Credit card hacks: How to make the most of your credit card
10 tips for saving money and maximising the value of rewards
Credit cards can be incredibly useful, flexible and can come with valuable features such as complimentary insurance policies, no foreign transaction fees and discounts on a range of products and services.
But the value of these benefits can be slashed by fees or interest charges if you fail to use a credit card properly, so read on to find out how to make the most of your card, both from a money-saving and points-earning perspective.
Hacks for saving money
- Pay more than the minimum. Making only the minimum repayment means you'll be paying more interest over a longer period of time. Increasing your monthly payment amount will increase the amount of your repayment going towards the actual balance rather than the interest. For example, on a balance of $1,000 with an interest 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, saving you six years of payments and $741.
- Take the right card when you travel. Australian credit cards used overseas will incur foreign transaction fees on purchases and cash advances, and additional fees when withdrawing money from ATMs, on top of the usual interest charges. There are credit cards which waive these fees so consider one of those before travelling if you know you'll be spending a lot on credit.
- Understand cash advance transactions and minimise them. Any transaction that's considered a cash advance will be charged the cash advance fee (usually around 3%) and the cash advance interest rate (usually around 22% p.a.) from the day they are made. Cash advances include ATM withdrawals, gambling transactions and BPAY payments where the biller does not accept credit card payments.
- If you have existing debt, consider a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer card offers a low or zero percent promotional rate to those who transfer their existing credit card balances over to a new credit card. The rate usually lasts from 6 - 24 months, and allows you to make more progress paying off your balance without high interest charges. There are some specific eligibility criteria for these cards, so make sure you read the fine print before you apply.
- Make use of the included purchase & price protection policies. Many cards (not just the premium ones) offer these types of perks that could end up saving you a lot of cash. Subject to amount, availability and distance requirements, price protection covers the difference in price if an item you bought goes on sale within a certain amount of time. Purchase protection exists to insure items you've purchased if they are damaged, lost or stolen.
Hacks for maximising rewards points
- Choose a credit card with rewards you will use. If you travel a lot and spend enough to accumulate a meaningful amount of points, consider a frequent flyer credit card. If you're looking to save money and earn rewards, compare programs that allow you to redeem points for cashback or a credit to your statement. There are also credit cards for specific retailers like Coles, Woolworths and Kogan.
- Carefully read all of the terms and conditions. Especially when it comes to rewards and bonus points, there are always conditions you'll have to meet in order to take advantage of them. For example, if you have to spend $3,000 in the first three months to get 100,000 bonus points, make sure the $3,000 spend is actually in your budget. Additionally, make sure you know what is considered an eligible purchase before committing.
- Shop with rewards program partners. Almost all rewards programs have partners where you can earn bonus points, or convert their points into the program of your choosing. For example, if you collect Qantas Points it could be a good idea to do your grocery shopping at Woolworths and convert Woolworths Credit Card Points into Qantas Points, on top of using a Qantas Points-earning credit card.
- Lean on your family. Most frequent flyer or bank rewards programs allow you to pool points with family members. You can also add additional cardholders to your account to rack up rewards for their spending, keeping in mind you are still responsible for the account and repayments.
- Keep your eyes peeled for transfer promotions. A couple of times per year Qantas and Velocity offer an increased amount of points when you convert your points from another program. For example, transferring your flybuys to Velocity, or your Woolworths Credit Card Points to Qantas. This can bump your transferred balance by 10% to up to 25% more than the usual rate.
The main gist of these tips and tricks is to have a careful look at your credit cards and to fully understand the features and benefits available to you. When used correctly, a credit card can extend your cash flow and reward you for your everyday spending. However, when used incorrectly a credit card can cost you thousands in interest each year and contribute to a poor credit score.
If you're interested in checking your current credit score, you can do it for free with Finder. And if you don't think your card is maximising the potential value you could get from a credit card, compare Finder's best credit cards and discover if there is one more suitable for you.
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