender.

Direct lenders are quickly becoming a preferred alternative to conventional lenders because of their quick and convenient processes. Many traditional, brick-and-mortar lending companies still rely on in-person meetings and in-depth review of your credit. A direct lender has eliminated these time-wasting elements from their practice. They still require basic financial information, but they collect it online through a simple application form. If there’s any data they need to verify, a representative will call at a convenient time and clarify them. Millions of Americans prefer these methods to the bureaucratic red tape of the nation’s top banking institutions.

By conducting the majority of their business online, direct lenders can connect you with the money you need quickly. Their applications shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes to fill out, and you’ll know if you qualify almost instantly. Should you be approved, your small dollar loan or line of credit can be directly deposited into your account within one business day. This efficient and speedy response means you won’t have to wait endlessly as a whole team of financiers look over your application. Instead, you’ll have the money you need before the upcoming due date of your bills.

These basic features are shared by most direct lenders across the States, but each company will differ slightly from the next. In some cases, direct lenders will stand out because of the predatory rates and fees that are associated with their products. It’s important that you stick with lenders such as MoneyKey that follow your state’s lending laws. These regulations were put in place to protect consumers by limiting the rates, terms, and interest allowable on their products. You can go online to learn about online direct lenders and see how a lender like MoneyKey intends to ensure their short terms loans remain a responsible lending option.

Confirm with your lender if even the state-regulated rates and terms are something you can accommodate in your budget. One of the representatives available at MoneyKey can discuss their products and processes in depth so you understand the extent of your loan. Once you have a small dollar loan or personal line of credit at your disposal, you can easily tackle the leftover bills from an overeager holiday.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Stockpiling Works For Us (At Least For Now)

One of my long time favorite bloggers, Funny About Money, is contemplating something that you rarely hear about: Quitting Costco.  She’s finding that, for her, not going to Costco is actually saving her money.  Could bucking the stockpiling trend actually work?

I think that many people don’t even consider such a thing.  They just assume that Costco saves them money by giving them lower pricing, with the tradeoff that you have to buy in larger quantities in order to realize the lower per-unit pricing.  So, the kicker is that you have to use more in order to really realize the savings.

Looking At Our Stockpiling Habits

After my wife took a recent trip and left me the pile of stuff to put away, as is our arrangement, I started taking a look at our stockpile in our pantry to see if waste was leading to us actually overpaying for items.

I’m happy to report that we went through our entire pantry shelf and found just two items that we threw out because they were past their due dates to the point where we no longer felt comfortable using them:

A can of cream soup and a half a box of taco shells, both which expired in early 2014.

And, what’s even better: Neither of these items was bought at Costco.

So, it seems that for us, the food we buy at Costco to take advantage of the lower per-unit pricing actually gets eaten.  This is a good thing.

The (Much Much Higher Priced) Organic Trend

We’re still keeping an eye on Costco.  I think there are factors that come into play that affect our ‘value proposition’.  For example,  who’s noticed that they’re shifting more and more food items to organic options?  If you have this as your preference, then I suppose this is great.  However, for people who don’t necessarily have the budget or the desire, buying organic may not be practical.mb-2015-03-checkbook

Every trip we take, we seem to find at least one item on our ‘regular’ list that we either have to choose to pay more for to get organically, or switch back to our grocery store to purchase the non-organic option.

Right now, we still save money with our Costco membership, but it’s started to occur to us that if Costco really wants to shape themselves as the Whole Foods of the bulk warehouse shopping category, they might very well lose us as customers.

Funny makes a great point. It’s always good to really take a step back and make sure that you’re getting value from your membership.  Even though Costco memberships are a way of life, they aren’t always a guaranteed money saver.

Readers, do you save money with your Costco (or other warehouse) membership?  How often do you check and how do you evaluate your return on investment?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Lesson Applied: Lower Prices Usually Return

Last year, my dad opened my eyes to a pretty simple theory about prices, and that a lower price will typically return.

Learning The Lesson

I learned the lesson last year when we were computer shopping.  My wife’s laptop was no longer working well for her online business, so we decided that it was time to get a new laptop.  My dad has always been very tech savvy and on top of the latest trends, as well as what is good pricing.

Don’t pull the trigger too soon!

I found a laptop that I liked and sent him the specifications and the pricing.  This was an advertised ‘one day deal’ site, so you had 24 hours to take advantage of the deal.

My dad and I spoke and while it was a good computer at a good price, he felt that it was not something that we had to necessarily jump at, as he thought that we would either find the deal to come back at the same or lower price, or that we’d find an even better machine at the same price.  As it turned out, he was right on both accounts.  The deal was actually extended past the 24 hour window, and within a few days, we found a much better equipped machine at a comparable price, and so far it has worked out very well.

Applying The Lesson

One of the things that has been moving up our list is to replace our wireless router.  We currently have two wireless networks running in our house, neither of which is meeting our level of satisfaction.  We have an older Linksys router, I’m talking 7-8 years old, that doesn’t have great range and seems to have gotten more and more flaky.  I’m concerned about security as Netgear has never released even a firmware update for it.  I’ve thought about getting rid of it altogether but there are a couple of devices which have seemed to work better on this network, so it’s always avoided the ax.

We also use the built in network offered by our cable company.  The range on it is terrible, but we do have a range extender, and it’s only compatible with this device.

Basically, it’s a patchwork situation, and both networks just don’t offer what we need.

We’ve been looking at a new router for awhile, and I had my mind settled on one in particular.

I’d been looking on Amazon, and it has been around $99.  I had budgeted $100 for a router, and that was the maximum I was willing to pay.  Now that Amazon charges sales tax, the $99 price would actually run us about $105 and change.

No good, especially since I used the Camelizer plugin on Chrome to show that it’s been as low as $85-90 before.

Since it wasn’t something we needed urgently, I decided to apply my dad’s principle, and to wait.

I checked every day and the price was roughly the same for about a two week period.  It was $99.87 or so most of the time, typically going down around a quarter.  I did miss one opportunity when I saw it for $91, but I was somewhere where I couldn’t take the time to finish the transaction, and by the time I looked the next day, it was back up to $99.

So I waited.

Finally, on Easter, I hit paydirt. It was $89!  This plus sales tax made it roughly $95.  So, instead of going $5 over my budget, which is what I could have done by not waiting, sitting back and waiting for the price to return actually left me with $5 extra.

That’s what I call a win any day!  Thanks, Dad!

Readers, have you ever used patience to make sure to get the price you wanted? When you see a ‘never to be repeated’ price, do you jump on it or have you found the pricing to be available again?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.