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6 Ways To Hack Your Way To More Credit Card Rewards

6 Ways To Hack Your Way To More Credit Card Rewards

Consumers are obsessed with rewards. We crave them, want them, love them. We obsess over how to burn, churn, trade, convert, and optimize them. We get a rush of adrenaline when we collect them, satisfaction when we redeem them.

Banks are competing hard for your wallet, and we have a few tips on how to exploit their appetite for growth so you can fly free, sleep free, float free, drive free, and more.

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1. Get A New Card

Loyalty doesn’t pay in credit cards. Just like wireless and cable, you’ll get the most value from your credit card when you switch providers and get a new card.

Want proof? With your current card, it might take you 2 years and $25,000 of spending to earn 25,000 miles. Get a new credit card and you could get a 25,000- to 60,000-mile sign-up bonus in as little as 3 months, requiring only $500 to meet the minimum spending requirement.

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2. Try Before You Buy

Before you buy a new car, you take it for a test drive, right? Same with a pair of shoes? Of course. That’s why you should only get a new rewards credit card with an issuer that doesn’t charge an annual fee in the first year. This will give you the chance to try out their product and make sure you’re happy with things like their customer service, ease of rewards redemption, online billing and payments, credit line, etc. It makes trying risk-free, and puts the onus of performance on the issuer, not you.

3. Wait For The Big Promotion

Issuers have special welcome bonus promotions all the time. Quite often, they don’t make them available on their website or to the general public. Search through credit card comparison sites, travel reward blogs, and Google search to see if they’re advertising any limited-time offer welcome bonuses, the wait will be worth it.

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4. Know Your Categories

Many rewards credit cards offer bonus points when you use your card at the gas pump or grocery store. There’s a way for you to hack bonus points in even more merchant categories. Simply use your credit card at the grocery store to buy a gift card to your favourite merchant (Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple, Home Depot, etc.). You’ll get your bonus rewards or cash back because you made your purchase at the grocery store, and then you’ll be able to use your gift card at your favorite store.

5. Stack Your Credit Cards

Maximize your rewards by using multiple credit cards with different bonus categories, so that you get a bonus on all your spending.

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For example, you can use one card to get 5% cash back on gas and groceries, another to get 3% back at restaurants, another to get 3% at the pharmacy, and yet another card to get 2% cash back everywhere else.

6. Know The Rules Of The Game

Credit card companies are a little like casinos. They offer you all the promise in the world, but they lay a few land mines in the way to stack the deck in their favour. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Rotating Categories: Some cards change their categories month to month or quarter to quarter. To get any real value from the card, you have to be willing to stay on top of the rotations and re-select your categories frequently.
  • Earning Caps: Make sure you know if there are any caps on rewards earnings. If there are, it makes no sense to spend beyond the cap, because you’ll either earn less or no rewards from the additional spending.
  • Rule Changes: Credit card terms and conditions change all the time — most cards have an obligation to notify you of any changes. Read your mail, or you might miss the memo.
  • Penalties: Know where the land mines are laid. Do you you lose your points if you cancel your card or miss any payments?
  • Expiration: This can be a killer. Know if your points have an expiry date or if they expire upon cancellation of your card.
  • Carrying a Balance: If you carry a balance, your interest payments will wipe out any value you get from your rewards.
  • You’re late: Being late wipes out any value created from your rewards. You’ll be charged a late fee, your interest rate will skyrocket, and you’ll lose the privilege of your grace period.

Featured photo credit: money-256314_960_720 / jarmoluk 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 June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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