Why thieves want to steal your rewards points

Considering how hard it can be to redeem your miles and points for a good value, you might think nobody would be interested in stealing them. You’d be wrong.

In November 2014, cyber thieves helped themselves to Hilton HHonors members’ rewards points. In early 2015, members of United’s and American Airlines’ frequent flier programs saw their miles similarly siphoned off by hackers. Miles balance

Because large rewards balances can have significant monetary value, it’s important to understand why thieves want them – and what you can do to protect them.

More than just funny money

Rewards may not be hard cash, but thieves can use them for the following:

  • Booking travel: Once inside your account, thieves can transfer your miles into their own accounts. Or, they can use them to book travel directly.

    “Typically, you can use miles to book travel or use other benefits without actually being the owner of those miles,” says Steve Manzuik, director of security research at Duo Security, which develops security software for online companies.

    In fact, miles are relatively low-hanging fruit for thieves. While you’re probably (hopefully) vigilant about your bank account and credit card balances, when was the last time you logged in and checked all your airline rewards balances?

    “By the time the owner notices, if they even do notice, the miles have been spent and the trip has been used,” Manzuik says. “It has a lower risk of being caught than stealing actual credit cards or money.”

  • Buying gift cards: Many rewards programs allow you to convert points and miles into gift cards, “which of course makes stealing them very attractive,” Manzuik says.
  • Reselling: Some thieves may try to sell high-value accounts to other thieves, Manzuik says.

In addition to stealing your rewards, once thieves are inside your account, they might find other valuable things – including your personal information. Organizations compliant with requisite security standards won’t make an affiliated card number directly accessible from your rewards account, Manzuik says. But home address, phone number and answers to password re-set questions may be accessible – and can be used in phishing attacks or to hack into other accounts you have.

How thieves get in

One way thieves can get in is by hacking the rewards program itself. However, while this strategy has the advantage of hitting lots of accounts at once, it’s also the easiest to detect, Manzuik says.
“Application security, secure development practices, and other security technology have made these types of attacks less common,” he says.

A more likely plan of attack is social engineering (for example, phishing) attacks. If thieves manage to get some of your information, they can call or email you and try to trick you into surrendering the rest (including the password to your account).

“It is far easier and stealthier for an attacker to go after individual users versus the entire site itself,” Manzuik says.

Thieves may also take advantage of the fact that many people use the same password across multiple accounts. If they manage to get your password to, say, a social media account or photo-sharing site, you could be in trouble if that same password also unlocks your rewards account.

Safeguarding your rewards

While cards’ zero liability policies will almost always reimburse you for charges made by a thief, there’s no such protection for your rewards — although loyalty programs can and do reimburse stolen rewards, as evidenced by the United and American Airlines hacks. However, even if your program may eventually reimburse your miles, it’s less of a hassle to prevent theft from the outset.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a strong, hard-to-guess password. Manzuik recommends using a password manager that can generate strong passwords and store them for you. This also allows you to easily have a unique, strong password for each account, so, if a hacker manages to get the password to one, he doesn’t end up with a master key that unlocks all your accounts.

However, no password is good enough if you fall for phishing scams and surrender it. So be wary of opening email attachments and clicking on links in emails, and don’t ever give account information to anyone who contacts you. Because everyone makes gullible mistakes, if your rewards site offers two-factor authentication, use it Manzuik says.

Two-factor authentication works in a variety of ways. One example: If you log in from an unfamiliar device, after entering your password, the program might require you to also enter a security code (which will be sent to your mobile device). So even if a thief tricked you into giving up your password, if he doesn’t have your phone, he can’t break into your account.

“As sites in general become more secure, … phishing and direct attacks on users will become more popular,” Manzuik says. “This is why leveraging two-factor authentication is so important.”

Premium cards can make your hotels stay more luxurious

Don’t have elite hotel status with a chain, but want access to some of the perks that come with it? Certain credit cards offer nice-to-have freebies and comforts at certain partner hotels. Starwood's W Hotel in Hollywood, CA

If you’re unsure whether your card offers this benefit, search your terms for mention of a program that contains some combination of the following words: Fine, Luxury, Hotel, Resort and Collection. For example, American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) calls its program “Fine Hotels & Resorts” and Visa calls its program the “Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.” MasterCard has one called “Luxury Hotels and Resorts,” and Chase has one (for certain cardholders) called the “Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.” (See the chart below).

If you book a property within your card’s luxury/fine portfolio, you’ll get perks like early check-in, late check-out, free breakfast, food/beverage credits, spa credits, gift baskets and more (if available). Some programs even tack a fourth or fifth free night on to your stay.

Luxury hotel perks aren’t just for cards with high annual fees. Visa’s and MasterCard’s programs are accessible through eligible World MasterCard, World Elite MasterCard and Visa Signature cards, which span a variety of price points.

As with all credit card benefits, there are some hoops to jump through:

  • You have to book through the program: That means booking through the program’s website, or calling the phone number provided. You don’t have the option of bargain-hunting on travel websites, and your desired hotel may not be in your card’s portfolio. If you’re on a budget, that could restrict you, as these programs are resort-heavy. However, there are some lower-cost options, if you’re flexible about location and timing. Visa’s program has some hotels for under $100 a night:visa Luxury Hotels and Resorts
  • You have to pay with the designated card: You have to book with a card tied to the program. For AmEx’s program, for example, you’ll need to need to book with your Platinum card, even though it doesn’t give extra points on travel. Suffice it to say, these programs aren’t always conducive to maximizing rewards.

The perks that come from cards’ hotel portfolios won’t necessarily save you money, and you may end up spending a little more to take advantage of them. But if it’s a special occasion or a rigorous business trip, that may be worth it.

Cards' luxury hotel benefits
Program nameCards participatingPerksTerms
American ExpressFine Hotels & Resorts-American Express Platinum card and Business Platinum ($450 annual fee)

-Centurion card
-Noon check-in

-Room upgrade

-Daily breakfast for two

-4 p.m. late checkout (guaranteed)

-In-room Wi-Fi

-Unique property benefits, including one complimentary night, spa credit, gift basket (varies by property)
-Benefits received only when and where available.

-Must book through AmEx 's travel service

-Certain categories not available for upgrade

-Payment must be made with eligible AmEx card

-Cardmember must travel on the itinerary
ChaseLuxury Hotel & Resort CollectionUnited MileagePlus Club card ($450 annual fee)-Early check-in

-Late check-out

-Room upgrade

-Unique property benefits, including spa credits, food & beverage credits and more
-Perks subject to availability

-Reservations must be made through Luxury Hotel & Resorts (by phone or online)

-Not available on all rates
VisaVisa Signature Luxury Hotel CollectionEligible Visa Signature cards-Room upgrade
-Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi

-Complimentary continental breakfast

-$25 food/beverage credit

-3 p.m. checkout

-Lower-rate guarantee (within 24 hours of booking)
- Perks subject to availability.

-Room must be booked via Visa concierge or the Collection's website and paid for with a Visa Signature card.
MasterCardLuxury Hotels & ResortsVarious World and World Elite MasterCards-Room upgrades
-Complimentary breakfast for two daily

-Unique property benefits, such as wine, fruit platter, airport transfers and more.
-Room must be booked via MasterCard Travel Services with eligible World or World Elite MasterCard.

What merchants think about EMV

In a matter of days, the EMV liability shift goes into effect.

Just tuning in? This will bring you up to speed. Simply put, from here on, if a customer uses a counterfeit card in a store, the party (merchant or card issuer) responsible for a transaction NOT going through as a secure EMV chip transaction will be held financially liable by the card networks (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) for fraudulent charges. Previously, that liability rested with the issuer. using-emv-card-at-store

EMV transactions are certainly more secure than magnetic-stripe transactions. But that doesn’t mean every place you shop will upgrade in lock step. In fact, for many small merchants, upgrading may not seem worth the cost – and may not even be immediately possible for some types of businesses.

Some merchants question what’s in it for them

Prior to Oct. 1, 2015, if a customer paid for goods and signed the slip (with the same name as the one printed on the card), the merchant wouldn’t be held liable if the cardholder later said the purchase was fraudulent, explains Mark Verrico, president of Strategic Payment Systems Austin, a payment processing provider located in Austin, Texas.

Post-liability shift, however, merchants will automatically be liable in this situation, if their equipment isn’t capable of running EMV transactions and therefore requires the magnetic stripe to be used.

This change has obvious benefits for issuers, Verrico says, as upgrading their cards reduces their liability — and looks good to stockholders. For merchants, however, upgrading and buying new equipment merely gets them back to the pre-liability shift status quo.

“With regards to your business’s liability, if you [as a merchant] upgrade, you don’t get anything better, you don’t get anything worse. You just stay exactly the same,” Verrico says.

There’s another issue, too, that gives some merchants pause: The way EMV is being implemented in the U.S. Across the rest of the world, EMV has been implemented as “chip and PIN” – a PIN is programmed into the card’s computer chip and is required for transactions. Stateside, however, the PIN part isn’t mandatory, so many issuers (most, in fact) are issuing “chip and signature” cards. Instead of a PIN, only a signature is required for the purchase.

“It’s really unfortunate that that’s the case,” says Andrew Goetz, co-founder of Malin + Goetz, a beauty supply company with stores in New York and Los Angeles. “Obviously, chip and PIN is a much more secure format than chip and signature. Anyone can sign a name.”

True, EMV makes cards extremely difficult to clone from data swiped during breaches (such as the Target and Home Depot breaches), and fewer cloned cards floating around is a good thing for all parties (except data thieves). But it does nothing to protect merchants from thieves who steal physical cards and can then use them (without a PIN) until the theft is reported. When this happens, merchants get dragged into the time-consuming and costly chargeback process.

“Out of the fraud that we encounter, [cloned cards] is not the fraud we encounter,” Goetz says. “We encounter stolen credit cards.”

For some merchants, upgrading goes smoothly

While the form EMV is taking in the U.S. is “unfortunately too little,” according to Goetz, he says his stores upgraded as soon as they possibly could (a few months before the shift) – and would have done so years ago, had the technology been available. The cost wasn’t prohibitive, Goetz says, and today, about 70 percent of Malin + Goetz store transactions are run as EMV, he estimates.

For other merchants, upgrading happened in the natural progression of replacing old equipment. Javier Odom, operations manager of Walt’s Jewelers in Gilbert, Arizona, says the store converted to EMV several months before the shift when it switched from a cellular-based card processing machine to an Internet- and landline-based one. Its processing provider recommended getting equipment that also supported EMV.

After pricing out various choices, Odom says they chose equipment with the most options, including contactless NFC and compatibility with gift cards. Equipment costs were a couple hundred dollars. After plugging in the new device and making some technical adjustments, “we were done,” Odom says.

The biggest challenge, according to Odom, has been getting employees up to speed on the new equipment.

“Most of the employee training issues we had related to our new machine were not related to EMV,” Odom says, “But rather to NFC issues and day-to-day operations, such as how to do a refund, how to reprint a receipt, and so forth.”

As of September 2015, Odom estimates, about 75 percent of customers were paying via contact EMV (under 5 percent with contactless NFC).

Merchants don’t always have control over upgrading

Other merchants who want to upgrade in time for the shift, however, may not be able to do so for the following reasons:

  • Dependence on a third-party point-of-sale system provider: Some merchants rely on custom software tailored to their business – and that company’s software needs to be EMV-compliant as well. It’s not just a matter of the merchant plugging in a new, EMV-capable terminal, Verrico says; if the third-party provider hasn’t upgraded, the merchant can’t either.

    “There’s going to be a long period of time when some merchants can’t upgrade,” Verrico says. “They either have to find a new solution or eat the liability.”

  • Practical concerns: Today, when you eat at a restaurant, the bill is brought to you, the server runs your card, and the tip is added later (after you write it on the sales ticket).

    “They can’t do that with EMV,” Verrico says. “EMV is a live transaction the entire time the card is in place.”

    Throughout the rest of the world, card readers are brought table-side at restaurants, so that the entire transaction can be completed in one go.

    “So, if restaurants want to take advantage of EMV, they have to change the entire flow of the transaction,” Verrico says. “They need to get technology that works table-side.”

  • Reliance on mobile card-readers: Many small merchants rely on mobile readers from companies like Square and PayPal. The question is, when will merchants who have requested the newest readers) from these providers receive them?

    According to PayPal’s website, its $149 reader ($49 with rebate, after $3,000 in payments have been processed within the first three months) will be ready to go in October 2015. Square offers two options. The first, a $29 reader that accepts magnetic stripe cards and chip cards, is available for immediate shipping, according to a Square spokesperson. Square is also offering a new reader that accepts magnetic stripe cards, chip cards AND contactless NFC payments. That one doesn’t have a ship date yet, but Square’s spokesperson confirmed it will be ready to ship this fall.

    For merchants waiting on the newest Square reader (who don’t already have the $29 version) or on the PayPal EMV reader, there will be a delay on EMV compliance. Included in this group is Becky Sturm, founder and president of StormSister Spatique, an online beauty boutique that works with small Minnesota businesses that do pop-up shops.

    “Both Square and PayPal have been great about sending out information about the new technology,” Sturm says. “But, I know I’m not the only one has been wondering why the readers are not ready when the October date goes into effect.”

    For merchants who have reserved its new reader, Square has promised liability shift protection (see terms and conditions). That means it will cover the costs of fraudulent non-EMV swipes in the gap between reserving the reader and receiving it.

Some merchants may not feel the need to immediately upgrade

Wells Fargo performed a survey in August 2015 that found that 21 percent of small-business owners have no plans to upgrade for EMV. It may actually make sense that some businesses aren’t in a hurry, Verrico says, if they’re not exactly a target for fraudulent purchases.

“I’ve got merchants that sell cupcakes,” Verrico says. “[One of them asked], ‘Mark, do I need to get a new terminal?’ I asked how many chargebacks he’s had to manage in the past five years, and he said zero.”

Meanwhile, merchants who sell expensive, re-sellable items or who operate in high-risk situations (at bazaars and fairs, for example), may have a more immediate interest in upgrading, Verrico says.

“They have to look at the risk and compare it to the cost of new equipment,” Verrico says. “It’s their liability and their decision.”

Updated Sept. 29, 2015

What you can learn from an adverse action notice

It’s no fun getting turned down for credit, but here’s some silver lining: The company you applied with can’t just ghost you – it is legally required to tell you why you were rejected and even provide information that could set you up for success next time.Adverse action

This information comes in the form of an adverse action notice, which you should receive soon after rejection. Understanding this notice and what’s in it is vital to moving on.

Why you got an adverse action notice

In short, you applied for something and were rejected – or didn’t get the terms you applied for. The laws requiring adverse action notices encompass a variety of scenarios.

“It could be a card, a mortgage, a car loan, but it could also be for insurance or when an employer checks credit for employment,” says Kim Cole, outreach coordinator for Navicore Solutions, a non-profit financial counseling firm headquartered in Manalapan, New Jersey.

There are two laws that mandate adverse action notices when it comes to denial of credit, or denial of employment or insurance based on your credit.

1. Equal Credit Opportunity Act: The intent of this law, enacted in 1974, was to prevent lenders from discriminating against applicants, says Judson Crump, a consumer protection attorney based in Mobile, Alabama.

“During the Civil Rights Movement, the law started to catch up with the reality that certain groups of people were getting treated very unfairly,” says. “One of the areas where there was a big problem was in the granting of credit.”

The ECOA stipulates that lenders must provide a notice of action (a “yes” or “no”) within 30 days of receiving a complete application for credit. This prevents them from simply sitting on an application they don’t want to approve, Crump says. If the answer is “no” (for the application itself or the exact terms you requested), they must send a statement of reasons. This compels lenders to provide a non-discriminatory reason for rejection (your credit’s not good enough, you don’t have enough money, or you lack proper collateral, for example). No statement of reasons is required by the ECOA, however, if you accept a counter-offer from that same lender.

2. Fair Credit Reporting Act (enacted 1970): If an entity pulls your credit report and then, based on that credit check, turns you down, won’t offer the terms you applied for, or worsens your terms (upping your interest rate, for example), it must inform you. This adverse action notice must contain:

  • The reason the adverse action was taken: This reason can vary, depending on what you applied for (insurance, a job or credit). When it comes to credit, “the most common reasons we see are that there are accounts in delinquent status or that someone is new to credit and got denied because their credit history was too new,” Cole says.
  • Which report was pulled and instructions for getting a free credit report: There are three consumer credit bureaus, and the adverse action notice must name the one that was used. In addition, the FCRA entitles you to free copy of the credit report that got you denied – and requires that the adverse action notice provide information on how to get it.

    “Those things together make the adverse action notice important to a lot of people because, for a lot of folks who aren’t very Internet savvy, it’s the only way they know how to get a credit report,” Crump says.

    Note that you have only 60 days to access your credit report for free.

  • Other housekeeping information: The adverse action notice required by the FCRA will generally advise you not to contact the credit bureaus about your denial – all they did was provide information to whatever entity checked your credit. However, the notice will encourage you to dispute inaccurate information with the bureau that provided it.

As you might have noticed, the ECOA and FCRA overlap, and the company that rejected you may provide a single notice that encompasses the requirements of both.

Why adverse action notices can be empowering

Don’t regard adverse action notices as salt in an open wound. They offer powerful information for consumers, including:

  1. Credit intel: Remember that free credit report? Assuming you’ve already used up your annual free report for that particular bureau from AnnualCreditReport.com, you’d otherwise have to pay for it.

    “A credit report is worth about $20,” Crump says. “And it’s worth a lot more if it has information you can correct so you can get approved for a loan to make an important purchase you need to make.”

    In fact, correcting incorrect information should be your first priority once you receive the adverse action notice. If, for example, your reason for denial is “delinquent accounts” and you know for a fact you have just one card that you’ve always paid on time, something ominous is probably lurking within your credit report.

    “We’ve found that many of our clients who are victims of identity theft have found out about it by being denied for credit,” Cole says. “So it’s very important that that information be verified.”

    Fraud aside, credit bureaus sometimes make mistakes and report incorrect information. The free credit report guaranteed by the FCRA may alert you to the need to begin the dispute process.

    If the negative information on your report is indeed accurate, acknowledging it is the first step to fixing it.

    “If there has been a history of delinquent accounts and large outstanding balances, maybe the consumer makes sure they’re paying bills on time for six months and then reapplies,” Cole says. “They really do need that credit report in order to know what the next steps should be.”

  2. A heads-up on sketchy auto-lending practices: Some dealerships that serve customers with poor credit engage in a practice called spot delivery agreements — and adverse action notices can clue you in.

    Here’s how it works: You find a car you want at the dealership. The dealer tells you you’re “preliminarily approved,” or something similar and allows you to drive the car off the lot. In reality, the dealer is shopping your loan application to a variety of lenders – and the paperwork you signed says something about the deal being “conditional on approval.” In other words, if no lenders want to give you a loan, the dealer will want the car back.

    Dealers may not be in a rush to let you know that your financing isn’t working out and may brush off your calls asking about your title papers and financing details. After all, by allowing you to drive off the lot, they’ve taken you off the market for their competitors, Crump says.

    Worse yet, the dealer might be charging you fees for each additional day you keep the car (or each additional mile driven).

    “So they’ve stolen the down payment,” Crump says. “Now, not only has the person lost the opportunity to shop around, they’ve also lost the money they had to shop around with.”

    If you get an adverse notice in the mail saying you’ve been denied financing, you know something fishy is happening. That lets you at least minimize your costs, save most of your down payment by returning the car earlier and avoid spending another cent on insurance for a car you don’t own.

Whatever the situation, the adverse action notice tells you it’s time to take, well, action – action to protect yourself from dishonest lenders, action to correct credit report errors, or action to repair your credit so you’re eligible for the very best terms in the future.

“The adverse action notice tells you why you were denied, you follow up on it, you fix the problem, and get approved the second time around,” Crump says. “That’s how it’s supposed to work. That’s the core purpose of the FCRA.”

The highest cash back possible, sorted by rewards category

Each cash-back card has its specialty – one might give higher rewards for travel, while another might do so for dining. Some offer boosted rewards in a couple key categories. So, when you’re shopping for a cash-back card, your mission is to find one (or a combination of cards) that most closely matches your spending patterns.

Spending categories

To help with that, we’ve compiled a list. Find your most common spending categories on the menu to the right to see which cards offer the highest cash-back rate possible.

Note: This article concentrates on cash-back cards and those offering fixed-value points. There’s still lots of value to be had with airline mile cars, hotel reward cards and cards that earn points that fluctuate in value, depending on how you redeem them.

Unless specified, the cards below have no annual fee.


All purchases

  • 2 percent cash back on all purchases with the Capital One Spark Cash for Business ($59 annual fee, waived the first year).
  • 2 percent back with the Fidelity Investment Rewards card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). Rewards must be contributed toward an eligible Fidelity brokerage, IRA, 529 or Cash Management account.
  • 1 percent back on all spending PLUS another 1 percent back when you pay your bill with the Citi Double Cash.
  • 1.5 percent cash back on all spending with the Capital One QuickSilver.

See also: Interested in travel rewards? Generic travel rewards cards give “miles” that can be cashed in (usually for 1 cent each) toward travel purchases made with the card. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus ($89 annual fee), for example, gives 2.1 percent back if you redeem for travel, and the Capital One Venture ($59 annual fee) gives what amounts to 2 percent back if you redeem for travel.



  • 6 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($75 annual fee) on up to $6,000 in purchases per year.
  • 5 percent cash back with the Sallie Mae MasterCard, on up to $250 per month for combined grocery and gas purchases.
  • 3 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card on up to $6,000 in purchases per year.

See also: Rotating-category cards, such as the Chase Freedom and Discover it card usually offer groceries as 5 percent bonus categories for one quarter a year.



  • 5 percent cash back with the Sallie Mae MasterCard, on up to $250 per month for combined grocery and gas purchases.
  • 3 percent cash back with the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card on up to $1,500 in combined gas/grocery purchases per quarter (groceries earn 2 percent back). If you already have other accounts with Bank of America, these earnings have the potential of being even higher than 3 percent, thanks to the Preferred Rewards program. Depending on your balance in these other accounts, you can get up to a 75 percent bonus. So, your rewards on gas could be up to 3.75 percent.
  • 3 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($75 annual fee) on up to $6,000 in purchases per year.

See also: Again, check out the rotating-category cards (like the Chase Freedom and Discover it), as gas is a common 5 percent category.



Cards that reward actual frequent flier miles and hotel loyalty points could potentially get you a greater return on your spending. Because that value depends so greatly on how you redeem, however, we will focus on cards that reward cash back (or fixed-value points) for travel purchases.

  • 3 percent cash back on one of the following: airfare, hotel rooms and car rentals with the American Express SimplyCash Business card. You must enroll in the category of your choice to be eligible.
  • 2 miles per dollar (plus 5 percent redemption bonus) with the Barclaycard Arrival (no-annual-fee version). This amounts to 2.1 percent back when you redeem for travel.
  • 2X points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee, waived the first year). That amounts to 2 percent back if you redeem for cash – or much more if you use the card’s travel partners.

See also: For potentially more value, consider cards that let you transfer points to various affiliate travel programs. For example, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card ($195 annual fee, waived the first year) earns 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare (booked directly with airlines). While the redemption rate for cash-back isn’t ideal, those points can be transferred to more than a dozen airline and hotel loyalty programs.



  • 3 percent cash back with the American Express SimplyCash Business card. To be eligible, you must select “U.S. restaurants” from the list of available categories.
  • 2 percent with a variety of cards, including the Barclaycard Arrival (no-annual-fee version), Discover it chrome, the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee, waived the first year), Chase Ink Cash (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases for gas and restaurants), American Express Premier Rewards Gold ($195 annual fee, waived the first year) and the US Bank Cash Plus.

See also: Dining often pops up as a 5 percent quarterly category for the Discover it and Chase Freedom. In addition, if you eat a lot of fast food, note that the US Bank Cash Plus card rewards 5 percent cash back on fast food restaurants if you enroll in the category.


Office Supplies

  • 5 percent cash back at U.S. office supply stores with the American Express SimplyCash Business card (for purchases up to $25,000 per year, combined with wireless telephone services).
  • 5 percent back with the Chase Ink Cash and Chase Ink Plus ($95 annual fee, waived the first year). The Ink Cash gives you 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 combined office supply store, cellular phone and landline phone/Internet purchases each year. The Ink Plus, meanwhile, has the same rules but gives 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. That can be redeemed for 5 percent cash back, or you can transfer those rewards to frequent-traveler programs.

See also: Consistent cash back on office supplies is generally the territory of business credit cards (as you can see above). One possible work-around for maximizing rewards on office supplies would be to get a personal credit card that gives a high rate of cash back on grocery purchases (the American Express Blue Cash Cards, for example) — and then buy an office supply store gift card at the grocery store.


Department stores

  • 5 percent cash back with the US Bank Cash Plus on the first $2,000 in spending in a quarter. You must select “department stores” as a bonus category for the quarter to be eligible.
  • 3 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($75 annual fee). Here’s a list of eligible stores.
  • 2 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Everyday.

See also: Various department stores make appearances as quarterly categories for the Chase Freedom and Discover it.

Did we leave any important cards off our list? Tell us in the comments.