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15 Little Life Hacks

The credit card I use

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After I wrote about how my credit card saved me $600 on a flight, a bunch of people asked what credit card I use. Normally, I don’t write about too many specific companies, but this is a card I’ve used and I trust. I use a Citibank Premier Pass Elite card. There’s a no-fee card and a fee card. I ran the calculations and decided to get a fee card, which is about $75/year. I chose this one because a friend recommended it, I earn 1 point for every dollar I spend and every mile I fly, plus I get free companion fares for domestic flights over $379. The reason I saved $600 was that I redeemed 25,000 miles for a domestic flight.

In my experience, the cash-back cards (“get 1% back on all your purchases, plus 3% at gas stations!”) are a joke. My friends report getting back pitiful amounts at the end of the year. I’m sure some people are happy with theirs, but my friends almost uniformly hate them.

Anyway, if you travel a lot, I encourage you to look into a rewards card. This one happens to be great for me (because I earn rewards when I spend and when I travel), but you can search through a huge list of cards at Bankrate.com. Be sure to run a break-even analysis to see if the extra rewards you get with a fee card are worth it (for most young people, it should be a no-fee card).

If you’re just getting started, you may want to read All About Credit Cards or Why your credit card interest rate doesn’t matter.

Also, my Citibank card just sent me 5 referrals to give away, so if you’re interested, let me know. First come, first served.

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26 Comments

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  1. During the last 9 months, I have saved the pitiful cashback of $220. By doing nothing else than reminding myself to use the Citi Dividend card everywhere.

    For people who drive and who buy in grocery stores, the 5% cashback is more than enough.

    Mileage cards? No way! Every day I read some story about how difficult it is to redeem those miles.

    Just to show how worthless these miles are: one can get 1 Continental mile per every dollar spent at ShopRite just by signing up for it at shoprite.com. Not to speak about all the frequent flyer programs.

    If I want rewards when I travel, I use my Amex TrueEarnings card, with 2% cashback on travel. And so on.

    Maybe for big spenders or big flyers a Premier Pass Elite is worth the $75/year. For me, it’s not even worth the hit on my credit score, no offense.

  2. We’re a family of 4 and we easily max out the benefits($300 per card) from 2 dividend cards over the year. Well, 600 bucks for buying needed groceries and gas is pitiful. I think we would save a lot more by not buying the groceries and gas.

  3. for folks that loving buying stuff online, I really suggest the Amazon.com card. I use it for both personal and business expenses…and their 1-3% back in amazon.com certificates add up quickly.

    In the past 15 months I’ve gotten prolly $1200 worth…but that’s also because my month bill is like $10k bc the business side.

    check it out.

  4. Ramit,

    You know I love you, but I think you failed to do the math here.

    25,000 miles = $25,000 spent.

    The value of your ticket was $600. That means that the imputed cashback % was 2.4%.

    For your groceries and drugstores and gas, you’d still be better off with 5% back.

  5. Ordinarily you’d be right (and I know you’re way better at math than I am), but I earn points for every dollar I spend and for every mile I fly. For example, if I flew to NYC and back, that would be ~6,000 points, and a flight like that might cost $250. In that case, I’d earn points on both the purchase price and the miles.

    Plus (this is less relevant), I got a bunch of free points for signing up.

  6. it’s all about what cards work for you. 5% back from gas & grocery via the popular citi dividend is hot, it’s hardly a joke. as mentioned, most people spend enough to qualify for the $300 per year for stuff they’ll buy already.

    I can’t imagine paying almost $400 for the amex plat card, but for a lot of people, the benefit pays for itself within a few use.

  7. I can see how this card would be great if you intend to fly somewhere, but I think the cashback card is better for my more grounded, family lifestyle. Now, when my wife and I intend to take that trip to Hawaii, then it’d probably be reasonable to switch cards. That’s an interesting topic though…switching cards for the sake of the benefits you recieve from them.

  8. For college students (if you only want one card)–the MTVu card is quite good.

    5 pts/dollar on purchases at bookstores, 25 pts for paying your bill each month, and bonus points for having good grades. Those are all good incentives.

    If you JUST use it for books (like me), it’s a nice perk to just recieve points having the card sit there doing barely anything (which works well when you’re trying to save money all the time).

    Just don’t fall into the trap of spending (even marginally) MORE money to get points…

  9. So how is your experience of redeeming those airline miles?

  10. Not to pile on, but I get back between $500-$1000 a year on the “joke” cards. Tip: all purchases at a Wal-Mart Super Center are counted as groceries as long as at least one grocery item is on the receipt.

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