Debit Rewards Programs

While I’m a big proponent of using cash as much as you possibly can, if you’re going to use a debit card for online purchases, to pay bills or to buy gas, you might as well earn rewards, right? Lori has some helpful information in her post below on how to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to debit card rewards programs. As always, though, remember that you’re not saving money if you spend extra just to get the rewards! -Crystal

Guest Post by Lori at Moms by Heart.

Looking for another way to stretch your dollars? Put your checking account to work for you! Here are a few banks that offer special rewards programs for debit cardholders. Each program is different, so be sure to factor in fees, minimum balance requirements (where applicable) along with ATM locations if this will be a primary account for you. Stop over here for a printable spreadsheet summary.

Chase — Ultimate Rewards Debit Card

How It Works:
Earn 4 points for every $5 in signature purchases (aka: non-PIN purchases). 2,500 points = $25 gift card to various retailers like: Amazon, Bath & Body Works, Kohl’s and more. Check them out here.

What You Need:
Chase Ultimate Rewards Checking Account — details here.

What’s It Worth To Me: $75 per year
If I spend $1,000 a month in signature purchases, I’ll earn 800 points per month or 9,600 per year. That’s nearly enough for $100 in free gift cards. Since there is a $25 annual fee, my net will be $75 per year. Doing my online shopping through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall will earn me up to 10 bonus points per dollar spent. Cha-ching.

Other Chase Rewards Programs:
::Chase Debit with FREE rewards (no annual fee, but only 1 point per $5 spent)
::Continental Airlines Debit
::United Mileage Plus Debit

Wells Fargo — Check Card Rewards

How It Works:
Earn 1 point for every $4 in Signature purchases. 650 points equals $5 account credit or $5 gift card to various retailers including Amazon. Earn up to 16 points per dollar for shopping at the Wells Fargo Earn More Mall.

What You Need:
Wells Fargo Checking Account and Check Card. Looks like fees may vary by state. In Texas, they offer a free checking with no minimum balance and no monthly fees.

What It’s Worth To Me: $18 per year
If I spend $1,000 a month in signature purchases, I’ll earn 250 points per month or 3,000 points per year. $25 cash or $25 gift cards run 2,500 points. So, the approximate yearly value is around $30. Since there is a $12 annual fee, my net will be $18 per year.

Bank of America — Keep the Change

How It Works:
Your debit card purchases are rounded up to the next dollar amount and the difference is deposited into your savings. The best part? They match your savings 100% for the first three months, and 5% for the next nine months (maximum of $250 per year).

What You Need:
::Bank of America checking account with debit card — details here.
::Bank of America savings account — details here.

What’s It Worth To Me: $69 per year for the first year, $12 per year thereafter
This will vary. Check out this page to input your info. I assumed 40 debits per month of $50 each ($1,000) with average “change” of $0.50. That gave me $69 per year in bank savings matches. Since Bank of America matches your savings 100% for the first three months, this amount is not typical. No annual fee.

Other Bank of America Rewards Programs:
::US Airways Debit
::Nascar Racepoints Debit

Citi — Thank You Rewards

How It Works:
Earn 1 point for every $2 qualifying signature purchases and 1 point for every $3 PIN purchases. You’ll also earn bonus points based on the type of checking account you have along with other Citi services you’re enrolled in. 8,000 points = $50 cash or $50 Citi Gift Card.

What You Need:
::Citibank Checking Account — There are no monthly fees as long as you keep an average balance of $1,500 (EZ account). Details here.

What It’s Worth To Me: $37.50 per year
If I spend $1,000 a month in signature purchases, I’ll earn 500 points. In one year, that adds up to 6,000 points. There are various $25 gift cards available for 4,000 points, so the approximate value is  $37.50. There are no annual fees. However, the deal is killed by the possibility of monthly fees if I go below $1,500 average balance.

Stack Your Savings

Once you’ve selected the best program for you, you can stack your savings by:

  • Linking your debit card to other rewards programs like the Target Red Check Card, Upromise, gas or grocery rewards programs
  • Using your debit card to make online purchases through cash-back sites like ShopAtHome and Ebates.
  • Purchasing rebate items!

Lori is a nurse and mom to five who shares all her frugal finds over at Moms by Heart!

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Comments

  1. says

    We earn about $200 a year in gift cards on our personal credit card rewards and we can earn $500 or so in years when we print our books. If you have a business it’s a great way to get free gift cards!

  2. says

    PNC offers points for every purchase made with debit card. This past week we just earned $10 gas card. This is our 2nd gas card earned this year so far! The program is free.

  3. Rae says

    For anybody qualified to have it, USAA does rewards on their debit cards plus they do not have any sort of annual fees. And you get your checks free, etc.

    • Erin says

      @Rae,

      Yeah, I love USAA reward program. We usually get the “cash” instead of the giftcards – an average of $200/yr. :)

      • Rae says

        @Erin, I love that rewards from the debit card (when used as credit) and from the credit card go together. I actually use the credit card a lot more (higher rewards and more protection) and just pay it off right away. We usually save the points until there is enough to almost pay for us to fly home to visit family (every couple of years).

    • Wendy says

      @Rae, We also have USAA and love the $$ we get back. I very rarely carry cash so we get quite a bit back in rewards. I also like that we get ATM fees back….with a teen I very rarely have money in hand!

    • Kathryn Kinsey says

      WOW!!! I just found $350!!! I knew USAA had Rewards on the credit card, but I didn’t know I had rewards on the debit card also. I had 36,000 points accrued, since I’ve had their debit card forever. Thanks so much for pointing this out!! You all ( and Crystal) are the best!

  4. Melissa says

    One thing about using debit cards online is that if you have a problem, you might not be able to get the money back. With a credit card you can at least try to fight it if you have a problem with the merchant. I knew someone who lost $300 in a debit card transaction online. Although the vast majority of times I’ve shopped online have been fine, there was one time where the company had already charged me and never shipped the merchandise. Fortunately they did refund my money so it wasn’t really a problem, just frustrating. That can happen sometimes if you use a lesser known website.

    • Jenny says

      @Melissa,

      Melissa is totally right.. you can only be held liable for $50 total for fradulent use of a credit card. Debit cards is also $50 but thats ONLY if you notify your bank within 48 hours of the fradulent transaction. If you take more than 60 days to report it , you can be held 100% liable. Now, you’ll probably get your money back..eventually(it can take weeks for banks to conduct their internal investigations)- but in the meantime if you have no other money for your day-to-day life you could be in real trouble!

      • Amber says

        @Jenny, Hmm, we had fraudulent activity on our debit card to the tone of $3200 (yup, scary!) and we had ZERO trouble getting it all back within one day.

  5. says

    The problem with BOA Keep the Change program is that they charge you a monthly charge of $5. So, I did it for a yr…I saved about $350 total, they matched the first 60 days which was about $60 or so, but I lost all of that by the monthly $5 service charges.

    • Lisa S says

      @Leslie, Plus if you transfer money too many times from your savings they will ding you more. You need to definitely read the fine print and see if it works for your family because it didn’t work for us either, we ended up paying them more than saving.

  6. mel says

    SunTrust bank has a great rewards program on their debit cards. We’ve earned tons of great gift card rewards over the years. AND there’s no fee for the checking account or the rewards program. Gotta love that!

  7. VirgiLia says

    As said before, PNC does have their own rewards plan. I have a free checking account and everytime I pay a bill I get a certain amount of points and when I make purchases I think it works out to 1 point per dollar. Of course, the points value is probably much lower than the ones where it is 1 point per 2 dollars. But all that aside, My husband cashed in his points for a few hundred dollars in Home Depot gift cards and I used mine a few months ago for pet food. They seem to have a nice variety of things to choose from.

  8. says

    Why not use a cash back credit card? As long as you pay it in full each month, it will work in almost the exact same fashion. I have one that pays 5% for gas purchases, and just over 1% for everything else, and I typically spend about the same as your examples ($1000/mo.), which gives me $20+ dollars directly credited to my bill each month. So, for the same purchases as your examples, I earn at least $240 each year, AND don’t have any kind of annual fee.

    • Julie says

      I agree. We use Discover and put everything on the card we can, even our utility bills. We put $1000-$2000 a month on the card. Cashback runs from .5% to 1% depending on how much you have put on the card throughout your yearly cycle. Then, each season there are several categories that can get 5% (e.g. gas, grocery, hotels, etc). We once booked a trip to Europe and got $95 back in Cashback Bonus $. We like to save our Cashback bonuses up for a few years and purchase something special (e.g. new camara, new mattress, etc). It works great for us.

  9. Brooke says

    We always use our Wells Fargo debit cards as credit. Last time I cashed in my points I got a $25 CVS giftcard. Between that and ECB- I didn’t pay for anything at CVS for a really long time.

  10. Jess says

    Using a debit card is the same thing as using cash. Unless your bank charges you for using it-which we haven’t ever had with the 4 banks we have used (due to moving)-if the money isn’t there then it won’t go thru….

  11. says

    I agree with the people advocating the use of credit cards rather than debit cards. We currently use our Fidelity Amex for everything from groceries, gas, and other household goods, to utilities and rent. We earn 2% cash back on all purchases – about $50 every month or two in rewards because everything, and I mean everything goes on the card. It has no annual fee, and we pay it in full every month so there is no interest.

    Also, if your card gets stolen and there are unauthorized charges placed on it, the credit card issuer will refund your money before you even have to pay for it. On a debit card, it gets taken right out of your bank account, so the money is already gone.

  12. Tracy says

    We already use the Citibank rewards card for internet transactions and travel-based expenses (my spouse does travel for work). When buying a new-to-us car last year, we used our citibank card to purchase it and then paid off the car via electronic bill pay the new day.

    Our little money swap around netted us a ton of points that we used for gift cards for holidays. We also each got to pick out a book as a treat.

  13. says

    I have had good results with using the Wells Fargo debit card and credit card in conjunction with one another–even though the reward points aren’t terribly high. I also like the convenience of it as everything is linked together when I log into my online account.

    For all of those people who do not use credit cards under any circumstance, what really is so wrong with running a purchase you have the cash for through your credit card and paying it off right away? I have successfully done this with school tuition, school text books and furniture purchases and have at least gotten a little back on my money, not to mention making it a little easier if I needed to make a return. Just my 2 cents!

    I think the bigger ethical issue, ultimately, is that retailers end up paying for us all to use these cards which make the credit card companies terribly wealthy–and consumers a disinterested party.

  14. jennifer says

    I prefer my cash back credit card, paid in full at the end of each month. 2% return on everything, no limit.

  15. says

    I love the Bank of American “Keep the Change”. The first 3 months when they match 100% when every we went out to eat, or we pumped our gas, I would always make sure the total ended in .01. This way, I would be putting .99 in my savings account and they would match that .99.

    They matched over $100 for me in just 3 months. It’s a great way to add money to your savings account without it hurting your pocket book. Having been enrolled in the program for awhile now, we are now at over $850 in our savings account just from our contributions and their matches.

  16. Danielle says

    We do this with our Navy Fed credit card and pay it in full each month. We cash out for Visa giftcards!

  17. says

    We bank at PNC (which is regional out of Pittsburgh), and we get debit card points too. It’s a slightly smaller amount than they offer for their credit card users, but we’re happy about it! We love that we can use our debit card for gas purchases (we prefer to pay at the pump) and still earn points!

  18. says

    Hi,
    Is there anywhere on Money Saving Mom that I can go to get further information regarding the “safety” of using a debit card for online purchases?
    Thanks!

  19. kym says

    Yep, PNC is a good one. We get $25 gift card everyother month to Applebees and other resturants like it!

  20. Michelle says

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a credit card that has a great airline point or mileage plan? My sister and brother-in-law are moving overseas and we want to be able to earn some points or mileage, but don’t know where to start. Any suggestions are appreciated!
    Thank you!

  21. ashley says

    We have the Wells Fargo points debit card. We pay $12 a year but it is worth it. We have redeemed our points for $10 and $25 gift cards, $100 cash, and even an ipod speaker system! We use our dc for most of our purchases, so we rack up the points quickly. I also have a Disney Chase credit card(paid balance in full every month). We are saving up for a big trip to Disney World in a few years, but I did recently redeem some points for gifts from the Disney Store. In the past, We had a Sony credit card and we bought a dvd player (8 years old and still working great!).

  22. says

    I believe the Target Red Check Card directly debits your checking account, so you can’t “double dip” with your rewards card purchases.

    I could be mistaken, but it might be worth it to double-check how that one is set up.

    At the same time, Target will begin offering an extra 5% off your entire purchase in the fall (for EVERY purchase!) when you use any one of their Red Cards, including the Check Card, so that may be worth it on its own!!!

  23. says

    We use a Chase Rewards credit card (pay it off and keep track of purchases through Mint.com). They just send you a check, so we probably “make” 300-350 bucks a year. It’s a great way to PAINLESSLY “save up” for Christmas all year!

  24. Jan says

    My Amazon Visa has paid for Christmas more times than I can count. I never carry a balance, and keep budgets to make sure I don’t overspend (I’m pretty cheap anyhow, so not a big concern). With some smaller merchants, I’ve gotten a bit of a discount if for paying cash/check instead of using a credit card, because it saves them the credit card fee.

  25. chris says

    The joint checking account that DH and I use for most of our purchases give us 4% interest (on up to $25,000 if we have an e-statement, at least one direct deposit per cycle, and 10 debit transactions per cycle–can be either PIN based or credit card type of transactions.) The interest goes down to about 1% if you haven’t meet all the criteria

    Anyway we can make close to $1000 per year of actual cash (because we tend to keep at least $25,000 in the account) without any crummy fees and there are no min. balances.

    I frankly think it a system that encourages you to have money in the bank and not spend it like the reward programs. Sure we have to have some debit transactions, but the bank doesn’t care if they are for $5 or $500

    • says

      @chris, My husand and I have a checking accout like that too… last year we earned $1800.00 in just interest… now that is real money!!!

      We also use a credit card for every purchase and redeem points back from it. I just love being able to by our kids birthdays gifts, back to school clothes and Christmas gifts for FREE… got to love FREE money!!!

  26. Sara says

    Wachovia (soon to be Wells Fargo) has a Way2Save savings account for free. It transfers $1 from your checking account into this account every time you use your debit card. The nice thing is that the interest rate is 5% with a bonus 5% added at the end of the year. You can withdraw any or all your money, but the catch is you can only deposit up to $100 a month besides the $1 transfers.
    Basically we are slowly transferring some of our savings into this account instead of putting all of it in the regular savings account that has a very low interest rate. All of those CVS transactions each week help!

  27. Barb says

    We have Chase Rewards and have cashed them out for non-tax deductible items….Old Navy, Home Depot, Jiffy Lube. We also have an MNBA card through Fidelity 529 and we are grandfathered in at 2% of purchases go into education account.

  28. Misty says

    First Citizens has a program called “Bonus Savings” (I think that is the name.) The way that it works is you use your Visa Check Card as credit for 10 transactions, no matter the amount, as soon as your next statement date starts. So for example if your statements end date is July 15th, you use your card as credit for any amount those first 10 times, starting the 16th, then any transaction after those amounting 25.00 or more, the bank takes 1.00 of their money and puts it in your Bonus Savings account. I normally break up my order at self checkout into 10 transactions to get through those first 10. Then I pay my bills online and make sure I do it in 25.00 increments. It is the same as cash simply because it comes directly from your checking account. You really do start to collect the dollars! The best part is the bank is using there money not yours! Hope this helps.

  29. Kt says

    I have Citizens Bank greensense debit card. It gives me 10 cents everytime I make a purchase with my debit card. I also have the greensense credit card which gives me 30 cents per purchase. I earn about $12-$15 a month. No too shabbie!

  30. lu says

    I agree its better to use cash. You spend less and don’t get hit with late fees. YOu don’t know how many times I have forgot to pay and they hit me with 39.00 fees! And banks used to take them off if you complained but not much any more due to the current economic situationa and all the money they lost from foreclosures. Does anyone else agree with me?

  31. says

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but Red Canoe Credit Union (in Washington–not sure if it’s anywhere else) has a great program called Simply Smart Checking. You earn a certain percentage back (I think it’s 1%) of your balance as long as your account balance stays above $250. They cut you a check every October with your Simply Smart Rewards. Oh, and this is on TOP of your interest. I really like it, especially since it encourages saving money in your checking account–the more you have in your account, the more you earn.

  32. Gina says

    My bank is a local bank to my state. They use the Visa Rewards program on their debit cards – no charge to the members. I pay *all* my bills with my debit card, buy groceries, put gas in the van – everything I can do with that debit card, I do. I get 2 points per $1 for qualifying signature purchases. The only things not “qualifying” are things that can easily be converted to cash (travelers checks, etc), ATM withdrawals and PIN purchases. I currently have over 50,000 points on my card and my husband has more on his. We’ll be redeeming them to pay for Christmas!

  33. Rebecca says

    Capital One is great for rewards! It’s a free account with no balance requirements. No yearly fee. Everytime you transfer money from one account to another, use your card as a debit or as credit you get reward points, every check you write, every bill you pay , even atm withdrawls. (with up to so many times a months for bill pay rewards) You can also combine your checking account rewards with the no hassel rewards credit card.( More bang for your buck). I have made more money on the rewards then I was getting in intrest!