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5 Secrets About Credit Cards Your Bank Would Not Tell You

5 Secrets About Credit Cards Your Bank Would Not Tell You

Credit cards be an enigma. Powerful tools if you use them right, but dangerous weapons if you’re not careful. On top of that, every card is loaded with tons of fine print you probably don’t know about (and your banks would rather you not know). Here’s a few secrets about your credit card that your bank won’t tell you.

Annual Fees Are Negotiable

Don’t feel like paying your card’s annual fee? Don’t do it. Call up your provider and ask nicely – and lots of times they’ll waive it. Use this script:

Customer Service [CS]: Hi, this is Mary with MasterCard. How can I help you?

You: Hi Mary, I’ve had this card for a while and I really like it. I’ve been a [Bank Name] customer for the last [number of years]. I’ve spent [$x] on this card and I’d really like to keep using it, but I didn’t realize there would be a fee. Is there anything you can do about that?

CS: Let me check.

A lot of times, they’ll say or act like they can’t do anything about it. This is where most people give up. Not you, stick around and be persistent.

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You: You said you’re not sure if you’re able to get the fee waived?

CS: Yes, that’s correct.

You: Well, can you check?

CS: I’m pretty sure we can’t waive the fee sir / ma’am.

You: Can you check with your manager please?

When the manager comes on, ask again with the first script. Be confident, but polite – they’re not going to want to do favors for jerks. When in doubt, be patient, polite and don’t give up until you get a direct answer from the manager in charge of the card. Often, they like to keep loyal customers and waiving the annual fee to keep one as a customer is a no-brainer. That said, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, so your mileage may vary, but it’s definitely worth trying. If they’re not going to waive the fee, then you can go on to the next tip.

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You Don’t Have To Cancel The Card

If you have an annual fee you don’t want to pay, but also don’t want to cancel the card (and want to keep your credit clean), you don’t have to cancel the card. Ideally, you’ve already had the conversation above. If so, continue on with this script:

You: Hi, well I’d really prefer not to pay an annual fee. Is there another version of this card without the fee?

CS: Oh, yes, there’s the _______ card.

You: Can you please confirm that there’s no annual fee with this card?

CS: Yes.

You: Can we do that?

CS: Sure, we’ll have that card out to you in the next 7-10 days.

You: Thanks for your help [their name].

Voila.

You Don’t Actually Have To Spend Money

If you want to hit the minimums on your card – you don’t have to spend tons of money to hit credit card bonuses for sign-ups and accrue lots of miles or points. The infamous buy $1,000 of coins from the US mint trick sadly no longer works – but there are other options out there. There are other techniques you can use to essentially spend money on your credit cards and accrue points or miles without having to pay tons of cash out of pocket.

The Vanilla Card Churn Strategy

Essentially, you load up vanilla reload cards at $500 each. Each one has a $3.95 sign up fee. You can typically load up to $5,000 on different cards. So basically, you’ve bought 5,000 miles for $39.50. That’s a mileage value of .008/mile – which is pretty darn good considering most miles are valued at about .002 each. You then transfer vanilla card balances to a bluebird debit card and use that money to pay off your credit card balance. There’s more in-depth information on this entire vanilla churn strategy here.

The Paypal Load Strategy

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This is similar to the vanilla, except you can use it in your Paypal account without paying the ridiculous Paypal credit card and international fees. If you have international employees – it’s often cheaper to load up a Paypal reload card and pay your employees with that balance than it is to pay an international + credit card fee if you tried to use your credit card directly on the site. There’s always more of these on the way as well. If you plug into the great community at flytertalk, you can get wind of when these types of opportunities pop up.

You Can Use Your Card To Travel For Free

If you start stacking up enough miles in your various mileage bank accounts, you can start to do pretty neat things as far as travel goes. Sure you can use those points and get cash back, but if you turn them into miles, you can book a RTW ticket like Steve did for just a few hundred bucks (which would normally cost thousands). Miles were also a huge way that Chris Guillebeau traveled to every country in the world.

Some of these trips start at just 140,000 miles – which is essentially 3 large signup bonuses for different cards. Even if traveling to the world’s ends isn’t your thing – you can still get a free flight or two out of strategically using your cards. Not too shabby.

You Can Use The Same Card Twice

If you have a card that gives you good perks, you can sign up for it twice. If you wait 9-18 months, you can re-apply and get the annual fee waived. This is great for mileage-accruing cards that give big signup bonuses. If you cycle the cards every 9-18 months, you can get 25,000-50,000 bonus points from each card (without paying the annual fee). Pretty cool!

Well there you have it – five credit card secrets your bank would rather you not know.

Do you have any secrets that you’ve found work magic with your bank?

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Featured photo credit: Bitzcelt via flickr.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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