First Cards to Get

First Cards to Get / Start Here:

To truly maximize your return on spending and your loyalty points/miles it’s best to have a strategy. What are your travel goals: solo, family, luxury, economy, domestic, close international, long haul, road trips, etc.? What are your current spending patterns (where do you spend your money): restaurants, grocery stores, gas, hotels, flights, Amazon, Starbucks, office supplies, etc.?

One important note is that Chase bank offers many of the best rewards cards out there, especially travel rewards cards. This is true both for their own cards and co-branded cards with travel partners. The problem challenge, though, is that Chase has what we in the rewards credit card hobby call the 5/24 rule. The 5/24 rule is this: Chase will only approve your credit card application (for most of its cards) if you have opened fewer than 5 new credit cards in the preceding 24-months. This is any and all new credit cards with/from any bank or store.

I personally am way over 5/24 and don’t have many of the best Chase cards either so I’m essentially locked out unless I go on a serious 2-year card application diet. My wife; however, was barely over the threshold when they implemented the rule so we held back her card applications and now she is below 5/24 or becomes below it a couple times a year.

As of now Chase is the only bank that has a limit like this so if you are new to this and haven’t gotten a new credit card in over two years or have fewer than 5 new cards then I recommend you focus on getting the big Chase cards first and only then move along to cards from other banks/issuers. To do this consider how many new credit cards you have opened in the past 24 months as well as what Chase cards will be most valuable to you based upon your existing spending, travel habits, and travel goals then map out a strategy of when to get each card.

As a result of the Chase 5/24 rule I cannot recommend strongly enough that you get the big Chase cards first before getting the other awesome cards. On top of ensuring you’re not locked out of the cards the one’s that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points earn some of the most valuable credit card points out there and the points are impossible to earn without these Chase cards so get the cards now if you can!

Here are what I consider to be the best Chase cards that are subject to the 5/24 rule, listed roughly in order of how I value them:  Below this article I have listed more detailed descriptions of why I value each of these cards and provided links to the card offers.

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Southwest (2 personal and the business versions)
  • Chase Marriott
  • Chase United (all versions incl. personal and business)
  • Chase Ink Cash
  • Chase Freedom & Freedom unlimited

You should definitely read further about the 5/24 rule as most business cards don’t count towards your 5/24 status (i.e. you can get a non-chase business card and it won’t count towards your total when Chase counts up how many new cards you’ve opened over the last 24 months). There are also some awesome Chase cards not subject to the 5/24 approval restriction (Hyatt, IHG, British Airways, Marriott Business, Ritz-Carlton). BUT the bottom line is that if you are currently below 5/24 then your first few new credit cards should be from the above bulleted list of best Chase cards subject to 5/24. Then after that you can move to cards issued by banks other than Chase and the Chase cards not subject to the rule.

I hope to publish a post soon with further details about 5/24 but until then please feel free to ask questions in the comment section of this post, send me a direct message, and/or do your own Google searches.

Chase Ink Business Preferred:

This is an awesome card that I wasn’t able to get but it’s the first card my wife got when she dropped below 5/24 in late summer. What drew us to this card was the 80,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months, 3x points on travel, 3x points on social media advertising, 3x points on shipping, 3x points on internet/cable/phone services, cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly cell service bill with the card, primary rental car insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and more!

The sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $1,000 in value if redeemed through the Chase portal but I can get at least about $4,000 in value from those points if I use them for high value redemptions via the many Chase transfer partners such. That’s a crazy good deal for a $95 annual fee card but add in the $600 cell phone protection against theft or damage and it’s a no brainer to get this card if you can!

If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 20,000 points for each (up to 5) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the Chase Ink Business Preferred with an 80,000 point sign-up bonus.  

Chase Sapphire Preferred:

This is an awesome card that due to 5/24 I can’t get and my wife wasn’t able to get for the longest time even though we wanted to add it to our wallet for over 3 years!  FINALLY, in January 2018 she dipped below 5/24 again so she applied for the card and bingo she was approved with a solid spending limit. Our advice is to get it if you can! What draws us to the card is the 50,000 point sign-up bonus good for at least $625 in travel, (+5,000 more if you add an authorized user), 2x points at restaurants, 2x points on travel, low annual fee of $95 that’s waived the first year, and the primary rental car insurance it offers if you pay with the card and decline the rental company’s insurance.

Since getting the card and quickly meeting the $5,000 minimum spend threshold – thanks to a large reimbursable purchase we had to make – we have been very happy with how quickly the card earns valuable ultimate reward points via the 2x points earning at restaurants and on all travel.  The travel category is great because it includes all sorts of things like car services, airplane tickets, hotels, and more!  We also snagged the 5k points bonus by adding me as an authorized user on her account.

Heads up on the authorized user bonus: only add people you are authorized to add and with their permission/knowledge. I recommend not adding anyone near or below 5/24 as they’d be better off getting their own Chase cards BUT if one spouse is above 5/24 and the other is below then the spouse above 5/24 could be added as an authorized user earning another 5k bonus points. Also, you can add your kids as authorized users once they turn 13 and help build their credit in the process: you don’t even have to have them use the card! (After that first purchase to trigger the sign-on bonus, of course!)

If you are personal friend new to the credit card and travel rewards thing then this is the very first card I recommend you get. If you are a friend not new to rewards cards and travel but without this card and below 5/24 then this is next card I recommend you get.

If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 10,000 points for each (up to 5) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus and waived annual feee the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

This is an awesome card that I didn’t get when it was first released in 2016 with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus despite trying. (5/24 got me) My wife also didn’t get it (due to 5/24) despite a couple attempts and being right at the 5/24 threshold. Since then the sign-up bonus has dropped to 50,000 points, which has historically been good for a personal card earning Ultimate Rewards points but you never know, it could always go up again! Personally, we’re favoring the Preferred over the Reserve right now 1. Because the annual fee on the reserve is $450 and not waived the first year and we’re trying to save cash right now without any definitive travel plans in the next year in which we’d use the travel credit and 2. I’m hoping the bonus will increase again at some point since its fee is so much higher than the preferred but their bonuses are currently the same. That all being said this card is a great card and worth the $450 fee because it comes with all of the following: 50,000 point sign-up bonus (worth at least $750 but easily more like $1,000 or more in value), $300 per-year airline travel reimbursement credit, Global Entry fee reimbursement good once every 5-years, Priority Pass airline lounge membership, 3x points at restaurants, 3x points on travel, primary rental car insurance, and more.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offer from the Chase Bank website for the Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Southwest:

Chase has three co-branded cards with their co-brand partner Southwest Airlines: Southwest Plus Personal, Southwest Premier Personal, and Southwest Premier Business. These are great cards if you are in a Southwest market. They become even better if you can get two of them in the same year, especially early in the year, as the points earned from them count towards the Southwest Companion Pass, which is one of the most amazing deals in travel. I recommend going for the premier personal and the business, as they’ll have the larger sign-up bonuses. These bonuses fluctuate throughout the year with the standard bonus being in the 30,000 point range but historically the bonuses have been increased to 50,000 bonus points a couple times a year and last year it even hit 60,000 points for a time. The business card currently has a 60,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and paying the $99 annual fee. If under 5/24 and you want the companion pass you could get this one now and then get the personal one either a couple days later or in 3 months and you’d be well on your way to earning the companion pass. Just remember, since you can’t apply for all these Chase cards at once, even if you are currently at 0/24, I recommend applying for the Ultimate Rewards earning cards first but it depends on how much you value the companion pass.

When the sign-up offers change I’ll let y’all know via the website, Twitter, and Facebook.

We don’t have any of these cards any more but we used to: my wife had the personal and I got the personal and business in the same year (barely) helping me earn my first companion pass. We hope to utilize the same timing to help us earn our 3rd companion pass in a row once our current one expires.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offers from the Chase Bank website for the Southwest Credit Cards.

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card:

This is another co-brand partner card of Chase. Marriott is a great hotel rewards program with solid benefits for those with mid-tier status. It’s been made even better with the in-process merger with Starwood Hotels as the SPG loyalty program is highly regarded among the biggest frequent travelers and loyalty enthusiasts. Marriott and SPG offer instant point transfers between the two programs at a rate of 1 Marriott to 3 SPG points. You can transfer points between spouses or people at the same address. There are tons of properties all over the world, and there are plenty of both 1-night-stop-along-the-side-of-the-highway hotels as well as high end, super luxurious properties, which I love in a hotel loyalty program as I can earn points at places where I actually spend money chugging along on the road but redeem them at high-end properties where I couldn’t otherwise dream of being able to pay for the stay. THAT is a key aspect to rewarding loyalty in my mind.

The card their offering now is a new product as of the spring of 2018.

Check out the current card offers at the link below.

Both of us currently have a version of this card and have had it for years, even before we began maximizing our loyalty program participation and credit card use. None-the-less we still got great value from the cards while barely thinking about them and just using them occasionally.

We both have an older version of this card and thus we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offers from the Chase Bank website for the Marriott Rewards Credit Cards.

Chase United:

Four offerings: Club Personal, Club Business, Explorer Personal, and Explorer Business.

Honestly, I don’t know much about these cards and haven’t had a ton of interest. We are based in DFW, which is hampered by being such a dominant American Airlines and Southwest market there are few options on Star Alliance airlines meaning it’s a bit more complicated redeeming the miles. If it weren’t for 5/24, though, I would definitely get these cards as Star Alliance is generally great for travel to, from, and within Europe and from what I can tell United has a good award chart for use on partners in Asia-Pacific. I know I’d love to get these cards to earn the miles for the United Island Hopper in the South Pacific!

For full details on these cards check out the relevant pages on the Chase Bank or United Airlines websites. Do be aware that these cards’ sign-up bonuses fluctuate throughout the year with the standard offers usually being in the 30,000 points range but they usually go up to 50k or 60,000 points 2-3 times per year so I suggest mapping out your application strategy and timing and holding off until one of those increased offers become available. When the sign-up offers increase I’ll let y’all know via the website, Twitter, and Facebook.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offers from the Chase Bank website for the various Southwest Credit Cards.

Chase Ink Cash:

Neither of us have this card but I’m considering it as part of our strategy as my wife bounces above and below 5/24. The advantages here are that it has a sign-up bonus of $300 after spending $3,000 in 3 months and it earns 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, & phone services as well as 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants all with no annual fee. It’s also valuable as the cash back can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of $1 to 100 UR points. Since UR points are widely regarded to be worth 1.8 – 2.2 cents and I’ve gotten as much as 5+ cents per point value out of them that $1 to 100 UR points can become worth as much as $1.80 to $2.20 or more. Obviously 5% cash back at those rotating categories can be so huge that it’s yuuuge.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offer from the Chase Bank website for the Chase Ink Cash Credit Card.

Chase Freedom, Freedom unlimited, and Slate:

Neither of us have these cards but I’m considering them as part of our strategy as my wife bounces above and below 5/24 over the next couple years. The Slate as I understand it is basically the entry level Chase credit card geared towards those with little to no credit history such as students, new adults, and those with poor or previously poor credit. With the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited the advantage is that in addition to having no annual fee they earn cash back on every purchase. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases while the Freedom earns 5% cash back on select merchant categories that change every quarter with activation required and with a limit of $1,500 spent. The categories are often things like dining out, club stores, gas stations, etc. 5% cash back is great and is hard to beat but it can be if you also have one of the ultimate rewards earning cards as that opens up the possibility of transferring your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points at a ratio of $1 to 100 UR points. Since UR points are widely regarded to be worth 1.8 – 2.2 cents and I’ve gotten as much as 5+ cents per point value out of them that $1 to 100 UR points can become worth as much as $1.80 to $2.20 or more. Obviously 5% cash back at those rotating categories can be so huge that it’s yuuuge.

These cards come with seemingly low sign-up bonuses of $150 but remember that the real power comes in the rotating 5% categories and it can be supercharged by converting the cash back into Ultimate Rewards points.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offer from the Chase Bank website for their Chase cash back cards.

Why We LOVE the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

This is an awesome card that due to 5/24 I can’t get and my wife wasn’t able to get even though we had wanted to add it to our wallet for over 3 years!  FINALLY, in January 2018 she dipped below 5/24 again so she applied for the card and bingo she was approved with a solid spending limit. Our advice is to get it if you can! 

What draws us to the card is the 50,000 point sign-up bonus good for at least $625 in travel, extra 5,000 points for adding an authorized user, 2x points at restaurants, 2x points on travel, low annual fee of $95 that’s waived the first year, and the primary rental car insurance it offers if you pay with the card and decline the rental company’s insurance.

The 50k point bonus Ultimate Rewards points can transfer instantly to Hyatt 1:1 and be redeemed for 2 nights at the exclusive Park Hyatt Maldives where rooms on the 50 villa private island are routinely $1,000 per night. Now THAT’s a great value!

Since getting the card and quickly meeting the $5,000 minimum spend threshold – thanks to a large, reimbursable purchase we had to make – we have been very happy with how quickly the card earns valuable Ultimate Reward points via the 2x points earning at restaurants and on all travel. The travel category is great because it includes all sorts of things like car services, airplane tickets, hotels, and more! We also snagged the 5k points bonus by adding me as an authorized user on her account. Ultimate Rewards are great because they can easily and instantly transfer to a lot of hotel and airline travel partners such as Hyatt hotels, United Airlines, Singapore Air, and Korean Air where we can and do receive outsized value for our points.

Heads up on the authorized user bonus: only add people you are authorized to add and with their permission/knowledge. I recommend not adding anyone near or below 5/24 as they’d be better off getting their own Chase cards BUT if one spouse is above 5/24 and the other is below then the spouse above 5/24 could be added as an authorized user earning another 5k bonus points. Also, you can add your kids as authorized users once they turn 13 and help build their credit in the process: you don’t even have to have them use the card! (After that first purchase to trigger the sign-on bonus, of course!)

If you are a personal friend new to the credit card and travel rewards thing then this is the very first card I recommend you get.

If you are a personal friend not new to rewards cards and travel rewards and are below 5/24 then this is the next card I recommend you get.

If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 10,000 points for each (up to 5) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus and waived annual feee the first year.

Amex SPG Business Card 35,000 point Sign-up Bonus

UPDATE: This offer is no longer active AND this product is no longer offered as this exact product

The American Express Business credit card now has a 35,000 point sign-up bonus through March 28th 2018!  This is as high as it has ever been.

This is GREAT news because SPG points are super valuable, not that easy to get, and they or this card may soon be impossible to get given the impending changes to the Marriott/SPG credit card offerings that take effect “some time in 2018.” Even better is that 35,000 bonus points matches it’s highest ever sign-up bonus and with a lower spend threshold to boot!

Offer Details:

  • Earn 35,000 bonus Starpoints when spending $7,000 in combined purchases in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee is waived the first year
  • Offer expires 3/28/2018

Card Highlights:

  • American Express card earning SPG Starpoints
  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • Earns 2x Starpoints at SPG and Marriott properties (better rate at Marriott than using the Marriott card!)
  • Sheraton Club Lounge Access when at Sheraton properties with a club lounge
  • Earns 1x Starpoint on all purchases
  • A business card so it does not count as one of your cards for Chase 5/24

Another great thing about this card is that getting it won’t count against your Chase 5/24 numbers if you are smartly playing the slow-game to maximize getting all the best Chase cards like the Ink Preferred and Sapphire Preferred.

SPG points are routinely valued at 2.2 cents a piece and I’ve seen some valuations as high as 2.5 cents a piece. They are the only points that can be transferred to American Airlines AAdvantage Miles and like with all airlines with SPG they transfer with a 5k points bonus when transferring in increments of 20,000 points.   So, after meeting the minimum spend on this Amex SPG business card’s increased sign-up bonus you will have 42,000 SPG points, which are worth $900 according to most valuations or you can transfer those into 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles or airline miles with any one of SPG’s 34+ airline transfer partners.

Of course you can also use your new stash of SPG points to stay at any one of the many Starwood hotels like The Westin, The W, St. Regis, Sheraton and more OR you can transfer them to Marriott points at a rate of 1:3 so that those 40,000 SPG points become 120,000 Marriott points!

That’s a lot of hotels for which you could redeem your sweet bonus points.

The card also comes with Sheraton Club Lounge access for the card member any time you stay at a Sheraton hotel. This benefit is unique to this SPG Business card as the personal version of the card doesn’t have this perk.  While Sheraton lounges can be hit or miss in my experience we have enjoyed this benefit several times and it has definitely saved us time, money, and effort after and/or before a long day of traveling as we can stay in the hotel grabbing snacks, drinks, and even enough munchies to skip dinner or we can start our day with a quick bite before leaving the hotel.  This has worked especially well for us when staying at or near the airport before or after international flights.

But I don’t own a business…” that may or may not be true. If you own a small business then great you are good to go. If you don’t think you own a business you may still be able to legally apply for a business credit card. If you run certain types of non-profits that may have their own tax EIN then you may be able to get a business credit card for that organization. Also, if you sell stuff online, drive for Lyft, sell photos you take, have regular garage sales, or otherwise do any labor or work by contract you probably qualify as a small business and can use your own social security number when applying. Just be honest and if you are small and starting out then state that you are in the process of growing your business.

If you and a partner are doing the rewards credit card thing together then it makes sense for one of you to apply NOW in early March and then refer the other via a referral link before the end of the month.  That way you both get the 35k point sign-up bonus but one of you also gets the 7,500 referral bonus.

If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 7,500 points for each (up to 8) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the American Express SPG Business credit card with a 35,000 point sign-up bonus. 

I’m getting 19.6% back for every dollar spent on Starbucks until July 2018!

I’ve already outlined how you can get 10% cash back at Starbucks through June 2018 and I have also already shown how I get an effective 19.1% cash back on all my Starbucks spend year round without any special promotions.  But, now I have realized I am doing even better with a guaranteed 19.6% back for every dollar spent at Starbucks until July 2018!

Thanks to Discover Card and its cash back match whereby at the end of the first year of card membership Discover will double all the cash back earned on that card during the first year. This double cash back definitely applies to the rotating quarterly 5% bonus categories, which include Target in 2017 Q4, Gas Stations in 2018 Q1, and grocery stores in 2018 Q2. The key thing here is that all of those places sell Starbucks gift cards so by purchasing Starbucks gift cards with my first-year Discover card at one of the bonus category merchants for that quarter, loading it onto my Starbucks rewards account, and getting Starbucks rewards stars for my purchase I effectively get 10% cash back from Discover for purchasing the gift cards (5% now and 5% later) then another 9.6% in value back from the stars, which gives me 19.6 cents back for every dollar spent on Starbucks from now until the end of July. #Winning

Of course this isn’t even accounting for any rewards earned from gas station rewards programs (i.e. Plenti points for purchases at Exxon-Mobil) or from grocery store fuel credits. Once factoring the bonuses earned via those programs for purchasing the Starbucks gift cards the effective rate of return could get even more supercharged! My quick back of the napkin calculations indicate that I would probably get another 1 cent per dollar in value so that could up this whole thing to 20.6% back.  Not too shabby for such minimal work of buying a gift card while at the gas station or grocery store anyways and loading it onto my Starbucks phone app.

If you don’t yet have a Discover card or have only one and haven’t gotten one in over a year then go ahead and apply for a new Discover card now so that you can grab 10% cash back at Amazon & Target and even Starbucks before the year is over and be prepared for next year’s great line-up of 5% categories (doubled to an effective rate of 10% via the end of first year cash back match).

It’s a no annual fee card and Discover has the best customer service of any of my many credit cards. Best of all, I’ll get about $1,000 of benefit from the sign-up bonus doubling all cash back earned in the first year of card membership. That’s simply unbeatable for a no annual fee card!

Of course, if you have fewer than 5 new card approvals in the past 24 months you probably want to read through my post on The First Cards to Get before jumping on this great Discover opportunity.

If you choose to apply for this card then I’d be super appreciative if you used my direct link to the offer where you’ll get a $50 sign-up bonus and all cash back from the first year doubled after your first card anniversary.  In the interest of full disclosure, like all current cardholders, I’m eligible to earn $50 for each (up to 10) of my referrals that get approved after using my link.  We’d both get a $50 bonus! Like I said, I’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using my link for the Discover Card that’ll get you a $50 bonus and a year of cash back doubled

How I regularly get at least 19.1% back for every dollar spent at Starbucks

I consistently get at least 19 cents in value back for every dollar I spend at Starbucks. I do this by combining over three different loyalty programs and using the right credit card to maximize the money I was going to spend on my Starbucks addiction anyways.

The programs:

Starbucks Rewards = 9.6 cents return per dollar.

Chase Ultimate Rewards = 1.5 cents return per dollar.

Ultimate Rewards transfer partner programs such as Hyatt or Singapore Airlines boosts the value received from each UR point by transferring to them from UR for luxury redemptions.

Office Depot Rewards = 2 cents return per dollar.

The card:

Chase Ink Plus = 5 x UR points at office supply stores = 7.5 cents return per dollar spent at Office Depot

First, I am a member of the Starbucks rewards program and have their easy-to-attain gold status, which earns 2 points (called stars in Starbucks parlance) for every dollar I spend there. After accumulating 125 stars I get a free menu item, which can be saved and used at any time I choose before the stars expire and the stars don’t expire for something like 6-months. When redeeming the free menu item the Starbucks point-of-sale system (cash register or app) automatically applies the discount to the most expensive item, which is nice and different than the way they used to do it a few years ago.

Membership has its perks 😉

I almost always redeem the stars for items costing over $6 and frequently over $7. When I’m below that mark it’s usually $5.75 or $5.95 in value so my average redemption is easily $6, which means I get 4.8 cents of value from each of those 125 stars. FYI their sandwiches are all in the $6+ range after tax so you can always redeem for a free lunch and who doesn’t like a free lunch! 4.8 cents per star and 2 stars earned for each dollar spent is an easy 9.6 cents in value back for every dollar spent at Starbucks even if all you do is join their loyalty program, pay in cash, and remember to scan your loyalty card.

I get even more return on the money I spend because I almost never pay Starbucks directly. Instead, I buy Starbucks gift cards at my nearby office supply store where I use my wife’s Chase Ink Plus card, which earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent at office supply stores and I value UR points at somewhere between 1 and 2+ cents per point so that means another 5 to 10 cents in value back for every dollar. Many blogs’ points valuations list UR points at over 2 cents per point but I try to be more conservative in determining the value I get so let’s say UR points are worth 1.5 cents, which gives me a value of 7.5 cents per dollar spent at the office supply store when buying Starbucks gift cards with the Chase Ink Plus card earning it’s 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.

When combining the 7.5 cents in per-dollar value from the gift card purchase with the 9.6 cents per-dollar value from the Starbucks loyalty program I get at least a total of 17.1% in value back for every dollar spent on Starbucks, which is pretty fantastic for an every day return on spend.

So named because members earn 2% back as store credit on EVERYTHING the store sells.

But I still do better. By joining the Office Depot/ Office Max Rewards Everything program I get 2% back in rewards on everything they sell, including gift cards. The program automatically loads the 2% back as a store credit at the end of each quarter and gives you the entire next quarter to redeem the rewards as a store credit at check-out. It can all be done via their handy smart phone app. Therefore, by joining the Office Depot Office Max Rewards Everything program and accounting for that 2% back I now effectively get a total of at least 19.1 cents back for every dollar I spend on Starbucks year round. That’s like a permanent 19% discount on Starbucks!

That’s just a baseline minimum as the value often increases, for example; if I redeem the rewards for something costing $7 or more instead of the $6 used for the above calculations (an extra 1.6 cents value); or if I buy something on one of their “Double Star Days,” which seems to happen a couple times a month (an extra 9.6 cents value); or if I get more value from the Ultimate Rewards points than 1.5 cent per point, (frequently an extra 0.5-3.5 cents value).

Double Star Days provide especially lucrative return!

Now, one important note is that the Chase Ink Plus card is no longer available for new applicants so that 5 points per dollar at office supply stores is not available to most people via that card anymore. BUT the Chase Ink Cash business card is still available to new applicants offers 5% cash back at office supply stores, which on it’s own is a nice return but not the supercharged return of the UR points which are worth more than that but luckily, if you have another UR point earning personal card such as the highly recommended Chase Sapphire Preferred (the next card we plan to get) then you can transfer the cash back into UR points and end up with the same rate of return on spend at office supply stores as I do with the Ink Plus. OR you could get the Ink Plus’ replacement card the Chase Ink Preferred, which offers 3 points per dollar spent at office supply stores, which would reduce the rate of return on office supply spend by 3% from 7.5% with the 5 points per dollar earning cards (Ink Plus and Cash) to 4.5% return with the 3 points per dollar Chase Ink Preferred. Once adjusting the final calculations accordingly the total rate of return would drop from 19.1% to 16.1%, which is still impressive as a standard return for all money spent on Starbucks. That’s like a permanent 16% discount on Starbucks!

I know it may sound like a lot of work but it’s really not if there are Office Depot and Office Max locations near you. I simply stop by the store occasionally to buy a couple hundred dollars of Starbucks gift cards at once. I then add the value of those gift cards to our respective existing Starbucks Rewards Gold Card accounts via the Starbucks app on each of our phones. Boom, that easy. Having the app with a loaded card even allows us to order remotely and stop by to pick-up our orders, skipping the line in the process.

Chase Ink Cash:

To get in on this sweet deal consider getting the Chase Ink Cash small business card, especially if you already have a personal card that earns Ultimate Rewards. Get it before you are restricted by 5/24

Neither of us have this card but I’m considering it as part of our strategy as my wife bounces above and below 5/24. The advantages here are that it has a sign-up bonus of $300 after spending $3,000 in 3 months and it earns 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, & phone services as well as 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants all with no annual fee. It’s also valuable as the cash back can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of $1 to 100 UR points. Since UR points are widely regarded to be worth 1.8 – 2.2 cents and I’ve gotten as much as 5+ cents per point value out of them that $1 to 100 UR points can become worth as much as $1.80 to $2.20 or more. Obviously 5% cash back at those rotating categories can be so huge that it’s yuuuge.

We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offer from the Chase Bank website for the Chase Ink Small Business Cash Back Credit Card.

Chase Ink Preferred:

If  you want a bigger sign-up bonus or don’t have & don’t want to wait to get a UR earning personal card or if you like the higher sign-up bonus then get this card before you are restricted by 5/24 so you can supercharge your return on spend at Starbucks.

This is an awesome card that we got as soon as we could.  What drew us to this card was the 80,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months, 3x points on travel, 3x points on social media advertising, 3x points on shipping, 3x points on internet/cable/phone services, cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly cell service bill with the card, primary rental car insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and more!

The sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $1,000 in value if redeemed through the Chase portal but I can get at least about $4,000 in value from those points if I use them for high value redemptions via the many Chase transfer partners such. That’s a crazy good deal for a $95 annual fee card but add in the $600 cell phone protection against theft or damage and it’s a no brainer to get this card if you can!

If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 20,000 points for each (up to 5) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the Chase Ink Preferred small business Credit Card.

 

How I’m Getting 10% Cash Back at Amazon Until 2018

For the rest of 2017 I am getting 10% cash back at Amazon (and Target, too!) with a limit of up to $1,500 spent. This is because the Discover bonus 5% cash back category has been Target and Amazon for the entire last quarter of 2017. For those who don’t know, that means after I register for the quarter’s 5% category via my account homepage on discover.com or via the Discover smartphone app I earn 5% cash back on all purchases at those designated stores on up to $1,500 in spend. But that’s not 10%, you say…

Well, since I am still in the first year of that card account and Discover doubles all the cash back earned within the first year of membership that means the 5% cash back is really 5% cash back on my next statement plus another 5% cash back on my 13th account statement (one month after my first year account anniversary) effectively making it 10% cash back at Target and Amazon for me for the entire 4th quarter of 2017.

You, too, can get in on the 10% cash back at Amazon deal!

Once 2018 arrives the Discover 5% category switches to Gas Stations and Wholesale clubs for the first quarter 2018 so in addition to using my new Discover card for gas I’ll buy immediate use gift cards at gas stations to effectively get 10% cash back at a whole host of places.

In addition, I frequently use their online shopping portal Discover Deals to purchase items we were going to purchase anyways and get a pre-set cash back rate –often 5% – while doing so and of course that will also be doubled at the end of my first year. This is great for wedding/baby registries, clothing stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. as it’s a year-round 10% cash back and I can still each individual store’s coupons, discount codes, free shipping deals etc. I’ll even try clothes on at my nearby store and then return home to purchase them online after click through from the Discover Deals portal.

So, if you don’t yet have a Discover card or have only one and haven’t gotten one in over a year then go ahead and apply for a new Discover card now so that you can grab 10% cash back at Amazon & Target before the year is over and be prepared for next year’s great line-up of 5% categories, too.

Of course, if you have fewer than 5 new card approvals in the past 24 months you probably want to read through my post on The First Cards to Get before jumping on this great Discover opportunity.

It’s a no annual fee card and Discover has the best customer service of any of my many credit cards. Best of all, I’ll get about $1,000 of benefit from the sign-up bonus, which is doubling all cash back earned in the first year of card membership. That’s simply unbeatable for a no annual fee card!

If you choose to apply for this card then I’d be super appreciative if you used my direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current cardholders, I’m eligible to earn $50 for each (up to 10) of my referrals that get approved after using my link but by using the link you’ll also get a $50 sign-up bonus  on top of the cash back match. Like I said, I’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using my Discover Cash Back Card link.

Get 10% Cash Back at Starbucks with Discover Card until July 2018

 

 

 

 

For the fourth quarter of 2017 the Discover-it bonus 5% cash back category has been Target and Amazon. For those who don’t know that means after registering via the account homepage on discover.com or via the Discover smartphone app I earn 5% cash back on all purchases at those designated stores up to $1,500 in spend. Since I am still in the first year of that card account and Discover doubles all* the cash back earned within the first year of membership that means the 5% cash back is really 5% cash back on my next statement plus another 5% cash back on my 13th account statement (1-month after my first year account anniversary) effectively making it 10% cash back at Target and Amazon for me for the entire 4th quarter of 2017.

I certainly spend money at Amazon and I can easily shift some of my grocery store spend to Target during the quarter but I usually don’t spend $1,500 at those places in that time span. BUT Target sells gift cards and one place where I regularly (i.e. predictably and reliably) spend money is Starbucks. I don’t spend $1,500 at Starbucks in 4-months either but I do spend money there frequently enough that I can buy gift cards at Target and use them within a couple weeks without tying up my money in advance purchase gift cards for an unknown amount of time until I cash them out.

Once I max out the $1,500 – I’m within about $75 of maxing it out for this quarter – I will use my older Discover card and “settle” for getting just 5% cash back on all purchases at Target and Amazon and thus at Starbucks, too.  Once 2018 arrives the Discover 5% category switches to Gas Stations and Wholesale clubs for the first quarter and then grocery stores for the second quarter of 2018 so in addition to using my new Discover card for gas and at grocery stores in the respective quarters I’ll buy immediate use gift cards at to keep the 10%-cash-back-at-Starbucks train rolling.

Oh, and I frequently use their online shopping portal Discover Deals to purchase items we were going to purchase anyways and get 5% cash back while doing so and of course that will also be doubled at the end of my first year. This is great for wedding/baby registries, clothing stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. as it’s a year-round 10% cash back and I can still use each individual store’s coupons, discount codes, free shipping deals etc. I’ll even try clothes on at my nearby store and then return home to purchase them online after click through from the Discover Deals portal if the cost of shipping isn’t more expensive than the cash back earned.

So, if you don’t yet have a Discover card or have only one and haven’t gotten one in over a year then go ahead and apply for a new Discover card now so that you can get a $50 statement credit and grab 10% cash back at Amazon & Target and even Starbucks before the year is over and be prepared for next year’s great line-up of 5% categories, too.

It’s a no annual fee card and Discover has the best customer service of any of my many credit cards. Best of all, I’ll get about $1,000 of benefit from the sign-up bonus, which is doubling all cash back earned in the first year of card membership. That’s simply unbeatable for a no annual fee card!

Of course, if you have fewer than 5 new card approvals in the past 24 months you probably want to read through my post on The First Cards to Get before jumping on this great Discover opportunity.

If you choose to apply for this card then I’d be super appreciative if you used my direct link to the offer where you’ll get a $50 sign-up bonus and all cash back from the first year doubled after your first card anniversary.  In the interest of full disclosure, like all current cardholders, I’m eligible to earn $50 for each (up to 10) of my referrals that get approved after using my link. We’d both get a $50 bonus! Like I said, I’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using my link for the Discover Card that’ll get you a $50 bonus and a year of cash back doubled.