Maximizing Category Spend Bonuses on Credit Card Spend

by on August 23, 2011 · 63 comments

in American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Platinum Card from American ExpressSimplyCash Business Card from American Express

TPG reader Tim recently emailed me that he wants to get at least two points per dollar for every single dollar he spends on his credit card. I think that’s a pretty interesting goal and one that’s more attainable than ever as more and more credit cards have added category spend thresholds. Here is a listing of the main cards and their special spend bonuses. Feel free to add your favorite bonus in the comment section. Note: I left out the spend bonuses for spend via shopping portals like and individual hotels/airlines.

I’ve also italicized the cards that have points that transfer to airline/hotel programs, making them even more valuable than cash back-type rewards. I’ve also bolded the cards that either I have or plan to get as part of my overall strategy to maximize my credit card spend. Feel free to share your thoughts/strategy in the comments section!

American Express
American Express Premier Rewards Gold- 3x for airfare, 2x for gas and groceries. 15,000 point bonus with $30,000 in spend each calendar year.
American Express Business Gold Rewards- 3X points per dollar on airfare (on all scheduled U.S. and international passenger airlines), 2X points on advertising with select media (graphic design, tradeshows and advertising services), gas (from stand-alone U.S. gas and commercial fuel stations) and shipping (in the U.S. for courier, postal, and freight services) and 1X points on everything else.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred- 6x at standalone US supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases, 3x at standalone US gas stations and select major department stores.
American Express Blue Cash Rewards- 3x cash at standalone US supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases, 2x at standalone US gas stations and select major department stores.
American Express TrueEarnings Costco- Update: The terms of the True Earnings Card from Costco have changed. View the current offer here. 3x on gasoline purchases at standalone US stations and Costco up to $4,000, 2x for dining out at US restaurants and qualifying travel purchases
American Express SimplyCash Business- 5x cash back up to $25,000 in purchases at U.S. office supply stores,  U.S. wireless telephone service providers, 3x cash back on standalone US gasoline gas stations.
American Express Co-Branded Fidelity Cards (Require Fidelity accounts)- 2x on everything

Capital One
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card- 2x on every purchase
Capital One Cash Rewards for Newcomers- 2x on travel
Capital One MTV- 5x on entertainment and 2x on restaurants
Capital One LSU- 2x on gas and groceries

Chase Ink Business - 5x office supplies, wireless and land-line phone and cable (incl internet), 2x on gas and dining
Chase Ink Classic - 5x office supplies, wireless and land-line phone and cable (incl internet), 2x on fuel and lodging
Chase Sapphire Preferred- 2x on travel and dining
Chase United Club Card: 1.5 points on all spend, 2.5 on United airlines spend
Chase Freedom: 5x rotating categories: gas, drugstores, groceries, airfare, hotel, home improvement, home furnishings, lawn & garden, dining, department stores, movie theaters, charities (this card teams up well with Sapphire Preferred as I outlined in a previous post).

Citi Forward Card- 5x on restaurants, books, movies and music
Citi AT&T Universal Business Card- 5x on AT&T Products and services purchased directly from AT&T and 3x on gas station and certain office supplies and professional services
Citi Thank You Preferred- 2x points on purchases for dining and entertainment, and 1 ThankYou point for every dollar you spend on other purchases.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Chemist661

    I have these two cards:

    Penfed Visa: 5% back at gas stations.

    Penfed AMEX: 5 pts/$ on airfare. Until Aug 31, 5% at hotels and dining.

    Penfed (Pentagon Federal CU) is quite conservative but gave me nice credit lines. No annual fee on either card. Great cards to keep as no annual fees.

  • Chemist661

    I forgot to mention that one needs to join Penfed. One can join paying $20 to NMFA. (National Military Family Association or something like that).

  • ErinPW

    Might be worth calling out that all Amazon purchases, not just books/movies/music, are valid for 5x on the Citi Forward. (Maybe MTVu also, but I don’t know for sure since I don’t have that card.)

  • Barely Elite

    Great post, but I believe the Amex Business Gold Rewards earns 2x on gas, advertising, and shipping–not gas, groceries, and office supplies.

  • C0ldlimit

    Isn’t there a Fidelity card that gives 2% on any purchase?

  • Anonymous

    Brain fart..thanks for the catch, I updated

  • Anonymous

    There used to be a Charles Schwab 2%, but thats not open to new members anymore.

  • Afkabp

    I like the AMEX Hilton HHonors Card that gives you 6 HHonors points at Grocery Stores, Drug Stores, Gas Stations, wireless & home phone, and cable & satellite providers.

  • infomofo

    or even by donating blood to the red cross.

  • C0ldlimit

    With a Fidelity account would the Fidelity® Investment Rewards® American Express® Card be a similar card? 2pts/$1 and redeem $50 in 5000 pts chunks

  • Sasdfasd

    For cash back (don’t know if still avail) there’s a clear amex cash

    after you spend like 6k

    1.25% everywhere (used to be 1.5%)
    5% drug stores, grocery stores, gas

    One year before getting every promo known to man… I averaged 2.3% just using this card for the year for everything.

    Capital One is probably best for the 2% everywhere without thinking for people that just want cash and don’t want to “bother” with points/miles

  • C0ldlimit

    There are also cards with rotating 5pts/$1 categories. Like the Discover Cashback Bonus card and the Citi Dividend Platinum Select. I think current category for the next couple of months in the Citicard includes airfare.

  • Dov

    The most attractive earning card is the Fidelity Rewards American Express Card

    You earn 2 points on every dollar you spend on the card
    you can redeem this points for cash at a rate of 0.01 cents a point
    or transfer to aeroplan at a rate of 1:1 , a purchase of $500 will = 1,000 aeroplan miles

    The Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature earns 1.5 points for the first $15,000 and then 2 points for every dollar over 15K also transfers to aeroplan for 1:1

  • Anonymous

    Interesting- I added this to the list

  • Texandenis

    This is not an American Express Card, this is an AmEx-branded card issued by FIA Card Services (Bank of America’s affiliate), so I would not mix it with “real” AmEx cards in your list to not confuse your readers

  • Rajnish

    @Dov, I have Fidelity Rewards American Express Card, but i do not see any option of transferring points to Aeroplan. Can you please help?

  • Ben

    Has anyone had any experience with receiving the American Express Business Gold Rewards as an individual? I have to charge a couple 100k a year in advertising to my personal card and get reimbursed by my firm (my company does not offer access to business Amex cards). If I could double my points on that advertising spend — that would rock. Thanks!

  • bluto

    The Mercedes Benz Amex has 3x points on gas, 2x points on restaurants

  • Dov

    Login with your card here then look on Partner travel options for aeroplan

  • bluto

    Travelocity Card 2 points on gas, groceries or restaurant. 5 points on travel spending on

  • Dov

    you do not need a fidelity account to have this card

  • Rajnish

    Found it, Awesome! So, basically you are getting 2 aeroplan miles for spending 1 dollar. I think this is the best miles yielding card, but does not have flexibility of transferring to multiple airlines.

  • Ndesq

    My Mileage Plus Select Visa from Chase gives me 3 miles per $1 of purchases on United, and 2 miles per $1 of purchases on Star Alliance airlines as well as at home supply stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants, plus 5,000 bonus miles per year. It’s not heavily promoted anymore as Chase and United are trying to pitch the new Explorer card, but you can see the details here:

  • Jon S

    Yes also for the MTVu, I have both the forward and the MTVu since they both cap at 75K points annually and I go way over that amount haha.

  • Nick E

    Agreed!! I also love that you get 6 points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties. When you factor in the usual earning rate and then pay for the stay with your HHonors Amex, you get 16 points for every dollar plus 500 points for booking online with your Amex. I know Hilton points don’t go nearly as far as Hyatt/SPG/Marriott, you can still rack up a lot with using this card strategically.

  • Arods3

    Amex simply business, I was thinking about getting it just fore my AT&T account which ranges 800 a month. Is it worth just getting this card only to use it fir wireless service payments? I have plat and gold.

  • ozzy

    I hope someone can point me in the right direction!

    Do you cancel any of these cards after you’ve completed the minimum spend for the bonus? Is it better for your credit to leave them all open? Does it look bad when you keep opening card after card? Sorry for the question overload – still a beginner.

  • PJ

    Does Citi Dividend Platinum still have $300 annual cap? if so Citi’s still asleep . I used that card ONLY when they have 5 % rebate AND when I bumped into Freedom cards’ quarterly cap.

  • Trent Swanson

    canceling the card will reduce your FICO credit score proportionally based on amount of credit on that card compared to overall credit issued to you.

  • James o

    not to hijack this, but does cancelling a no-credit-line AMEX Charge card factor in at all?

  • M124

    I have two comments:

    1. The Fidelity Amex does not require a Fidelity account. Just like someone said, you can transfer the accumulated Worldpoints to Aeroplan. Or wait until you accumulate 25,000 points and redeem for a $250 check through Worldpoints.

    2. “Chase Ink Business” should be “Chase Ink Cash” (“Business” here is optional because all Ink cards are business credit cards).

  • Bookswin

    Have not checked lately but there used to be an ATT card that gives 5% cash back.

  • toomanybooks

    The new Amex Blue Preferred is I think better for most folks. 6% cash back from grocery stores/supermarkets starting with the first dollar. Still trying to figure out how they do that. Annual fee basically offset by the $6500 threshold being cancelled.

  • Anonymous

    Charge cards do report credit lines to the bureaus- its the highest amount you’ve ever put on the card. So canceling one will reduce your available credit and potentially hurt your score

  • Anonymous

    The question is, how do you judge the value of points gained in 2 different programs? For example, for $20 at a restaurant, with current cards, I can get 40 Sapphire points or 100 ThankYou points. I’ve been using the Chase card to get to the minimum spend, but as I approach it, should I go back to the Citi card?

  • Kevin Harris

    love that card!

  • PJ

    good life: if you have a 5 % on any category . you get the new card and link it up with auto pay with your checking account as well as ATT wireless home Uverse etc you save!!

  • Andrew Fielding

    It’s not that they don’t go “nearly as far” they don’t get you anywhere close. In fact Hilton points, are in my opinion, worth less than half of Hyatt points. Despite that I still stay at Hilton properties since I enjoy my Hilton Gold benefits more than my Hyatt Platinum.

  • Carl

    me too, the MP Select Visa rocks, and for 1Ks, it is dirt cheap. I think my annual fee is only $30.

  • MJLouise

    I used this trick to pre-pay my wireless phone and get the $500 min spend instantly, while racking up 6X points. I don’t know if I’ll continue to use this for this purchase, but it’s a great double-dip while doing the min spend.

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  • Frussak

    Does the Chase Freedom only give you cashback? I prefer to get points.

  • Anonymous

    Only cashback, BUT if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold w Ultimate Rewards you can transfer your Freedom points to airlines miles/hotel points/Amtrak

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