I have a good handle on my personal finances, and have no problem using credit cards and paying them off each month. In fact, it can be beneficial to do so. Those who are carrying a balance on their cards or are prone to overspending shouldn’t follow my lead, but here are two ways I’m using credit cards to ease some financial pain.
Gas prices are ever increasing and I drive a lot. I’m projecting putting about 20,000 miles this year on my car, and Amanda’s will probably see 8-10,000. How to ease the pain at the pump? A gas station credit card. Now, I’ve always charged my gas, usually to my Discover card which generally gets me 1% cash back. However, I’m in a unique situation where I almost always go to Sunoco to get gas for my WRX, since it will take 91 octane, and Sunoco is generally the only place around that carries it. Putting in anything higher than what the manufacturer recommends is a waste of money. I realized that instead of getting the measly 1% back on my Discover card, if I signed up for a Sunoco card I could bump that up to 4%. I’m not one to sign up for every credit card that comes along, but there was a real benefit to having this card. Starting in July, Discover offers 5% back on gas purchases, so I’ll switch back to using that card for a couple of months to maximize the rewards.
The reason I love my Discover card so much is that whatever Cashback bonus awards I get from using it can generally net me more savings if I turn them into gift cards for various retailers. Frequently, you can cash in $20 to get a $25 card, for example. The terms vary by store. In the past, we’ve used them for Bed Bath and Beyond, Sunglass Hut, and Omaha Steaks. But what has really been a big help lately has been redeeming them for Motherhood Maternity. We cashed in $80 in rewards to get $100 in gifts cards when Amanda had finally ran out of things that fit her, and she got to go on a mini shopping spree. This eases some of the mental pain as well of spending money on clothes that you know are going to have a short usefulness to them. Today, a flyer came in the mail reminding us that Motherhood is moving out of the Galleria and down the street to a new Destination Maternity supercenter store, so another $50 card is on the way.
If you can use credit cards responsibly, there’s lots of ways to maximize their benefits. Just don’t succumb to “debt disease“.