Editor’s Note: These offers have expired and are no longer available.
Prior to this past November, I had never done business with CitiBank. But since that time I’ve developed a rather profitable relationship with them. When it comes to credit card rewards, Citi is among the most generous companies in the industry, frequently offering cards that provide 5% off all purchases for a limited time (typically capped @ $300/year). I signed up for one such card (an AT&T Universal Card) last November and managed to rack up around $250 in rewards by the end of the year (this involved some creative budgeting, major medical expenses, and some rather large work-related expenses for which I was reimbursed). But I was only just getting started.
Once the limit reset for 2005, I was able to max out and cash in the new $300 reward. I have since tossed that card in my desk drawer and moved on. I am currently splitting my charges between a Citi Driver’s Edge which had an introductory offer of 5% rewards on everything (limit of $500/year), redeemable as cash off of automotive service or car purchases (just fax the receipt to Citi and they credit you — which reminds me: get yourself a fax machine) and a Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card, which offers 5% rewards from Citi on eligible purchases on quarterly rotating categories when you enroll, redeemable as cash (capped @ $300/year). I expect to max out these rewards by year’s end.
But it doesn’t stop there. Shortly after you get a new card from Citi, you get a $15 check from Credit Protector. This is a ripoff of a service that promises to make your minimum payments in case of disability or death. Cashing the check signs you up for a free 30 day trial, after which you are billed in proportion to you monthly balance — but you can cancel before it costs you a thing. I received and cashed two check early this year, and promptly canceled. A couple of months later, I got two more checks for the same cards. I cashed them both and canceled one. I agreed to keep the service on the other card (the AT&T Universal Card that I’ve stopped using) in return for a series of rebate coupons worth $50 (5 x $10 rebates). These can be redeemed on any purchase, whether you charge it to your card or not. Since I’m not using this card, there’s no chance they’ll be able to hit me up for fees. Thus, it’s truly free money.
When you total up the regular rewards with the Credit Protector checks and rebates, I’m picking up close to $1500 for just using my credit cards wisely. Note here that I was able to rapidly max things out by making some fairly sizable work-related charges, as well as paying for travel for which I was reimbursed. We also had a rather large orthodontia bill early this year that we charged, and then paid out of my Flexible Spending Account at work. On top of that, we have a fairly large family; thus, we we have fairly sizable bills for things like groceries. I also pre-purchased a sizable chunk of grocery gift cards to accelerate a bit of spending ahead of the end of the year and the AT&T reward expiration date. Obviously, your mileage will vary depending on typical spending levels. Just be sure not to increase your spending to earn a bit extra in rewards — talk about penny wise and pound foolish! I was able to do all of the above while more or less sticking to our regular budget (the only deviations were to accelerate a bit of spending, which was made up for by spending less later). And we never carry a balance, so we haven’t given back a penny in fees.