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Here's an interesting site that came up on FlyerTalk: Credit Card Tune Up allows you to input your monthly spend on various categories and evaluates the annual cash reward you'd get with one or a combination of cash-back credit cards. Comes with helpful mouseover documentation.

It seems to favor Driver's Edge for the 6% rebate, pointing out that other cards' rebate terms are so volatile anyways that a one-year limit isn't that big a deal.

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I've been contemplating how to value the Citi Driver's Edge "Drive Rewards" earnings and came up with a question to whic... (more)

joelmeu (Mar. 04, 2007 @ 12:05a) |

joelmeu said: <blockquote><hr>heykarinakarina said: <blockquote><hr>I carry:<br>...<br>Discover Platinum (hey, it's exci... (more)

heykarinakarina (Mar. 04, 2007 @ 5:09a) |

heykarinakarina said: <blockquote><hr><br>Joelmeu... if I didn't have two existing accounts with Discover, I would conve... (more)

joelmeu (Mar. 04, 2007 @ 2:19p) |

Here's the description of the Credit Card Tune-Up decision support tool from the site Credit Card Tune-Up: Maximize Your Cash Back Rewards (www.CreditCardTuneUp.com):
[Q]Credit Card Tune-Up: Maximize Your Cash Back Rewards

Choosing the best rewards credit cards to maximize your Cash Back can be daunting. There are hundreds of credit cards to choose from and their reward structures are a complex mix of tiers, limits, and categories. New credit cards come out all the time and the rewards structures of existing cards change as well.

The Credit Card Tune-Up tool makes all of that easy. Just plug in how much you spend each month, press Enter, and you'll be presented with a list of recommended cards sorted from best to worst by your expected annual reward. If having more than one credit card and using each card to its strengths could yield a greater annual reward, then each of the best N-card combinations is presented in columns labeled "Best N-Card Combo".
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Intresting website... for some reason, I can't seem to get AMEX cards as a recommendation, even when i spent 15,000 a month...

Hc000 said: [Q]Intresting website... for some reason, I can't seem to get AMEX cards as a recommendation, even when i spent 15,000 a month...

Really? I got it to recommend it no problem. Just put in $5,000 a month in groceries and no card with caps can compare.

The reason why $15,000 in general spending a month doesn't recommend AMEX Blue Cash is because 2%>1.5% <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif" border=0> I thought that was obvious. Did you even look at what card it recommened over the AMEX for general spending?

Certainly an interesting site, I'm not sure if I agree with the Driver's Edge 1 year idea. Obviously the person who runs it makes their money off the referral bonus ($50 or so per approved card) that they get from you applying through their link. Unless you are feeling really generous, you should still apply through cardoffers.com.

cardoffers.com looks great, I hadn't heard of it until this site, thanks for the heads up.

I think this website is great. Not that I would use it primarily, I do my own calculations. However, there is now a polite way of answering everyone who comes onto this forum and thinks their entitled to a personalized answer to "What credit card should I get?". Now a link to this website should end the thread.

One interesting thing I noted from the site: not only does juggling more than two cards prove to be a hassle in everyday life, it also rarely nets you much marginal gain in rebates.

Re: CardOffers. Search around; the consensus seems to be that it works (for Citi and AMEX, don't think they give cash for Chase apps) but it takes a long time.

paytonc said: [Q]One interesting thing I noted from the site: not only does juggling more than two cards prove to be a hassle in everyday life, it also rarely nets you much marginal gain in rebates.yeah, I carry only one card for everyday usage (a 1%/5% card) and its a ton easier with only slight $$ loss.

The simplest and most profitable use of CCs , with least hassle, is to use one good CashBack card for everyday usage, and use the rest for 0% profiteering and signup bonuses.


SUCKISSTAPLES said: [Q]paytonc said: [Q]One interesting thing I noted from the site: not only does juggling more than two cards prove to be a hassle in everyday life, it also rarely nets you much marginal gain in rebates.yeah, I carry only one card for everyday usage (a 1%/5% card) and its a ton easier with only slight $$ loss.

The simplest and most profitable use of CCs , with least hassle, is to use one good CashBack card for everyday usage, and use the rest for 0% profiteering and signup bonuses.

OK site, although its overrates that Drivers Edge card. I carry multiple rewards cards, figuring the extra cards not only get me more rewards, but also pads my total credit limit so I can be more aggressive with my balance transfer cards.

cameron2003 said: [Q]SUCKISSTAPLES said: [Q]paytonc said: [Q]One interesting thing I noted from the site: not only does juggling more than two cards prove to be a hassle in everyday life, it also rarely nets you much marginal gain in rebates.yeah, I carry only one card for everyday usage (a 1%/5% card) and its a ton easier with only slight $$ loss.

The simplest and most profitable use of CCs , with least hassle, is to use one good CashBack card for everyday usage, and use the rest for 0% profiteering and signup bonuses.

OK site, although its overrates that Drivers Edge card. I carry multiple rewards cards, figuring the extra cards not only get me more rewards, but also pads my total credit limit so I can be more aggressive with my balance transfer cards.

i can see a how many CC do you carry thread.

I think the number of cards definitely goes to what is worth your time personally and you own personal spending habits.

I like to carry three cards. Not only does it help my get the most Cash Back, but it helps keep 3 cards "active" on my credit report which is good because I've heard credit cards that are opened but not used somehow don't count as much on your report. (I hope I'm not spreading another financial urban myth!)

--5% gas/groc/pharm
--5% restaurant/movie/bookstore
--2% general purpose

It turns out the restaurant card only earns me about $50 more per year than if I used the general purpose card. Oh well, it really isn't that big of a deal for me to carry three cards in my wallet. Even if I totally screw up and use the wrong card, which is very rare, I'm always getting at least 1%.

disclaimer: when I list the cards I used I generally get a spurt of PMs asking for the cards. The first two are found in FFGuru's 5% thread. The last one is invite only, sorry.

asdf9876 said: [Q]
disclaimer: when I list the cards I used I generally get a spurt of PMs asking for the cards. The first two are found in FFGuru's 5% thread. The last one is invite only, sorry.
You could just flat out say it instead of trying to be secretive - it isn't some big secret that is going to make the cards not be accessible anymore if you share. I'll go out on a limb here and say
1) Chase 5% Card (either one)
2) Citi mtvU (not really Cash Back, especially now that they changed the point values for $50 GC's)
3) HSBC Household 2% (could always use Fidelity 529 card here for those without an invite)

Xeon852 said: [Q]asdf9876 said: [Q]
disclaimer: when I list the cards I used I generally get a spurt of PMs asking for the cards. The first two are found in FFGuru's 5% thread. The last one is invite only, sorry.
You could just flat out say it instead of trying to be secretive - it isn't some big secret that is going to make the cards not be accessible anymore if you share. I'll go out on a limb here and say
1) Chase 5% Card (either one)
2) Citi mtvU (not really Cash Back, especially now that they changed the point values for $50 GC's)
3) HSBC Household 2% (could always use Fidelity 529 card here for those without an invite)

Sorry if I didn't feel like spoonfeeding people. I wasn't being secretive. If you are so lazy that you can't look FFGuru's 5% thread then you didn't really need it. By the way, within 6 months of BoA Power Rewards getting popular (having its own thread) on this forum it died. There were people on here who had cycled through multiple thousand dollar rewards so it could have been a contributor.

I get better than Cash Back with Citi mtvU. I always grabbed the $100 gift card before but now I get plane tickets at greater than $.01/point. But the $100 GC would be fine, I don't see what all the belly aching about the $50 is about, if you can't reach $100 in 5 years then you shouldn't be using this card anyway.

Fidelity 529 doesn't require an invite does it does require a semi-major commitment of ether a very large minimum investment or a monthly commitment to put non-reward money into this account. I generally don't like to let CC rebates dictate my investment strategies.

If those cards are so easy to find, how come I constantly get PMs about how to find these cards?

asdf9876 said: [Q]Sorry if I didn't feel like spoonfeeding people. I wasn't being secretive. If you are so lazy that you can't look FFGuru's 5% thread then you didn't really need it. By the way, within 6 months of BoA Power Rewards getting popular (having its own thread) on this forum it died. There were people on here who had cycled through multiple thousand dollar rewards so it could have been a contributor.
Could have...but I'm willing to bet it has more to do with the consolidation of all BOA credit cards under FIA Card services (MBNA) and the move to World Points.
[Q]I get better than Cash Back with Citi mtvU. I always grabbed the $100 gift card before but now I get plane tickets at greater than $.01/point. But the $100 GC would be fine, I don't see what all the belly aching about the $50 is about, if you can't reach $100 in 5 years then you shouldn't be using this card anyway.
I redeem my points for flights as well, as you'll see in my post about the changes to the program. However, I earn more than 5000 TY Points in a year from various other cards (not just bonus's). Other than bonus's, it sounds like you only earn about 6000 points a year (if you get $50 better by using that card), which is 4 or 5 years until a free domestic flight, and 2 years for a $100 gift card.
[Q]Fidelity 529 doesn't require an invite does it does require a semi-major commitment of ether a very large minimum investment or a monthly commitment to put non-reward money into this account. I generally don't like to let CC rebates dictate my investment strategies.
Agreed - which is why I use their 1.5% card, but for some that want that extra 0.5% or have kids anyways, it may be worth it.
[Q]If those cards are so easy to find, how come I constantly get PMs about how to find these cards?
People are lazy, and that’s it. Why not just post them? Its one thing to get annoyed with people creating new threads about stupid things, but to just be a a**hole and try to purposely make it harder for someone to find information is just stupid. I'll agree they should search and find out for themselves - but why not just post it and make life easier?

Xeon852 said: [Q] Other than bonus's, it sounds like you only earn about 6000 points a year (if you get $50 better by using that card), which is 4 or 5 years until a free domestic flight, and 2 years for a $100 gift card.

I have no problem cashing in. I earn about 38,000 TY points a year. I threw out the $50 as the marginal increase over using the next best alternative card but does not represent the only way I get TY points.


[Q]but to just be a a**hole and try to purposely make it harder for someone to find information is just stupid.

Thanks for the pointless name calling. I was hoping to spur people to find the 5% thread and find the best card that works for THEM, not just copy my strategy. But if you want to call me an a**hole that is your right. Please try to keep the name calling to a minimum, it really isn't necessary.

I like to use 4 CC's:

Citi Dividend Platinum (Now Diamond Preferred rewards) for gas, grocery, drugstores. - 5% Cash Back
Citi MTVu for Restaurants, movie theatres, bookstores etc. - 5% CashBack
Advanta business platinum for all utility bills - 5% CashBack
Starwood AMEX for all misc expenses

Incremental benefits over using just a single 5%/1% card:

By using MTVu card incremental benefit about $100/yr and when my wife gets 4.0 GPA it is an additional $20.
By using Advanta card incremental benefit $240/yr (my gas/electricity/water/cell/VOIP/internet/Cable TV add up to approx. $500/month)
With Starwood AMEX the incremental benefit is hard to figure out but 1.25 aadvantage miles conversion and India tickets for 75K miles definitely makes it worth atleast 2%. Not to mention the subjective benefit of crossing threshholds and my desire to reach a lifetime million miles status on AA. (currently 700K)

Hence net incremental savings atleast $500/year over a single 5/1 card. Effort is just minimally more of remembering to take out the right card - more of a habitual thing. Don't have to carry the Advanta card as all utility payments are on autopay. Only complaint is some places don't take Starwood AMEX especially State Farm for auto and home insurance.

Some odd categories there... vehicle rental? Web advertising and hosting?

Anyway, while we're listing our preferred cards...

Advanta 5% utilities
Chase Rewards+ 5% gas, grocery, drugs
Citi MTVu 5% restaurants, fast food, etc
all other purchases on my AMEX (0% on purchases till August '07, so effectively a >4% reward right now)
and my MBNA NCL 3% card, for all other purchases that don't take AMEX

This means that my RBS CustomCash card doesn't get used much anymore (though I try to use it if a large purchase comes up in any given month, since it pays out sooner than the MBNA card), and my Household 2% and Fidelity 529 cards are essentially inactive.

Incremental benefit: I have activity with Chase, Citi, AMEX, and MBNA, so I (hopefully) avoid adverse actions that they may normally consider for people (like me) who carry 0% balances at nearly 100% utilization (on their other cards).

asdf9876 said: [Q]Xeon852 said: [Q]asdf9876 said: [Q]
disclaimer: when I list the cards I used I generally get a spurt of PMs asking for the cards. The first two are found in FFGuru's 5% thread. The last one is invite only, sorry.
You could just flat out say it instead of trying to be secretive - it isn't some big secret that is going to make the cards not be accessible anymore if you share. I'll go out on a limb here and say
1) Chase 5% Card (either one)
2) Citi mtvU (not really Cash Back, especially now that they changed the point values for $50 GC's)
3) HSBC Household 2% (could always use Fidelity 529 card here for those without an invite)


Fidelity 529 doesn't require an invite does it does require a semi-major commitment of ether a very large minimum investment or a monthly commitment to put non-reward money into this account. I generally don't like to let CC rebates dictate my investment strategies.

If those cards are so easy to find, how come I constantly get PMs about how to find these cards?
re fidelity 529, you consider $50/month a semi-major commitment? my 529 card has been getting over a 2% CashBack since its in a fund doing quite nicely, along with $50 a month (which I could pull out at any time)

Anyone factor in the Auto Rental insurance coverage?
Or Trip cancellation on Airlines?
I alternate between my Citi 5%/1% (limit of $300/year Cash Back) and Chase 5%/1% for gas, grocery, drug.
I'll take another look for everything else. Thanks.

This is a valuable site. Even if not perfect this Credit Card Tuneup site gives a good starting point for someone looking for cards to use for spending.

One mechanical problem seems to be that if you click on a card application (perhaps to read the terms and conditions), the back button does not seem to let you return to the screem where you had put in the numbers. You might want to enter the numbers once, copy the worksheet, and then go to the cards of interest.

It appears if you say you are a student, it limits you to student cards, even though many students could get other cards which are not labeled as for students and may be better in various ways (the CITI Driver’s Edge student version apparently lacks the 6% for the first year on groceries etc.). Students may wish to try both solutions to get ideas. I suspect the best solution for most students is the solution given for general purpose use, and a MTV card for restaurants, books, Amazon and specialty categories. A benefit of getting this card while a student is that you have it for later when you would not qualify. A student may not eat out much, but when a salesman with an expense account his restaurant expenses may be high).

Optimal Use of this Site

An ideal linear programming solution (which I assume is the solution algorithm used) would have the ability to specify that certain cards were to be in the solution (usually because you already have them, although in some cases you may want them for certain benefits specific to them). You could then see if additional cards were worth much in rebates (in technical terms, relaxing the 0 usage of card constraint because you did not have it)..

In many case you can guess at the optimal solution if you think of this site’s solution as being for types of cards. For instance, if it suggests CITI’s Driver’s Edge (or another card such as the HSC or American Express Blue that it shows as used primarily for groceries, etc.), it probably means you should consider a card for groceries, gasoline, and drugstores. If you already have one or more yielding 5%, you can guess you would earn another fifth of this estimated savings if you had a Driver’s edge. For instance, $500 a month gives $25 a month at 5%, and $30 at 6%, and the extra $5.00 per month is an extra $60 per year. Perhaps, if you are applying for another card, one with a $100 bonus would be worth more, or perhaps the miles driven benefit makes this one worth getting (and accumulating mile while being sure you use it enough to keep the points) so you can earn 6% in the future on groceries etc.

If it suggests a card for heavy travel users (such as the Premier Elite), you might look at the American Express Starpoints or an airline miles card, partially just so you can top off the miles you earn on airlines and qualify for the travel award you want. Of course, many business travelers find they have enough free tickets from travel (and do not want anymore plane trips anyhow) that they look to get cash from their spending.

This site also seems to handle the rebate limits well. Sometimes a card with a good rebate percentage is capped (the $300 on CITI Dividend card). His program appears to worn you when you are likely to hit such a cap (not explicitly, but notice when spending on a category is split between two cards). Sometimes, the suggestion to use another card is just to free up the spending limit for a card with a cap.

The most common solution seems to include a Driver’s Edge cardbecause 6% on groceries and gas is a lot of money (and most families spend a lot on groceries, gasoline, and in drugstores). It comes even more often into two card solutions, typically with the Fidelity card for other expenditures (see comments below). It might be even better if you take advantage of the miles driven feature. After the first year you may have enough miles documented so you can earn 6% on groceries (the 3% stated plus being allowed to use some of your miles driven points) until the miles driven points are exhausted.

Three card solutions for most seem to add specialty cards for utilities, travel, or other uses, and with typical spending patterns add only a little in rebates.(While this site’s program does not show this, for those that qualify for the MTV card, I suspect this card would often come into the solution). See discussion below of various specialty cards.


Comments on Specific Cards

I notice it seemed to leave out the Fidelity 529 Plan cards which gives 2% (with a high cap) on all purchases. These saving plans make sense for most (you can periodically move money to your favorite plan if you get enough to worry about) and those not-saving for somebody education can take the money out at the expense o paying a small tax (and the hassle of filling out the tax form and calculating the tax owed).

As I pointed out elsewhere (search), if you are saving anyhow, the tax sheltering benefit may cover the tax over a long period of time. If you are saving for an emergency, the time you need the funds may be when you are in a low bracket anyhow (think being fired, house flooded, big medical bills etc.) and the tax is less important. Any one for whom this site suggests a 1.5% Fidelity investments card for (which appear to be many people) should consider instead the Fidelity 529 plan card.

I notice some solutions with my spending pattern suggested an American Express True Value cards, apparently to get the 2% on travel. With the Fidelity 529 card in the solution giving 2%, this typically adds nothing (unless you are likely to hit the Fidelity upper limit). (and see the discussion below of this Costco tied card).

Of course, many complexities are left out. Some cards have interest free purchases for the first few months and this effectively adds much to the rebates (I believe this is true for the American Express Blue, and some Chase and Discover cards). This deferral (and investment of the expenses) adds considerably to the value of these cards. The cards obvious strategy is to have you run up a high balance during the interest free period, and then work it off over many months paying a high rate of interest. You should be careful not to fall for this, putting money if need be into a bank account each month to cover the accumulated balance when the interest free period is over, and marking you calendar with when to pay it off.

As discussed in other threads, they may be strategies to maximize your returns. Notably, on the American Express Blue (very attractive for those who spend enough to get past the $6500 requirement for the highest rebates) you probably should use it (if it is worthwhile for you) only for non-everyday expenses (no groceries etc.) until you have spend the minimum spending, and then start using it for groceries, gasoline etc. At this point, some may simplify their life by using it for everything if they judge having another card in their wallet is too much trouble (slightly higher rebates on a few items may not be worth it).

The free interest purchases (I assume they are still offering this) can complicate the analysis of the Blue card since if it takes you a long time to accumulate enough spending you may not get full benefit from this feature.
MBNA cards can give you their bill pay (interest free) and access to MBNA Credit Protector (which lets you purchase gift cards at a discount).

Specialty Cards

Certain cards may give free service such as
MBNA Bill pay and credit protector (if you never leave a balance on it).
Providian (Washington Mutual), free FICO
American Express Reward Plus, free road service on up to 5 card holders.
Generous insurance or warranty extensions (see thread on this).

True Value, free Costco membership if you think of the $50 fee as attributed to the card. (as he does). (A problem with his solutions is that if you have a Costco in any case, the fee is covered).

However, the rewards are not cash but annual credits.usable only at Costco and this may force you to continue you Costco membership in order to use the accumulated rewards. (If your membership would expire before the February when they pay them). Obviously, how valuable 3% on restaurants and 2% on travel is depends both how convenient Costco is as well as how much you will spend on these categories. I find Costco is inconvenient to get to (and crowded) where I live (and it may not be near some people at all), but has good prices on wild blueberries (most stores I find have only the domesticated ones which have less health benefit and over twice the cost.

Costco takes only American Express so a heavy user of Costco (which probably means there is one near you and you will trade off the hassle for the good prices) would find an American Express card of some type is optimal.

There are many specialty cards out there to look at for those who are heavy users of certain stores. I was just looking at the Target card. It has the odd feature of after $1000 in spending there you get a certificate good for 10% off for a day. If you spend evenly in small amounts, this is worth only .5% back (Say every 20 visits at $50 each you get 10% off of $50, or $5, which is half of one percent of your qualifying spending). However, if you go there regularly and then get a 10% off certificate and use it on one days shopping for $1000 you save $100, which is 10% back. The percent back is 3% if you spend $300 on the one spending spree etc. If you planned to do Christmas shopping there, or planned a couple of big purchases for a new house (or they had the best price on a big ticket item like a big screen TV, this might be attractive).

It is a little more attractive since I believe they offer you 10% off on the day you apply in store (or did when I got a card and was buying new clothes for the family to replace a house full of clothes lost in Hurricane Katrina) and you will be making large purchases on the first day.

Yet, as someone would point out, you can get 20% off via Dealpass (search) or similar giftcard plans if you intended such large purchases at that store or many other stores with good specialty cards.

Another specialty use is foreign travel, since most cards mark up foreign exchange purchases by perhaps a couple of percentage points. Those making many such trips may want to look for a card that does not do this (I believe Capital One cards still do not and there are probably others). Given how heavily some charge on long foreign trips (not to mention long work assignments), seeking a card just for this may be worthwhile.

Of course, some people get credit cards as a way to get “credit” and you may want cards with good interest rates for when you need credit. Often, you can spend on the cards with the best rewards, and then use a balance transfer to get low rates. A few may not be in a position to do this (worse credit, or just starting out) and they may want to ask what they will pay in interest on their cards. The better reward programs (notably airline miles ones) often have high interest rates and these will usually outweigh very quickly a small rebate. For instance, a good rebate percentage on travel may be unattractive if your big honeymoon trip will result in paying interest at a high rate for months or years.

Those starting out may want to try to get at least one card with a good interest rate use when they want or need credit (you never know when you will lose a job, have your house demolished by a Karina type hurricane induced flooding, get hit by a truck, or get hit by romance and want to finance a ring and then a honeymoon). If possible, such a card would have no balance transfer fee. With no balance transfer fee you can use one card for spending and then transfer the balance to another for credit. Ideally, you may even find one that given rewards for balance transfers, (I have a SECU card and an Efectiva card that give such rewards).


How Many Cards?

The analysis of this site sometimes shows a two card (or three card or four card) strategy adds little in dollar rebates. But there are other reasons for multiple cards.

How many cards to have does depend on the value of you time as well as how they are used. As pointed out, a card with good rebates on utilities and phone may be left at home and charges to it made automatically. An idle (not in your wallet) MBNA card can get you credit protector and a few weeks of extra interest through the Bill Pay. Some cards may be kept in a drawer until there is a large purchase that makes them useful. Examples would be the card for foreign travel, a Discover card for the occasional 5% offers that are attractive, a card with a good warranty benefit for electronic purchases, a card that gives best value protection for the electronics purchase of an item that soon be available at a lower price (possibly even post Christmas sales).

Yodlee provides a good account aggregator where you can see what is owed on many cards with one log in (and watch for unusual activity). MBNA bill pay can make paying several bills easy. If the special deals are mainly on items purchased from home (utility bills, phone bills, Amazon purchases, etc.) one may keep the cards at home, copy the key data into a list (so you can quickly copy the account number into an order form). This may make managing more cards easier.

Of course, if there is a spouse the complexities (and opportunities) are greater. One may spend more on a card putting one over the rebate limit, or even choose to use a card that the one who pays the bills had intended to be inactive (my wife just did this). The return from learning which cards to get are greater if there are several family members involved, and one may get two cards if there is either an attractive offer (thing free IPod or generous sign up cash payment) or if one appears likely to go over the rebate limit. Two cards with rebate limits are most easily managed if each spouse has a grocery card say.

With a spouse one may concentrate on collecting cards for bonuses and good offers. When their credit is trashed by the inquiries and new lines, the other one can apply for the good offers and transfer the 0% balances coming due to his new cards with good offers.

Possibly by adding and removing spouses one can keep their borrowings from showing on the better half’s credit reports or can add unused credit lines (or ones with a long history). However, I think it may be necessary to dispute the spouses accounts once you are no longer authorized users, or the borrowings will stay on the reports for a while (there are no updated reports coming in so the agency presumes the latest report on a car reflects your debt).

Speciality cards in a married couple may be available to both. One card pays the utilities. This may never leave home and a card good for restaurants (say the salesman husband got this) may be available when the couple is dining out as a couple. The wife may not bother to carry a restaurant card. Perhaps a specialty gasoline card is carried only by one member who usually buys the gasoline, or maybe even left in the house except on long trips by car. (It is good to have multiple cards on trips since problems may arise with one card due to a suspicious purchase, or one person may lose or have stolen a wallet).

The Speedpass (a device that waved past a reader) of Exxon has a promotion that gives a small rebate for a few months. While a big hassle to get, a Speedpass can be set upto charge to a card with a good rebate on gasoline card (ideally signed up for UPromise to get additional rebates on Exxon gasoline) which could even be left at home.

While mainly useful for those who would anyhow buy Exxon gasoline, this does reduce the number of cards by one, and may be useful if one is likely to hit the limit on an everday purchases (groceries, gasoline, drugstores) card by keeping some purchase off of the card with the rebate limit. (think the $300 limit on the CITI Dividend). This also means one has a way of buying gasoline (and convenience store food) if your wallet is stolen or lost since the Speedpass is probably carried on a key chain, not in a wallet. This may also be useful for a child that you want to be sure can get gasoline and food in an emergency (such as driving home from college), but you do not want to have a credit card that can be used for non-essential items.

One card with a credit protector feature may be kept idle and then used heavily just before a qualifying event. See a layoff coming (perhaps you were even told your last date of employment), use this card heavily and then report the layoff and defer interest for a few months. Since some credit protector plans freeze the card (and I suspect any other cards they have issued you) when you report you have become unemployed, it would be good if the spouse has a second card for use in those circumstances. (I suspect many people who had paid for credit protection end up not using it when they realize it would freeze their only credit card just when they need credit). It is in such circumstance, you may wish to have a credit card, that is actually intended to be used for credit and available.

Somebody in one thread even stated he wrote convenience checks to his relatives to be cashed in the event of his death (on a credit protected card) and hence got free life insurance. Sounds like a lot of trouble, but perhaps there are few dedicated “fat wallet” members who upon being told they have only a short time to live, will think immediately to run up their credit card debts on a suitable card . It would be nice to have the card already with the credit protection feature in place. Obviously, such a card should not be one you normally carry a balance on, since such plans are grossly overpriced for the limited insurance they provide. Hopefully such people are not merely “cheap” but those with families to provide for, or a favorite charity in their wills.

Wow. I have to say this is quite a group of thinkers and financial tweakers hanging out in this forum. I've only been a fatwallet forums lurker thusfar.

I'm Joel. I'm the fellow who created the Credit Card Tune-Up decision support tool.

I noticed a recent spike in traffic to creditcardtuneup.com. (Well, honestly, it's really the first time it's had much traffic to speak of.) I traced most of the traffic back to this forum.
So, thank you paytonc for posting about Credit Card Tune-Up!!

Like I mentioned on the Credit Card Tune-Up site, upon word of the imminent demise of the Citi Dividend 5% card (in August), I wanted to solve the new Cash Back maximization problem for my own situation. I figured that other people would like the same thing. I'd been thinking about this credit card optimization problem and wanting to do something about it for quite a while, so I finally took the time and built the Credit Card Tune-Up decision support tool.

I'm glad to see that several people are finding it useful. And I'm thankful for all the constructive commentary as well.

Now that the tool is starting to see some usage, I'm certainly interested in investing more into it and making it an even better utility. So, please, do keep the feedback coming -- positive and negative. Thank you!

I'll try to respond to some of the comments in this forum as well.

+Joel

Xeon852 said: [Q]Certainly an interesting site, I'm not sure if I agree with the Driver's Edge 1 year idea. Obviously the person who runs it makes their money off the referral bonus ($50 or so per approved card) that they get from you applying through their link. Unless you are feeling really generous, you should still apply through cardoffers.com.
Yeah, I waffled on that Driver's Edge thing myself. Ultimately, I decided to have the tool put out the answer the I myself would have wanted to follow. And, actually, I did follow it. I actually "ate my own dog food" and signed up for the credit cards that the tool recommended. (Initially, I was building it to solve the Cash Back maximization problem for myself anyway.)

So now I have a Citi Driver's Edge card. It has basically replaced my Citi Dividends card.

Yeah, I do get a referral bonus if you sign up through that link. Most, but not all, of the links on Credit Card Tune-Up give a referral kickback. However, the referral bonus is not why the Driver's Edge often comes out on top. It really just works out that way mathematically. If you plug in different category spend amounts, the Driver's Edge may not come out on top (as the single best card when used exclusively). The answer that the tool gives is truly just the result of a lot of number crunching -- i.e. maximal cash rewards.

joelmeu said: [Q]Xeon852 said: [Q]Certainly an interesting site, I'm not sure if I agree with the Driver's Edge 1 year idea. Obviously the person who runs it makes their money off the referral bonus ($50 or so per approved card) that they get from you applying through their link. Unless you are feeling really generous, you should still apply through cardoffers.com.
Yeah, I waffled on that Driver's Edge thing myself. Ultimately, I decided to have the tool put out the answer the I myself would have wanted to follow. And, actually, I did follow it. I actually "ate my own dog food" and signed up for the credit cards that the tool recommended. (Initially, I was building it to solve the Cash Back maximization problem for myself anyway.)

So now I have a Citi Driver's Edge card. It has basically replaced my Citi Dividends card.

Yeah, I do get a referral bonus if you sign up through that link. Most, but not all, of the links on Credit Card Tune-Up give a referral kickback. However, the referral bonus is not why the Driver's Edge often comes out on top. It really just works out that way mathematically. If you plug in different category spend amounts, the Driver's Edge may not come out on top (as the single best card when used exclusively). The answer that the tool gives is truly just the result of a lot of number crunching -- i.e. maximal cash rewards.
I certinally wasn't accusing you of that (swinging the numbers based on referral bonus level...cough cardoffers).

Just saying, as much as rewards programs do change, I don't know if I really believe that a 1-year bonus is comparable - not an issue for everyone here, but for the general public who wants to think about this once every 5 years. I have considered a Driver's Edge myself though, and may switch to it if they will give me the 1-year promo when I'm done cranking out $5 BT bonus's from Citi or when my AAdvantage card is due for annual fee. I think the combination of Drive Rebates, TY points option, and the 6% promo makes it a great all-around card.

paytonc said: [Q]One interesting thing I noted from the site: not only does juggling more than two cards prove to be a hassle in everyday life, it also rarely nets you much marginal gain in rebates.

Re: CardOffers. Search around; the consensus seems to be that it works (for Citi and AMEX, don't think they give cash for Chase apps) but it takes a long time.

Hi paytonc. Thanks again for your post to this forum.

Yeah, most of the spending profiles that I imagined to be realistic that I've run through the tool see significantly diminishing returns after 2 or 3 cards. However, rarer spending profiles could warrant 4 or sometimes even 5 cards. I figured I'd have the tool lay out all the options and show people the incremental benefit they'd be getting for the additional hassle, then they could choose their own cash/hassle tradeoff sweet spot.

I use HSBC for EDP@5% and AMEX Blue cash for non-EDP until hitting the $6500 tier. Then Blue Cash becomes my primary card except for businesses which don't accept AMEX.

Daaaaaaanng! Wow! I am thoroughly impressed by that analysis!
All I can say right now is: Thank you for your assessments ProfessorEd!

I'll be rereading your wonderful observations.
Thank you again for your assessments ProfessorEd.

+Joel

Joel,

I think you did a great job. It would take a considerable amount of time to round up all the differnt offers. While I'd have the programming ability to code up a solution like that I'd have no where near the skill to create a slick website and user interface, let alone know where to begin on referrals and such.

You've made something really nice and it is a good simulator. I think you deserve all the referrals you get.

The math finds what it finds and I appreciate your opinion that since no CC rewards program is guaranteed one way to approach is to get the best card for the next 12 months and work from there.

Anyway, for all the people who are complaining about this, I LOVE your feature where you can exclude particular cards and reoptimize. So if people don't like DE they can simply remove it.

Nice work.

--Asdf


Xeon852 said: [Q]joelmeu said: [Q]Xeon852 said: [Q]Certainly an interesting site, I'm not sure if I agree with the Driver's Edge 1 year idea. Obviously the person who runs it makes their money off the referral bonus ($50 or so per approved card) that they get from you applying through their link. Unless you are feeling really generous, you should still apply through cardoffers.com.
Yeah, I waffled on that Driver's Edge thing myself. Ultimately, I decided to have the tool put out the answer the I myself would have wanted to follow. And, actually, I did follow it. I actually "ate my own dog food" and signed up for the credit cards that the tool recommended. (Initially, I was building it to solve the Cash Back maximization problem for myself anyway.)

So now I have a Citi Driver's Edge card. It has basically replaced my Citi Dividends card.

Yeah, I do get a referral bonus if you sign up through that link. Most, but not all, of the links on Credit Card Tune-Up give a referral kickback. However, the referral bonus is not why the Driver's Edge often comes out on top. It really just works out that way mathematically. If you plug in different category spend amounts, the Driver's Edge may not come out on top (as the single best card when used exclusively). The answer that the tool gives is truly just the result of a lot of number crunching -- i.e. maximal cash rewards.
I certinally wasn't accusing you of that (swinging the numbers based on referral bonus level...cough cardoffers).

Just saying, as much as rewards programs do change, I don't know if I really believe that a 1-year bonus is comparable - not an issue for everyone here, but for the general public who wants to think about this once every 5 years.

Yeah, good point. That's why I wanted to point that whole 1-year thing out in bold text and quickly jumped on the idea of making it easy for people to exclude cards they don't like from the analysis.
In the future, I may add advanced exclusion/inclusion criteria (like include/exclude whole sets of cards based on attributes like "card terms change after 12 months", etc.).

asdf9876 said: [Q]Joel,

I think you did a great job. It would take a considerable amount of time to round up all the differnt offers. While I'd have the programming ability to code up a solution like that I'd have no where near the skill to create a slick website and user interface, let alone know where to begin on referrals and such.

You've made something really nice and it is a good simulator. I think you deserve all the referrals you get.

The math finds what it finds and I appreciate your opinion that since no CC rewards program is guaranteed one way to approach is to get the best card for the next 12 months and work from there.

Anyway, for all the people who are complaining about this, I LOVE your feature where you can exclude particular cards and reoptimize. So if people don't like DE they can simply remove it.

Nice work.

--Asdf
Thanks a bunch for the compliments and words of appreciation Asdf!

(BTW, with a handle like Asdf, I kinda wondered if you were a coder.)

SUCKISSTAPLES said: [Q]yeah, I carry only one card for everyday usage (a 1%/5% card) and its a ton easier with only slight $$ loss.

The simplest and most profitable use of CCs , with least hassle, is to use one good CashBack card for everyday usage, and use the rest for 0% profiteering and signup bonuses.

I agree with the use of less cards for simplicity.
I use just two-
1%/5% for gas/pharmacy/grocery
and
1%/3% for restaurant/home improvement/office supplies (it also includes gas, but for that I use the 5%)

LustfortheMoment said: [Q]I use HSBC for EDP@5% and AMEX Blue cash for non-EDP until hitting the $6500 tier. Then Blue Cash becomes my primary card except for businesses which don't accept AMEX.

Good strategy.
(I think ProfessorEd also referred to the same strategy somewhere in his exhaustive treatise. ; ) )

ILikeDollars said: [Q]
Anyway, while we're listing our preferred cards...

Advanta 5% utilities
Chase Rewards+ 5% gas, grocery, drugs
Citi MTVu 5% restaurants, fast food, etc
all other purchases on my AMEX (0% on purchases till August '07, so effectively a >4% reward right now)
and my MBNA NCL 3% card, for all other purchases that don't take AMEX



What's a MBNA NCL 3% card?

I'm similar to the above

Advanta 5% utilities (don't need to carry this one in wallet)
Chase 5% gas, grocries, drugstores
Discover - currently 5% at restruants until Dec 31st, want to replace it with the MTVu card.
Fidelity 529 2% for everything else

Discover is good since you never know what the next 5% category will be.

mhesidence said: [Q]What's a MBNA NCL 3% card?

Norwegian Cruise Line--3% but only redeemable for discounts on Norwegian Cruise Line products

asdf9876 said: [Q]mhesidence said: [Q]What's a MBNA NCL 3% card?

Norwegian Cruise Line--3% but only redeemable for discounts on Norwegian Cruise Line products

Yes. Unlike some other cruise rewards programs though, you can still book your trip wherever you find the best deal, before applying your rewards. Basically, it's a great card if you're already planning on taking an NCL cruise, since it's just money off of the cost of your room. If you aren't already planning on sailing with them, it's really not such a good deal.

Joel, THANK YOU for your excellent site.

Question regarding AMEX Blue Cash.......... How does your algorithm factor spending up to the $6500 tier? If folks plug in monthly expenditures for both EDP and non-EDP, how do you allocate each of them in reaching the tier?

Thanks,

Good point. You should factor in the annual caps, as well as the tiers for rewards. The idea is to get an annual strategy (first use these etc, and then, if your purchases on card y reached that level, start using it in the following manner "...").
Is the math involved an issue here?

Anyway, don't invest too much in that; for the average Joe what you've already done is more than enough. For this upgrade you'll only have the FWers as customers (but they'll sign up through cardoffers anyway). Or you could do it as a project if you are aiming a well-paid quant career at the big banks.

PS: there's something inspirational around here, recently app-o-rama.com showed up, now this one.

Could this be a positive FW effect?

g10ny said: [Q]Good point. You should factor in the annual caps, as well as the tiers for rewards.

You should use the website before you give suggestions. From varying the amount I spent it is obvious that the caps and tiers are accounted for and factored into the calculation.

Also, as I already gushed, the author's progamming abililty is to be respected but I'm sorry, any freshman who has had 2 weeks of a programming class can use an "if-loop" to calculate tiers and caps and that is miles away from the knowledge to be a quant.

My fault. You are right.

Still, a time breakdown would be needed. Drivers' Edge is the recommendation for me, but what about the next year? Also, if the caps are obviously taken into account, it is not so obvious that the tiers are considered.

Maybe playing with the simulator for a few more times would help.

Skipping 68 Messages...
heykarinakarina said: [Q]
Joelmeu... if I didn't have two existing accounts with Discover, I would convert as I need to. Keep it as the Gas card until a good category appears that I can use, then convert. Yeah, I loved getting the gift cards last year for shopping at certain malls. That really rocked. I hope they do that again this year.
Converting between Discover Gas and Discover (vanilla) is great idea. I haven't done credit card converting in the past, but that's a compelling reason to try it.
Thanks!



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