Credit cards can do one of two things. They can earn you tons of value through rewards, points, miles, cash and perks. Or, they can burn a hole through your wallet with fees, penalties and sky high interest rates.
Here are 5 habits that will turn your credit cards into money earning power houses.
1. Free Loans
Did you know there are two ways you can get a bank to lend you money for free? A credit card’s grace period essentially lends you money with no interest from the time you make a purchase to 21 days after you receive your credit card statement. That’s free float that can bridge a short term cash flow issue or allow you to earn interest (although not much nowadays) on the banks dime.
Another way to squeeze free money out of a bank is through 0% balance transfer credit cards, cash advances and purchase rate promotional periods. Many credit cards offer 0% promotional rate for limited time periods. Take advantage and you can either transfer high interest debt to 0%, or borrow money for a new purchase completely free for 6-12 months and more sometimes.
2. The Golden Rule
Missing credit card payments can jack your rate, trigger late fees and destroy your credit score. The challenge is, no matter how good our intentions are, many of us get distracted and fail to make our payments on time.
There is a fail-safe way to never be late on a credit card payment again. By scheduling automatic monthly payments to your credit card, you’ll have the choice to pay down your entire balance or your minimum monthly payment by the statement due date. You’ll literally never be late again.
3. Every Dollar Counts
If you’re going to make a purchase you might as well get rewarded for it. Why use cash or debit cards when you get nothing in return. Credit cards are a great way to manufacture significant savings on everyday purchases like gas, grocery, restaurant and pharmacy spend.
Many of the best cash back credit cards now offer opportunities to earn 5% in cash rebates in selected merchant categories. In fact, you can even combine multiple cash back credit cards with bonuses in different categories to maximize your earnings on all your spend.
Whether you’re buying a pack of gum, jeans or booking a cruise, get rewarded for every cent you spend. Not only will you maximize your rewards, you’ll also get the added budgetary benefit of seeing exactly how much you spend and where on your credit card statement.
4. Welcome the Bonus
Yes, earning rewards from your credit card spend is valuable. But credit card issuers give away the most value in their sign-up bonuses to lure new customers. Think about it! Do you want to spend $50,000 to earn 50,000 points, or simply get a new credit card and earn the 50,000 points? Why do you wait 2-3 years for a free trip when you can get it right away?
The lesson is, loyalty doesn’t pay. Too many people stick to the same credit card year after year. Instead you should get a few new cards with significant welcome bonuses each and every year and watch your rewards multiply exponentially – rinse, wash, repeat. When doing so, just make sure to take note of the credit criteria, minimum income and minimum spend required to get approved for the card and receive the bonus.
5. Get Perky
Not only can credit card perks add comfort and luxury to your travels, they can also save you real dollars.
Look for cards that offer perks with real cash value, such as free bags at check-in ($25-$35 in savings per bag), free roadside assistance ($65 value per year), free annual companion ticket ($250+ per year), complimentary travel insurance ($400+ per year), free wi-fi ($10 per day), free lounge access ($40 per visit) and free extended warranty coverage ($100+ per year).
Credit cards do have a dark side. But used properly, as they are by millions of people, they can bring lots of value to your pocket. Instead of running scared, embrace the positive, limit the negative and watch your credit card rewards bank bulge with points, miles and cash to spare.
Featured photo credit: Kaiyan / Flickr via flickr.com