Chuck Steris rarely uses cash. And you’ve got to give him credit.
He and his partner Susanne have travelled the world, often paying nothing for flights or hotels.
But they "earned" it...if you will.
As he explains, "I didn't have enough money to travel, and I'd been in Europe in the military. We wanted to go back, so I started finding out how we could get back."
And they've been getting back alright for the past 30 years, all by playing the game of rewards credit cards.
"I'm sure you've seen ‘join today and get 50,000 points.' Well, I just got two credit cards last week. So that's 100,000 points. That's enough for both of us to fly to California and back for free. And it didn't cost me a penny," he told us.
Many cards also give perks like free checked bags, lounge access, trip and rental car insurance.
But you know what else Chuck earns with his rewards cards? Points for everything he purchases, to put towards more travel. And with some cards he gets cash back on his purchases.
"If you go to Best Buy and buy a $500 TV and you pay cash, you get your TV. You use your debit card, you get your TV. You use your Discover card, and I think it's about 5% cash back at the end of the year. So, you get $25,” he says.
Some cards offer Price Protection. For example, if an item you bought goes on sale, you’ll get back the difference.
Others have Purchase Protection, extending the warranty in case what you bought gets lost, stolen or breaks.
And a new trend is cards that round up your rewards to the nearest 10 points, or let you pick the categories where you want cash back.
Ted Rossman, of creditcards.com says, "The way these programs work, they are basically frequent spender programs. So, you don't have to spend a lot of time on airlines for a free flight.”
Now, most of these cards charge an annual fee, and require you spend a certain amount in the first three months to get those big signing bonuses. But for Chuck, "$1,000 dollars a month, with gasoline and everything, and food, a couple of dinners out, is nothing," he explains.
And if you play your cards right, so to speak,
you could have enough points to travel in first class for free."
Rossman says, "It's definitely a game worth playing."
There is a caveat in all of this. If you are someone who doesn't, or can't pay off their balances every month, stay away from a rewards card. The interest rates on these cards are extraordinarily high, and any benefit you get will be wiped out if you don't pay in full every month.
For a list of Best Rewards Cards by creditcards.com, click here.
Here are some more unique benefits offered by reward cards.
Live like a Celebrity
Depending on which level cardholder you are, Chase Sapphire cards get you entry into events like the Emmy Awards and Sundance Film Festival. You’ll also get first dibs on premier sporting and dining events and concerts.
Family & Friends Fly Free
With most rewards cards you can earn points for free travel, but not on two for one trips. With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card you can get a free companion airline ticket each year when you renew your credit card. It’s valid for economy class flights within the 48 contiguous United States.
Many cards will give you access to airport lounges, but with the American Express Platinum card, you can use one of their exclusive Centurion Clubs for free. In addition to the typical lounge amenities, they offer spa services, a wine tasting area, and gourmet meals, depending on the city.
Free Hotel and travel perks
Any free night at a hotel is a bonus, but with the Citi Prestige you’ll get a complimentary 4thfourth night at a hotel of your choice, even a luxry resort, after a minimum 4 consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com. You can do this twice a year.
College is expensive enough, but if you get good grades, you’ll get rewarded. The Discover It cards will give you a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
Like online streaming? The Uber Visa Card lets you stream all day with a $50 statement credit, and up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year. This includes video streaming, music and shopping services like Amazon Prime.
An uber deal for Uber
Cab it on the cheap. With the American Express Platinum card you’ll receive $15 in Uber Cash for rides in the U.S. every month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That’s up to $200 for Uber annually when you pay with your Platinum card.
Museums are us. With a Bank of America card you can get one free pass into more than 225 of the most popular cultural institutions in the United States on the first full weekend of every month. In Cleveland The Great Lakes Science Center participates.
If you like wine, the Visa Signature card will get into more than 50 wineries in Sonoma County, California. Purchase 1 standard tasting using your card and receive 1 complimentary tasting of equal or lesser value, preferred pricing on non-wine purchases over $50, and savings on wine purchased same day in the Tasting Room.
What the Puck?
This is for all the Hockey fans out there. The NHL Discover card will save you 10% on officially licensed NFL gear. You’ll also shave 10% off your NHL.TV subscription when you pay with your Discover card.