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Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click a link and purchase an item I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my opinion. Read the full disclosure here.

In 2020 I took on a No Spend Year, however, I still earned $577.88 in credit card cash back rewards. I paid $0 of credit card interest.

If used wisely, you can earn a lot of money from your credit cards.

Who Shouldn’t Use Credit Cards?

I’m well aware that credit cards can be problematic for some people. That’s why it may not be best for the following:

  • If you have a spending/shopping problem then it’s probably in your best interest to follow the Dave Ramsey route and cut up your cards. Cash rewards don’t benefit you if you’re spending unnecessarily…you could just save your money instead.
  • If you currently have credit card debt (especially high interest cards), then it may be best to avoid trying to take advantage of the rewards. However, if your spending is under control and you’re ONLY using your credit cards for necessities (groceries, gas, bills, etc.) then could definitely benefit from the extra cash which you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Find and Choose the Right Card

You probably already have a card or 2 earning some cash back. But if it’s only 1-2% then you can do much better.

Before applying for a card, be sure your credit score is decent and you don’t need to take out a loan anytime soon.

You can also determine your pre-approval/qualification for many of the card issuers through their website, through Credit Karma, or via the offers you receive in the mail.

There are a few things I look for before applying to cards:

  1. Realistic Sign-up Bonus
    If there’s no bonus offered I’m probably not applying. Also, if I have to spend too much money to get the bonus, I won’t apply either. However, if you have a business or big expenses coming up and know you’ll meet that requirement, those would be worth applying for.
  2. No annual fee
    Most cards don’t have fees or some will waive their fee for a year. Then the fee is usually $95+ which is not worth it for me. Again, if you have a business or large expenses all the time, the fee may be worth it in exchange for the rewards you earn.
  3. 3%+ in categories relevant to me
    I look for high earning categories such as groceries, gas, or online shopping. I don’t really care about streaming services or dining.

Use Your Credit Cards for All Purchases

To earn the most points you obviously want to charge to your card(s) as much as possible on necessities.

Anytime you spend money use your credit card. There are some things you can’t use a credit card for (or they charge a fee) such as your rent or mortgage and some utility bills.

Know Which Card to Use

I have multiple credit cards each with different rewards. When I go grocery shopping or do any online shopping I make sure I think about which card I will use to make a purchase.

This does take some effort because you’ll need to review what is being offered by each of your cards, but with time it gets easier and you’ll know which one to reach for.

For example, I am earning 5% cash back on groceries with my Chase Flex card.
I know that for Q2 of 2021 I’m earning 5% cash back on gas with my Discover card. Once Q2 is over I’ll probably go back to using my Bank of America card which offers 2% for gas.
I’m currently earning 3% with Bank of America for any online shopping, but I know that in Q4 Discover is offering 5% cash back on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com.

Every couple of weeks you have to pay attention to what is being offered, but it’s worth it.

Pay All Charges Off ASAP

I login to my accounts multiple times a week if I know I am using those cards. If I see a balance on my card, I pay it off. I find this to be the easiest way, but you could also just be sure to pay off your balance in full before the due date each month to avoid interest and a balance being reported to the credit bureaus.

Check for Deals

Most credit cards offer even more deals that you can use in addition to your cash back.

You will have to search for and apply these deals, but they can earn you 10%, 15%, and even 20% more.

Take a look below at just a fraction of what is offered by Bank of America, Chase, and Capital One.

Capital One Deals
Bank of America Deals
Chase Deals

Stack Rewards with Other Offers

If you’re money obsessed like myself, then you probably want to find even more ways to earn money.

Whenever I make purchase I make sure I check for coupons and deals outside of my credit cards.

These are the apps and services I check/use on a regular basis:

Rakuten

Rakuten can be added to your browser as an extension or you can just visit the website to see what offers are available. You will find deals at just about every large store. You can use my link to earn $30 after spending $30!

BeFrugal

BeFrugal is basically the same thing as Rakuten, but sometimes they offer a better value. Earn a $10 bonus after earning $10 cash back with this link!

MaxRebates

MaxRebates is also like Rakuten and BeFrugal, I like to check all 3 to see which website is offering the best value. Use my link and spend $25 to earn up to $50!

IBotta

IBotta is a coupon app for AFTER you go shopping. You add the coupons available for the things you purchased, then you scan your receipt and you get cash back for it. My referral code is 85zng.

Fetch

Fetch just requires you to scan your receipt and they automatically can determine what you purchased. You’ll get at least 25 points per receipt, but often they have bonuses for certain purchases. Use my code EJH9Y to get 2,000 points!

RetailMeNot (or Google)

Whenever I’m shopping online I Google ‘Promo code for [blank].’ Most often RetailMeNot is the first website to pop up with promo codes, but there are many others. A promo code would save you money up front, not as cash back.


There is a lot of (passive) money that can be made here. Some people make WAY more than I do from credit card “hacking” because they have to spend more money.

It’s definitely worth the bit of effort it requires.