Depositing stimulus debit card money & paying expenses on rewards card

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  • Like many other Americans, my family has received several hundred dollars thanks to the CARES Act stimulus plan.
  • Since we’re spending most of our time at home, we’re mostly shopping online using a credit card. And with the bonus cash from the stimulus check, we decided to use a single credit card even more.
  • By putting every penny from the stimulus check in the bank and putting all our purchases on a single credit card, my family has been able to reap thousands of Citi Thank You points that are then as good as cash on Amazon.
  • We’ve used Citi points to save as much as $80 on Amazon purchases we’d be making anyway.
  • See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards »

With the effective quarantine imposed by COVID-19, like so many households, our spending went largely online in the spring of 2020 — save for occasional masked trips out for groceries. This meant even more money would be charged to our credit card.

But these higher bills were welcome, especially once we calculated how much cash we’d be getting from the CARES Act. We received a prepaid stimulus debit card, and we’ve found a way to maximize these funds while also earning credit card rewards that save us money on Amazon purchases.

Here’s how it works.

We’re using one card to earn Citi points

My wife and I have always been good about paying off credit card bills in full. Even in the early days of our marriage nearly 15 years ago, we never spent more than we could afford to pay and never carried any credit card debt. (This was thanks largely to her fiscal responsibility, a skill I learned slowly over the years.)

We use the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for the bulk of our spending, so every dollar spent on the card results in a ThankYou point we can redeem later. (Note that the ThankYou Preferred card is no longer available to new applicants; it’s been replaced by the Citi Rewards+ Card.)

In the past, we’ve turned Citi points into a magazine subscription, an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico, gift cards, and more.

Now we turn each and every one of our ThankYou points into one thing: cash to be used on Amazon.

Our stimulus debit card funds go toward our credit card bill

For about two weeks, every few days I would mask up and make the trip to a nearby Rite Aid where there was an ATM. I withdrew funds from our CARES account, then I’d deposit this cash directly into our checking account via a bank about 500 yards down the road.

Arguably, this was two added steps, as I could have used the card as a debit card or used the cash after withdrawing it. But by putting all of our stimulus money into the bank and putting all of our payments on the same credit card, it ensured that we were leveraging the cash in the absolute most productive way possible — actually turning it into even more funds that we could use to pay off our credit card bill, while earning points in the process.

The approach required occasional brand switching and some added trips from ATM to ATM, but it has also effectively increased the amount of stimulus money we were able to use. 

We redeem the points we earn from our Citi card to buy the things we were already going to purchase anyway, like cat litter, lentils, or books — all from Amazon, for the time being.

How to use Citi points toward Amazon purchases

If you’re interested in trying out this point-maximizing strategy yourself, all you need to do is add an eligible Citi credit card to your Amazon payment options. You will be automatically enrolled to “Shop with Points” and whenever points are available, that option will appear at checkout.

I regularly shave $10 or $15 off our total purchase price, but have even had $70 or $80 shopping carts zeroed out a few times, with a few ThankYou points left to spare.

Used responsibly, credit cards are a great convenience; used cleverly, they can be a route to extra savings, especially when you are paying your bill for the month with money you never would have expected in pre-pandemic days.

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