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credit cards for cars
saving for my next car through everyday spending
by jeffrey d. walker

First Off, since this is an article about credit cards, let me just say a word about credit. Though credit cards can lead to trouble, they are not necessarily bad things. Used improperly, say, as in funding your entire social events calendar during grad school, and you may have haunting debt for years to come. Which sucks, even if you don’t regret it.

But used wisely, as in buying groceries other items you have already budgeted for and paying the balance off each month to avoid interest, and you can take advantage of rewards and other features for little cost or effort. Plus, you’ll have a credit “cushion” that can be tapped in case of emergencies, like, when you need a new water heater, and not like, when you need a Harvey Wallbanger for everyone at the bar.

And So, having given the credit disclaimer, let’s get to the car-by-credit card quest. Since getting married, “my car” became “our car.” There was a brief period, when I had to commute an hour to work each way, that we were a two car family so my wife wasn't stranded; but the car we got my wife was a clunker, and we got rid of it as soon as I was working closer to home.

I do still sort of miss having “my” car, though. Not that our current little Hyundai wagon with the child seat base in the rear isn’t awesome; but still, more than ever before, with that seat base in the back and my wife’s personal effects in there, I know that it’s not “my” car.

So I decided I want my own car again, at least some day. I know I’ll have to pay off the one we have now first, which will happen about the time our son starts kindergarten. And the way I figure it, seeing how much my nieces and nephew needs to get places, then I’m sure that as our son ages, I’ll totally need a vehicle at some point anyway. So I figure it’s totally justified.

Even if it’s not justified, I still want my own car again. Call it what you will.

Of Course, actually saving for my own car is another thing. For one: childcare expenses! Those alone will prevent me from saving for… virtually anything until he starts public school. What to do?

Luckily, I remembered seeing advertisements for a “GM Mastercard” back when I used to have television, and that you could earn points towards the purchase of a new car just by spending regularly with it. I wanted to know: (1) Does such a card still exist?; and (2) Are there were similar options by other car companies?

I found one article on the subject from Edmunds.com, but unfortunately, a lot of the material was outdated, and some of the cards no longer existed (See link to original Edmunds.com article by clicking [ here ]). But giving that article credit for getting me started, I’ll now present to you the car credit card offers I was able to track down.

First The Bad News: Number 6, 8 and 9 on the Edmunds list no longer exist (the Chrysler Visa, and Audi and Volkswagon cards). There is a new Chrysler option recently unveiled, as discussed below, but I couldn’t find any replacement for the other two. Sorry.

Also, if you want card rewards to help purchase an Acura, Ford/Lincoln, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Kia, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lotus, Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki, or Volvo, you will be disappointed. I found nothing for any of these makers.

Although I found a Hyundai Mastercard, which does offer a major cashback bonus for charges made at a Hyundai dealership, it does not indicate use for discounts on vehicle purchases or leases. So, a second little Hyundai out front seems out of the question. Also, I did find a Saab card, but it is only apparently available in Singapore.

There is a Ferarri Club of America Rewards Visa and a Porsche Club of America Visa Platinum Rewards Card, but neither appear seem to aid one in saving for a Ferarri or Porsche, unfortunately.

And so, Without further ado, the choices you have are as follows:

BMW: #10 on Edmunds list seems the same. Redeem your points for up to $5,000 back on a BMWFinancial Services lease or loan, or other benefits.

General motors, including Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC, offers 4 different cards through HSBC bank to help you save for your next car. The GM cards offer some of the most generous rewards packages; however, some of the rewards are capped by redemption allowances on certain models. Your milage may vary.

Although the Chrysler Visa (#6 in the Edmunds report) no longer exists, Chrysler / Dodge / Fiat recently unveiled their Chrysler Mastercard, which has similar features to the former card.

The Lexus Pursuits Visa (#5 in the Edmunds report) seems to be about as it was reported then, as is the card for Mini (#7 in Edmunds) and my personal choice for its many AWD options, Subaru (#4 in Edmunds).

Lastly, I found a card sponsored by Toyota. However, they actually are one of the only sites that features a calculator to figure out their rewards (see here), and I was sad that $10,000 in regular charges only accumulated to $100 worth of value. I'm not good at math, and will be sad if my Subaru card accumulates benefits that slowly. But if so, I'll complain about it here first.

But if all goes well, I'll be AWD cruising 4 years from now. Hopefully with a stick shift.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

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adam kraemer
9.14.11 @ 9:55a

Question: without doing any research at all, are these for leases or purchases? Because I know some of those cars will last nearly forever, but not if you have to return them in a set time frame. Just curious.

jeffrey walker
9.14.11 @ 10:30a

I know for a fact that the BMW, Subaru, and at least some of the GM are for leases; I'd have to look again for the others. The lease is actually my plan: in 4 years at the $500 Subaru card cap, I'd have $2000 in credit, which is just about the up-front payment on a lease. That was easy!

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