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6 Ways To Squeeze Free Money Out of Your Credit Card

6 Ways To Squeeze Free Money Out of Your Credit Card

It’s not every day your credit card company gives you money for free. But here are 6 bank beating strategies, and the landmines to avoid, that can help you milk your credit card for all it’s worth, on the bank’s dime.

1. 0% Balance Transfers

This strategy can save you thousands! A balance transfer is simply when you transfer high interest balances from one or more credit cards onto another credit card with a lower interest rate.

Banks are hungry for credit card balances, because they earn interest income from them. Many banks offer promotional interest rates of 0% for 12-36 months in the hopes that you’ll either miss a payment and your interest will get jacked to 19.99%, or you’ll keep your balance with them after the promotional period expires and they’ll jump your rates to 19.99% thereafter.

But if you follow the rules of the game, you really will pay 0% interest – a huge savings opportunity. For example, if you have $7,500 in credit card debt at 19.99% interest, a 0% balance transfer will save you more than $1,500 a year in interest costs alone!

Don’t be one of the fools their counting on, and you’ll be laughing your way to borrowing at 0% rates! Just make your payments on time, and find another balance transfer offer before the current one expires, and you’ll never pay interest on your credit cards again – a real bank beating strategy.

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2. 0% Interest Rates on New Purchases

If you know you’re going to make a purchase but you can’t afford to pay for it right away, let the banks front you the cash at 0%. Whether you’re buying a new sofa, dishwasher, floors or even a vacation there are tons of 0% financing offers in the marketplace. In some cases, you may even find offers where you’ll have no interest AND no payments for 12 months or more!

Just remember, the banks are betting on you missing a payment. In many cases if you do, you’ll not only have to pay interest for the payment period you missed, but for all previous payment periods in which you received 0% interest! Our recommendation is to always make your payments via pre-authorized debit, so you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment again.

Make your payments on time, and you’ll be laughing you’re way to free money.

3. Interest Free Grace Periods

Almost all credit cards offer some type of grace period, where you won’t have to pay any interest between the time you use your card and the time you have to pay back the credit card company. It can be a great tool to manage cash flow – especially for the self-employed and entrepreneurs.

In most cases credit card companies will give you a 21 day grace period from the time you receive your credit card statement. In some cases, you may get as long as 55 days (small business cards)!

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That means banks are giving you close to a month or more to pay your bills interest free!

But there’s a catch many people don’t know about. If you’re already carrying a balance, or if you’ve been late during the year, you’ll lose the privilege of your grace period, and you’ll start paying interest on new purchases the minute you make them.

4. Juicy Welcome Bonuses

Banks are competing hard for your business – especially if you have good credit and spend a fair bit on your credit card.

In fact they’re competing so hard, their willing to pay you to try their credit card, in some cases as much as a free round trip flight to Europe!

With credit card welcome bonuses as high as 100,000 miles, you can really milk the insatiable appetites and deep pockets of the banks. Think about it, just for signing-up for a credit card, you can fly from New York to L.A. absolutely free. Name another product that offers an incentive as big – you can’t.

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In fact, it’s such an effective strategy, you can apply, collect, and redeem on multiple different cards throughout the year. Just rinse, wash, repeat your way to free goodies and travel over, and over again on the bank’s dime.

5. Annual Fee Waivers

Despite offering hefty welcome bonuses, some banks will waive the first year annual fee as well – all in the hopes of removing every hurdle you may have to trying out their card. That’s a value of $120 to $150.

Think about it, you’ll get a free flight or hotel room for signing-up for the card, without having to make any commitment to the bank, at all. It’s house money.

Not only that, for an entire year you’ll get things like free lounge access, car rental and trip cancellation insurance, foreign exchange with no fees, and of course rewards on all of your credit card spend  absolutely free!

The bank is totally trying to buy your loyalty, so what of it? Be a free agent and take advantage of as many first year free credit card offers as you can – it will cost you nothing. Just make sure you have the credit to do it.

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6. Reward Stacking

Banks are willing to pay you to make purchases with their credit card. Whether, you’re getting cash back, air miles, or points, if you don’t carry a balance month to month, there is no excuse not to take advantage of free rewards.

On average, credit cards offer 1%-2% in rewards for each dollar you spend on your credit card. However, in some cases, you can hack your way to 5% cash back by combining different cash back categories from multiple cards in categories such as gas, grocery, restaurants, pharmacy and even with individual retailers such as Amazon. Why pay with cash or debit when the banks are willing to literally hand over money to you, just for your presumed loyalty?

Just make sure you don’t get in the habit of spending more, just to get rewards. Also, if you do carry a credit card balance from time to time, you’re far better off with a low interest rate credit card, than a rewards card – always.

So that’s it folks. The banks are beating at the door to get inside your wallet. They may have laid a few land mines in the fine print, but follow the right path and the prize is yours!

Featured photo credit: Credit-Cards / CC0 Public Domain via pixabay.com

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Marc Felgar

Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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