Bilker, who tracks his credit card usage with software such as Quicken and some simple spreadsheets, rotates the cards he actually keeps in his wallet based on which offer the best rewards. His current favorites include the Chase Sapphire (JPM - Get Report), since its rewards points can be redeemed for movie ticket gift certificates, and the Discover (DFS - Get Report) More card, which offers 5% back on gas and allows points to be used directly for Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) purchases. His favorite card of all time
Before using the Sapphire card, Bilker scored even better deals on movie tickets by using his now-discontinued Regal Entertainment Group Theater MasterCard (co-branded by Chase.) "I was getting $300 per month in rewards," he says. "I was someone with three children who didn't have to pay a dime to go to the movies."
Bilker signed up for a Spirit Airlines (SAVE - Get Report) rewards credit card to get discounts on airfare, but found the exercise fruitless. "There were so many conditions [to the rewards program], I couldn't leverage it," he says. Reluctant to close the card and inadvertently lower his credit limit, he switched his account to the no-fee/low rewards card the airline offers. "I never want to close accounts unless they're charging high fees," he says. "You cut out your options [when you close cards] and I want to have as many borrowing options as possible." His biggest score
Bilker was able to leverage a promotion that Citi (C - Get Report) ran a few years ago that entitled cardholders to 10% cash back on home improvement purchases. "The timing was perfect," Bilker recalls, as he was getting ready to spend $10,000 on kitchen cabinets. The promotion effectively saved him $1,000 by giving him that money back to spend on other purchases. "Don't spend money to get rewards," Bilker says. "When I have to use a card [to avoid it being closed for inactivity], I use it on the next thing I was going to buy anyway. Having a credit card doesn't mean you have to spend." >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.