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Cash Back Bonus Offers Lure Travelers, Shoppers

[Sunday, July 21st, 2013]

Many credit card issuers have special cash back cards with seasonally rotating cash back bonus categories. For example, a card that gives 1% cash back on every purchase may give 5% back in certain categories that change with the seasons. Chase has the Chase Freedom card, Citi has the Citi Dividend Preferred card, and Discover offers cash back on many of their cards, including the recently introduced it card.

Seasonal Offers

These rotating categories are usually tied to the season—for example, credit card issuers will offer 5% back at toy stores around the holidays and 5% back on garden supply stores in spring.

This summer, many of the rotating cash back bonus offers are for vacation related expenses, like gas, hotels, car rental and theme parks. That means a family taking a trip to Six Flags or a Disney park can get 5% cash back on the car they rent, the gas they put in it, the hotel they stay in, and admission to the park.

Right now Discover is offering 5% back on gas, good through September 30. Chase Freedom is looking ahead toward the back-to-school season, giving 5% back at Kohl’s department stores. They are also extending the 5% cash back offer to theme park admission and gas. For out-of-town travelers, Citi Dividend Platinum Select has an offer for 5% back at any Hilton brand hotel, as well as car rentals, theme parks and movie theater tickets.

Fine Print

In most cases, cardholders must sign up for these 5% promotions. They are not given automatically, so customers should check in with their card issuers and make sure they are signed up. Usually this just involves going online and logging into the account to sign up.

The other caveat is that there are limits on how much cash back a customer can earn. While 1% cash back bonuses are largely unlimited, the 5% rotating category bonuses tend to be capped at $1500 in spending. That translates to $75 cash back each quarter, or $300 per year.

Online Savings

Another way cardholders can maximize cash back is by shopping through their card issuer’s online mall. ShopDiscover, for example, has more than 200 partner retailers that offer between 5% and 20% cash back on purchases made through Discover’s online portal. These purchases often are not subject to maximum cash back limits and are a good way to get the most from a credit card.

Right now, Discover is running a back-to-school shopping promotion through ShopDiscover, with purchases at Lands’ End and Kohl’s giving 10% cash back.

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