Best Credit Cards: My Strategy to Earn the Most Cash Back

Maximizing credit card rewards for the most cash back is easy if you make a game plan.

Readers email me from time to time to ask for recommendations about the best rewards credit cards. I’ve put together this list to tell you about my favorites…

RELATED: How this credit card rewards trick can save you money

Maximize credit card rewards the Michael Saves way! 

Before I reveal the list, here are my personal rules for responsible credit card use:

  • Do not apply for multiple credit cards at once
  • Never pay interest by paying off credit card balances in full every month
  • Do not overspend to earn rewards or hit sign-up bonuses

My credit card rewards strategy 

My credit score is 805, which has allowed me to gradually apply for more credit cards over the years. I only carry three of them at any given time. That’s really all you need!

My general strategy is to earn the most cash back, though I have a couple of travel credit cards for free flights and hotel stays.

To maximize the cash back that I earn from credit cards, I use a note-taking app on my smartphone to keep a cheat sheet of the best cards for specific categories like groceries, restaurants, gas, etc.

Before I make a purchase, I can pull up the list on my phone if I’m unsure which card will offer the most rewards.

Credit card cheat sheet

Best rewards credit cards: Michael’s picks 

Now that I’ve outlined my general credit card rewards strategy, let’s get to my recommendations.

As you read through my list, you may notice that I’ve left out details like the interest rate and 0% APR offers. That’s because I pay off my credit cards every month. Those factors don’t matter to me.

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

I had the no-annual-fee version, but I recently upgraded to American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred Card for its 6% cash back at grocery stores and 3% cash back at gas stations.

I also like to take advantage of “Amex Offers” to get even more cash back. Here are some recent deals:

  • Lyft: Spend $75, get $15 back
  • Sherwin-Williams: Spend $100, get $25 back
  • Hulu: Spend $5, get $5 back

Finally, I have this card for the complimentary ShopRunner membership that offers free shipping and returns at online retailers.

2. Barclays Uber Visa Card

October 2019 Update: The Uber Visa Card (now called Uber Credit Card) is undergoing some big changes and will likely not be one of my go-to cards going forward. I’ll update this article once I find a replacement.

This is the newest credit card in my wallet and possibly my favorite. The Uber Visa Card from Barclays (no annual fee) is packed with so many perks, including a way to save $50 on your Amazon Prime membership!

  • 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS
  • 3% back on hotels, airfare and vacation home rentals
  • 2% back on online purchases, including Uber, online shopping and streaming services
  • 1% back on everything else

Do you see the strategy coming together? I use the American Express card for groceries, then this card becomes the #1 choice for restaurants, travel and online purchases.

My favorite benefit is up to $600 in cell phone protection. I just pay my cell phone bill with this card to get the free insurance.

There’s also a $50 credit for online subscription services like Amazon Prime if you spend $5,000 every year. I’ll report back and let you know if I reach that threshold.

Points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards or Uber credits at the same value.

3. Discover it Cash Back Card

The best thing about the Discover it Cash Back card is the 5% cash back categories, which change every quarter and must be activated from your account.

Discover released its full 2019 cash back calendar to help shoppers plan their spending. Take a look:

  • January – March 2019: Grocery stores
  • April – June 2019: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July – September 2019: Restaurants
  • October – December 2019:

Discover will match all of the cash back that you earn at the end of your first year. That can really add up if you take advantage of the bonus categories!

Honorable mentions 

  • Citi Double Cash: Earn 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy and 1% when you earn)
  • Citi ThankYou Premier: Generous sign-up bonus worth $625 in travel rewards after spending $4,000 in three months; $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months
  • Chase Freedom: Rotating 5% cash back categories are revealed every quarter

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