Credit cards can be a problem. But Cash Cronies understand that those plastic cards are a bit like magic wands. They can help you manifest a bigger savings account. But they must be brandished carefully, and with the right intentions, or they can turn into roaring, money-grabbing monsters.
Warning: I am not a financial advisor. I am a consumer, just like you, who is working to save money, increase wealth, and spend wisely. Your mileage may vary!
Here are a few tips to help you conjure some savings:
Pay attention to rewards and cash back options.
Some credit cards offer a standard cash-back option that rarely changes through the year. Others have special limited-time cash-back incentives on specific purchases, like gasoline, home improvement, or back-to-school supplies. Watch credit card alerts or banners on your credit card’s landing pages and sign up for savings. Bonus tip: Consider signing up for rebate savings memberships which offer members a cash-back percentage. Use your credit card to layer additional cash-back on the same purchase.
Use balance transfers to lower interest rate.
If you are holding a credit card glance with a high interest rate, you might be able to transfer the balance (or part of it) to a credit card offering lower or 0% interest for a specific time period. Typically, you will make payments toward the actual amount plus any transfer fees, paying no interest AS LONG AS you pay off your balance in the specific time frame. Transferring a debt from another credit card to a no-interest credit card can save you a lot of money. However, you must be vigilant and dedicated to paying the amount in full and not continuing to acquire debt on the other card! You don’t want to pile on more problems – instead chip away at that current debt and make more progress by lowering the interest rate. Remember, debt consolidation is a good thing, if you are disciplined enough to stop spending foolishly. Bonus tip: Some cards will take on balances from equity loans or automobile loans. Use this option wisely – you will only save money if you pay the loan off in the specified time period, as credit card interest rates are usually much higher than vehicle or home loans.
Pay off credit cards at the end of every month.
I often use my credit cards to pay monthly expenses, like my cell phone bill, oil delivery, and other expected costs. This trims some of the fat off the bill through the cash-back option. But I pay off the total amount every month, to avoid added interest, which would increase the amount of the bill and really defeat the purpose of using the card in the first place. Bonus tip: Designate one card to use for monthly expenses. Even if you are still paying off credit card debt on other accounts, you can control the money you charge on this one and avoid interest. Focus on debt consolidation if your budget is tight.
Travel with credit cards instead of cash.
Keep the cash out of your wallet during vacations or business trips instead of cash to avoid theft or loss. A lost credit card can be frozen and replaced (and fraudulent charges are most often covered), while cash simply disappears. Let your credit card company know you are traveling so your card isn’t flagged for suspicious activity. You may have a credit card that offers points for travel, or allows you to check bags for free on affiliated airlines.Or your credit card company might offer discounts on rental cars or hotels. If you are not sure, don’t hesitate to call your company’s service number and ask. Bonus tip: Research which card waives foreign transaction fees – this could save you approximately 2% on every transaction.
Budget using credit cards:
We’ve already discussed using one card to pay monthly expenses. But credit cards can also help you track your spending while earning rewards. When you make your monthly payment, take a few extra minutes and go over the purchases you made. See where you are on track with spending – and where you have lost your way. Some credit card companies offer pie charts to help you create debt consolidation and determine your greatest spending area. Are you eating out more than you should? Are utility bills creeping up and sabotaging your budget? The reality is right there in front of you – and you can make changes immediately.