Reward credit cards are a multi-billion a year business, and competition among card issuers is as fierce as can be. Because of this frantic effort to grab your attention, credit card companies try everything in the book to get you to sign up for their card. This means you can take advantage of all kinds of perks when shopping for a new one.
If you use the following perks strategically, credit cards can be more than a convenient alternative to spending using cash — they can also make you money. Here are 9 ways to beef up your bank account by using credit cards:
Grab a signup bonus
One of the best ways to make a little cash with a credit card is a signup bonus. Signup bonuses are the rewards you get when you spend a specific amount on purchases during an introductory period, usually three months from the day you open a new credit card account.
For example, a signup bonus for a travel credit card might give you 50,000 air miles if you buy $1,000 worth of goods and services in your first three months. Keep in mind that only eligible purchases count towards a signup bonus. For example, card issuers disqualify things like gift cards, money orders, and similar transactions.
There are often different bonus periods depending on the company. For example, one credit card company might offer $2,000 if you spend $5,000 or more on purchases during the first three months and another $3,000 if you spend $10,000 during the first six months.
Credit card companies often offer rewards in the form of points, and most companies let you convert points to cash. For example, earning one point for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases and redeeming 100 points for $1.
You might want to think about redeeming points for gift cards because sometimes, the gift cards you get are worth more than the points. For instance, redeeming 2,500 points with a monetary value of $25 and receiving a $30 gift card.
Points don’t usually expire if you keep your credit card account open. However, read the fine print when signing up for a rewards card, as sometimes they can expire if you don’t use them within a specified period.
Some cards let you send cash rewards to accounts other than your checking account. These include 529 education and brokerage accounts. Others allow you to make charitable contributions using the cash from your points.
The different rate types
Many credit card issuers offer an unlimited cashback flat rate, typically 1 to 2% on every eligible purchase. Another way to get cash back is through a tiered system, like offering two or more rates that vary depending on merchant type.
For example, a card might offer 5% back on travel, 3% back on eating at restaurants, and 1% on all other purchases. Sometimes, you’ll only be able to earn the higher rate if you spend a certain amount.
There’s also a rotating rate system, which offers a higher reward rate on a different merchant type each quarter. This type of system typically caps the cash back you can earn each quarter.
There are even credit card issuers that match the cash back you earn in your first year. Other companies offer 2% back on eligible purchases, which is typically 1% when you buy something and another 1% when you pay your balance.
Strategically plan your purchases
Tiered and rotating reward cards offer variable reward rates, depending on the merchant type. One card might offer 5% on travel purchases, while another gives you 3% on the food you buy.
By always keeping several cards in your pocketbook, you can use the card offering the best reward for the type of purchase you’re planning on making.
Refer friends and family
Some companies allow you to earn bonuses if you refer a new person who the credit company then approves for a card. So, see if anyone you know is interested in a credit card you have — it just might send a few bucks your way.
Stoozing is taking advantage of an introductory interest-free period offered by a credit card company to borrow money for a high-interest investment elsewhere.
Here’s how to do it:
Get the right card
For your stoozing strategy to work, you need to sign up for a card that has a 0% introductory annual percentage rate on purchases for 15 months or more.
However, to get the best offers, you’ll also need a good-to-excellent credit history and score and a credit limit high enough to accommodate your spending habits.
Open a high-yield savings account
Next, you’ll need to open a high-yield bank account that pays more than 1.5% interest. Online banks and credit unions often have the highest saving account rates. You might want to consider a savings account with Aspiration, where you can earn up to 5% APR.
Spend using your card
Use your card for all your regular monthly spending, and don’t use a debit card or cash unless you need to.
Deposit an amount of cash into your savings account equal to the money you spent on your credit card each week.
Make your credit card minimum payment
Every month, make the minimum payment on your credit card balance. However, ensure you pay your credit card bill on time so you don’t sacrifice your introductory rate.
Set an alert to remind you when your introductory period ends. When it does, use the money in your savings account to make a payment that wipes out your entire credit card balance. Whatever remains in your account is the interest you earned using your stoozing strategy.
Use a shopping portal
A shopping portal is a site that gives you reward points by shopping through them rather than buying stuff at the retailer’s website. This can boost your credit card’s purchasing power, helping to keep more dollars in your pocket.
Start by visiting the portal and searching for the retailer you’re planning on buying from. Then, click through to that merchant’s website and make your purchase like you normally would. You can also load the site’s app on your phone and use it to find a store offering the product you want to buy.
Determine which portal gives you the most for your money by using a website like Cashback Monitor. This site compares all the various shopping portals to ensure you’re always getting the best rewards rates on your online purchases.
Having cookies enabled in your browser allows the portals to track your purchases, ensuring you get every point coming to you.
Use a balance transfer to pay down debt
If you need to pay down credit card debt, consider using a balance transfer offer to save money on interest. Cards that allow you to do balance transfers typically offer introductory 0% promotions for a set period, usually between six and 20 months.
These offers come with a balance transfer fee ranging from 3 to 5% of the transferred balance. However, the savings often outweigh the cost.
Don’t automatically exclude cards with annual fees
As you search for credit cards that can help you make money, you’ll likely see many charging annual fees. While yearly fees can erode the value you get from a credit card, you shouldn’t always avoid them.
Look at the card’s rewards program and its other perks to determine how much value you can get from it. For example, mileage rewards cards give you perks like free checked bags and in-flight discounts that can counteract the expense of an annual fee.
Use reward points
Some credit card issuers offer bonuses for merely using your reward points. For example, earning a certain amount of air miles when you cash in your points. You might even receive an annual bonus based on how much you spend.
Get the credit card that helps save the planet
With Aspiration, you’ll not only make money if you use our credit card strategically — you’ll also help save the planet from the insidious effects of climate change. We plant a tree every time you buy something — and let you round up your purchase if you’d like us to plant an additional tree.
By using this card once a day, the trees we plant on your behalf will completely counteract your daily carbon footprint.
What’s more, by signing up today you’ll earn $300 by spending $3000 within your first 3 months. This is a fantastic way to make money with a credit card!