How I’ve Earned Over $2,500 In Credit Card Rewards In One Year

We’re barely halfway through the year and I’ve already earned over $2,500 in credit card rewards. Each rewards credit card that we have has earned us between $450 to $875 this year! I’ve earned this without paying any interest charges and by just spending the normal amount I spend each month. I also plan on…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 5, 2023

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How I’ve Earned Over $2,500 In Credit Card Rewards In 2015We’re barely halfway through the year and I’ve already earned over $2,500 in credit card rewards. Each rewards credit card that we have has earned us between $450 to $875 this year!

I’ve earned this without paying any interest charges and by just spending the normal amount I spend each month.

I also plan on doing this many more times this year. In fact, we already have over 10 rewards credit cards between the two of us and we are looking for the next credit card that we want to use.

Some of the rewards credit cards I have used in the past few years include:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – We each have this one and it has given us over $1,000 cash back.
  • Southwest Cards – When we signed up, we received 2 free roundtrip flights per credit card.
  • Chase Freedom – This is a great credit card that often has 5% cash back and it was one of the very first credit cards we signed up for the sign up bonus.
  • Chase Ink Bold – This one gave me $875 as a sign up bonus and in rewards after just 3 months of normal use.
  • REI – This only had a $100 sign up bonus but you also receive 5% back on all REI purchases and there is no annual fee. Stacking the 5% on top of the 10% we get for being REI members is a great deal!

While I love using credit cards to my advantage and earning credit card rewards, I know that many have no idea what this even is or how to take advantage of the current credit card offers that are out there. Occasionally when I break out my credit card to pay for something, someone will mention how I shouldn’t go into credit card debt, so I know there are many out there who don’t know how to use credit cards to their advantage.

Below are my tips for earning credit card rewards. Hopefully with the tips below you can learn how to use credit cards to your advantage and start earning credit card rewards.

 

Skip this whole post if you are not good with credit cards.

My very first tip is for you to stop reading this post right now if you know that you are not good at managing a credit card. The rewards that you could possibly earn are not worth the credit card debt you may rack up.

However, if you know that you can control your spending and not go into credit card debt, then continue reading.

I recommend you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to Mint.com, but much better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts too. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more, and it’s FREE.

 

Only spend what you normally would.

For some, it can be easy to charge extra purchases onto your credit card if you have the thought process that you will earn money by doing so.

However, that is a bad way to think about credit card rewards.

You should only place expenses on your credit card that you would normally make. If you are spending more than you normally would just to earn bonuses, then you may end up costing yourself money.

Related note: You can always check your credit score for free through Credit Sesame. There is no catch and it’s a company I highly recommend!

 

Pay off your credit card balance in full each month.

The great thing about credit card rewards is that you DO NOT have to pay anything to earn credit card rewards if you do not want to.

You can get a credit card that has the annual fee waived (there are many of these out there!) and you do not have to pay interest as long as you pay your bill in full each month.

I have never paid a cent in credit card interest because I always pay before it is due.

 

Try to get the annual fee waived.

If you apply for a credit card that has an annual fee, I always recommend trying to get it waivedFor some rewards credit cards there might be an annual fee but the card may be great enough to justify it though. You may want to weigh the pros and cons and see if it is worthwhile to you.

Sometimes the annual fee is waived the first year and sometimes it is not, but there is usually an annual fee the second year. You may be able to get it waived by simply calling up the credit card company. If that is not possible, then you may want to look into your options of possibly canceling the credit card entirely so that you do not have to pay the fee. Just remember that your credit score may drop. However, I have cancelled a few rewards credit cards and my credit score has not dropped.

Also, keep in mind that if you do have a rewards credit card that annual fees are usually collected immediately – not a year after you have been using the card. So, if you have a rewards credit card that has an annual fee that is not waived, you will be charged the annual fee the very first month that you have the credit card.

There are plenty of rewards credit cards that have no annual fee the first year, so I definitely recommend applying for those in the beginning to take advantage of them.

 

Evaluate the type of rewards credit card you want.

There are many different rewards credit cards floating around right now. There are some that are cash back, some that are great for travel, some that are great for gift cards, and so on.

You will also want to evaluate their redemption options to make sure that you are getting a good value when you finally do cash in your rewards points and you will also want to know if and when your points expire.

For me, I like cash back rewards cards. Travel rewards are great as well. I usually use my rewards points right away so I have no experience with them expiring.

Are you interested in earning credit card rewards? Why or why not? What’s the next one we should get?

 


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I keep meaning to look at cash back cards so this has been a helpful reminder! Your total so far for 2015 is impressive 🙂 are you going to spend it on anything in particular or just everyday spends?

    1. I used some on straight cash back and other rewards on free travel 🙂

  2. Sometimes the annual benefit of a credit card outweigh the annual fee on the credit card. So I’m happy to pay it. For instance, you mention the Chase sapphire preferred, though it’s $95 a year, it has primary LDW and CDW for rental car insurance, which is important for me since I don’t own a car and rent cars.

    Also you should see how much of a rebate that $2,500 you’re getting in rewards equates to in-terms of a rebate. There’s plenty of credit cards that offer 1% cash back. So just for comparison, just to get $2,500 in rebates on a 1% CB, you’ll need to spend $250,000 which is an enormous amount of money. So since you’ve gotten $2,500 back so far, you must be getting more than 1% cash back, which is good!

    Good work maximizing your rebate.

    1. Yes, the amount I listed in this blog post is almost entirely from sign up bonuses. Love them!

  3. That’s a ton of rewards! Do you ever hang on to a few of the cards so that they help build longevity and increase your credit score?

    1. Yes! As long as they don’t have an annual fee.

  4. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    Credit cards have helped me take the sting off of a few large medical bills. If I have a $1K bill, it gets me halfway to a spend requirement for a $500 bonus. Like you said, it’s what I’d spend any way.

  5. Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz

    We’ve chosen to live without credit cards. Just one way we chose to simplify our lives and it’s worked amazingly well for us. But I’m not naive to the fact that it can work for some. I think what’s important is that you make a choice. You dont just have (or dont have) credit cards “just because”.

    Regardless of your choice, it needs to be backed up by a strong “why” and a consistent plan. No one can afford to aimlessly wander around and not expect to get burnt.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely not for everyone. For me though, I love the rewards and it’s easy for me since I’ve already churned so many.

  6. This makes me sad because it’s the only downside of not using a credit card. I’ve never had a credit card (ever) and I don’t plan on it (because I love to spend). That said, I miss out on some perks and this makes me cringe!!

    1. Not everyone is meant to have one. My sister isn’t great with credit cards so I wouldn’t want her to get into this.

  7. Great job, Michelle! Sounds like you’ve got it covered for this year!

    1. Thanks Holly! You’ve been a lot of help!

  8. As someone who just paid off $30,000 in credit card debt less than six months ago, this post made me cringe. But I didn’t take your advice and “stop now,” although I’m glad that that was the first point made. I have been living in a credit card free world the past year or so and it has been wonderful to no longer worry about that kind of debt. But it would also be nice to make some of the money they took from me back!
    I might look into getting one rewards card after I become 100% debt free and strongly comfortable with my budget. One tip I would add to your list is setting the card to auto pay the entire balance so that you never have to remember when it’s due (especially if someone uses multiple cards)!
    Thanks for helping me re-think my position on credit cards!

    1. If you decide to do this, definitely be careful 🙂 Many get caught up easily with the rewards.

  9. Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances

    It’s sad that people feel they need to warn you about using credit cards for everyday purchases! Since getting married 4 years ago my husband and I have exclusively used our credit card for purchases, and always pay it off in full at the end of every month. Like you said, you just have to be responsible and aware!

    Thanks for the list of cards that you use! I’ve been looking for a new rewards card, and have felt lost with all the options out there.

  10. Darren Howarter

    We have been churning cards for many years now and its been a huge benefit to us. We have flown to many places around the world for free by using airline points/miles. I find these plans to be a far greater reward than cash, since the flights are so expensive and it takes some time to get enough cash to pay for the flight. We always kept one card, ours was a Discover (no fee) card, for a long time to help boost our credit score. The churning of cards is only about 10% of your overall credit score. We had a very small dip in our score over 15-20 years of churning. Overall, creditors want to see if you pay, pay on time and how much debt you have. This is a great system for getting ahead if you can control your spending. We put ALL of our groceries on credit just to build more miles.

    1. We put nearly everything on our cards and have never had a problem. Congrats on doing so well with it as well!

  11. That’s a ton of money!! I’m not sure how much I usually save in a year from rewards, but I basically have just stuck with straight cash back cards for now. I get 5% cash back on gas/grocery/Amazon purchases and then 1.5% on everything I throw on my other credit card. I think I ended up getting around $150 back last year.

    I’m hoping to increase the value/amount of money I get back in the future by taking advantage of travel and sign up rewards on cards – hopefully soon.

    1. $150 is still great. Good job!

  12. Shelby

    This is very interesting for me. I’m 20 and got my first credit card about five months ago. I pay it in full every month and I’m really getting into reading personal finance books and blogs like this. My mom has a huge amount of credit card debt and I want to be different. Do you always cancel the credit cards? Do you think the rewards are worth the annual fee? I don’t spend enough right now to get another credit card, nor would I probably be able to get one without a consigner but this is great info for the future! Love your blog and weekly emails!!! <3

    1. I don’t always cancel the credit cards. If there’s no annual fee, I just keep them to help with my credit score since they don’t impact anything.

      Many times, the rewards can be worth the annual fee. You just have to decide if it’s worth it to you.

      Thanks! 🙂

  13. Kim

    Today starts week 3 of our European vacation, funded mostly through reward points, so I agree 100% with your strategy if you can pay off the balance each month. I think our next cards will something for hotels, either Hilton or Marriot. Both have nice bonuses going on right now and both have good options for kid friendly rooms.

  14. Great tips! And that’s a nice amount of credit card rewards. I try to choose the best cards for rewards and stick to spending only what I need throughout the month. Rewards are great, but remaining credit card debt free is even better.

    1. Yes, remaining credit card debt free is definitely better. Thankfully I am! 🙂

  15. Kayla @ The Jenny Pincher

    I’m still in credit card debt, but I love the idea of getting rewards for money you’d spend anyway. Maybe after I get out of debt I’ll be able to try this out.

  16. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar

    We love our credit cards and have never carried a balance (on purpose). My wife did on her one credit card and it was for just over the minimum payment. Dun goofed and paid it off the day we found out.

    These cards are such a great way to take advantage of what you’re already spending! And on top of that, I love their security features. They respond so quickly if there’s any weird activity on your card since it’s THEIR money, not yours!

    We were able to take rewards from our card and put it towards our new rear entry doors. Nice to have that “come out of thin air”!

    1. Yes, I love the security features as well!

  17. Sarah

    My husband really wants to do this, but I’m reluctant. We have a bad history with credit cards, but I think that poor history comes from a bad time when we didn’t have a budget and life was chaotic (we were both working 60+ hours a week and never saw each other, let alone sat down and talked). I agreed to give it a try, so long as we ease into it. For example, we now put all of our gas on a credit card and pay off that balance each month. Next month we’ll put all of our gas and groceries on a credit card.

    1. Sounds like a great plan! Better to take it slow.

  18. We never pay for airline tickets due to these rewards! We use our main credit card like a debit card. (Meaning, paying it in full each month, of course.)

    One other thing to note, if you sign up for a credit card and they waive the annual fee for the first year, call them up right before the second year is about to begin and let them know you’d like to downgrade to their no annual fee card. Most companies have this option, however the rewards are either non-existent on that card or about 1/2 of what the card with the fee is. 🙂

  19. Amy @ DebtGal

    I love credit card rewards, too. As long as one can keep the urge to overspend for rewards in check, they’re a great deal! (And it feels great to “out-smart” the credit card companies at their own game.)

  20. I have never checked out the cards you use but I make a killing off of American Express points. For example, I just ordered some items on Amazon for my kids and you know what I paid? Nothing…. I just clicked the box to pay with my Amex points and voila – totally free! I put all my business expenses on Amex so the points add up each month. I fly a lot so I will definitely check out that Southwest one you mention!

  21. Heather @ Simply Save

    I haven’t gotten into “churning” but I love getting credit card rewards! I cash in for Amazon gift cards all the time, because to me they are like cash. I could get $10 in cash back or $25 to Amazon for the same amount of points. I use my credit card for as many things as possible and pay it in full every month. Free money!

  22. I am a huge fan of credit card rewards, specifically for my clients who have great credit and know how to manage theirs. I typically advise my clients to try credit card hacking to help them achieve their travel dreams so that their travel dreams don’t detract too much from their other financial goals like buying a house or having children.

    1. Yes, exactly! Credit card rewards are awesome.

  23. Absolutely love credit card rewards!!! We have always gone with a product’s points over money because my analyze indicated we got twice as much merchandize as the cash value. We have stayed at luxury resorts for free with our hilton points. Plus the free breakfast, wifi and other perks make it even more awesome, because we have diamond status. That’s how we afforded me to visit the husbands 3 times overseas when he was over deployed yet still meet our financial goals. I also have a loft credit card that I use when the american express is not accepted. Just by putting insurance and other normal bills on my credit card, I am able to have a free (or close to free) professional wardrobe. I have some traveling I am interested in. So I am looking into airlines next.

    The key to success with a credit card is to only use it for purchases you would spend no matter what. Doing this has allowed us to stretch our budget even further by making money off insurance and other expenses we were going to spend no matter what!

    PS If you are active duty military, american express offers 0% and waives all fees! Capital one also has a deal for military!

  24. Long

    I also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and love it. I feel it is one of the best rewards card out there so many great benefits. I get the most out of the rewards by redeeming my points for flights through the United Mileage program (Star Alliance member). You can get a flight to pretty much any destination in the world for 40,000 points (equivalent to $400). I love the card so much that I even wrote a review about it on my website.

    1. It’s definitely one of my favorites too!

  25. We’re huge on the travel hacking and credit card game. I recently posted on the Southwest Companion pass, which lets my significant other fly free for 2 years anytime we book. I think we’ve saved upwards of $3,000-4,000 this year.

  26. Allison @ Frugal on the Prairie

    If you’re very careful about making sure you don’t overspend or pay late, credit cards can bring great rewards! We have received over $1,500 just in Cashback Bonuses since we opened the card a couple of years ago. That’s free money!

  27. Ali @ Anything You Want

    Wow – impressive! I’ve gotten about $1000 in rewards this year, which I’m pretty happy with. I have a hard time meeting the spending threshold so I have to be strategic about when I open a new card.

  28. Oh America, I am so jealous of your credit card sign up bonuses!
    We can get a few airmiles here and there, but nothing even close to what you’ve got.
    That is a solid source of extra income, especially for folks like you who travel all the time.

  29. Dane Hinson

    I’ve been getting interested in churning some credit cards. I currently use the Fidelity amex which gives 2% back into my son’s 529 account. It’s a great card but it looks like maybe I should be looking into some of the other great rewards out there.

  30. Amy Nickson

    We all need to understand credit card companies are out there to make money, as long as we pay the balance on time and in full month they can’t add interest to the amount we owe. I try to use it wisely with a Mantra- Never Carry a Balance!

  31. Kim @ Frugal Minded Mom

    I love my credit card for the rewards and benefits it offers (like travel insurance), and like you we use it for all our daily expenses and pay it off every month.

    I don’t however change between cards often. Doesn’t opening and canceling card frequently have an impact on your credit score?

    1. I haven’t noticed much of a difference with my credit score at all from doing so.

  32. Lori

    This sounds like a smart way to take advantage of cash back, but I have kind of (maybe) a dumb question. Do you have to pay taxes on the cash that you get back or is that just basically free money? I pay my credit card off every month, and it has never really dawned on me to put my every day items such as groceries and gas on there and just pay the money to the credit card. What a great idea!

  33. Sham

    I am always conscious of having too many credit cards, but having read this, I guess it does have its perks, providing you manage it well:)