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Fine-Tune Your Savings Using Credit Card Cashback Category Bonuses

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Published: April 7, 2014

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Reward credit cards, and especially cashback cards, are very popular among consumers. The idea of getting paid for buying things you need anyway is so appealing that credit card issuers keep coming out with more and more products offering new perks and new twists to entice a customer to sign up. Getting paid for doing shopping without having to fill up and mail out cumbersome rebate forms is a great concept that works for both credit card companies and consumers alike.

In most cases, your cashback is mere 1% percent of the purchase, but fortunately, you have options. While there is no such thing as the best credit card for everything, most people could benefit from considering the following options.

1. Use credit cards with rotating 5% categories for all purchases that qualify.
There are three major credit cards with no annual fee that belong to this group; Chase Freedom, Citibank Dividend, and Discover It. Every quarter, they offer different 5% bonus categories. Here are some examples.

In the second quarter of 2014, Chase Freedom offers 5 % cashback on purchases at restaurants and Lowe's. Citi Dividend gives 5% at Home Depot, home furnishing and home and garden stores; Discover It doles out 5 % bonus at home improvement and furniture stores, as well as Bed Bath & Beyond for up to $1,500. If you're interested, apply for these cards and, more importantly, remember to use them to your advantage.

2. Use credit cards with rotating 5% categories of your choice, like US Bank Cash +. Earn 5% on categories like restaurants, department stores, cell phone, etc. You can earn 5% cashback for two categories on up to $2,000 a quarter, and you can change the categories, too. There is one inconvenience, though; you have to apply for this card at a US Bank branch.

3. If you are a student, you might consider Sallie Mae Mastercard. You will get 5% cashback "on the first $250 you spend per month on eligible gas and grocery purchases each and the first $750 you spend per month on eligible book purchases".

If you want to go beyond 5% cashback, you can use programs like Plink and/or Shopkick.

Plink allows you to register one of your credit cards with their partner stores, movie theaters, and restaurants in order to get extra points every time you use your card at a participating store. You redeem the accumulated points for gift cards at retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, Kohl's, etc., or even for cash, although you will lose a little in the transaction. The best thing is, Plink points go above and beyond the cashback you earn for merely using the card. 100 Plink points are equal $1.

Shopkick is a smart phone app, and it allows you to register up to six cards (three Visa and three Master cards). Shopkick lets you earn points called Kicks by using three methods: "checking in" at a specific store, scanning a barcode of a specific product, and of course, by using your card for purchases. Shopkick has many more partners than Plink, but their Kicks are worth less: 100 Kicks are equal $0.4. Your Kicks are also in addition to any credit card cashback you're already earning, and you can redeem them for gift cards, as well.

As you can see, credit cards are more than just "plastic money". If you use them smartly they can save you quite a bit.

This is a post by Andy Shuman, a credit and travel expert who blogs at He writes and blogs during and between trips that he enjoys free of charge mostly due to creative use of credit card offers. He believes that credit cards are much more than just a convenient way to pay for a purchase, and that the benefits of responsible credit habits can go far beyond getting the best rates for loans and mortgages.

Andy is the author of bestselling books from Lazy Traveler Handbook Series available on Amazon. When he's not traveling, he lives with his beautiful wife and daughter in Brooklyn, NY.

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