How I Get at Least 3% Cash Back on Almost Everything I Buy

I used to use the Chase Amazon, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited exclusively. Now I only use the Freedom on occasion, when its quarterly 5% category is something that I buy.

That's because I've discovered six credit cards that give 3% or more cash back on pretty much every purchasing category. Five of them are from Bank of America, and one is from American Express.

3% Back on Online Purchases, Dining, Travel, and Gas

Bank of America has five cash back credit cards that have the same reward structure:
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards
  • Susan G. Komen Cash Rewards
  • MLB
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • US Pride

The cards earn 2% back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases and 3% back on one category of your choice from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, and home improvement on your first $2,500 purchases each quarter. Purchases in other categories (and when you go over the $2,500 on groceries and your 3% category in the quarter) give you 1% cash back.

I have four of the cards, and for each one I've chosen a different category, so that I'm getting 3% back on gas, online shopping, dining, and travel. Note that the online shopping category applies to pretty much everything you buy online. So, for example, you don't need an Amazon card to get 3% back for shopping at Amazon.

None of these cards have an annual fee. At the time of writing, if you spend $1,000 with a Bank of America card within the first three months, you'll get $200 back.

3% Back on Groceries

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday gives 3% back on up to $6,000 in grocery purchases per year. It also earns 2% at US gas stations and some department stores, and 1% everywhere else.

At the time of writing, the American Express card has an account opening bonus of $150 or $200 (depending on which page you landed on--if the offer is $150, try a different browser or clear your cookies and refresh) after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. There is no annual fee.

5% back on Christmas Presents

The Discover  It Cash Back card and the Chase Freedom return 5% on categories that change every quarter. In the past few years one of them has had 5% at Amazon in the October through December quarter, where I end up doing all my Christmas shopping. This year, Discover is set to offer 5% back at Amazon, Walmart, and Target in the last quarter of the year.

5% Off at Target

I use the Target card at Target stores and at Target online. There is no cash back. Instead, 5% is taken off the total bill at check out. Using the Target card for online purchases also gives you free shipping.

5% of Ground Transportation and Miscellaneous

The US Bank Cash+ card provides 5% cash back on a lot of narrow categories, from which you must choose quarterly. These include TV and internet, fast food, cell phone providers, department stores, home utilities, some clothing stores, electronics stores, sporting goods stores, movie theaters, gyms, furniture store, and ground transportation.

How I Use the Cards

By default, I use the American Express card for groceries, and the Bank of America cards for each of the categories that I chose.

I use the Discover and the Chase Freedom instead of the American Express of Bank of America cards for whichever category gives the 5% back . I use the Target card at Target. Finally, I use the US Bank Card to pay the internet bill.

I've set up all of the cards to have the full balance paid automatically every statement period. I go over all the purchases in Personal Capital when I monitor my budget every two weeks.

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