Tuesday, June 7, 2011

5% Cash Back on Groceries

If you are a Discover More card holder, June is the 5% cashback category for the entire month.  The only catch is that you need to log into www.discovercard.com and register to be eligible for the cashback bonus. Hurry up.. time's a wastin!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ebates Daily Double: Nordstroms 12% cash back!

Today only, Ebates is offering 12% cash back on all online purchases at Nordstroms, instead of their normal 3% cash back.  That is the highest cash back I have ever noticed for Nordstroms. Couple with your cash back credit card to score even more savings!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ebates Daily Double: Home Depot

Today only, Ebates is offering 5% cash back on all purchases at Home Depot online.  This is above the normal 3% cash back which they offer.  And remember, if you have a Discover More card or a Chase Freedom Visa card, you can earn an additional 5% cash back for using the card for your purchases there.  (Home Depot qualifies as a home improvement center for their quarterly 5% cash back categories.)  Just remember to go to Ebates first, then on to Home Depot to get the additional cash back.  So, if you were thinking about buying a new lawn mower, or some new appliances or some yard tools, head on over to Ebates and save a little extra cash.  If you are not yet a member of Ebates, what are you waiting for?  They will give you $3 just for registering.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

McDonald's Gift Cards - 20% Off For a LImited Time

Through this week, GiftCardRescue.com is selling McDonald's gift cards at 20% off.  They are even throwing in free shipping with the purchase of $90 or more. Make Ronald McDonald a happy clown, and make your Happy Meals a little happier by saving some cash.

Bazando No Longer Offers Cash Back at Plastic Jungle

Bazando, is one of the leading cash back portals that I have recommended, and the best if you shop online in the UK, France, or Germany.  It has also been my favorite "go to" site for buying gift cards at Plastic Jungle, a discount reseller of gift cards which I have also recommended.  Bazando offered 3% cash back on top of the already decent discounts offered by Plastic Jungle.  Well, that relationship apparently is no more.  That is too bad for us consumers.  However, one can still get 1% cash back through Mr. Rebates for purchase of discount gift cards at Cardpool.  Cardpool's discounted prices often matched or even exceed those of Plastic Jungle, so there is still some hope out there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Amex Daily Wishes: 50% off Ford Fusion hybrid + 50% off Whole Foods

This week, American Express Daily Wish is serving up some fine gift card deals for Whole Foods.  If you are an Amex cardholder, you should check out these deals, which are coming up on Wednesday, and see if you can grab one.  The offers are limited in quantity, so you have to be fast!  For example, Amex is offering ninety $100 gift cards to Whole Foods when you spend $200; one hundred seventy five $50 gift cards when you spend $100, and three hundred $25 gift cards when you spend $50.  Each translates into a 50% savings on your next trip to the grocery store.
  On Thursday, they have come up with an even more spectacular deal.  They are offering 2 2011 Ford Fusion hybrid automobiles at 50% off MSRP.  This represents a potential savings of $14,450! Now wouldn't that be a nice Easter present, and easy on the environment as well.  To see all of the Daily Wish offerings, just go to their website at http://dailywish.amexnetwork.com.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Cashback Websites With a Twist - Buy Nothing Extra and Get Cash Back

With the latest Internet trend of offering cash back, along comes a couple of new startup websites with a different twist.   Both sites are predicated on learning your existing purchasing habits, so as to gear specific offers based on where you already shop.  Targeted demographic information like that is extremely valuable to merchants, and they are willing to make it worth your while (in the form of cash or cash savings) to share where you buy your groceries or gas.  We will take a look at both sites.
Offermatic
Offermatic is a new cash back website that offers targeted 50% off coupons to merchants you already patronize.  At the initial level, this translates into $5 off a $10 purchase, offered every couple weeks.  At level 2, the deals get even better, with $10 off a $20 purchase.  There is even a 3rd level.  Users attain the higher levels by referring new customers, giving reviews of their shopping experiences and twittering about their deals.  I am only 5 referrals away from reaching a Level 2, so if this website sounds appealing, sign up via this link and I thank you.  They are offering an additional free $5 off $10 purchase at whatever merchant you use just for signing up.

Envaulted
Envaulted is another startup website that is currently in beta and is not open to new membership at this time.  However, one can get on a waiting list and as new membership slots open, you can receive an invitation to join.  It took me approximately 4 weeks to receive my invitation.  The business model for Envaulted varies slightly from Offermatic, but is intriguing.  Their pitch is simple.  Receive 1% cash back on all your credit card purchases, paid to youby monthly check.  Period.  End of Story.  Nothing extra to buy.They will even increase the cash back during limited time frames for featured vendors.  For example, this week, they offer 20% cash back on all Fandango purchases, and 3% cash back on all Whole Foods purchases.

Credit Card Registration - Both sites require registration of at least one credit or debit card through their secure website so they can analyze your spending patterns and preferred merchants.  This is usually the part that scares off most people; yet in actuality, it is all handled through Yodlee, the same company that Mint.com, Quicken and many of the top banks themselves use.  No personal information is ever requested, and they ask only for the last 4 digits of the credit card. If you currently use online banking, you are probably already using Yodlee's services without knowing it.
   I highly recommend both sites to those of you who feel comfortable with the business models of these firms.  As always, I welcome your comments and what your experiences have been.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shopping for That Easter Bonnet?

Easter is a time of rebirth, both spiritually and practically speaking.  The grass starts to turn green, trees begin to bud, and Mother Nature seems to awaken from her winter slumber.  So it seems perfectly fitting that we celebrate this time of year with some new clothes.  Maybe not always an Easter bonnet, but perhaps that new colorful outfit or a pair of new shoes.  If the warmer temperatures have put an itch in you to go out and treat you or the family to a wardrobe spruce up, then I've got good news!

Ebates has doubled its cash back rebates on many of the most popular online clothing websites.  I have included their promo ad here.  Just log into Ebates, then head off to your favorite retailer to do some Easter shopping, and save a little cash while you are at it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lowes Gift Cards on Sale - 8% off

For the next 48 hours, the gift card reseller Cardpool is offering Lowe's gift cards at 8% off their face value.  Remember that if you go through Mr. Rebates first, you can pick up an additional 1% cash back.  These cards won't last long!  Remember also, that Discover and Chase Freedom cards are offering 5% cash back starting today at all home improvement centers.  While not as good as the gift cards, there should not be any reason why you pay full retail this month for your lawn and garden needs.  Spring has arrived!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sam's Club Members - Ditch Those Discover Cards!

     Some friends of mine run a small business and purchase all of their business related items at Sam's Club. They asked me how they could save more by using my MaxCashBack methods.  I learned that they did have a Discover card, and were using this credit card (the only one accepted by Sam's Club) to make all of their purchases.  They thought that they were getting 2% cash back.
     I did a little research and learned that Discover has one of the least attractive cash back rewards systems of the major cards.  See my post earlier this month on Best Cash Back Rewards cards here.  To make a long story short, one does not even begin to earn 1% cash back on a Discover card until after $6000 in purchase have been made.
     So, what does a loyal Sam's Club member have to do to get the type of savings I routinely find with other merchants?  The light bulb finally went off in my head today.  USE A WALMART GIFT CARD!!  Because Sam's Club is owned by Walmart, all Walmart gift cards are honored by Sam's Club, both online and in stores.  These gift cards can be readily purchased at a discount (see how to do this and save 5-10% here). Better yet, these gift cards can be purchased using a good cash back rewards credit card like the Chase Freedom Visa card or the Fidelity American Express card through any of the gift card resellers.
     Now, Sam's Club members can realize big cash back savings like the rest of us, instead of settling for the 0.25-1% cash back rewards typically earned by Discover card holders.  Let me know in the comments below if you found this tidbit of information helpful.  Thanks!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Merchant Cashback Strategies: Walmart - Everyday 7% savings!

This week I am going to talk about getting cash back at the king of retailing kings, Walmart.  Walmart prides itself on having the lowest prices, day in and day out.  Quality may be a different issue, but I am just going to focus on how you can trim your Walmart bill by another 5-10% after you are done shopping.  First, let's discuss cash back rewards credit cards.  Unfortunately, virtually all major credit card holders exclude Walmart from any special 5% cash back promotions.  They refuse to categorize Walmart as a grocery store, or a clothing store, or an electronics store because it is all of the above, without really specializing in any of the above.  One does get the default cash back of 1% or 2% for using the rewards credit cards, depending on the card you are using, but that is about the best that one can hope for. 
   Now, on the other hand, Walmart gift cards can routinely be purchased through Cardpool, Plastic Jungle or other gift card reseller sites for 3% discount.  If one uses the cash back portal Bazando to reach the Plastic Jungle site, Bazando will pay you an additional 3% on your gift card purchases.  Finally, pay for the gift card with your cash back credit cards to realize a bottom line savings of about 7%.  Remember that this discount is after you have taken advantage of coupons, in store savings and the like.  If you are purchasing from Walmart online, look for the eCode gift cards, as you do not need a physical gift card there, just the code to enter at checkout.
I bet you didn't know you were paying 7% too much every time you shopped there, did you? 
OK, if you are ready to start saving an extra 7%, make sure that you are signed up at the gift card stores first.  Sign up for the biggies, Plastic Jungle and Cardpool by clicking on the links here or at the right on my blog.  Then sign up for the cash back portals, like Bazando mentioned here. (Click on the Bazando logo here and Bazando will give you $3 just for signing up!).  If you prefer to use the Cardpool site, then use Mr. Rebates first to get an extra 1% by going through them to the Cardpool site.  Then purchase your Walmart cards and check your mailbox a few days later.  As a side note, discounted Walmart gift cards are obviously in high demand and short supply.  The best time to find them is early in the morning or late at night.  I always carry at least $200 worth of these with me for my shopping forays. Depending on your shopping needs, you may want to get more cards.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Deal: For You Coffee Lovers

   If you are a coffee lover, then you know that the cost of coffee beans has gone through the roof in recent months.  However, Amazon has a fantastic deal if you like Eight O'Clock Coffee.  Here is the deal:
Get a 4 pack of 12 oz. bags of ground Eight O'Clock coffee in various styles and flavors for the amazing price of $11.00 total with the checkout code of  SOLOCOF5 and the Subscribe and Save feature.  Free shipping thrown in. Click the photo to go through Slickdeals for this offer.

Cash Back on Your Monthly Housing Costs?

   Just about everyone has a utility bill which comes in the snail mail or email each month.  It could be gas, or electricity, or a phone bill.  Recently I had an interesting experience with my gas company, Xcel Energy.  I had been paying my bill by direct debit, but they were in the process of changing from Checkfree, so I wanted to see what my options were.  Lo and behold,  I could pay by credit card! The gotcha was that they wanted a convenience fee.
   Now, most of the time the convenience fee for using a credit card outweighs any cash back savings.  But Xcel's fee was a fixed fee of $4.95, so the larger my payment, the smaller my percentage cost would be to pay by plastic. I happened to have a credit card that was giving me 5% cash back on every purchase, so I used that card to charge $400 to Xcel.  Cash back = $20.00  Convenience charge = $4.95.  Net utility savings = $15.05.  Not bad.
   Virtually every phone company now accepts credit cards without a fee (because the fee is already built into their rates!)  So do most car and home insurance companies. Why write a check when you can charge the fee, get an extra 25 days to pay, and get cash back?  Just remember, it never makes sense to charge for items that you cannot afford to pay for in full.


With tax season upon us, you might be wondering about cash back on taxes.  Well, as a matter of fact, that is a subject of a future post!


Happy shopping!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Merchant CashBack Strategies: Chili's Restaurant

Today, I thought I would discuss cash back strategies for Chili's.  Now personally, I do not eat at Chili's very often, but I know that it is a very popular, family friendly place to go for lunch or dinner.  Chili's often runs specials that are a good bargain. Since it is tough to get your baby back ribs by ordering online, my recommendations are to go with discounted gift cards.  The best of these cards usually can be purchased for a 12% discount through Plastic Jungle, one of the largest and most reputable of the discounted gift card resellers, and a company that I have mentioned often.  They guarantee every card purchased for 100 days.  If you are very clever, then you will know that you should use Bazando, a cash back portal, to buy your gift cards at Plastic Jungle, as they offer  an astounding $3 back on your purchase (at least they did on my last purchase there this week)! Of course, have your cash back credit card ready to buy those gift cards to snag even more cash back. OK, this may be a little confusing, so here are the steps:
1.  Register at Plastic Jungle here.  You only need to do this once. Log off once you have registered.
2.  Register at Bazando here.  You only need to do this once and they give you $3 just for signing up!
3.  Tell Bazando you want to shop at Plastic Jungle.  It will take you to Plastic Jungle's home page.  Log in, and find your Chili's gift card.  Lets say you buy a $50 gift card for $44.00.  Pay with your cash back credit card.
4.  Shortly, you will be notified from Bazando that your $3 cash back for your purchase at Plastic Jungle is pending.  Sometimes, this can take a day or two. Your net cost is now $41.00 for a $50 gift card.  That is an 18% discount.
5. Your gift card will arrive in your mailbox in a few days.  Now go out and enjoy whatever you want at Chili's and know you are paying the least amount possible.
Of course, if you eat at Chili's a lot, maybe you want to buy several gift cards at the same time.  Otherwise, I would just purchase what I need for the next month or two. The restaurant treats the gift cards just like cash.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Planning Your Summer Getaway?

 This week, Mr. Rebates, has doubled their cash back to 6%  on all Choice Hotel reservations made through their site.  Choice Hotels represents the best in hotels such as Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Mainstay Suites, Econo Lodge, and the Rodeway Inn.  If you plan on booking your next stay at one of these hotels, then it might be worth checking this out.  Get your best deal, then go online through Mr. Rebates to book your room.  Cash back is awarded after the end of your stay. If you aren't already registered at Mr. Rebates, just use one of these links and they will give you $5 just for signing up.  It's a great way to start the week!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Attention Kmart Shoppers!

Today only, Ebates is offering 8% cash back on all online purchases if you go through their website.  First, pick up a Kmart gift card from Cardpool at a 10% discount, or 11% if you go through Mr. Rebates, then head off to do all your shopping and score a nifty 18-20% cash back on all of your Kmart purchases.  Of course, if you pay with your cash back credit card, the discount is even more.  

Happy shopping!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Cash Back Reminder

   The weekend is rapidly approaching, and thoughts of spring cleaning, whether indoors or outdoors, may be lurking for those otherwise immune to March Madness.  Just a reminder that if you plan on buying anything at Home Depot or Lowes, check out my posts from earlier this week or last week on how to score some serious savings at either of these stores. Don't forget that Mr. Rebates is offering 6% cash back on Home Depot through this week.
    Today, Ebates is running a double cash back special on Beall's.  I must confess that I am not personally familiar with the store, because there aren't any where I live.  But for those of my readers who shop there, Ebates has doubled their cash back to 7%, and you can snag another 20% on a $50 purchase by using their coupon code MEGA10 at checkout.
    While you are reading this, take a minute to let me know how I am doing.  Is this information worthwhile to you?  Is there a topic you would like to see me cover?  I am new at this blogging thing, and would love to know that someone is actually reading this.
Thanks and have a great weekend!
Steve

Regal Cinemas Offering Free Small Popcorn This Weekend

Everybody likes a freebie.  If your plans include heading to the movie theatre this weekend, slide on over to Regal Entertainment Group on Facebook, click "like" and get a free small popcorn, good through March 20th.  They will also send you weekly deals.  If you don't like that, just "unlike" them after you print your coupon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Merchant Cashback Strategies: Best Buy

This week, our Merchant Cashback strategy focuses on Best Buy, one of the original big box electronics retailers.  For many consumers, this is the place to go when purchasing big ticket electronics items, such as TV's, stereo sound systems, laptop computers or car stereos.  These purchases can represent a significant dollar amount, which is why it is extremely important to take advantage of every cash back strategy in the book.  The savings can be significant.
    The first questions I ask are usually: 1) Will I be purchasing in a local store or online?; and 2) Will I get more cash back from using my credit cards or by purchasing discounted gift cards?
   I can purchase Best Buy gift cards at a 7% discount at both Plastic Jungle and Cardpool.  If I am in a hurry and want to purchase online, I can probably find an Ecode gift card from one of these two merchants. The discounts that I get by purchasing gift cards usually will surpass even a 5% cash back credit card. However, if I am smart, sometimes I can have my cake and eat it too.  If you are buying online, then it is always good to see what discount your credit card shopping portal is offering for Best Buy.  For example, Discover gives you 5% back if you buy from the Best Buy website using their shopping portal.
  If I elect the gift cards route, I will purchase my Buy Buy gift cards through Cardpool by first going through the Mr. Rebates website, so I can pick up an extra 1%.  Now I am at 8% discount.  If I pay for my purchase with a 1% or 2% cash back credit card, I can get that discount up to 9-10%. I also check on Ebay to see if there are any 10% off coupons available for purchase.  While there are sometimes restrictions, often this will knock another 10% off your purchase, hence doubling your savings!  You may even find these in your local newspaper. Now remember, the discount you achieve using these methods is ON TOP OF whatever your final price is.  If you are shopping online, you may be able to get free shipping thrown in as well, or even additional cash back using coupon codes. Just remember that if it is a big ticket item, it is always worthwhile to comparison shop first. At a minimum, you should be able to expect 9-10% cash back savings, no matter what you purchase.
   Happy shopping!

Previous Merchant Cashback Strategies 
Lowes
Amazon.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bazando - Another Nice Cash Back Portal

I am very excited to announce another fine cash back portal called Bazando.  There are two unique things that I like about this cash back site.  The first is that they offer 3% cash back on all gift cards purchased at Plastic Jungle, one of my favorite gift card discount sites.  That means that you are stacking discounts on top of discounts, a technique dear to my heart!  The 2nd feature of this site is that they represent merchants from all over the world, so if you live in France, for example, you can now take advantage of discounts at Darty, FNAC, La Redoute, etc. to name just a few.  It also has a UK website for UK merchants.  So now, all of my international friends can save money too!  They are even offering to put a few dollars (or euros) in your account just for signing up here.  Just click on the logo or the links for your free enrollment, and enjoy your savings!

Weekly Deal: 6% -Wait- 10% Cash Back at Home Depot

This week, Mr. Rebates is offering 6% cash back on all online purchases at Home Depot.  With spring in the air, it might just be the perfect time to shop for all of your lawn care equipment needs.  Maybe a new lawn mower, or weed eater?
UPDATE:  An extra $5 off a $50 order if you enter March5 at checkout. This coupon code is good through March 20th.
UPDATE 2:  There must be a price war going on!  ShopatHome is now offering 10% cash back at Home Depot, with the same coupon code available. This is crazy! If you use your cash back rewards credit card, you are saving even more.

Visa Freedom & Discover More Cardholders: Don't Forget to Enroll for 2nd Quarter 5% Categories


  Every quarter, Chase and Discover change the categories in which their respective cash back rewards cards  can earn 5% cashback.  This coming quarter, starting April 1 (no fooling), the categories will change, and in order to benefit from the new 5% cash back awards, one must re-enroll or the cash back rewards will default to the normal amount.

For Chase Visa Freedom cardholders, purchases in the following categories will earn 5% cash back rewards if you enroll for the bonus.  All other purchases will earn 1%.


Home Improvement 
Home Furnishings 
Lawn & Garden


For Discover More cardholders, purchases in the following categories will earn 5% cash back rewards if you enroll for the bonus.  All other purchases will earn cash back at whatever the current rewards rate has earned:

Home Improvement
Department Stores
Clothing Stores


The enrollment period starts today, so log in to your account and be sure to sign up for your 5% cash back for this coming quarter.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AARP Visa Rewards card - 5% back on everything

My new AARP credit card arrived this weekend.  Now, as a moderately aged young man, I will confess that I have been a member of AARP for some time.  In fact, I already have an AARP Visa credit card.
   So why did I order another one?  Because AARP is offering 5% cash back on all of my purchases for 6 months.  No spending caps.  No exclusions.  No small print.  Just 5% off everything you purchase.
   If you pay off your credit card every month like I do, then this is like giving yourself a 10% pay raise without having to grovel in front of your boss.
    Oh, and did I mention that the card is interest free for 1 year, just in case you can't pay it off in full right now?
   For those of you who do not qualify for AARP, well all I have to say is "Enjoy your youth!"
Help jump start this economy.  Get yourself this card and use it.  After 6 months, I will probably retire my card for good.  What about you?  Do you think this is a good deal?  Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Amex offering Itunes gift cards for 30% off.

For you iTunes lovers, on Tuesday, American Express will be selling 50 iTunes $50 gift cards for $35.00 each. This offer is only available to existing American Express cardholders. I suspect they will be sold out in minutes, but it sounds like a nice deal if you can get it.

Click here to find out how to get yours.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daily Deal: Ebates Offering 4% Cash Back at Kohl's - Today Only

Today only, as part of their Daily Double, Ebates is offering 4% cash back on all online purchases at Kohls.  Their normal cash back is 2%.  If you couple that with a purchase of a Kohls gift card at a 14% discount, you are looking at close to 20% cash back.  And those savings come right off the bottom line.  Check out the gift card resellers shown on the right that I recommend.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards as of March 2011

   The credit card landscape is a dynamic one.  Credit card offers come and go, terms change overnight, and it seems like benefits are constantly morphing.  So with that in mind, I bring you my opinion of the best cash back rewards credit cards available in the marketplace (as of this instant). I am also going to tell you what I DON'T like about each card as well.


    First, I would encourage you to read my previous post "Take a Reward, Any Reward".  It has sound advice for anyone looking for a credit card.  Personally, I truly believe that cash back credit cards only make sense if you pay off your balance in full every month.  Simply put, you have learned how to live within your means. Otherwise, my golden rule is to take any available funds and pay off/down whatever card charges the highest interest.  That will truly be the best cashback reward one can find.
   OK, here we go.  I first recommend that you look at your spending habits for the last year.  Do you drive a Humvee and eat out every night?  Do you spend your days hanging out at Sam's Club and cutting coupons?  Or do you travel extensively, and hotels are your homes away from home?  Knowing where your money is spent will give you a clue on what card is right for you.
   Rather than do a Letterman style list working backwards, these cards are ranked from more desirable to less desirable.


1.  Chase Freedom Visa: 

PROS:  5% cash back on categories that rotate each quarter.  1% on all other purchases. No annual fee. 2.7% foreign transaction fee. No limits or caps on any cash back categories.  Cash back redemption is available once you hit $50. Chase is currently offering a $100 sign up bonus, to be credited after $750 in purchases.  
CONS: Higher than average interest rate.  Balance transfer fees and period are not as generous as some other cards.  Rotating categories require enrollment each quarter or the 5% cashback benefits do not kick in.

SUMMARY:  Overall, if balance transfer options are not a top priority, this card offers the most consistently generous cash back rewards.  Factor in the $100 sign up bonus, and the cash back rewards % goes up considerably. This has been the #1 rated rewards card for several years running.

2.  American Express/Costco card: 
PROS:  3% cash back on all gas purchases up to $3000/year. 3% cash back on restaurant purchases, and generous 2% cash back for travel expenses with no annual caps. 1% on all other purchases, including purchases at Costco. Annual fee is waived if you are a Costco member, and the card doubles as a Costco membership card which lets you get rid of the redundant Costco membership card.  2.7% foreign transaction fee.
CONS:  Relatively high interest rate of 15.24%.  Balance and transfer fees are less generous than some cards, and do not offer 0% balance transfers. Cash back is paid annually by a check that can be redeemed at Costco.


SUMMARY:  My #1 credit card for gas, restaurant and travel categories and a great backup card to the Chase Visa Freedom card above.  A must for have Costco shoppers.  If I had to limit my credit cards to 2, it would be these two cards.

3.  Fidelity Investments Rewards American Express: 

PROS:  2% cash back on all transactions.  Cash back rewards go directly into an existing Fidelity Investment account, either savings, IRA or 529 Plan. No annual fee.
CONS:  Cash back earnings are not deposited into account until earnings reach $50 ($2500 in charges).  Must establish a Fidelity account in order to qualify for card.  No balance transfer provisions.  

SUMMARY: If gas, restaurant and travel are not big categories of spending and if you don 't frequent Costco, then this would be my #2 backup card to the Chase Visa.  I would use this card on all purchases when Chase is not offering the 5% cash back.

4. Pentagon Federal Credit Union Visa card: 

PROS:  5% cash back on all fuel purchases made at the pump (not inside the store?). 1% on all other purchases.  One must be a member of the Credit Union, but they make getting in fairly easy.  Check out options #8 and #9 on their list of ways to become a member. www.penfed.org.  Other perks include 2% foreign transaction fee (instead of the typical 2.7-3%) and a 2.99% balance transfer rate with a maximum fee of $250. No annual fee.  

CONS: Strict credit underwriting.  While it is the #1 cash back card for gas purchases, it's cash back features are unremarkable for all other categories. card.

SUMMARY:  If you know your gas pump more intimately than your spouse, then you need this card.  Also, if you are looking for a long term balance transfer loan at very good rates, or a card to use while abroad, this card could do the trick.  Otherwise, I would skip it.

5.  Discover More Credit Card.

PROS:  5% cash back rewards in categories that rotate quarterly, like the Chase Freedom card.  However, the categories differ each quarter from those offered by Chase.  Enrollment required each quarter.  Introductory 18 month 0% balance transfer offer is the best in the credit card field. Also, introductory 12 month 0% APR on all purchases.  No annual fee.  Using the Discover online mall to purchase items from designated vendors can increase the overall cash back benefits up to 20%.  Their online mall has the best cash back rewards of any credit card company. However, see caveats below.

CONS:  Cash back rewards start out at a puny 0.25%,  One must spend $3000 just to get to the typical 1% level, and these tiers reset every year.  Unless your credit card spending exceeds $8000/year, I would not recommend this as your primary credit card. Further, Discover caps your 5% earnings in most categories which can be quite frustrating. For example, the 1st quarter category of travel and restaurants is capped at $800 of spending ($40 cash back). All charges made at Sam's Club or any discount store is always limited to 0.25% cash back.

SUMMARY:  I must confess that I have a love/hate relationship with this card.  If you are a Sam's Club member, you need a Discover card, and this is the one.  Otherwise, I think I would recommend this only to folks who can charge substantial amounts on the card.  Use the card until you hit your category caps, then switch to one of the other recommended cards.  Of course, if you are interested in the balance transfer provisions, this card beats the rest. 
   After these 5 cards, the field gets pretty crowded with "me too" cards offering average terms or hidden gotchas.  If you do not have at least one of the above cards in your pocket, you are leaving good money (yours) on the table.  Call your credit card provider and see if they can switch your current card to one of the above.
   I welcome your comments and suggestions.  If you think I have missed something or are out in left field, let me and our other readers know.                                                       



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weekly Deals: Ebates Double Cash Back


   This week, Ebates is offering double cash cash back for purchases made at the following merchants:

Dell: Was 2%, now 4% back
HP:   Was 3%, now 5% back
Macys: Was 2.5% now 5% back
Staples: Was 2%, now 4% back.

If you plan on shopping at any of these sites, you may want to go through Ebates to pick up your extra cash back. Whether you use a discounted gift card, or your cash back credit card, you will be putting some extra money in your pocket.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Today Only: 12% Cash Back at Buy.com

Today only, Ebates is offering 12% cash back on any purchase at Buy.com.  If you are contemplating snagging something at Buy.com today and you are not signed up, you are paying way too much. Plus, Buy.com provides cash back point of their own for many purchases.  Life is good!

Merchant Cashback Strategies: Lowes: How to Get 20% Off on Everything You Buy

With the advent of spring arriving, we will soon hear once again the roar of lawn mowers in the yard, the quiet digging sounds of new flowers being planted, and the rhythmic spit-spit sounds of sprinklers going off.  With that in mind, I thought that I would focus on Lowes, one of the two big box home improvement stores, and how to save almost 20% on everything you buy there. Impossible you say?  Then read on.

Step 1:  Pick yourself up some 10% off coupons on Ebay.  These are the coupons that are given out by the US Post Office on behalf of Lowes when someone changes their address.  There are folks who make a living collecting and reselling these lovely little goodies.  One can usually pick them up for an average of about $1.20-1.50 per coupon.  I save myself some time by looking for the "Buy Now" offers.  The current batch are good through May 15th, 2011, which should get you through the spring cleaning season. Make sure you get the coupons that are good up to $5000 in purchases, and you can save some serious money.  By the way, Home Depot and Ace often honor these coupons.

Step 2:  Sign up at Mr. Rebates.  I will explain why in a minute.

Step 3:  Get ready to purchase some Lowes gift cards at a discount.  They can be had for 7-8% off face value at Cardpool and Plastic Jungle. I have mentioned these websites many times, but if you haven't signed up yet, do it now.  Just click on the links.  While Visa Freedom card and Discover cards are offering 5% cash back on your purchases at home improvement centers starting April 1st, you can get a jump on them and get 7-8% instead by buying these cards.  If you are very clever, you will go through Mr. Rebates (see Step 2) to purchase your discount gift cards at Cardpool, thus nailing an extra 1%.  And if you have truly been following my advice, you will purchase those gift cards with your cash back credit cards, adding yet another 1-3%.  If you are not planning to buy online, make sure you buy the regular gift cards, NOT the electronic gift cards (which can only be used online).  Ohh, and for those of you who read this far, if you go through Mr. Rebates to purchase your coupons on Ebay in Step #1, you will get an extra 3% back on that purchase as well :)

Step 4:  Once you receive your gift cards, proceed to to the store, with your 10% coupon and gift card in hand, and smile when you get to the checkout counter, knowing you have just saved about 20% on everything you are buying.

There you have it. How to save 20% at Lowes all year long.


BONUS!!  I am trying to build my readership, as this Blog is new.  If you find this information useful, please subscribe to my Blog.  For the first 25 readers who subscribe to Cardpool and Mr. Rebates from this blog, I will send a free 10% off coupon to Lowes for purchases up to $5000.  Just send me a message via my personal Facebook page, so that I know where to send the coupon.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sticker Shock at the Gas Pump?? Here's Some Help

  
With gas prices starting to approach $4.00 a gallon, I thought it would be timely to talk about how to save a little on your gas purchases.


Many credit cards offer cash back on fuel purchases, ranging from 1% to 5%.  Some of these cash back rebates are available only for a certain period of time. The better cards offer a fixed cash back percentage for fuel purchases, irrespective of the day or month that you purchased it.


The best credit card that I have found for fuel cash back rebates is from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.  Their Platinum Rewards Visa offers 5% cash back all year long on fuel purchases at the pump, up to $3000.00, then it drops to 1%. One must be a member of the Credit Union, but they make it relatively easy to belong.  Credit standards for the card are strict.  There is no annual fee, and they offer 1% cash back on all other purchases as well.


The next best card is the American Express/Costco card, which offers 3% cash back on all fuel purchases, 2% on restaurants and travel, and 1% on all other purchases. There is no annual fee if you have a Costco membership.


The next 2 cards are similar in their features, in that they offer 5% cash back during prescribed time periods for their members.  These cards are the Discover More card and the Chase Freedom Visa card.  The Discover card has maximum cash back caps, while the Chase Freedom Visa card does not.


Now 3-5% cash back is not a lot of money, but every little bit helps in this day and age.  Know what card gives you the best cash back, and use it. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whole Foods Gift Cards on Sale - While They Last


 Cardpool currently has 10 Whole Foods $100 gift cards on sale for $97.  All of their gift cards are 100% guaranteed for 101 days.


Go through Mr. Rebates first and get an extra 1% off.  These will be gone in 2 hours.  Happy shopping!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Debit Card Users: Cash Back Rewards For You Too!

     Most of us are familiar with the cash back credit cards offered by the large financial institutions like Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Amex and Discover. And this coming week, I will be featuring what I consider to be the best of those cards. However, did you know that debit card users can also take advantage of the cash back awards without having to get a credit card?


     This past week, I learned of a company called Perkstreet Financial, which is offering a debit card which provides cash back rewards on non PIN transactions.  And the rewards aren't puny either. 2% cash back on all transactions, with monthly featured categories that can get you 5% back.  For March, those 5% cash back categories are home supply stores, sporting goods stores, apparel stores, and tax preparation services.


     In addition, all of Perkstreet Financial's ATMs are surcharge free, and they are Federally insured through the FDIC. Check them out, and happy cash back rewards!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Get 50% Bonus for Purchasing Delta SkyMiles with Your Unusable Air Miles

   For a limited time, Points.com is offering a 50% bonus should you wish to exchange your unused air miles with another carrier for Delta Skymiles.  That is a pretty nice premium.  You can also purchase air miles directly at the site and receive this 50% premium.


While I am not a big fan of Delta Airlines, nor of frequent flier miles in general, I am sure there are those who are.  Here is an opportunity to move frequent flier miles from one carrier to another, and pick up some extra miles in the process for free.

Zappo's Free VIP Membership Has Returned

   Periodically, Zappos opens up their VIP Membership to everyone for free. Today, they are doing it again.  This offer will last perhaps for one week.  VIP Membership entitles you to free shipping on all purchases, and a few other perks.  If you know Zappos, you know that they are the best source for hassle free purchasing of shoes at the very best prices.


 Get over there and sign up for their free VIP membership.  Oh, and if you are thinking of buying some shoes there, don't forget my tips on how to get an extra 9-10% cash back for their site by buying a gift card first.  

Pharmacy Discounts for the Rest of Us

     I ran across this website today that offers discount at most major pharmacies for prescription and non-prescription drugs.  If you are uninsured, have a high copay or HSA, are sitting in the donut hole, or simply need prescriptions that your insurance will not cover, then this site is for you.



The company is called Honest Discounts, and it takes 30 seconds to sign up (free) and print out your prescription discount card.  You cannot be turned down, as you don't need to qualify. The savings are real, and their card is honored by Walgreens, Walmart. CVS, Safeway, Kroger/King Soopers and so on. You can check for prices online at your current pharmacy, and see how it stacks up to what you are paying now.


   With prescription drug costs skyrocketing, it is time that the consumer have some help keeping these costs under control.  This may be one of those tools.  And while you are at it, if you aren't paying for the drugs with your HSA card, then I hope that you are paying with a gift card, to score an extra 3-8% off, depending on where your pharmacy is. 

How to Buy an Ipad 2 and Get Cash Back!

Unless you live on another planet, you probably know that Steve Jobs and his Apple crew unveiled the new Ipad 2 yesterday, to go on sale March 11th.  The price is $500, same as the current price for the original Ipad, but with a lot of upgraded features.


Apple has also announced that the Ipad 2 is going to be distributed in several major outlets in addition to its own stores.  Merchants currently include Best Buy, Sam's Club and Walmart.


I sincerely doubt that any of these merchants will be discounting the price of the Ipad2, so plan on paying $500, both online and in the stores.


So how does one get cash back (in addition to using a cash back credit card)?  It's not as hard as you think. Let me take you through the process using Best Buy as an example.


1.  Sign up at Cardpool, a major gift card reseller, if you are not already a member.  It's free.


2.  Sign up at Mr. Rebates, a major online cashback portal, if you have not already done so. It too is free.  This site gives you 1% cashback on all your purchases at Cardpool.


3.  Go through Mr. Rebates to the Cardpool website and purchase a Best Buy giftcard for a 6% discount.  You are getting an extra 1% from Mr. Rebates for going through their site, so that is 7% so far. If you plan on buying your Ipad online, you can buy an electronic Ecode instead of an actual plastic gift card, and the code will be sent to your email within hours.


4.  If you are purchasing online (and why not, you might save sales tax), wait for your gift card or eCode to arrive.  Then go to Mr. Rebates again, select Best Buy as your merchant, and proceed to the Best Buy website.  Purchase your Ipad 2 with your gift card.  Mr. Rebates will give you another 1% ($5) on your purchase.


5.  Sit back, pat yourself on the back for being a smart shopper, and wait for your new Ipad 2 to arrive at your doorstep. You have just saved 7-8% on the Ipad2 going through Best Buy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Today Only: 6% off your Groupon purchase

 Are you a fan of Groupon? As part of their Daily Double, Ebates is offering for one day only, 6% off any purchase you make on Groupon through their portal.  Try this link


Not sure who Ebates is?  Read about them in my Post on Cash Back Portals on Feb. 28th.

Update: Cash Back Portal News

     Based on my recent purchases,  Mr. Rebates calculates their cash back percentage on the price BEFORE discounts are applied.  So if you have a discount code, that is not taken into account.  This makes the actual cashback percentage even higher than stated. For example, when I purchased the Nook Color on Ebay through Mr. Rebates, the original price was $249. Even though I had a coupon for $50 off, the cash back rebate I received was $7.47, or 3% of the stated price. Since I only paid $199, the actual discount was more like 3.75%.


     Ebates has just announced that their cash back at Walmart.com has increased to 2%.  If you plan on doing any shopping online at the big W, remember to go through Ebates.


What?  You say that you still haven't signed up for these sites? Ebates is giving out $5 cash and Mr. Rewards $7.50 just for signing up. Here are the links:

Ebates


Mr. Rebates

Deal of the Day: 2 Fandango Movie Tickets for $9

Living Social is offering a coupon code to allow you to purchase 2 Fandango movie tickets for $9.  This deal is available for purchase for one more day.  Move quick.  Click here for the deal. 


Here is the fine print:  Tickets must be purchased through Fandango website (www.fandango.com), must be purchased for the same movie and showing time, and can only be used for tickets up to $15 each in face value.  1 Purchase per family.


Enjoy yourselves!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The New Gift Card Law & Consumer Protections

     As of August 22, 2010, the CARD ACT (credit card reform act) passed by Congress took effect for all gift cards issued as of that date.  Substantial consumer protections were part of the reforms imposed on the gift card issuers.  The following article published by the Federal Reserve outlines the changes for consumers and issuers.



Open Table - The Cashback Site for Your Favorite Restaurants

Open Table is a publicly traded company specializing in online restaurant reservations in major metropolitan cities throughout the country.  The website allows you to make reservations at your favorite restaurants online without having to pick up the phone.  They also have a mobile version for when you are out and about. It is a slick concept, and one which rewards its viewers for patronizing its restaurants.


  The rewards concept is a point based system, with 100 points being awarded every time that you make a reservation and then fulfill the reservation by dining at that time.  Once you get 2000 points, the company will send you a check for $20, good at any of the restaurants they feature.  In order to help you reach that goal faster, many of the restaurants have "1000 point" time slots.  By making and fulfilling a reservation during one of those time periods, you can accelerate your way to that $20 check.  


  The company also offers several other perks.  For example, you can specify certain seating or eating preferences (quiet location, gluten free etc.) when you make the reservations.  In addition, every week in many of their major markets, they showcase a particular restaurant, where Groupon like coupons can be purchased for a limited time, ie., $25 for $50 off.


All in all, it is definitely a site that I recommend. It's free to sign up and use, and you can download their app to your Iphone, Android or Blackberry device.  After all, if you are going to dine out anyways, you may as well be earning something for your patronage.

Oh, and did  I mention that when you pay your bill, don't forget to use your cash back  credit card.  The best for restaurants is the Chase Freedom Visa during the period that one gets 5% cash back (all other times 1%), or the American Express/Costco card, which offers 3% back all year long.

Pick a Reward, Any Reward

   The following article was written by Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and Founder of CardHub.com, a website that helps consumers compare credit cards and sell unwanted gift cards.  Because I will be writing a post this week on the best cash back credit cards currently offered, I thought that this article was a good primer.

   Do you want a rewards credit card, huh? Well, you’re not alone.  Rewards credit cards are extremely popular because, come on, who wouldn’t want rewards? They’re fun, free and, in the case of those geared toward travel, exotic. Unfortunately, many of the people who want rewards credit cards are actually better served not getting one. If you don’t pay your bill in full every month, you need a low interest credit card. If you don’t have excellent credit, you should look into either second chance credit cards or starter credit cards. Rewards credit cards generally do not fit either bill.

   There are various types of rewards credit cards, each targeted to a different consumer segment. You must be careful in choosing amongst them because picking the wrong one will prevent you from evoking the true potential of this genre. In order to avoid making such a mistake, you must do your due diligence before applying.

   You must consider both your expenses and your lifestyle. Think; what do you spend the most money on? Is it travel? Is it gas? Or are your expenses evenly balanced?

Travel Rewards Credit Cards

   If travel is one of your biggest expenses, a travel rewards credit card might be of significant financial benefit. There are two basic types of travel rewards credit cards: those tied to specific airlines or hotel chains and those that are not. The cards that are affiliated with certain organizations offer more lucrative rewards but only allow the redemption of these rewards when using the services of the company tied to the card.

   If you rack up at least 30,000 miles with the same airline or 20 nights with the same hotel chain per year, then you should get the card tied to that business.
If not, opt for the Capital One® Venture Rewards Credit Card because the miles you earn with it can be redeemed for any purchase made through a travel agency or travel-related website at an effective cash-back rate of 2%.

Gas Rewards Credit Cards

   If you do more driving than flying however, a gas credit card might serve your needs better than the aforementioned travel rewards options, especially considering that gas is expected to rise above $4 per gallon in the near future.
Like with travel rewards, there are two types of gas credit cards: those that are affiliated with certain stations and provide greater rewards and those that allow for logistical variety but are relatively less lucrative. You must essentially balance savings and convenience in deciding between the two. Are the savings provided by a station-affiliated credit card-which can be up to $250/yr.-worth limiting yourself to the use of one chain of gas stations?

   Should the answer to this question be yes, note that the Exxon Mobil Credit Card, the Shell Credit Card, and the BP Credit Card provide the most savings.

   Should the answer be no, consider either the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express or the Capital One® No Hassle Cash Rewards Credit Card. These are both cash back credit cards that provide particularly lucrative rewards on gas purchases made at any gas station in the U.S.

Cash Back Credit Cards

   Finally, if you travel infrequently and use public transportation or you simply want to get a credit card that provides great overall rewards, no matter what you purchase, you should look into general cash back rewards credit cards. Two of the most widely-used cash back cards are the Bank of America® Accelerated Cash Rewards American Express® Credit Card -which offers 1.25% cash back on all purchases and a $50 statement credit-and the Chase Freedom® Visa – $100 Bonus Cash Back Credit Card-which offers 1% cash back on all purchases as well as 5% quarterly bonus categories and $100 after you make $799 in purchases.

   In the end, the key to making a rewards credit card truly beneficial is picking the right one. So evaluate your expenses, examine your lifestyle and compare options. Then apply and reap the fruits of your labor.