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We all want to save money, but not many are willing to make the big — and often unwanted — changes to our lifestyles that are sometimes necessary in order to do so. Luckily, there is a way to get the job done without turning your world upside down. Did you know that shopping with the right credit card can help you save big on the things you’re already buying? Between cash back rewards, balance transfer offers, and sign-up bonuses for your regular purchases (think groceries, department store purchases and travel), you can easily increase your earnings without changing your spending habits. Keep reading to find out how to save money with your credit card now.
Credit Card Money-Saving Strategies
As is true of many things in life (i.e. shopping on Black Friday, convincing your kids it’s bedtime, and Pokemon GO), strategy is important when it comes to saving money with your credit card. We’ve narrowed it down to four easy ways to get the most of your plastic when you swipe.
1. Earn Cash Back As You Spend
Many credit cards will pay you a percentage back of the money you spend each year on certain categories, such as groceries, gas, travel, and more.
Take groceries, for instance. A 2017 Consumer Expenditure study found that the average American household spent $4,363 on food alone in 2017. If any one of those households used a credit card that earned just 3 percent cash back to pay for their groceries, they would have earned roughly $130!
If you're an AmEx person, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card can earn you back plenty of money each quarter without much effort. Customers will get 6 percent back on US supermarket purchases up to $6,000 and 3 percent on US transit (think rideshares, train fares, parking and tolls), and US gas, plus 1 percent on everything else. Better still, you'll get a free $250 in statement credit after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months. Keep in mind that this card does have a $95 annual fee, but it’s a small price to pay for so much in savings! There's also a 0 percent introductory annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.
With the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you'll be earning 1.5 percent cash back for every dollar you spend on top of the $150 signup bonus you'll get when you spend $500 within the first three months. Plus, this little beauty offers up a 0 percent intro APR for the first 15 months with no annual fee.
2. Transfer Your Credit Card Balance to a Card With a Lower Annual Percentage Rate
Let’s take another look at that average US household. According to NerdWallet’s annual analysis of US household debt, most American consumers can claim $6,741 in credit card debt, while the average credit card annual percentage rate (APR) is a whopping 17.71 percent, as reported by CreditCards.com’s weekly credit card rate report for the week of Sept. 18, 2019.
Simply taking advantage of a 0 percent balance transfer offer for 12 months could save these same credit card owners more than $1,100.
When it comes to good cards for balance transfers, there are a couple we like, including the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card (learn more). Not only does it offer a 0 percent APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within the first 120 days (that's four months, for those of you doing the math), there's no annual fee. Better still, you’ll get $150 in cash back rewards when you spend $500 or more in the first three months.
The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards credit card (learn more), meanwhile, has a 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. There is a 3 percent transfer fee, but the $150 welcome bonus you'll receive when you spend $500 within the first 3 months will give you a nice little cushion.
3. Take Advantage of Sign-Up Bonuses
Signup bonuses are one of the easiest ways you can save — or rather, earn! — money using your credit card. Many cards offer hundreds of dollars in cash back as sign-up bonuses or tens of thousands of points that can be used for travel.
Every card we’ve mentioned so far offers a nice sign-up bonus. If you’re a frequent traveler or simply planning a big trip, however, we like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, because it offers 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. It’s a hefty spend requirement, but if it makes sense for you, the sign-up bonus will definitely pay off — it equates to roughly $750 in free travel! Free honeymoon, anyone?
The rewards don't stop there, either: Each and every time you travel or dine out with your card, you'll get double the points, making it easy to reap the benefits of your hard-spent cash.
4. Get Travel Perks Galore
Speaking of traveling, sign-up bonuses aren’t the only benefit you’ll get from a good credit card. The right plastic just may upgrade you to celebrity, or, at the least, VIP status at the airport, with primo perks such as priority boarding (go ahead, be that person you hate who gets to be the first one onboard the plane with first dibs on overhead bin space) and a free checked bag (usually $30 each way) for you and up to nine travelers on your reservation.
Check out one of Chase's Southwest cards for major travel perks. Customers can choose between the Southwest Rapid Rewards priority credit card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. Annual fees range from $69 to $149 for these cards, and each one comes with 40,000 Southwest points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
AmEx lovers may prefer the brand’s Delta cards. The Gold Delta Skymiles credit card will net you 30,000 in bonus miles after $1,000 worth of purchases in the first three months. You’ll also get a free $50 credit when you make a Delta purchase with your new card within that time frame. This card waives its annual fee for the first year.
Once you’ve cashed in on all those new member points, you’ll continue to earn 2x points on all Delta purchases and 1x points on everything else. You’ll also receive priority boarding and one free checked bag for you and everyone else in your reservation, up to nine people.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start saving!
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FIRST for Women has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. FIRST for Women and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.