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article imageOp-Ed: Which credit cards offer the most bang for your summer buck?

By Jason Bushey     Jun 30, 2013 in Business
San Diego - Cash back cards could help you save money on the expenses you’re likely to make most this summer; gas, groceries, theme park and movie tickets are all featured purchases that select credit cards are promoting with spending incentives this summer.
Rarely – if ever – have the terms “frugal” and “credit card” gone hand-in-hand. “Frivolous” is a more likely word that comes to mind when we think of credit cards. “Debt” is another.
But frugal? Not so much…
Believe it or not, some credit cards – namely cash back cards – could actually help you save money on the expenses you’re likely to make most this summer. Gas, groceries, theme park and movie tickets are all featured purchases that select credit cards are promoting with bonus cash back opportunities this summer.
More on those cards in a moment, but first a word about bonus cash back and credit card offers in general. You’re not going to get rich with cash back cards – not even close. One, two and even five percent cash back accrued over time might put a small dent in your monthly statement, but overall the rewards offered by a cash back card are marginal. These cards are also generally reserved for consumers with good-to-excellent credit, so if you’re considering applying be sure to check your own score first to see if you’re likely to make a cut.
All that said, purchases made with a cash back card are still more lucrative than paying with debit or cash, especially those advertised as bonus cash back categories since they can offer anywhere from two to six percent in cash back per dollar spent.
So, which cards can help you save on your summer expenditures, and exactly how much?
Summer Road Trips
If you’re gearing up for a summer road trip, odds are one of your biggest expenses will be gas. In light of the fact that gas prices are hovering around $3.50 on average in the United States, saving 5 percent on every dollar towards gas adds up to close to 18 cents per gallon depending on where you are.
Two cards – Discover it® and Chase Freedom® - are offering 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in gas station purchases beginning July 1st and extending through September, 2013 when cardholders enroll.
Over the course of a road trip, 5 percent per dollar spent could help to alleviate those pricey gas expenses, and could even help you net a “free” tank by the time fall rolls around. That said, it still only amounts to right around $2.50 or so in savings for a full tank – again, the savings are noticeable but ultimately marginal.
Theme Park Fun
The Clark Griswolds of the world still exist, even if Wally World no longer does (or ever did). Theme parks are still a staple of summer vacations, and if you’re rounding up the family for an upside down or sideways adventure at one of America’s best theme parks, there are a couple of cards willing to extend a 5 percent discount in the form of cash back.
Once again, the Chase Freedom® card fits this bill beginning July 1st, though cardholders should remember that they have to split that $1,500 cap with gas purchases as well. Another card – the Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card – will also reward cardholders who enroll with 5 percent back on theme park purchases. And if you get rained out on vacation (or if you’re simply feeling lazy), you can net 5 percent cash back on movie theater purchases with this card, too.
Finally, since we’ve all gotta’ eat this summer…
Summer BBQ’s
Nothing says summer like a backyard or rooftop barbecue. The food, the sun, the friends and the beer – what beats it?
No card rewards grocery purchases for said barbecues quite like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which offers members 6 percent cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year. You don’t have to enroll in this program, but unlike the above cards there’s an annual fee of $75, so it’s up to consumers to determine whether or not the bonus cash savings are worth the required yearly fee.
Again, the cards mentioned above aren’t going to have a HUGE impact on your finances, and in the wrong hands they can very well be detrimental to your overall bottom line if you let those balances pile up. But if the above describe some of the expenses you’re likely to make this summer anyway, they could work to save you a little bit of coin on your summer fun.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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