6 Awesome Credit Card Tricks That Will Save You Money

By Jason Steele. Last updated 9 July 2014. 17 comments

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Can you manage your credit cards as deftly as high stakes Vegas dealers handle their playing cards? You can learn how. Credit cards are important financial instruments, but you can also look at them as kind of a game.

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We all know people who use their cards irresponsibly to accumulate crushing debt, but if you play this game right, and stay out of debt, you can gain tremendous value from your cards. Here are six really cool tricks that have worked for me.

1. Reconsideration

You have good credit, but somehow your card application is rejected. You can either sit back and wonder about the factors that may have contributed to your denial, or you can take another shot at getting your card approved. The fact is that your initial rejection was probably just some computer’s best guess as to your credit worthiness, and it was incapable of considering every important factor. What people don’t realize is that you can call your bank, speak to a human being, and ask him or her to reconsider.

When you reach your bank, remind the representative of your excellent payment history. You can also offer to reduce your credit line or close other accounts you may have with them. On a recent call to Chase, I was able to get approved for their Sapphire Preferred card by closing another card account that I had with them that I was going to cancel anyway. Banks desperately want your business, and they are anxiously waiting for you to call up and offer them a good reason for them to approve you.

2. Bonus Bumping

Have you ever applied for a credit card only to find out later that there was a better sign-up bonus offer available? Like reconsideration, you can contact your bank, inform them of the other offer, and ask them to apply it to your account. To their customer service representative, it’s as easy as changing the “promo code” field on their computer screen. While you can do this over the phone, many prefer to log into their bank’s website and send a secure message. By doing this, you’ll have the bank’s response in writing, so there will be no dispute over how many points or miles you should receive.

3. Threaten a Chargeback

I can’t tell you how many consumers I have met who have engaged in extended battles to get their money back from unscrupulous merchants. They call, argue, and even yell at the representatives of merchants in a time consuming and often-futile attempt to get a refund. If you paid with your credit card, you should only waste your time on a single call that is escalated to a supervisor. If that person is unwilling to refund your money, inform him or her that you intend to request a chargeback from your credit card issuer.

Retailers live in fear of the increased merchant fees that result from a chargeback, and they will often reconsider their position the moment they hear that word. Otherwise, a quick call to your bank will result in a temporary credit that will become permanent once you provide documentation supporting your claim.

4. Double Your Sign-Up Bonus

Real credit card gurus live for those amazing sign-up bonuses that come around every now and then. When Capital One offered their “Match My Miles” promotion, it was easy to earn as much as $1,100 as a sign-up bonus for opening a new account. Others were able to earn twice that by also signing up for the business version of the card. As sole proprietor, all you need to do is supply your social security number instead of a business tax ID. If you prefer not to go that route, just have your spouse or partner apply for the same card. Just as long as you have no temptation to spend more, there is little to lose and a lot to potentially gain.

What type of credit card are you interested in?
How much do you spend per month?
Do you carry a balance?

5. Maximizing Your Statement Cycle

Those who pay their balances in full and on time are perpetually receiving a free loan from their banks. This is the smartest way to use your credit cards, but you can even take this to the next level. Any charge made the day before your statement closes will be due 20-25 days later. But if you make that same charge the day after your statement closes, then you have another extra 30 days to pay it without incurring interest. This means you can get an interest-free period of up to 55 days!

When cash is tight, many people know to wait until just after their statements are closed to make purchases. What most people don’t realize is that with some banks, such as Chase, you can actually extend your payment cycle by moving your due date back. They may not let you do this over and over again, but it is a great way to get a few extra days out of your statement period in order to push back your due date.

6. Taking Advantage of Gift Cards

These days, the terms of many reward cards contain all sorts of gimmicks to get you to spend more in order to receive more points, miles, or cash back. Some only offer a sign-up bonus after you spend a particular amount, while others give special rewards for transactions at certain categories of merchants. To take advantage of these promotions, the worst thing that you can do is to spend more money just to earn a reward.

Instead, you can use gift card purchases in creative ways. In order to reach the minimum spending threshold for a sign up bonus, you use your credit card to purchase gift cards for merchants you visit often, or even cash cards from Visa or American Express. Simply make the purchase before the deadline, and use the gift cards later. You can also buy gift cards at grocery stores in order to maximize bonus spending categories. For example, if you have a great card that offers extra points for groceries, purchase gift cards at your grocery store to get the bonus points for shopping at other stores.

You can’t really expect to defeat a card shark on the street or beat the house at a casino, but you can regularly win big with your credit cards. The key is that banks are intensely competing for your business, which will always be your ace in the hole.

What are your favorite credit card tricks and tips?

Back to the Credit Card Guide

 

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Guest's picture
PKamp3

#5 Seems dangerous if you make it a habit - most people get paid with a certain cadence (say 2x a month or every 2 weeks) and it might mess with your cash flow a bit to move a billing cycle out to 55 days. Well, it would for me anyway, haha.

#6 Gift cards are great, but watch out for credit card point inflation, haha. Sometimes you have to go for a bigger card to actually get the advertised cashback!

Will Chen's picture

Agreed. I think the 55 day trick should only be used for emergencies.

Alex Lam's picture

I hadn't thought of buying gift cards at the market. I walk past them all the time, not thinking there was an advantage to buying them there. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Rez

The gift card trick #6 is great, but you also have to watch out when you buy a gift card. I've heard that you should NEVER purchase gift cards that are just sitting on racks. Scammers have tools where they can scan the card (under the scratch away layer), get the numbers and trace them. So, when the card is finally purchased and activated, the scammer will use up the entire card before the person who purchased has a chance to.

Alex Lam's picture

Thanks for the warning. I hadn't heard that one either.

Guest's picture
Charles

Regarding #2, I signed up for AMEX card two weeks ago and finally received it in the mail the other day and proceeded to activate it. Then I went to my mailbox and got my mail and noticed a junk mail for AMEX promotion for the same card I just activated. The bonus was $250. I called the rep immediately and they were glad to switch over the promotion to my card. So simple!

Will Chen's picture

Ha ha. Possibly the only time in history someone had something positive to say about junk mail. =)

Guest's picture
YFS

Good tips.. I use #6 religiously!

Will Chen's picture

What kind of gift cards do you usually get?

Guest's picture
Pam

Great tips. I like to take advantage of number 5 a lot - essentially by using my credit card I get free banking (no transaction fees on my bank account for making purchases) and I get free money to use for up to 55 days as you mentioned, as long as I pay the balance off each month. Plus, I get rewards for using my credit card. So, it just makes sense for me to use my credit card for everything.

Guest's picture

If you pay off your bills religiously every month, I am a big fan of using ‘float’ while you earn your points. The big advantage is that your cash continues to earn interest in your bank account while you float the purchases on the credit card company until your monthly bill is due. I’ve been doing this on my cards for years and taught clients how to maximize this strategy.

If you are a business owner, this can have even more of an impact because your monthly number is likely to be larger.

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AWMA®, CRPC®, AAMS®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder
oXYGen Financial, Inc.

Guest's picture

Some great tips here. I was first turned down by AMEX for their Blue Cash card but got accepted after I called and spoke with them. Sometimes just asking is enough to get what you want. The worst that can happen is they still say no.

Guest's picture
Guest

I look at my credit cards as simply a payment method that allows me to reconcile and track purchases - and get paid for doing it.
As purchases are made they are entered into a register (Quicken) similar to a checkbook register. This is the point of reconciling the accuracy of the receipts. The actual reconciliation of the account takes only minutes each month because I don't have to go back and check each purchase.
I have found discrepencies in statement charges, mostly due to tips but a few vendor errors over the years have resulted in a quick fix after a phone call.
We average OVER $100/month in cash (non-taxable) rewards. Our neighbor has asked us to buy a TV for them online - and that's a $20 reward by itself!
We have netted almost $20,000 since playing the rewards game.

Guest's picture
Preeti

All the above tricks seem a bit risky as there is a fair chance that the bank will bump you off. I would advise caution to people before they start using these tricks. They can lead you to have you card cancelled by the card or getting into a very stressful situation. However, if you are a good negotiator and can push you way through - go for it.

Guest's picture
Max G

Great tip on #6. I actually never thought about it and would try it out even though I don't regularly spent a lot on groceries. Maybe buy a bunch of Amazon cards. Hopefully it will work.

Guest's picture
Guest

I purchase gas station gift cards with my reward points - they make a great gift for any occasion (only time my niece actually texted to thank me for her bday gift lol), I keep one in the car for my own use and have a few set aside for Christmas gifts for mail and newspaper delivery...everyone loves free fuel!

Guest's picture
Jonathan

Great tip about about not giving up at the first hurdle when applying for a credit card. It's easy to do that, but if as you suggest, you have a good great history with your existing lender or bank then you need to leverage that to get the best possible deal on your credit card.