Our idea was borne out of a problem that had no simple solution. There are hundreds of credit cards, but no definitive “best overall card.” This is because credit cards are designed for unique individual spending profiles.

Between understanding one’s own spending history and sifting through credit card marketing jargon like the “rewards point,” it’s not easy to see the true value of any given card. What really matters is the cash value of rewards; however, you’ll often see credit cards marketed around little-used perks and other benefits that can be useful, but aren’t quite as tangible as money in the bank.

A personal problem, turned into a solution

When I first encountered this issue, I was trying to figure out what I was earning with my Amazon credit card. The card is great for many — especially with a 5% Prime member cash back perk — but what I really wanted to know was my effective cash-value return.

Surely, as a Prime member, I’d be earning at least 3-4% on my spending… not quite. Only after spending two hours running through my spending statements, card reviews sites and ultimately the card’s terms and conditions, did I see that my effective cash value return was 1.2% on purchases made.

What did this mean for me? Well, for someone who always pays his card on time, I had no reason not to apply for the Citi Double Cash card which earns 1% back on everything and an additional 1% when you pay on time (2% total). So, I applied and instantly realized an additional 0.8% back off my future purchases.

Seeing the same problem over and over

One month later, I came across another advertisement for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. With a hefty $450 annual fee, there was no way I was going to consider this card… that is until I started digging into the details.

After reading for a bit, I learned that the card also carries a $300 travel credit, and for someone like me that regularly books flights, I knew I would naturally spend $300 over a year. That meant a $450 fee was really only $150 after the credits were accounted for.

Then I got into reviewing the card’s other perks. The Reserve also offers 3% cash back rewards on all travel and restaurant purchases. With an hour more of research, I learned these categories were broader than just flights and sit-down dinners. They also included public transportation, takeout food and most bars – a big plus for me!

Additionally, there was a 1.5x redemption multiplier when redeeming for travel. This meant an effective 4.5% cash value return when redeemed properly. Between all of these earnings categories and redemption options, I had much of my regular everyday spending covered. To justify that $150 price tag, though, I had to make sure…

As I had done a month earlier, I spent another hour reviewing my past credit card statements to see whether or not my regular spending habits aligned well enough to cover the fee plus the cost-benefit of what I earned already with my Citi Double Cash card (are you following?).

It isn’t enough to say 3% (or 4.5%) is better than 2% back. Because of the Reserve’s $150 effective fee, I had to ensure my rewards earnings covered the cost of the fee plus the incremental amount over what I would have otherwise earned with my Citi Double Cash card (2% with no fee). After running the numbers through an Excel spreadsheet, I discovered that it was economically sound for me to pair my Citi Double Cash card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve to optimize the effective return for my spending profile.

Over two months and many hours of investigation, I found out how to increase my effective cash value rewards from 1.2% to between 2-3% (that’s meaningful!). What sat with me though is, “Why did that have to be so difficult?”

CardCruncher was born

Fast forward to today. Our team of experts in the space have spent countless hours designing a tool that takes the entire aforementioned process and automates it into a function taking less than 60 seconds. By means of financial transaction aggregation, we marry our proprietary logic and database of over 100 top credit card rewards programs to surface individuals’ best cash value rewards cards (we call it “Crunch Value).

Try CardCruncher today and see how frictionless finding your next credit card can be.