How to Beat the Credit Card Companies
With credit card debt in America primed to reach $1 trillion this year many money-smart adults are inclined to just stay away from plastic altogether. After all, credit cards just mean fees and high-interest rates that beget debt, right? It’s not exactly that simple. As Len Penzo at Money recently pointed out, there are a number of ways that credit cards can be used wisely. In fact, if you know what you’re doing, you could even beat the credit card companies at their own game. Here are three examples of how you can take advantage of your credit card company (and not feel bad about it):
Wait for a great sign-up bonus There’s a lot of incentive for credit card companies to hook new users. In addition to the fees they collect from merchants when you use your card for transactions, retailers or airlines will likely want to sell you a credit card to improve your brand loyalty. That’s why many of these cards will offer you large bonuses just for signing up. Furthermore those offers can get even sweeter if you play hard-to-get. If you’re considering getting an airline miles credit card or some other rewards-based card it may be worth waiting to see a) what other offers are out there and b) if a card will best themselves with their offers. Whether part of a short-term promotion or just because you’ve been ignoring their mail, there’s always a chance that a 30,000 point bonus suddenly jumps to 50,000 as they try to court you. So have your price in mind and just be sure to check for any annual fees (or what you need to do to get them waived) before finally signing up.
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Take advantage of some of their lesser-known perks Do you have a Visa Signature card? Have you ever used the concierge service that comes with your membership? This is one example of a benefit that many cardholders don’t pay attention to but could actually come in handy. Concierge service can be helpful if you want dining recommendations for a trip you’re embarking on or need a hotel booking in a pinch. Meanwhile some cards may even offer extended warranties or insurance gap coverage free of charge. Knowing about these built-in services can allow you to take full advantage of your credit card regardless of how much you even use it for transactions.
Don’t let them get your interest — pay your full balance While it’s fun to haggle for more points or learn about all of the obscure services your card provides, the best way to beat the card companies is to simply pay your debt back in full each month. That way you can enjoy all of these same benefits but won’t have to pay a cent in interest. Best of all getting into the habit of paying your balance in full each month (just as you would with any other bill) will help you to stay debt free and not contribute to that aforementioned $1 trillion.
At the end of the day credit cards aren’t as bad or scary as they may seem. When used savvily they can provide many benefits — some of which you didn’t even know about it. So remember: you should always own your card, not the other way around.