The personal finance blogging community is full of stories about using credit cards to score huge wins. Credit card churning is becoming a fad for die-hard reward seekers, and it seems that the credit card companies are jumping on board, shelling out higher rewards than ever. I even wrote a post a couple of months back about how we have racked up over $2,000 in travel rewards in the last 9 months alone. It’s exciting stuff!
But what about the average person who doesn’t feel savvy enough to keep track of all the offers? Or the person who feels like going the distance with credit card churning is playing with fire? After all, some people simply don’t spend nearly as much time as I do scouring for sweet offers and creating a system to keep track of everything? Most people don’t care.
After I first started churning, all I could think about was, “Why wouldn’t everyone do this?! It’s so easy!” Sure, some people don’t do it because they fear it could be too complicated, or they are afraid of the impact it would have on their credit score (by the way, here’s what goes into your score, if you didn’t know). But some people simply don’t want to. Just like I’m not going out of my way to dumpster dive at my apartment building to find coupons to clip. (I seriously just made that up, then thought, I wonder if people actually do that! They do.)
Small Ways to Win
Anyway, so I put out an inquiry on my Facebook asking for ways some of my friends have scored small wins from using credit cards, and here are some of the ones I got:
- It’s definitely a small victory, but getting a $25 gift card to a restaurant thanks to rewards has sure been nice on busy evenings when I don’t want to cook!
- I’ve been getting free gifts for years…if I were to take a guess, I bet I have gotten $1000+ in account credits/cash back in the past ~10 years.
My triathlon bike was $950, $800 of which came from rewards points.
We just bought a mattress topper with gift cards we got from reward points. The goal this year is to use those points to either buy Christmas gifts for family members, or plane tickets home.
- I get about $60 of free groceries every three months for using my Kroger Visa, which I use for groceries and gas and pay off every month.
- We are currently saving our rewards to use for a trip when we finish school! We will see how many we have in 2 years.
- My wife and I have been using our Amex Delta cards for the last 3 years and score a companion certificate every year, which means I pay a full price ticket and she just pays the tax on hers.
None of these people are churning and burning like I am, but every single one of them is getting sweet deals without changing anything about their behavior. They just found a card that gave them the stuff they liked, and let the rewards pile up. To me, it’s just another testament to the point that responsible credit card use can and should be rewarded.
Stick it to the Man
That doesn’t mean everyone should have a credit card. I know a lot of people who are completely anti, and that’s cool. It’s their money. But if you don’t have the sign of the devil cross your mind when you see one and you’re responsible (meaning you pay off your balance every month and you don’t buy crap you can’t afford), then why not take advantage of the rewards? Take it as an opportunity to take advantage of all those credit card companies that take advantage of the rest of their customers. Stick it to the man. I recently came across Credit Card Insider, and they’ve got a nifty tool to help you find which card may work best for you.
Before I started churning last December, most of my credit card rewards came from a regular ol’ Capital One Visa. We used it for everything and paid it off in full each month, and were usually able to score a $25 gift card every other month. It wasn’t a lot, but for a pair of starving students who couldn’t afford to go out, a restaurant gift card now and then was just lovely.
So in conclusion, you don’t have to be a crazy credit card churner to enjoy the wins. I would even argue us crazy people are the minority. But if you don’t feel comfortable going all out, something is better than nothing.
What is your experience with scoring credit card rewards?