As prices on goods and services continue to rise because of inflation, scaling back expenses isn’t the only way to free up cash to cover essentials.
Credit cards can feature valuable perks for new applicants, whether your goal is to pay off debt or save on costs. Even if you already have a card, you may be sitting on targeted offers, rewards or benefits that could make a difference.
Here are some ways to maximize value from a credit card.
1. Introductory offers
If you’ve got good credit (a FICO score of 690 or higher) and a big expense coming up, consider financing it with a credit card that offers a 0% intro annual percentage rate on purchases and a sign-up bonus. As long as you pay off the balance, you’ll save on interest charges and potentially recoup some of the cost of the purchase with that bonus.
If you have good credit but want to pay off existing debt, a balance transfer credit card may lower costs. It allows you to transfer high-interest debt from another issuer and pay it off at a lower interest rate — ideally at a 0% APR for a period of time.
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“There is going to be a [balance transfer] fee, so you have to shop around a lot of times,” says Melissa Cox, a certified financial planner and advisor at Fetterman Investments, a Dallas-based financial planning firm.
Aim for a fee of 3% of the transferred balance or lower. Compare that fee with the cost of long-term interest payments on your current card to determine which option saves more money. If the balance transfer makes sense, make a plan for it.
“If you know that the transfer is going to be six months before the interest starts kicking in, you want to have a plan to get as much of that debt paid off in that six months,” Cox says.
You can typically find promotional periods for balance transfers that run under two years. And you may not need to apply for a new credit card to get such a deal; some card issuers provide targeted balance transfer offers to existing cardholders.
2. Buy now, pay later options
Some major issuers have built-in “buy now, pay later” options on their credit cards that let you pay off eligible purchases in installments for a fixed fee or interest rate.
The predictability of these types of payments can make it easier to budget for them, and such plans could save you …….