March 6, 2016

Maximizing My Credit Card Rewards For Grocery Spending

I've got the Sallie Mae Barclay card that gives 5% cash back on grocery store spending for the first $250 a month spent.    I use that at grocery stores usually for at least one of our weekly grocery trips.  For the rest of our grocery spending I have used the Fidelity Amex card with its 2% rate on everything.

Sometimes its a little hard to juggle which card to use.   Usually on the first grocery trip of the month its a given I'd use the Sallie Mae card as one trip doesn't hit the $250 limit.    But what if the first trip is for $110 of groceries and the second trip is $200?   I usually do some quick math and figure the amount of rewards I'd get with either card.   With that example I would have $140 left on the 5% rate and then $60 at 1% for $7.60 on the Sallie card or $4 on the Fidelity so its smarter to use the Sallie card.  Unless.... I thought I might have some smaller grocery bills under $140 to max out the 5%.  It comes down to guesswork.

Last year in January I spent about $178 on the Sallie card and $369 on the Fidelity card.   I made $8.90 from Sallie and $7.38 from Fidelity for $16.28 total in rewards.  If I'd juggled it just right I could have put $248 on the Sallie and $299 on the Fidelity.  I would have only had to use my Sallie card for one more $70 purchase.   That would have given me $12.40 plus $5.98 for $18.38 total rewards.   Thats $2.10 more in rewards for picking the right card once.

Oh, and I had forgot that the Amex Blue cash card I've got actually gives 3% back in rewards so I should have used that all year and earned an extra point just for using that instead of the Fidelity.

I figure if I had optimized my cards for groceries that I could have gotten about $70 more in rewards over the year on grocery spending.

One way I can easily optimize the spending exactly is to start the month by using the Sallie mae card to buy a $250 gift card at our grocery store.   Then use that gift card for our groceries until it runs out and then put the rest on the Amex Blue cash.   This would give me the maximum rewards without having to do any math at all.   The downside of this is having to do that one extra transaction to buy the gift card first.


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