What’s Your Favorite Rewards Program?

Reader Rik P. wants to know about your favorite rewards programs:

I think it would be useful to poll folks on how they feel about the various credit card reward programs out there. My girlfriend has been using one of those frequent flyer mile credit cards and has yet to earn anything close to a free trip, despite three years of charging.

I, on the other hand, have been amassing points in Citi’s Thank You Network like nobody’s business. It helps that I was able to switch my bank account and two credit cards all to the same rewards program. But I’m far from a big charger. And yet I already have collected enough points to get a lovely 15-piece Calphalon knife set, a decent digital camera, and soon a mountain bike. Not bad for almost zero effort on my part.

I’d be curious about other people’s experiences with their rewards programs.

We’re curious about more than just credit card rewards, too, even if that means you’re going to be busting out the Subway Club Card.


Edit Your Comment

  1. kickslop says:

    Chase “Subaru” Mastercard. Earns 3%. When you build up $100 in “SubaruBucks” they send a $100 SubaruBuck thing to you which is good for labor, OEM, and certain aftermarket parts. I put every expense on the card (and pay it in full every month, thank you) and I have earned and spent $900 on all manner of things.

  2. Hawkins says:

    To hell with that. I want cash. Citibank sends me a check for 1 percent of my purchases. No lame-ass steak knives or dubious used (“aftermarket?”) auto parts. Just cash.

    Anything other than cash leaves room for weaseling.

  3. gretchen says:

    LLBean Visa. Using it gets you free shipping (something there’s never a coupon for, but the holiday season this year they offered it to everyone), free monogramming (eh, if you need it, I guess it’s good) and you get 3% when using it at LLBean, .5% elsewhere. The rewards are $10 coupons that you can use online, instore, or over the phone, OR they can be donated to the Student Conservation Association. They also mail you the coupons as you accrue them, without having to ‘apply’ for them. Obviously, only a good deal if you’re an LLBean customer, but as a Mainer, I am required to be by law.

  4. SamC says:

    Heh. Gretchen, I have you one beat. My dad works for LL Bean – hello employee discount.

  5. ZackM says:

    Peeople are isance abour credit card rewards. I know folks who charge their mortgage every month and pay it off to get rewards.

    As much as it pains me to admit, Starbucks isn’t bad. They has some instant rewards and it’s pretty easy to earn things on a regular basis. Full dislcosure: I don’t have a Stabucks card, just know people who do.

  6. saralegal21 says:

    Discover Card has actually significantly improved their cash back program. I believe it’s 2% on everything, and every three months they have a specific “category” of things that will earn 5%. Right now it’s health stuff, before that it was online shopping, and before that was gas, etc. I earn pretty quickly, and I am a moderate charger. You can opt for direct cash back, or you can select gift certificates, which gives you a bonus ($20 will get you a $25 or $30 gift cert depending on the merchant).

  7. lgf says:

    The Subway card was phased out last year. Bummer, I loved to use it.

    I have small kids and we shop at Old Navy a lot. Their card (which also can be used at Gap and Banana Republic) has a 5% back in coupons for all 3 stores ($10 per $200 spent) that get sent automatically with your statement.

    I have a Capital One card (not sure which flavor) that gives cash back as well.

    Upromise has a good rewards program, however their choices for savings plans are not that good, so we still have all our money in “their” account.

    I have a Hallmark Gold Crown Card, and that used to be good, but now they send you these coupons for your purchases for like $1.00 (instead of waiting until you have a decent amount) and they are only good for like 2 weeks. What’s the point?

  8. Paying your mortgage by CC is the ‘Holy Grail’ of credit card rewards. This is a topic of frequent discussion on fatwallet.com’s Finance Forum and other sites. I would suspect the people you ‘know’ who do this are ‘people who know people’ in the tradition of Urban Legends.

    I believe most banks and perhaps even Visa/MC/… specifically block this kind of transaction for this very reason.

    On the other hand… I’d be interested in hearing the specifics if you really know someone who has ‘cracked the system’. Please provide actual details.

  9. Brian Dailey says:

    I’d recommend against the Capital One No Hassle Miles card. I just recently posted the following on my blog…

    It supposedly allows you to use your credit to build up ‘miles’ that allow you to fly places for free. It’s not called ‘points’ or anything like that, but ‘miles.’ My last credit statement said that I had over 8000 miles (we average adding about 2000 miles per month). That sould get me to, say, Dallas and back, right, with plenty of room to spare? What they don’t tell you is that the miles, of course (as I more or less expected), are not quite literal. So this week I called up Capital One to obtain the One True Formula, which was not identified on any of my credit material or anywhere on the website.

    It turns out, you take the price of the airline ticket, and you multiply it by 125. That’s right, 125. Not 1.25. I had to call them back to clarify that one. If a ticket costs $200, you’ll need 20,000 ‘miles’ to cover it.

    Calling your accumulated credit ‘miles’ is deceptive, if you ask me, when the miles have absolutely nothing to do with geographical distance. I guess I should have read the signs first, but I didn’t. I won’t be making that mistake again if I can help it.

  10. Dave says:

    I like the Best Buy Reward Zone card. It’s not that great of a deal (5$ coupon for every $150 spent when you present the card), but I buy all of my movies, games, tvs, etc there already, so it’s nice to get something back for it. Another thing I like is that it’s not a credit card, so you can pay for stuff however you like and still get points.

    If all you buy is CDs and DVDs, you’re not going to rack up points that fast, but when you buy something big (Xbox 360, plasma tv, etc) you get a nice, big coupon in the mail two months later (it takes a little over a month for your points to be posted, and then a little longer for them to mail the coupons out after you’ve reached the $150 mark).

  11. Kat2 says:

    I like my Amazon Visa – 2500 points = $25 gift card – 1 point per dollar, except at Amazon, it’s 3 points per dollar. Not the best deal out there, but I’ve got the lowest interest rate I can find – 10.9%. (I think they’re signing up new cards at 11.9%.)

  12. ZackM says:


    Sorry for the late reply. A guy I work with claims to do it. He very well might be full of crap but I have no way of proving it either way.

  13. Rob O. says:

    My wife & I use the Citi Platinum Dividens card and charge nearly everything we can. The annual cap on the cashbakc is $300, so we switch over to another “rewards” card once we’ve maxed on that.

    Paying off the full balance each month is key – if you allowed a balance to roll over, the interest charges would more than outweigh any rewards.