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How We Collected $1,560 in Cash Back Rewards in 2018

cash back rewards summary 2018

I’ve been a big fan of credit card rewards since I received my first credit card while in University.  Back in those days, it was a student credit card that gave me HBC rewards which could have been used towards stores like Zellers (which no longer exists).  While Zellers wasn’t my first choice back in the day, it was better than no rewards like the other student card options.

Luckily, the rewards program offered by credit cards have improved over the years along with the strategies to maximize points.  For our family, we are focused on a handful of cash-back and points program.  Since I’ve written so much about credit cards and points programs, some readers have asked about these programs and how much they can reasonably expect from them.

A points program really should suit your lifestyle.  If you spend a lot on travel, then a travel credit card combined with a loyalty program (like Air Miles) might reap you the best returns.  The biggest risk of a large loyalty program is the devaluation of their points, for which Air Miles is famous.  To mitigate that risk, I tend to lean towards straight up cash back.  

Although I prefer pure cash back, there is a loyalty program that we follow that is a hybrid of a cash back and points program, and that is the Loblaws/Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) PC Optimum program

Having said that, in 2018, we gained most of our cash back from:

  • Capital One Cash Back Mastercard (no longer available) for everyday spending (1.5% cash back) (see alternative below);
  • PC Financial World Elite Mastercard for shopping at Loblaws (3% cash back at Loblaws and affiliated stores);
  • PC Optimum app for weekly bonus offers; and,
  • Online shopping portals (mostly Ebates and Great Canadian Rebates).

In addition to the above, we have collected a few Air Miles and Aeroplan points on the way, but they are few and far between.

Here are a few more details of each of the programs that we used.

PC Optimum Program ($986.40)

I must say that I’m a fan of this program, but it really only works if you shop at Loblaws affiliated stores (Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Superstore etc).  The PC Optimum program is essentially a cash back program however the points can only be redeemed for purchases at the Loblaws group of companies.

We do a lot of our grocery shopping at Loblaws (Dominion here in NL), so this program really works for us.  To maximize the points, we have the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard (full review here), combined with using the PC Optimum app which gives you weekly customized offers.  To really rev up the points accumulation, we sometimes take advantage of the 20x the points events at Shoppers Drug Mart which can really add up if you use any of their cosmetics or other big-ticket electronic items.

If you are interested, here are some strategies on how to maximize PC Optimum points.  Here is another article that really gets into the nitty-gritty details for maximizing PC Optimum points.

Using the strategies in the article above, we have accumulated a total of $986.40 worth of PC Optimum points for 2018.  If you shop at Loblaws stores, this is, in my opinion, the best loyalty program in Canada.

Capital One MasterCard ($495)

To maximize cash back rewards, we funnel as much as we can through a credit card.  As mentioned above, we use the PC World Elite Mastercard for groceries, and a now grandfathered Capital One MasterCard for all other expenses.  You can even use your credit card for expenses like utilities and property taxes that have been traditionally cash only.

Many years ago, I signed up for the Capital One Cash Back World Elite card that gave me 1.5% cash back and premium insurances, to top it off, it has no annual fee.  Unfortunately, this card is not available anymore, but never fret, there is an alternative that might be even better.

The Rogers World Elite Mastercard offers 1.75% cash back on regular purchases, 4% on foreign exchange purchases, no annual fee, and even some insurance!  It’s pretty rare for a credit card to offer such a high return with no annual fee so I’m hoping that Rogers doesn’t devalue the card anytime soon.  Here is a full review of the pros and cons of the Rogers MasterCard.  I still haven’t replaced my Amazon Visa for FX purchases, and the Rogers card is on the top of my list.

With the Capital One Mastercard, we use it for all of our everyday expenses including Costco and gas purchases.  For 2018, we spent about $33k on this card resulting in $495 cash back!

Online Shopping Portals ($88.43)

With more and more of our shopping done online, it’s only natural to maximize cash back by using online shopping portals!  These are essentially websites that act as the middleman and is completely free to the user. 

They make money when you click through to a store via the portal before you make a purchase.  When you make a purchase, the portal gets a commission which is then shared with you.

The two online shopping portals that we use are Ebates and Great Canadian Rebates (GCR).  I switch between the two depending on which offers the best cash back. 

For example, as an Amazon Prime member, we buy quite a bit from Amazon.  Right now, Ebates is offering between 1-5% depending on the category while GCR offers 1.3-4.75%. 

So what kind of cash back can you expect from these portals?  It really depends on your shopping habits, but we’ve generated a few dollars from Ebates and GCR through stores like Dell, Esso, Amazon, and Sportchek.  Here are our totals for 2018:

  • Ebates: $69.90
  • Great Canadian Rebates: $18.53

The moral of the story is why not get some cash back while doing your online shopping?  If you haven’t joined already, check out Ebates and Great Canadian Rebates.

Putting it Together

Altogether, we’ve had a successful year accumulating cash back rewards with very little effort.  It’s really a matter of changing habits to maximize your cash back.  For us, the PC Optimum program is a winner and has generated almost $1,000 in cash back this past year alone.

Back to you!  Which loyalty programs do you follow and how much have you accumulated?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Tawcan December 10, 2018, 3:12 pm

    That’s pretty awesome Frugal Trader! Gotta love getting free money for spending money right?

    We don’t exclude ourselves to cash back card only, we utilize travel rewards cards too. Right now for the most part, we use Capital One Travel (2%) and PC Optimum (3%). We only use our SPG card when we book Marriott/SPG properties for vacation.

    We did pretty well in the past year (well 217-2018) and managed to go to Maui for 12 days for free (hotel + airfare) and saved ourselves over $10k! :)
    https://www.tawcan.com/travel-hacking-saved-money/

    • FT December 10, 2018, 4:00 pm

      Hi Tawcan, Wow, my $1500 cash back looks like amateur hour compared to you! Congrats!

  • GYM December 16, 2018, 2:11 pm

    I love PC Financial World Elite as well.

    Do you find an easy way to keep track of your redemptions for the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard? Some places have “how much you have redeemed” records but I can’t find this info on the app or in the credit card online portal.

    I don’t know how much we have redeemed (I know it’s a lot)- I was keeping track but then I stopped writing it down.

    • FT December 16, 2018, 2:31 pm

      Unfortunately there is no easy way to track. The app only goes back 45 days and when I called support , they admitted that they do not have additional visibility. I track my redemptions through the year then add the points balance . I agree , great program.

  • SUSAN January 8, 2019, 5:42 pm

    Did you join the PC Insiders program for $99? I can’t decide if its worth it.

    On a side note, before Christmas at Shoppers check out the guy in front of us was doing all his shopping. It was a Spend $100 – get 20x points day. We only had a few items so weren’t going to qualify but of course we still get some so I had my app all ready. When the cashier asked the guy about Optimum he said he didn’t have one but could he let us swipe our card and get the points. Sure, so we did. Well that got us 66,000 bonus points right there!!!!

    • FT January 9, 2019, 8:58 am

      I saw a deal for the PC Insiders program, but I don’t think that we can fully take advantage of the program. I can see a big benefit for people with kids in diapers or people that book through the PC travel agency.

      Good story about your freebie points and good tip on watching if people scan their optimum points card!

      • susan January 14, 2019, 5:55 pm

        That’s what I was thinking. Thank goodness we are done with diapers. But we are deep in university funding. Wish we could get credit card rewards on those payments LOL.

        As a side note, we went with Scotia Momentum program this past year and earned about $1000 cash back from that. Fees waived for the first year and bonus earning rate for the first few months. Not sure what we’ve done on the Optimum program. We stopped building up a balance when it switched over to the new program since the increased value by tiers was removed. But we will most likely save them up again since it seems they are still going to offer the Spend your Points events. We typically used $170 of points to get $210 worth of items.
        We also collect PetroPoints and I have recently linked my HB Rewards card with that program to apparently earn 20% more points. We will have to watch how that pans out. We usually do about another $100 in PetroPoints cash which is good for gas cards and lottery tickets at Christmas.

        • FT January 15, 2019, 10:24 am

          Sounds like you have your points system figured out! The Scotia Momentum Infinite is a great card, which we would probably be using if it wasn’t for the PC Optimum program.

  • yettie January 14, 2019, 1:08 pm

    That number is close to mine and pretty decent if you ask me. BTW, thanks for cluing me on to the PC Mastercard, I signed up early 2018 based on your recommendations. Prior to that, I was never a fan of Superstore here in Alberta, but the savings were enough for me to overlook my little pet peeves.

    • FT January 15, 2019, 10:24 am

      It really is a great program – and I’m happy to help!

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