March 20, 2014

4 Credit Cards Could Net the Average American Family $800 in Rewards per Year

We got over $800 in rewards from our credit cards last year.   That seems like a lot but it isn't really all that hard to do.   I figured it would be a good exercise to estimate how much an average American household might earn by smart use of rewards credit cards.

I went to the BLS CEX and found average spending per household.    From that I split things into categories that would be stuff you can use a credit card for.   I am assuming that your mortgage or rent, your household utilities, car purchases, health insurance and some other items are not things you can pay with credit card. 

Average American household monthly spending sums as follows :


grocery  $ 320
gas  $ 221
restaurant  $ 218
entertain  $ 214
other tran  $ 205
clothes  $ 145
charity  $ 143
furnishings  $ 126
telephone  $ 102
education  $   88
misc  $   65
personal  $   53
housekeeping  $   51
tobacco  $  29
read  $  10

Now in those categories there are certain ones that can qualify for 5% rebate deals.   groceries, gasoline, restaurants, charity and telephone.    Those spending categories can get 5% for either some or all of the year with certain cards.

For the above spending the below cards would give you
Fidelity Amex = 2% on everything
Amex Blue card = 6% on groceries up to $6000 a year
Chase = 5% on gasoline for 2 quarters of the year
USBank = two rotating 5% categories including restaurants and charity

Amex blue for all your groceries.   = 6% x $320 x 12 = $230.40
Chase card for gasoline for 6 months of the year during its promo periods = 5% x $221 x 6 = $66.3
US Bank card for all restaurant and charity spending = 5% x 12 x ($218+$143) = $216.6
Fidelity Amex for all other spending = 2% x $1198.5 x 12 = $287.64

TOTAL = $800.94

If you don't want to bother to get 4 cards and use different cards for different categories then you could just get the 2% Fidelity card and use that one card for everything.   Just using the Fidelity card would net the average household $477.62 a year in rewards.  

For each of the 3 other cards you choose to add you would get additional rewards above the Fidelity 2% rate totaling :
Amex blue = $153.60
Chase = $39.78
US Bank = $129.96

I think its worth that rewards money just to pull out another card for specific purchases.  

You could probably even get more rewards than what I've listed here.   For example the Blue card has 3% in gas stations and if you use the Blue card for gas 6 months of the year thats another $13.26 a year.   You might be able to pay some of your household utilities via credit card as well and get 2% there. 

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