Weekly Thoughts: Bittersweet Credit Card Moment

Well, it’s official: the cash-back reward from my credit card is being credited to my October balance.  Thanks to choosing a card that offers some pretty serious rewards, as well as making an effort to put almost all my spending on said card, I’ve managed to build up over two hundred dollars in rewards cash, all of which will go to lessen the expenses of my next credit card bill. It’s pretty sweet that I’m going to get paid back in actual cash (well, a decrease in the amount of cash I’ll need for the October bill, which is almost as good) rather than discount coupons, as my other, older credit card did.

The bitter part comes when I calculate how much I must have spent in order to get that reward.  My card offers ‘up to’ 5% cash back on purchases (it’s an American Express Blue Cash card, by the way), but there are a few catches: first, that rate only applies to certain types of spending (supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations), with all other purchases earning a much smaller 1.5%.  Second, you have to spend at least $6500 dollars in a year before you can earn those rates; before you reach that threshold, you’ll earn only 1.25% on supermarket, drugstore, and gas station purchases, and 0.50% everywhere else.  All of this means that my rate of return on my credit card spending is much, much lower than the advertised and highly hyped 5% return.

If we assume I was getting an overall return of 2% on my spending (which might be a bit high, anyway, but makes the math simple), then I must have spent over $10,000 last year in order to get this reward.  So, it’s not an unambiguous win.  Still, back on the sweet side of things, it’s two hundred dollars that I would have had to pay out of pocket if I didn’t get this reward, and for the most part, all the spending was on things I would have purchased anyway, either with my other credit card or with cash.  So, overall, I’m going to call this one a win, even if it’s not an unambiguous one.  Now, onward to the good blog posts this week!

Good Blog Posts Last Week

Get Me in a Good Mood for Six Months – If you’ve been reading my weekly thoughts column for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I am a fan of Poorer Than You’s Stephanie.  She has quite the impressive blog, and recently graduated from college with an impressive amount of student loan debt.  She’s also currently trying to get a job at Sam-e writing their ‘Good News Blog’.  It’s hard to think of someone more deserving (heck, if her blog doesn’t make for an excellent resume for this position, I don’t know what will.  However, in order to be in the running, Stephanie needs to gather enough votes to make the top twenty and be able to submit a video for consideration.  Follow the link, and be sure to vote for her (who knows, perhaps she won’t be ‘poorer than you’ for too much longer).

Is Christianity the Only Path to ‘True’ Financial Peace? -Baker, on Man Vs. Debt, raises an interesting question about whether Christianity is the only way to financial peace, something which I’d never really considered.  I have faith, but I’m not terribly religious (that is, it doesn’t touch as much of my personal life as it does for many people), and my church is fairly liberal, teaching tolerance of other religions.  Hence, I never really thought of my faith as the only path to anything, including a ‘good end’ in the afterlife.  This is a very thought-provoking video, though, and I’ll have to consider what my faith and my money mean to each other.

How Much Do the Wealthy Really Pay In Taxes? – An interesting exploration of how much money the wealthy really pay in taxes.  Contrary to what you might believe, the actual amount (as a percentage, not in absolute terms) paid by the top earners is roughly the same as those who are right in the middle of the income distribution, as noted on My Life ROI.  It might seem a bit counterproductive, as the federal income tax does, in fact, make higher earners pay more, but that’s not the only tax system in play.  No, you also have to consider Social Security taxes (which are capped, and make up a larger portion of the low-income tax burden), long-term capital gains taxes (which are lower, and paid more by the well-off), and any number of other additions and addenda to the tax code that shift some of the tax burden away from the highest earners.  It’s good to be reminded of the larger picture when it comes to taxes.

How To Read All the Information on  Stock Quote Page – One of the most important parts of being an informed investor is being able to read and translate all the information you have available.  The Weakonomist gives us some help in that department, providing a break down of many of the features included in the typical stock market posting.  I did a similar post myself, showing how to translate online stock data, but it’s a lesson that should be repeated until it’s well learned.

5 Lessons Marathon Runners Teach Us About Investing – As you might be able to tell, I like unique comparisons of personal finance to other aspects of life and the world, as well as lists (such as the one on superheroes and investing from Green Panda last time).  Here we have another one, on the Writer’s Coin, comparing investing to running a marathon.  It’s a very apt comparison; if you try to sprint (or get rich quick), you might, in some rare circumstances, be able to win the race.  But most of the time, you will do your best and place much higher if you go slow, look towards the long term, and pace yourself.  Keep in it, and you’ll get there eventually.

Where The Amateur Financier Has Been Featured

Case of the Mondays Money Links on DeepMarket.com featured If I was In Charge: Education

The 86th Money Hacks Carnival on Credit Card Offers IQ featured Money is NOT a Zero-Sum Game (as a Gold Article!)

Also, I’m going to be hosting the Carnival of Twenty-Something Finances next week, so be sure to get your articles in if you plan to participate!

7 Responses to Weekly Thoughts: Bittersweet Credit Card Moment

  1. Roger, I have the AMEX blue cash card too. It’s definitely nice to just get a cash credit toward your bill every year rather than dealing with points and airline miles. The tiered rebate system is a little annoying though. The trick is to try and get up to $6,500 early in the year. If you can put a major purchase on the card like furniture or a tv and get up the the higher cash back level it pays. (obviously always pay off the balance in full!)

    • Very good points, Gen Y Investor. I do like my Blue Cash card quite a bit, and the cash back plan is much, much better than a points plan (or the gift certificates I was getting through my other card, a JCPenney Mastercard). I’ll have to see what expenses for the next year I can shift up to reach that $6500 milestone; my fiancee and I were talking about a trip next year, and making it sooner rather than later would help boost my reward without adding to my spending. And yes, I pride myself in never having paid less than the full balance on my credit card.

  2. Oh Roger, you know the MLR post on taxes was originally inspired by my post on the Flat Tax right?! 🙂 If you had agreed with my argument, would my post have been highlighted instead?


    • FS, I do know that MLR was inspired by your post; I’ve spent so much reading and re-reading your post while formulating my responses that it would hard for me not to know. Not agreeing with your argument had little to do with not including you here; rather, I decided not to because (a) I’ve already linked to that post in a previous entry on my blog (as well as from my Twitter account), (b) MLR also links to your article and gives you credit for inspiring him in the article I’ve linked, and (c) you already seemed to have quite enough responses and traffic on that post, anyway 😉 Just kidding on the last one, but well, I think I’ve pimped out your article enough for now. I’ll have to read through some of your other entries, to see what I could include in the next round up.

  3. Haha, cool Roger, no worries. I’m just pulling your leg.

    If you ever have some controversial posts or what not, shoot me an e-mail or post on FS and it’ll remind me to stop by.

    There are so many cool blogs out there, such as yours.


    • I sort of figured, FS; still, you can quite tell online. You might be mildly amused and trying to tease me, or slowly plotting my demise because I’ve insulted your honor. (I hear you Samurai have a pretty strict code about that sort of thing. Just kidding; but see how hard it is to tell just from the writing.) I’ll be sure to keep checking out your blog, and as long as you keep writing interesting, informative, and provocative posts, I’ll be sure to pop up and add to the conversation now and again.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on navigate to this site.
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