I’ve received money back on all my Amazon orders, gas, and purchases from Target for the last 4 years by using my business credit card. Everyone knows about credit card rewards programs, but few people know how to maximize their potential. Most credit card point guides are overly complicated, resulting in missed opportunities to get at least 5% back on almost everything you buy. This guide is intended to be as simple as possible with 5 steps, minimal technical jargon, and examples from my life.
Things you will need
- Credit Score Above 700+ to get approved for credit cards (Check it at CreditKarma.com for free.)
- Access to an Office Supply Store (eg. Staples, Office Max, or Office Depot)
Sign-up for a Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
First, you’ll need a Chase Ink Business Cash credit card. This credit card has no annual fee and gives you 5% back on phone, internet, TV, and office supply stores (more on this in a second). You also get 2% back on gas and restaurants as a nice additional bonus.
It’s okay if you haven’t officially incorporated your business. You can you use your Social Security Number instead of a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) when you apply. Your business’ income can be from your actual business or from selling stuff on eBay, Craigslist, in-person, collecting rent, etc… Basically, anyone can get a business credit card.
Step 2 (optional)
Spend $3,000 on Anything within 3 Months of Getting your Chase Ink Cash Card
All rewards credit cards will give you a big bonus when you sign-up. However, you need to spend $3,000 within the first 3 months to get that bonus. Right now, (Feb 2017) the reward is $300 cash back (or 30,000 points).
This step isn’t necessary, but I’d HIGHLY recommend it since it’s the easiest way for you to get a large sum of money/points. If you don’t usually spend $1,000/month with your credit card, here are some suggestions:
- Gift Cards (Check out the next, most important step)
- Home Utilities
- Cable Internet/TV (5% back)
- Cellphone Plan (5% back)
- Gasoline (2% back)
- Groceries (CostCo now accepts Visa!)
- Restaurants (2% back)
Step 3 (IMPORTANT!)
Buy Lots of Gift Cards for Things You Buy Each Month
So, here’s the secret:
Remember that 5% cash back at office supply stores? Well, you can buy gift cards for everything you need at Staples, Office Depot, or Office Max. That means you can get 5% back on almost anything!
My favorite gift cards:
- Amazon (do you really need any others?)
- Shell Gasoline
- Target (an alternative to signing up for a Target RedCard)
If you regularly shop at any of these stores, you might as well get 5% back. (Avoid the Visa cash gift cards because they have $3-6 activation fees.)
I’d suggesting spending $3,000 on Shell, Amazon and Target gift cards if you’re struggling to spend enough money to get your $300 Chase Ink cash back reward in the first 3 months. Pretty much everything is available at Amazon or Target. So, you know that you’ll use those gift cards eventually.
YOU CAN STOP HERE IF YOU’RE SATISFIED WITH 5% BACK.
This is as far as my parents decided to go and they’re more than satisfied with their cash back bonuses.
If you want to get 15% back on your gift card purchases, it gets a little more complicated.
Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
This is a personal credit card and has a $95 annual fee that’s charged at the end of each year. However, it’s been a top 3 rewards credit card every year since its release and gives you 50,000 points at sign-up if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
So, why do you need a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card?
To get access to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Program! The Ultimate Rewards Program lets you transfer your points to 10 different airline and hotel programs. That means those Chase Ink Cash points you’ve been accumulating can now be used towards travel instead of cash-back.
The reason you want to transfer your points to a travel partner is because you get way more value from your points. In the world of credit card rewards, airline points are way more valuable than anything else.
A basic rule of thumb that I use for Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to estimate how much airfare value I have:
Domestic Flight $0.01 – $0.02 PER POINT
International Flight $0.01 – $0.03 PER POINT
International First Class Flight $0.02 – $0.03 PER POINT
Instead of just getting 1 cent for each of your points in cash-back, you can now triple your value through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal! Spending your points on International First Class travel turns your 1 cent of cash-back to 3 cents of travel. So, your 5% cash-back turns into 15% back in travel rewards.
I wouldn’t suggest using your points for US domestic travel except Alaska or Hawaii. You just don’t get enough additional value at around 1.5 cents per point. I’d shop around on the different airline’s websites to find international flights with low point costs (I personally like United Airlines Super Saver Awards tickets). You’ll need a fairly open schedule to best utilize your points, but if you’re a nurse and/or entrepreneur, you probably benefit from a flexible schedule anyways 🙂
Here are some ideas for you:
- Fly to Alaska for 12,500 points each way on United
- Fly to Australia or New Zealand for 40,000 points each way on United
- Fly to the Northern parts of South America (Machu Picchu anyone?!) for 20,000 miles each way on United
- Fly almost anywhere in Western Europe for 30,000 miles each way on United (or one its partners)
*Note that these trip ideas are available when this post was written (Feb 2017) and are subject to change.
My girlfriend and I flew first class from Peru last summer. The tickets would have cost nearly $2,200. Instead, I used 70,000 points, which meant that each of my points was worth 2.95 cents. That means I got 14.75% back on all my Shell gasoline and Amazon purchases! See below.
Original cost of 1st class ticket from Peru: $2,173
Cost of 1st class ticket from Peru after points: $105.40 + 70,000 points
$2,173 original ticket cost – $105.40 point ticket cost = $2,067.60 savings on ticket
$2067.60 savings / 70,000 points used = 2.95 cents per point
2.95 cents per point * 5% back on gift cards = 14.75% back on purchases
I know we’re nurses, not mathematicians. So, if that math is confusing, don’t worry about it. Just know that I saved $2,000+ on my ticket using points that I earned buying gas for my car and stuff on Amazon that I would have bought anyways.
Another Example (if you care, feel free to skip)
Here’s another example of a flight I’m about to book. Chicago to Paris is $592 one-way. However, if I use 30,000 points (the same amount you get for signing up for the Chase Ink Business Cash card). Now, I’m paying only $13.60 and getting 1.92 cents per point. It’s not as good as my last example, but I’m still technically getting 9.6% back on all my Amazon purchases and gasoline. I’m not going to complain about that!
$592 original ticket cost – $13.60 point ticket cost = $578.40 savings on ticket
$578.40 savings / 30,000 points used = 1.92 cents per point
1.92 cents per point * 5% back on gift cards = 9.6% back on purchases
Sum it up
I spent 1+ year traveling around the world from Tokyo to London, hitting 11 other countries on the way and spent less than $6,000 for the entire trip (including food, touristy stuff, and sleeping arrangements). Now, consider this: my monthly rent before my trip was $1,000, meaning that I was spending $12,000 a year. So, I actually SAVED money by traveling around the world. That was made possible by accumulating more than $50,000 worth of airline points with my Chase business cards over 4 years and the lower standard of living in most of the places I visited.
Even if you don’t have a big around-the-world trip planned for yourself, accumulating points by buying gift cards with a Chase business card is a great way to save/make some money. My parents get 5% back on all of their business purchases and gas for their delivery trucks (they give their drivers Shell Gift Cards). They’re not tech or credit savvy, but manage to accumulate 200,000+ points every year. That’s $3,000-6,000 in airline travel!
If you’re just getting your business started, don’t wait on accumulating some credit card points. It’s free money. Have questions? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a nurse and want to start a business, check out my online entrepreneurship course at TheNurseStartup.com