One of the things that I instinctively do before paying for anything at the cash register is to mentally go through my active credit cards to think if there is a category bonus for the location I am at.

Today, I want to walk you through my way of thinking and hopefully get you thinking in the same manner.  If you want to be an effective travel hacker, you need to get in the right mindset and carry that mindset with you at all times.

Category Bonuses

The easiest way to earn points faster is by looking into the details of your credit card to determine if there are bonus points available on spend within certain categories.

For example, the American Express Gold Personal Card provides 2x points on gas, grocery, drugstores, and travel purchases (flight, hotels, car rentals, cruises, etc.) and this is the card that I use the most for my category spend.

Currently, the American Express Gold Personal card is offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Membership Reward points (that’s the standard offer) PLUS a  5,000 point bonus for signing up with a supplementary card.  The best part of it is that the supplementary card is free as is the 1st year’s annual fee so essentially you get 30,000 Membership Rewards at no cost.

As another example, the American Express Gold Business card gives you the opportunity to set 3 vendors from their predefined list so that when you spend with that vendor, you receive 2x Membership Reward points.

Many cash back cards provide a category bonus for spend at gas, grocery, and pharmacies so always read the fine print so you know which one of your cards provide the best benefit.

Stacking Bonuses

Here’s where you really start getting into big benefits but you need to be able to think ahead and not make impulse buys.

I’ve been eyeing up the DJI Mavic Pro for a while now and would love to have it to show you guys some amazing vacation footage but I’ve been looking for the best avenue to purchase it.  The Mavic Pro is currently selling in store for $1349.99 plus tax at Best Buy and Apple Stores but it’s also selling online from

Most people that want to buy the drone would simply purchase it at their local BestBuy or Apple Store but not me … no siree Bob.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Go to, find the DJI Mavic Pro and add it to my shopping cart to find out how much the total will be.DJI Mavic Amazon Cart
  2. Go to a PetroCanada and purchase $1,417.49 worth of gift cards.  Amazon gift cards sell in denominations between $25 and $250 so I would buy 5 x $250 and 1 x $167.49 for a total of $1,417.49.
  3. Pay for the gift cards with my American Express Gold Rewards Card
  4. Go to and use the Cash Back link to navigate to  If this part doesn’t make sense, read my How to Use Cash Back Portals post.

So what does this all do?  Well, let’s examine the benefit of using my method.

First off, if we purchase the gift cards at a PetroCanada location, we can earn PetroPoints on the instore purchase.  The official terms and conditions of the PetroPoints program state that you don’t collect points with gift card purchases but I have found that it’s not strictly enforced.  There’s a 90-95% chance that you will be able to collect the points.

You can also now earn MoreRewards points for purchases at PetroCanada locations so let’s collect that bonus as well.

Remember that the American Express Gold Card provides 2x points on purchases at a gas station?  Well, that’s applicable in this case.

We use the cash back portal to get just a little more gravy for our purchase.  Most times, Ebates provides a 1% cash back but there are times when there are special deals during Boxing Day or Black Friday or Thanksgiving or … well, you get the point.  The most I have seen for is an 8% cash back offer.


PetroPoints are earned at 10 points per dollar spent, so we would receive 14,175 PetroPoints

PetroCanada recently partnered with MoreRewards, a loyalty point program with Save-on-Foods whereby you can collect MoreReward Points in addition to PetroPoints.  For purchases at PetroCanada, you receive 1 MoreRewards point per dollar spent, so we would receive 1,418 MoreRewards Points.

Membership Rewards would be earned at 2 points per dollar spent at a gas station, so we would receive 2,835 MRs

When we purchase using the Cash Back Portal, we receive 1% cash back, so for this purchase, we would receive $14.18 in cash.

As you can see, stacking your points collecting can have significant benefit and upside if you do it correctly.


While all these points can seem small on their own, they can quickly add up over time, especially if you change your mindset and plan a little ahead.

I mean, if I asked the question, would you rather receive nothing for your purchase or would you rather get 14,175 PetroPoints AND 1,418 MoreRewards Points AND 2,8535 Membership Rewards Points AND $14.18 in cash, I would hope the answer would be simple.

My hope here is that you can start to see the number of points you might be leaving on the table and take corrective actions so that you can start maximizing your earning potential.

Let me know in the comments if you have any tricks that you have employed to maximize your rewards.


Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.


  1. Fantastic post, need some advice from you. How should I go about maximizing my points? I need to buy a new LG Fridge around $2500, I have Capital One and Amex Gold rewards Card.Thanks

  2. Excellent post!

    How do you maximize points at Costco? I have the AMEX Gold and I do most of my shopping there. Should I just find another card or is there a ninja mindset trick that I’m not seeing?

    • Unfortunately, AMEX is not accepted at Costco at all. The only trick to Costco is that you can still use Visa to purchase things online even though they only accept MasterCard in store. If you had a points earning Visa that you wanted to maximize, you could purchase the item online with a Visa card. If the item is only in store, you could purchase a Costco gift card with your Visa online and then use the gift card to make the purchase in store. Wish I had more but Costco isn’t what it used to be when they accepted AMEX. Cheers


  3. Found in GCR faq:
    “Any part of your purchase that is paid with coupons, gift cards or store credit will not qualify.”
    It looks that you could not have received any cashback from them.
    Do you know if they are the only CB site that has that rule amoung the 3 others you suggest?

    • Hi Rachel,

      All cash back sites have that stipulation. The retailer sets the conditions in which the cash back is paid and they don’t want to pay out if you use a coupon that further cuts into their margin so they state that they won’t pay if you use a coupon that isn’t approved.

      On the plus side, most cash back sites provide coupons that you can use for the retailer and still qualify.



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