A credit card used properly can save you money and time. Here are some invaluable tips and tricks for your plastic.
Credit cards can be an effective weapon in any Australian's spending arsenal. They're incredibly useful and flexible, and can come with all manner of great features such as complimentary insurance policies, discounted foreign transaction fees and discounts on a range of products and services.
But the value of these benefits can be reduced severely by fees or interest if you fail to use a credit card properly, so read on to find out how to make the most of your card.
Credit card hacks:
Take a moment to read through all of these credit card hacks for more information about your card and how to use it.
- Carefully read all of the terms and conditions. It doesn't take much of your time to go through a booklet of terms and conditions, so it's surprising more don't read them, especially considering most will use their credit card every day or at least every week. The terms and conditions booklet will explain to you your fees and charges, and how features such as rewards programs work.
- Use balance transfer credit cards to reduce debt. A balance transfer rate is a low promotional rate given to those who transfer their existing credit card balances over to a new credit card. The rate usually lasts for a number of months, and allows you to make more progress paying your balance off without the usual high interest charges. Just know that you're usually only able to balance transfer up to 90% of your approved credit limit, and that card providers don't accept balance transfers from every card provider.
- Negotiate. If you have been a good customer to the credit card company you can sometimes negotiate in the event that you can't make a payment or are charged a fee.
- Pay more than the minimum. Paying only the minimum repayment drags your debt out and will see you charged much more interest over the long term. Paying more than the minimum repayment can drastically increase the amount of your repayment going towards the actual balance rather than the interest. On a balance of $1,000 with a rate of 18.5% and minimum repayments of 2% of the balance, you'll pay your debt off in just over eight years. Your debt will also increase to $1,924 because of interest. If you bumped up your repayments to only $50 a month this debt would be paid off in two years and only cost a total of $1,183.
- Get your card personalised. Many banks nowadays will let you get your card personalised by putting on your own art, a photo or a logo. This is also great for business credit card.
- Sign your card. If your card ever gets stolen, a thief can sign the back of it and proceed to spend up big. If you haven't done so sign the back so it's harder for a criminal to get access to your account.
- Have a card for each different purpose. If you need to carry a balance over from one month to the other thing you should have a separate card for this, and one card for your day-to-day expenses that you are able to pay off at the end of the month. This is a good idea because carrying a balance cancels out any interest free days you receive on a credit card.
- Have a separate business expense credit card. Even if you are running a small business, you can keep track of your business expenses using a card for this purpose and use them for deductions at tax time.
- Use price protection. Most gold and platinum cards offer this feature and you can get a refund on the difference between the item with a better price and the original one within 30 to 90 days. This will end up saving you a lot of money.
- Use the included purchase protection. Many premium cards will give you purchase protection if you use the card to purchase an item. This protection usually covers the cost of repairing or replacing the item if it's lost, stolen or damaged.
- Pay your balance in full every month if possible. The perfect credit card scenario involves paying off your balance in full. This means you won't pay interest on your card, only annual fees. Credit cards come with interest free days, and if you pay your balance off in full within these days each month you can avoid interest.
- Choose reward programs with rewards you will use. If you are a traveller get a card that offers frequent flyer points, and if you are a spender get one that you can use to purchase merchandise. If you like to minimise your credit card costs, perhaps use a card which allows you to use points to get refunds on your annual fee. Estimate the value of the rewards you're likely to receive in a year with a rewards card and compare this to the annual fee you'll have to pay.
- Cashback cards can be a good way to minimise your weekly costs. Some rewards credit cards allow you to get cashbacks on your shopping bills, which can help you better manage your costs.
- Look for rewards offers when comparing cards. If you're looking for a rewards credit card have a look at bonus points offers. These can kickstart your points balance and help you get closer to your points goal.
- Keep track of your expenses. It's a good idea to track all of the spending on your card in much the same way you would the cheques you write. This helps you identify where you need to cut down on spending.
- Know what your card provider counts as a cash advance. The usual transactions included are ATM withdrawals; gambling transactions; buying foreign cash, traveller's cheques or money orders; buying and/or loading up a prepaid credit card; and some bill payments. As always this depends on the card issuer.
- Use the right card when travelling. Australian credit cards used overseas will incur foreign transaction fees and fees when withdrawing money from ATMs, in addition to the usual interest charges. There are credit cards which waive these fees so be sure to apply for one before travelling.
The main gist of these tips and tricks is to have a careful look at your credit cards. When used incorrectly a credit card can cost you thousands in interest each year and contribute to having bad marks put on your credit file. When you next compare credit cards, or even if you feel you're not getting the most from your card, check the above points and ensure you're on the right track.