Given the wide selection of cash back credit cards available, picking the right one for your wallet may seem like a daunting task. There are credit cards that offer different levels of cash back for various types of purchases. There are also credit cards with a very simple cash back program.
At first glance, they all seem like appropriate choices. But once you delve into your spending habits, you’ll see that you can earn much more cash back with the right credit card.
Ideally, you’ll analyze your spending over the course of the past 12 months. You should look at your debit and credit card purchases, not the purchases that are made with cash because a cash back credit card won’t be of any benefit to purchases that you tend to pay for in cash.
If sifting through piles of paper statements is not a chore you want to deal with, consider using a personal financial management (PFM) tool to do the job for you. These tools can pull in information from multiple financial accounts to one place so that you don’t have to log in to multiple websites to review your finances.
Platforms such as Mint.com, Personal Capital and Check (formerly Pageonce) are examples of PFM tools that can make it easier to evaluate your spending.
After looking over your spending, can you identify your most common types of purchases? Make note of your top five spending categories and the amount spent in the past year. Some PFM tools will automatically assign a category to your purchases so that you can easily see which ones make it to the top of the list.
Also, it’s also wise to write down your projected purchases for the near future. If you’re aiming not to eat out less, then you won’t be able to maximize a credit card that offers bonus cash back on dining and restaurant purchases.
Equipped with all this information, you can now recognize the credit cards that will generate the most cash back for you.