Minimalism and Your Money

The intersection of a minimalist lifestyle & personal finance

Credit Card Hacking – The Easy Way

How we plan to make over $1,500 this year through simple credit card hacking.

Minimalism has had such a positive influence in my life, so I figured why not adopt a more minimalist approach to my credit card hacking as well. Could I still reap the benefits of credit card hacking without putting in all of the time and effort? The answer is yes. Credit card hacking can be easy.

Vacations…For Free!

I have been a pretty steady credit card rewards hacker for past four or five years. Actually, it coincided with our move away from a budget and toward more mindful spending and consumerism. When we switched from the all-cash system, I started looking for credit cards that offered bonuses and had a strong rewards program.

We have been fortunate to use our credit card points and miles to travel to Cancun, San Diego, and to visit my parents in Florida a few times.

For each of these trips we paid very little, if anything, for flights and hotels.

Credit Card Hacking Burnout

This past September, I got tired of tracking every credit card so closely. I lost the motivation to follow my spreadsheet to be sure I met each minimum spend threshold. I was sick of navigating which card was best for the grocery store compared to which was best for gas. And on top of that, both Ashley and I were at our 5/24 limit with Chase credit cards and had been denied for one other credit card. This all led me in a new direction.

Easy Credit Card Hacking with Discover It

The Discover It card in my beat-up, paint stained wallet

We both applied for the Discover It Card. The card has no annual fee and offers some great bonuses, especially in the first year.

The card has four rotating bonus categories, each lasting 3 months. Each rotating category offers 5% cash back for those three months up to a total of $75. The categories rotate, but the past few years they have been: Grocery stores, gas stations and Uber/Lyft, restaurants, and Amazon.

Additionally, Discover It offers 1% on all other purchases throughout the year. And the best part? Discover doubles your cash back in the first year!

Our plan was to spend up to the limit to ensure that we got the most cash back on groceries, gas, and Amazon. Obviously, groceries and gas are necessities, so there was no hesitation there. We use Amazon for a ton of our other purchases, both for the convenience and price, so reaching the spending limit there wasn’t an issue either.

Restaurants are the one category where we won’t max out, simply because we don’t want to spend that much money. The other three categories can be maxed out without us spending extra money, restaurants would be a different story.

Gift Cards

The great thing about the Discover It rewards program is that you can use gift cards to reach your limit. We have been able to purchase gift cards to reach our spending limits each category cycle and ensure that we got the full bonus. This way we weren’t spending wastefully. The gift cards for groceries and gas will last for months and months.

Easy credit card hacking with grocery gift cards

The Numbers

So, let’s do the math. For each category, if we spend $1500 we will get $75 cash back plus that will be doubled at the end of the year.

  • Groceries – Dave $75, Ashley $75
  • Gas – Dave $75, Ashley $75
  • Restaurants – Dave $10, Ashley $10
  • Amazon – Dave $75, Ashley $75
  • Other Purchases – Dave $150, Ashley $150
  • Grand Total – Dave $385, Ashley $385 = $770 x 2 (1st yr. bonus) = $1540

That’s right, $1,540 cash back in one year without much effort at all! There are a few rewards cards that might give more back in travel rewards, but we’ve really enjoyed the fact that we could simply use one card and we hardly had to keep track of anything.

What’s Next For Us?

After the 12 months are up on both of our cards, we plan to go back to a more aggressive form of credit card hacking. By that point, we will have just about every card available to us and we won’t have to worry about the Chase 5/24 rule or any other possible rejections. We will go back to looking for cards that have big sign-up bonuses and we will filter through cards more frequently.

As for the Discover It Card, we may hang onto it since there is no annual fee, or we could cancel it so we can reapply again in a few years for double cash back.

Not For Everyone

I would strongly recommend credit card hacking to anyone who can pay their bills within that month. It is a fantastic way to save money on travel, lodging, or to even to get cash back rewards.

However, it’s not for everyone. First, and most importantly, do not attempt to reach spending limits if you don’t have the means to pay off the credit cards each month. The whole idea of making money off of credit card rewards is thrown out the window if you are paying back just as much or more in interest. Also, if you are unwilling or know you might be unable to keep track of the spending requirements, spend by dates, or cancellation dates before being charged an annual fee, you may want to think twice. Credit card hacking should be about making, not costing, money.

If you are interested in giving serious travel hacking a go, there are a wealth of resources available. Here are a few of my favorites:

What about you? What are some of your easy credit card hacking tips?

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11 Comments

  1. PFI

    We are using the IT card this year, too. The double cash back for the first year is a huge bonus. We haven’t gone obsessive about our credit card rewards yet, but we will/should. I appreciate the list of resources.

    • minimalismandmoney

      Yeah, we have loved it so far. Travel hacking is great. We loved Travel Miles 101. That was where I started.

  2. I am in the same camp as PFI! Thank you for these resources (for when I finally get my game on). I do not maximize on cash back as a traveler yet (I just take the money and play with categories occasionally).

    • minimalismandmoney

      The travel value is usually better, but there is definitely something to be said about cash back. There is no additional spending on a vacation like there is when you have travel rewards points.

  3. I have been an amateur credit card travel hacker at this point. I really want to get the chase reserve card, but I need to make sure it makes sense. I added this to my credit cards folder in Keep so that I can reference this later. Thanks for sharing.

    • minimalismandmoney

      I’ve gone back and forth on this one as well. That annual fee terrifies me.

  4. Thanks for the feature and awesome post! Travel hacking has helped me learn so much about the world.

    • minimalismandmoney

      Of course! Looking forward to learning a whole lot more from you about travel hacking.

  5. I really like the gift card options here. When did you start using this Discover card and do you use it on gas stations?

    • minimalismandmoney

      We started in November for me and January for Ashley. We do use it for gas stations right now since this is the 5% category for April-June. Up until April, we were using American Express Blue since the cash back is a but better. We will get gift cards for gas which should last us most of the summer.

  6. “The great thing about the Discover It rewards program is that you can use gift cards to reach your limit.”

    Awesome gift card hack!
    Not something I had thought of before.

    Do you use the gift card technique to meet minimum spending requirements at other card issuers too?

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