How Much Cash Back I Earned From Credit Cards in 2012

It should be no surprise that I use credit cards to get as much cash back as I can with the credit cards that I currently have. I even signed up for a new credit card this year in order to take advantage of a sweet credit card sign up bonus to earn even more cash back.

Many people dismiss using credit cards to gain some extra income. Using credit cards to gain rewards or cash back is not for you if you can’t control yourself. I never spent more than I would with cash (despite the studies you’ve read) and I always pay my balance off in full every month.

I’ve never paid a dime in fees or interest (other than carefully calculated annual fees, such as with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which I may get in 2013). If you can’t follow these rules then using credit cards to get rewards or cash back will likely be counter productive because the fees (late fees, over the limit fees, etc) and interest will greatly outweigh any rewards or cash back you earn.

How Much Money I Made from My Credit Cards

In 2012 I used a combination of three credit cards to earn my cash back. I currently have a Chase Freedom credit card which pays 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories, a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card which pays 2% cash back in travel and dining and a Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card which pays 1% cash back on purchases up to $10,000 a year and 1.5% cash back on all spending above $10,000 for the year.

Chase Freedom

I use my Chase Freedom credit card only for purchases that are in the rotating 5% categories. There were a couple quarters that had categories I spend a decent amount of money in such as gas stations and supermarkets. I was also awarded a sign up bonus of $200 in January of 2012 even though I signed up for the card in 2011.

In total, I earned $321.19 in cash back on the Chase Freedom credit card in 2012.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card this year due to the $400 sign up bonus. I did have to meet a hefty minimum spend threshold in order to get the $400 cash sign up bonus but it wasn’t a problem for me because I was buying an air conditioner.

I also earned 2% cash back on travel and dining spending on this credit card. I made sure to charge my Disney World travel spending and my first cruise to this card to get 2% cash back on those vacations. I earned $167.34 in terms of non sign up bonus cash back.

In total, I earned $467.34 in cash back on the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card in 2012.

Navy Federal Cash Rewards

The Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card is my fall back cash back credit card. Any spending that doesn’t have a higher cash back percentages on another credit card gets charged to my Navy Federal credit card.

In total, I earned $140.78 in cash back on the Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card.

Total Cash Back in 2012 from Credit Cards

If you add up the cash back I earned from these three cards, I earned a total of $929.31! That’s pretty awesome considering I just spent money like I normally would. All I had to do was swipe a piece of plastic instead of trying to remember how to write a check or swiping my debit card (which I never use).

Kick Start Your Cash Back in 2013

If you’d like to get some serious cash back in 2013 I suggest you check out my comparison of the Blue Cash Preferred and Blue Cash Everyday credit cards by American Express. You can get a $150 or $100 sign up bonus and up to 6% cash back on purchases at stand-alone supermarkets!

Do you use credit cards to earn cash back or other rewards? Which cards do you use and which do you suggest I try out?

Note: Credit card links in this post ARE affiliate links and I do receive a payment if you get approved for a credit card through my affiliate link. I work my hardest to provide value to you, my readers, and I appreciate it if you have come out of your way to click on my affiliate links. Thank you!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. A thousand bucks (rounded) is no small sum. That’s awesome. It’s exactly why I tell that they will “earn” more rewards on purchases than interest on savings. As long as your spending habits are affected, it’s a great thing.

  2. You might want to look into the Discover More, too! It’s a lot like the Chase Freedom with the rotating 5% categories, but they often have a lot of random specials that are for a few days only. Also, when we didn’t use the card for about 6 months, they sent us a promotion that got us $150 if we spent $1000 on the card for three months. I’m hoping we get another promotion like that, too =)

  3. Awesome job being able to make credit cards work the right way for you. I opt for travel rewards over cash back and had a great year as well.

  4. My primary card is an airline card where I accumulate frequent flier miles. I earn enough to fly overseas business/first class every other year. I also have a hotel loyalty card to earn enough credit for free rooms. It cam with 2 free nights as a bonus when I got it. Last, I have a Costco card that gives me rebates enough to pay for the membership. Most of my purchases is gasoline (3% rebate).

  5. That’s a nice little chunk of change earned from rewards. We’re fairly new to the rewards game and both got nice travel Amex cards as we love to travel. We shall see how it goes.

  6. Well done, Lance! I haven’t added my rewards up yet, but we used all ours for travel. $1,000 cash is pretty amazing. It’s like giving yourself a raise!

  7. Nice! Love it that you put it all out there for us to see too, thanks man 🙂 I would have guessed around $500 but you blew that outta the park.

  8. That’s amazing! Usually I end up paying a bunch of exorbitant annual fees rather than getting money back. I tend to go more for cards that provide some sort of travel points myself though since I travel so often. Has anyone ever done any comparisons as to whether the amount of money you save on travel is more or less than what you get from cash back programs? Just wondering if I’m missing out!

  9. I haven’t totaled how much money I earned back on my credit cards this year. But I did buy several gifts this year using my AMEX points. $1000 is great, well done!

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