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How I Cashed In On Credit Card Rewards This Year

The key to maximizing your credit card rewards is choosing a card (or cards) that allows you to earn more points in the categories that you spend the most.

Online calculators – like the one developed by MoneySense – can tell you in theory which card gives you the most bang for your buck based on your spending habits, but you won’t know for sure until you actually have the card in your wallet and start using it regularly.

I tried to give my rewards earnings a boost this year by optimizing which credit cards I used for certain categories – favouring cards that paid back 2 percent or more – and taking advantage of several bonus offers by signing up for new cards.

The effort paid off handsomely as I was able to earn more than $1,555 in credit card rewards this year. Here’s how I did it:

  • Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite – $352.88
  • Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard – $600.00
  • Scotiabank Gold American Express – $232.75
  • American Express Gold Rewards – $250.00
  • Amazon.ca Rewards Visa – $20.00
  • MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard – $100.00

My go-to cards are the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite and the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard. I use the Momentum Visa for groceries, gas, and drug store spending as well as for recurring bill payments.  I use the Capital One card for almost everything else.  With just these two cards alone I was able to earn more than $1,000 back on my everyday spending.

Back in April I picked up the Scotiabank Gold American Express card. It came with a $150 travel credit and the $99 annual fee was waived for the first year.

Before the annual fee comes due I’ll have to decide whether to keep this card or the Momentum Visa Infinite. Both pay 4 percent back on groceries and gas, and the Scotia Gold American Express card also pays 4 percent back on dining and entertainment, while the Momentum Visa pays 2 percent back on bill payments and drug store purchases.

Later in the year I signed up for the American Express Gold Rewards card – this promotion came with 25,000 bonus points, which was good for a $250 travel credit, plus the $150 annual fee was waived in the first year. I will cancel this card before the fee comes due next year.

I used the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa sparingly this year, but this card is a must-have anytime you travel to the U.S. or abroad, as it’s one of the only cards not to charge 2.5 percent for converting your foreign currency purchases back to Canadian dollars.

Finally, I grabbed a $100 bonus when I signed up for the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard. I’ll cancel this card before the $89 fee comes due next year.

Final thoughts

There has never been a better time to cash in on credit card rewards. The competitive landscape means that credit card issuers have stepped up their game when it comes to bonus offers and base earning rates.

Related: Cash back credit cards, ranked

By taking advantage of these offers I was able to cash in on more than $1500 in credit card rewards and boost my earnings by over 50 percent.

9 Comments

  1. Rob Cunnington on December 15, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Hi:

    Just wondering how you were able to turn the travel credits on a few of these cards to “useable” credits during the year for the total of $1500?

    Thanks,
    Rob



    • Robb Engen on December 15, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Hi Rob, great question. With the Capital One card you can use your rewards points to “erase” travel purchases from your credit card statement. There are some tricks to getting the maximum value (which I explain here – https://rewardscardscanada.com/capital-one-aspire-travels-curious-redemption-levels/), but essentially when I stay at a hotel I ask the front desk to split the charges so that one is exactly $150 or $300.

      The Scotiabank Gold American Express card works with the same idea, but instead of a redemption tier you just have to wait until you have 5,000 points to redeem them ($50). I was able to “erase” a couple of restaurant charges.

      The American Express Gold Rewards program is probably the most flexible – you can use your points to book travel, transfer points to Aeroplan 1:1, or use your points against travel charges on your statement. I did the latter in order to redeem my 25,000 points.

      The MBNA program offered 10,000 points upon sign-up, which I asked to be converted into a cheque and mailed to me (took about 3 weeks to receive).

      I hope that helps!



  2. Daniel @ SaveWithDan on December 15, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Wow, Robb! Well done! I am pretty sure this “extra” money will find some great use this year end!
    I just started looking at options for my credit card (basic 1% cash back), and they seem endless. Thanks for sharing this! I’ll take a look at the cards you mentioned, but I thing I’ll not qualify for some of them.
    May I ask you what’s your typical monthly spending, just to have a basis to calculate what I can expect from similar cash back programs?
    Thank you very much!



    • Robb Engen on December 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Hi Daniel, use that MoneySense calculator to get a sense of which card(s) will work best for your spending. I figured I get a 2 percent return on my spending (after deducting fees) by using rewards credit cards for every purchase, and then the bonus points for new card sign-ups are just gravy. I spend about $3,200 on my credit cards each month.



  3. Mary Drylie on December 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    FYI

    I signed up also for the American Express Gold Awards and want now to cancel. Have tried both numbers on back of card. On one you are unable to speak to a person, your balance is given etc. but that is all. On the other you are asked to sign up for a competition to win a holiday so I eventually gave up on that too. I wasted a lot of time to no avail.
    Shall try again at a later date…..hoping to reach a person next time!



  4. Tawcan on December 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Wow that is awesome! I only utilize Capital One Aspire Travel card but maybe I should look into getting the other cards to take advantage of the great offers. Do you wait for a certain period of time before you applying for a new card?



    • Robb Engen on December 21, 2014 at 8:54 am

      I love the Cap One card as a main rewards card because the annual bonus basically cuts the annual fee down from $120 to $20.

      The new applications were made about three months apart from each other, but that was more due to the offers that were available rather than a strategic delay in applying for credit.



  5. Ray on January 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    The issue with the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite credit card is that the main places where I shop for groceries does not work for this card. For example NoFrills does not accept VISA and Walmart is not considered a grocery store by VISA.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how one can avail of the 4% cash back benefit of this Scotia card if one does ones major grocery shopping at these 2 specific locations.

    Thsnks,

    Ray



    • Robb Engen on January 5, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Hi Ray, that’s a tough one. You need to match your rewards card with your spending habits and so if the Visa card doesn’t work for you then you should consider the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard, as it pays 2% back on all purchases.

      Switching grocery stores just to get an extra 2% back doesn’t make sense if No Frills and Walmart are the best option in your area.

      One “hack” that you could look into is if you can buy gift cards for No Frills or Walmart at a gas station or another grocery store. That purchase would qualify for the 4% back.



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