Inside: Are you looking to maximize your rewards and credit card hacks? This guide will teach you the most effective methods for using your hacking, signing up for bonus rewards, and making efficient card purchases.
Credit card use extends beyond just making purchases. Savvy credit card users understand that with the right set of hacks and optimal usage, there’s a world of rewards that are ripe for the picking.
Money saved can be money earned, and this simple philosophy forms the cornerstone of these 25 credit card hacks you’ll be learning about today.
Why do credit card hacks matter? Well, I just received a $700 check for credit card rewards. That is enough to pay for a weekend trip away.
What are Credit Card Hacks?
Credit card hacks are creative strategies employed by credit card users to maximize the benefits and rewards offered by their credit cards while also potentially saving more money.
This trend has become more popular in recent years due to the rise in premium travel and cashback cards that offer lucrative ongoing rewards programs. Users who learn about these hacks can save you money on travel or just put cold hard cash back in your wallet.
With strategic approaches, these hacks provide an avenue to optimize rewards and navigate the financial landscape more effectively.
Proven Credit Card Hacks to Maximize Rewards
Tip #1 – Utilize sign-up bonuses
One of the most attractive features of credit cards is the sign-up bonuses they offer, which are essentially rewards that cardholders can earn after meeting a certain spending threshold within a specified timeframe. The bonuses can range from hundreds to even thousands of points, miles, or cash – favorably impacting your rewards balance.
To illustrate, if you take the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card, both partners in a household can get up to 50,000 extra points each as part of the sign-up bonus.
Bonus tip: Stagger your applications, so once one person gets the bonus after meeting the spending requirement, the other person can then apply and achieve the next round of bonuses.
Tip #2 – Increase credit limit
The principle behind this is simply buffering your “credit utilization ratio”, which is how much of your total available credit you are utilizing.
To illustrate how a credit limit increase will work, let’s consider an example: with a credit limit of $10,000 and a credit usage of $3,000, your utilization ratio stands at 30%. But once your credit limit increases to $15,000 with the same credit usage, your utilization ratio drops to 20% – which is a noticeable improvement.
Remember, when requesting a credit limit increase, some card issuers might execute a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could temporarily decrease your score. Hence, you should try to find out beforehand whether your issuer is likely to perform a hard or soft credit pull. Soft inquiries won’t affect your credit score, making them the preferable approach.
Tip #3 – Master balance transfers
A balance transfer, executed proficiently, can be an effective way to handle significant credit card debt. By focusing on reducing the cost of debt through lower interest rates, balance transfer can accelerate your debt repayment process while saving you considerable money over time.
This is what one of my clients did and the date when the 0% interest ended was very motivating to pay off their debt.
This process entails the shuffling of debt from one card (usually one with a high interest rate) to another card—preferably with a 0% promotional APR offer. With this interest-free period, you can focus on repaying the principal balance, hence clearing your debt faster.
As a finance expert, make sure balance transfers are only beneficial if you’re mindful of the terms, like how long your 0% rate will last and what fees are involved in the transfer to the new card.
Tip #4 – Purchase prepaid cards with credit
Need a way to spend a certain dollar amount by a certain deadline? Then, look at purchasing prepaid cards with a credit card as a strategy to earn extra rewards points. This method entails buying prepaid cards or gift cards using your credit card, and later using these prepaid cards to cover those expenses you typically will use.
In other cases, customers have reported that their credit card companies have clawed back rewards points that were initially given for gift card purchases. Double check their terms and conditions, many issuers, including American Express, explicitly exclude such transactions from earning rewards. 1
Tip #5 – Harnessing the 15/3 Methodology
The 15/3 Methodology is a credit card hack that intends to optimize your credit utilization ratio—one of the significant factors that impact your credit score.
Here’s how it works: You pay off a majority of your card’s balance 15 days before your statement date, and then pay off the remaining balance three days before the statement date. By doing this, you create the illusion of a lower balance, which can positively impact your credit score.
There is still a debate about whether or not this strategy improves your credit card score. Paying your bill on time will definitely improve your score.
Tip #6 – Strategies to earn additional rewards through third-party programs
An often overlooked but highly effective credit card hack is utilizing third-party apps and websites that offer additional rewards when you shop at participating retailers and restaurants. These rewards are additional to the cash back, miles, or points awarded by your credit card.
One such app is Dosh, a cashback app. By linking your credit card to your Dosh account, you can earn up to 10% cash back from participating retailers on top of the rewards earned from your credit card. Similarly, apps like Drop and Bumped give users points for every dollar spent, and these points can be redeemed for gift cards.
Furthermore, many airlines and hotels participate in dining rewards programs where you’ll earn extra rewards at select restaurants. Airlines like United, Southwest, Delta, and hospitality giant companies like Marriott and Hilton actively participate in such programs.
Tip #7 – Earn a credit card sign-up bonus then canceling the card right away
Also known as credit card flipping or churning, the tactic of earning a credit card sign-up bonus and then canceling the card right away has been employed by some savvy credit card users to maximize rewards.
However, this practice isn’t as easy or beneficial as it appears. While it sounds like an accessible system to generate easy money, it comes with several potential pitfalls that could make it a risky move.
- Firstly, numerous card issuers have, over the years, implemented stricter rules to deter this practice. Chase, for instance, has the 5/24 rule indicating you can have only five new credit cards within the last 24 months. 2
- Repeatedly opening and closing the same card can result in a declined application or rescinded bonus and hurt your credit score-perceived as credit misbehavior by the issuer.
- It can also be viewed as unethical and potentially lead to you being barred from opening accounts with that issuer in the future.
Churning can negatively affect your ability to get approved for future credit cards and loans because lenders may think you’re a risky borrower.”
Tip #8 – Develop a multi-card system
This method aims to cover all your spending by using different cards that offer elevated rewards for certain purchase categories.
For instance, we have one card that pays an unlimited flat rate of 2% on all purchases. Then, another rewards card offering increased category rewards, with travel and gas. Then a there card that rotates through various categories each quarter.
Diversifying your spending amongst several credit cards can help you to earn the maximum possible rewards. However, endowing yourself with several credit cards is not for everyone as it requires careful financial management. In some cases, the potential of overspending can outweigh the benefits.
Tip #9 – Transfer points between multiple cards
Transferring points between cards (provided they are from the same issuer) is another useful strategy whereby you can redeem them at their maximum possible value.
The goal is to make your spending work for you and maximize the rewards you can earn from daily expenses. However, people should employ this strategy responsibly and ensure they’re not overspending just to earn rewards.
In such a strategy, points on traditional cashback cards can be transferred to airline and hotel partners when you also have a transferable points card like the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred. So, not only are you earning cashback on your purchases, but you’re also accumulating lucrative points that can be redeemed for travel.
Tip #10 – Don’t use cash
In the world of credit card rewards, cash is no longer king. Whenever feasible, you should consider using your credit cards instead of cash or debit to pay for everyday purchases. This allows you to earn rewards on purchases you’re making anyway.
The best way to implement this is for you to bills with their credit cards instead of cash or debit and set this up on autopay. This serves a dual purpose of potentially earning rewards on these payments whilst also conveying a positive message to the banks about your money management skills, leading to possible credit score improvements.
However, this method works best when your spending doesn’t increase as a result. Only use your credit card for expenses that you’d normally pay in cash and for which you already have the money set aside to pay.
Tip #11: Time your purchasing
Being strategic about when you make your credit card purchases can help you wring out some extra benefits.
One way to optimize your earning potential and maintain a healthy credit score is to plan your large purchases around your credit card’s billing cycle. Making your most significant purchases immediately after your statement date ensures that you have the longest possible repayment period, effectively offering you a short-term, interest-free loan.
Furthermore, if your issuer has a rewards cut-off at the end of a calendar year, you can make larger purchases ahead of time to push yourself into a higher rewards bracket.
Tip #12 – Make Micropayments
Rather than making one full payment, consider making multiple payments over the billing cycle, commonly referred to as ‘micropayments.’ This helps keep your running balance low and, in turn, your credit utilization ratio – the percentage of your available credit limit you’re using – also low, positively impacting your credit score.
Plus it helps to keep your checking account at a more accurate level.
Tip #13: Have your spouse apply for the same credit card
Known informally as the “two-player mode” amongst credit card hacking enthusiasts, having your spouse or partner apply for the same credit card can be an effective strategy to earn double the sign-up bonus. This approach is based on the idea that instead of just adding your spouse or partner as an authorized user to your card, they should apply separately.
For instance, if a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers a 50,000 points bonus on sign-up, both partners can potentially earn up to 100,000 points collectively, essentially doubling the bonus.
But remember, this hack should be used strategically – you should stagger your card applications and ensure each of you fulfills the spending criteria to qualify for the bonus.
Tip #14 – Importance of prompt payment
Quite possibly the hack with the most significant impact on both your credit score and your pocket, prompt payment of your credit card bill cannot be overstated.
Making on-time payments can drastically improve your credit score since your payment history is the most heavily-weighted factor that credit scoring models consider.
Plus paying your balance in full each month can help you avoid interest charges and penalties, effectively saving you money in the long run.
Tip #15 – Know What Rewards you Want
Rewards such as travel miles, discounts at partnered retailers, cashback, or access to premium experiences like airport lounges or concert tickets are available, depending on your card.
By understanding and leveraging these varied rewards, you can get the most excellent value out of your credit card expenses.
Cautionary Advice on Credit Card Hacks
While credit card hacks can undoubtedly offer substantial benefits when done right, pitfalls can ensue if one isn’t careful.
Pitfall #1 – Overspending
For starters, these hacks can inadvertently lead to overspending or unnecessary purchases. Be wary of making purchases you don’t need or can’t afford in an attempt to earn more rewards or meet the spend necessary for a sign-up bonus.
Consequently, the pursuit of credit card rewards could also lead to accumulated debt if you’re not diligent about paying off your balance in full each month. The interest that you need to pay on balances carried over can easily eat up the value of any rewards earned.
Pitfall #2 – Impact on your Credit Score
Applying for multiple cards can lead to hard inquiries on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit score. Similarly, canceling cards after acquiring the sign-up bonus could harm your credit utilization ratio and your length of credit history, both key factors in your credit score calculation.
Additionally, irresponsible habits like ‘credit card churning’ and ‘paying for everything with credit’ may risk your relationship with card issuers. Some companies might close accounts or even ban individuals from opening new ones if they’re perceived as abusing the system.
Pitfall #3 – Don’t pay annual fees unless they’re worth it
While some of the top-tier reward and travel credit cards often come with hefty annual fees, not all of them are worth paying. This is especially true when a card’s annual fees outstrip the value of the rewards earned.
Before you sign up for a credit card with an annual fee, it’s advised to read the fine print and estimate what you can earn from it. You should evaluate whether the perks, bonuses, rewards, and credits offered offset the annual fee cost.
Personally, I don’t use any cards that have an annual fee.
Pitfall #4 – Paying interest
Credit card interest can significantly impact your overall financial health if you’re not careful. The money invested toward paying it off could be better used elsewhere – for saving, investing, or spending on your needs and desires. Hence, one of the best “credit card hacks” out there is to simply stop paying interest.
You want to focus on debt free living.
Pitfall #5 – Avoiding counterproductive habits like “balance surfing”
Balance surfing is a strategy where you continually move credit card debt from one card with an ending 0% APR promotion to another card with a new 0% APR offer. While this approach can potentially delay interest payments, it can become a dangerous cycle if you find yourself simply transferring debt instead of reducing it.
Meanwhile, the total debt remains the same. Without a consistent debt repayment strategy, this method can lead to an endless cycle of balance surfing.
What are some of the best credit card rewards and hacks for 2024?
As we venture into the new year, some credit card reward strategies remain timeless while others evolve in response to new credit card offers and updated reward programs. In 2024, here are some of the best credit card hacks worth considering:
- Take Advantage of Updated Card Offers: Credit card issuers frequently update their card offers and rewards programs. Ensure you stay updated on these changes to maximize your card benefits.
- Focus on Cards with Flexible Reward Categories: Some cards, like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, allow you to choose your highest cash-back category (like online shopping, dining, or grocery stores). These flexible category cards can be more advantageous as you can adapt them to your spending habits.
- Leverage Rotating Categories: Cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories that rotate each quarter, once you activate. Plan your spending in advance to leverage these rotating categories optimally.
- Remain Alert on Loyalty Program Partnerships: Many credit cards and airlines have partnerships with other brands. This can mean increased rewards when shopping with those brands, so always watch for new partnerships or promotions.
- Revisiting Annual Fees: If your credit card perks no longer justify its annual fee due to changes in lifestyle or spending habits, consider downgrading to a no-fee card from the same issuer. This way, you can save on annual fees without closing your account which could potentially harm your credit score.
- Diversify Your Rewards: While it may be tempting to concentrate all your spending on a single card, diversifying your rewards can make you earn more. Consider employing a multi-card system to maximize rewards across different spending categories.
Your credit card should be a tool to enhance your financial flexibility, not a burden that leads to financial stress.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Making the Most of Credit Card Hacking
When used wisely, credit card hacks and reward strategies can play a significant role in stretching your budget and rewarding your spending. These secrets of savvy credit card use — from aligning your card to your spending habits, making the most of sign-up bonuses and reward categories, to understanding the ins and outs of your credit card’s rewards structure — can help maximize your potential rewards and save money.
Personally, we use all of our credit card rewards to pay for our travel expenses.
However, it’s paramount to remember that these tips and tactics should not encourage unnecessary spending or carrying a balance. Only spend within your means, ensure you pay off your balances each month to avoid interest charges and remember to safeguard your credit score by handling credit card applications and closures cautiously.
Ultimately, credit card hacks and rewards should fit within your overall financial plan and goals, adding value to your everyday spending habits and rewarding you for well-managed financial practices.
Remember your goal is to reach your FI number.
- Reddit. “American Express Clawing Back Points Earned From Gift Card Purchases.” https://www.reddit.com/r/AmexPlatinum/comments/14hywaq/american_express_clawing_back_points_earned_from/. Accessed January 19, 2024.
- CNN. “What is the Chase 5/24 rule?” https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/money/chase-5-24-rule#:~:text=The%205%2F24%20rule%20is,your%20approval%20odds%20with%20Chase. Accessed January 19, 2024.
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