Yes, it’s a clickbaity headline, but it’s accurate. If you ask most people if they would take a job that offered to pay them $4,000 an hour, they would most likely say yes (assuming it wasn’t dangerous, illegal, or against their principles). If you followed that up with the condition that the total duration of the job was only 30 minutes, they would be greatly disappointed but, after a few moments reflection, would probably decide that $2,000 for 30 minutes worth of (legal, non-dangerous) work still sounds pretty good. Well, I have just that offer for you right now – sign up for this credit card*.
Before we go any further, I have a very important caveat. This is only a good idea if you use credit cards responsibly. If you know from past experience that if you get a new credit card it will encourage you to spend more money and/or spend so much that you carry a monthly balance on it and have to pay interest, this is a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it. Stop reading now. But if you simply use credit cards to pay for things you would be buying anyway, like groceries and gas, then you definitely should keep reading.
You are likely (hopefully) spending a significant amount of your budget on groceries. If you are like most people, you are probably also spending a smaller – but still not trivial – amount on streaming services and gas. Which is why the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card* might be a great option for you. Here’s why.
First, this card has a sign up bonus of $300 as long as you spend $3,000 in the first six months. Spending $3,000 may sound like a lot, but for most readers of this blog they will easily spend that on groceries alone over a six month period (and, for those who might not, when you throw in gas, streaming services, cable, cell phone, etc., it’s typically not that difficult to get to $3,000 in six months).
This card also offers 6% back on groceries. Unfortunately, they do cap this at a $6,000 total spend on groceries per year (you still earn 1% cash back on groceries above the $6,000 mark). So you can earn $360 in a year from buying $6,000 worth of groceries. That compares to $60 if you are using the typical 1% cash back credit card, so an increase of $300.
Next, the card also offers 6% back on streaming services. While this number obviously varies, the latest number I’ve seen is that the average American spends $55 per month on streaming services. That equates to $660 per year. At 6% back, that’s $39.60 in cash back per year, compared to only $6.60 with the typical 1% cash back credit card, so an increase of $33.
The card also offers 3% cash back on gas and transit. Again, this will vary tremendously by person, but using the typically cited 12,000 miles per year (per car) and the U.S. average of 24 miles per gallon, that would be 500 gallons per year. At $3.00 per gallon, that’s $1,500 per year. With 3% cash back, that’s $45 per year (compared to $15 per year with a 1% cash back card), so an increase of $30 per year. Note that gas prices are currently higher than that, most American household own two (or more) cars, and many folks own cars that get less than 24 mpg, so the savings will likely be much higher than this for many readers.
For everything else, the card offers 1% cash back which, for the purposes of this post, doesn’t add anything since we are comparing to a standard 1% cash back card. The card also offers 0% APR for purchases in the first 12 months, which could be leveraged to pay off other high interest loans (credit card or otherwise), but we’ll ignore any possible savings there as hopefully this doesn’t apply to you. And, for the first year, there is no annual fee for this card. So your net increase in savings during the first year (compared to a 1% cash back credit card) is $663.
Starting in year two the card does start charging a $95 annual fee. Normally I don’t recommend cards with an annual fee, but the additional $300 per year savings on groceries alone (compared to a 1% cash back card) more than pays for that $95 annual fee so I still think it’s worth it for most folks. So, for year two and beyond, the annual increase in savings is $268 ($363 – $95 annual fee). So, if you project out to a total of six years, you will have a total increase in savings of at least $2,003. Since it will take maybe 30 minutes total to apply for the card, activate it and setup your login, change your streaming services to be automatically charged to the card, and setup monthly auto pay of the card from your checking account, that works out to the (over) $4,000 per hour mentioned in the first paragraph. So, even though you are limited to only 30 minutes of “work”, I imagine most folks will be satisfied with over $2,000 for that half an hour of effort.
Obviously, choosing six years for the calculation is arbitrary. You could choose just to look at the first year, or you could choose to look at your savings over ten (or more) years. Six years just seemed like a reasonable number to use and it is unlikely that the rewards will decrease over those six years. There are also other credit cards you can go through the same process with to determine your savings, I picked this one because it’s one I use and because almost everyone spends regularly on groceries, gas and streaming services, so why not get rewarded for those purchases?
Oh, one more thing. While I framed this as making (over) $4,000 per hour, or (over) $2,000 for 30 minutes of “work”, that’s actually not an apples-to-apples analogy. Because credit card rewards are tax free but, when you work and earn money, you owe taxes. So, for example, a typical Colorado educator who is in the 22% marginal federal tax bracket would actually have to make much more than $2,003 to net $2,003. If this were earnings, they would owe 22% federal taxes, 4.55% Colorado state taxes, 10.5% PERA contribution, and 1.45% Medicare contribution, for a total of 38.5%. That means they would actually have to make $3,257 to net $2,021, which is a whopping $6,514 per hour. While many folks look at credit card rewards as “small potatoes” and not worth the time and hassle, when you actually do the math it might change your perspective a bit.
*Please note that this is a referral link, which means that if you use this link and get a card I will receive a small statement credit. If that makes you uncomfortable or makes you question my motives in writing this post, you can always sign up for the card without the referral link. Sometimes the referral link gets you a slightly better offer than if you sign up without it, but often the sign up bonus and the rewards are exactly the same whether you use the referral link or not.
Edit October 2022: I thought I’d add a quick note to this. With the increase in grocery costs, as well as my 93-year old mother moving in with us, our grocery spending has increased quite a lot. So we now have a second American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card, this one in my wife’s name*, so that we can spend up to $12,000 in groceries in a year between the two cards and get 6% back.