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10 Credit Card Hacks to Help You Get Through The Holidays

10 Credit Card Hacks to Help You Get Through The Holidays

Whether preparing for Turkeys, Santa or a New Year’s Parade, the most expensive time of year is upon us. From gifts to travel, budgets will be stressed, stretched and busted. Here are 10 credit card hacks on how credit cards can really help you spend smarter, save more and travel cheaper during the next few months.

1. Price Protection

Ever feel like you got the short end of the stick because an item went on sale days after you paid full price? Never worry again. Your credit card can protect you! Some cards offer free price protection, where if you make a purchase with your card and find the same product advertised at a lower price within 60 days after purchase, the difference will be refunded, up to $500, subject to a calendar year maximum of $1,000 per account.

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2. Purchase Assurance

Nothing’s worse than buying those new sunglasses, only to have them sink to the ocean floor days after you bought them. Purchase assurance covers most items purchased with your credit card for the first 90 days from the date of purchase, and it comes as a free benefit with many credit cards. It can be a great way to protect your investment from theft, damage and in some cases even loss!

3. Extended Warranty

Never, ever fall for a pushy salesman upselling you an extended manufacturers warranty again. Aside from the fact that they tend to be dramatically overpriced, your credit card likely already does it for you, automatically and completely free. Most credit cards offer an extended warranty that doubles the written warranties for up to one additional year on most new purchases made with your credit card.

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4. Satisfaction Guarantee

Ever buy a product, use it, and then have buyer’s remorse. Sometimes, it’s too late. However, with some credit cards, if you become dissatisfied with a product you purchase using an eligible MasterCard within 60 days of purchase, and the store won’t accept a return, you could be eligible for a FULL refund for the cost of the product up to $250 ‒ that’s awesome.

5. Zero Liability

If you’re about to make a purchase where you don’t see the product, it has a wait time or relies on delivery, such as an online order, furniture or travel, use a credit card. If you pay cash or use a gift card, you run the risk that if the product never arrives, or your tour company goes under, you’re out of luck. However, if you use your credit card, your bank is on the hook for a dispute and fraudulent charges like undelivered goods, delivery of incorrect merchandise, etc…

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6. Introductory Rates

If you need to carry a credit card balance for the next few months, plan in advance. Instead of paying 20% plus interest rates, get yourself a credit card with a 0% balance transfer or 0% introductory rate on new purchases. This will allow you to avoid interest charges, often times for up to a year or more, while you pay down your balance.

7. Retail Credit Card Promos

Retailers like the Gap, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s love when you sign-up for their store credit card, often offering an additional discount on your purchase. These discounts of 15% or more can really add up. Just make sure to use the opportunity for savings not credit, and pay back the balance immediately ‒ retail cards charge interest rates north of 28%!

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8. Welcome Bonuses

Instead of paying for a flight for your holiday travels, why not just apply for a new credit card? There are many opportunities from American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, or United to get great credit card welcome bonuses. If you want to get two tickets for the same airline (for you and a special someone), match one of the U.S. airline credit cards above with another credit card that allows you to transfer miles to that airline.

For example, some of the best Aeroplan credit card offers give you enough points for a free return flight to anywhere in continental North America, and allow you to book on United. Apply for a United and an Aeroplan credit card, and you can get two free round-trip tickets on the same flight!

9. Companion Vouchers

Some credit cards, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa card, offer an annual companion voucher, each and every year. For a mere $121, you can buy a voucher for a travelling companion to any destination in North America Alaska Airlines flies, including Hawaii!

10. Cash Back

The average person spent over $800 on gifts during the holiday season alone last year! If you’re going to spend the money, you might as well get rewarded for it. Cash and debit cards get you little if any rewards at all. A cash back credit card can get you 1% to 5% in cash back depending on where you shop. You’ll likely spend more on big ticket items during the holidays than at any other time of year. Get rewarded for it.

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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 March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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