Credit Card Industry Expert Roundup #23 - What mistakes do you often hear about experienced credit card users making?
Even the most experienced credit card users make mistakes. For this issue of the Credit Card Reviews Expert Roundup, Jason Steele asks every one the following as it relates to this topic:
"What mistakes do you often hear about experienced credit card users making?"
Susan Johnston Taylor - Has covered money and credit cards for online publications including Bankrate.com, CreditCards.com, DailyWorth.com, Learnvest.com and U.S. News & World Report.
Sometimes even experienced credit card users get so excited about a new sign-up bonus or other incentives that they spend money they might not otherwise. Or they go to extreme lengths to manufacture spend and get that bonus. It's like burning a gallon or two of gas to drive across town and save a few cents a gallon. Not worth it! If you're remodeling your kitchen and you'd be spending thousands of dollars on materials and labor, that's a great time to open a new card and get the sign-up bonus (even if your contractor tacks on a fee for paying with plastic, you may still come out ahead with the sign-up bonus). If you're paying for a wedding and you want to accumulate points or miles for the honeymoon, sure, get that new travel card you've been eying (assuming you allow enough time for the bonus to clear before you need to book it, but many couples aren't jetting off right after the wedding anymore so that may give them more time to accumulate rewards and plan the honeymoon).
If it's money you would spend anyway and if you're in a position to pay off the balance in full, that's the time to use a rewards credit card. But sometimes experienced cardholders get cocky and don't hold themselves to this standard. Or they open a new card without a strategy for earning that bonus. In some cases, you can still get the bonus even if you miss the deadline. I once missed the amount I needed to spend to earn a signup bonus on one of my cards. I think I'd returned something so those dollars no longer counted and I forgot that the annual fee doesn't count towards that minimum spend. In any case, I called and expressed bewilderment about not getting the bonus. The customer service representative explained that I was a few hundred dollars short but offered to extend the deadline for a few more weeks as a one-time courtesy. You can bet that over the next few weeks, any time, I needed to buy groceries, gas, or pay other expenses, I put it on that card! I won't count on that happening again, so next time I'll triple check the deadline and the dollar amount required to get the bonus without pleading my case.
Lee Huffman - Bald Thoughts owner who developed a passion for traveling as a boy, and now he explores the world with his wife & children using miles, points, & the latest travel hacks.
Even if you are experienced with credit cards, it is still possible to make mistakes because we're all human. Experienced credit card users often have multiple accounts. Having so many cards makes it easier to lose track of a minimum payment or forget to pay a balance in full.
Forgetting to make a minimum can result in late payment fees. Even worse, it could result in a negative mark on your credit which can take years to recover from. To keep this from happening, I recommend people have the minimum payment made automatically from your bank account.
One of the cardinal sins of credit rewards is paying interest. Even the most valuable rewards are not worth paying interest rates of 16% to 25%. I pay my credit cards off in full manually to maintain a better handle on my finances. Some people I know choose to have the full balance paid automatically. Choose whichever option works for you, but make sure that you are not paying any interest to the banks.
Andy Shuman - Writer for travel and personal finance websites and blogs at www.lazytravelers.net
The most common mistake I can think of is missing out on the bonus cashback or points. There’re so many quarterly and other bonus categories among credit card issuers that it’s not at all unusual for me to miss out on these. We’re all humans after all, and we can only complicate our lives up to a certain degree without putting too much strain on our sanity.
Yes, there are mobile wallets like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, or Android Pay, to name a few, that can hold multiple credit cards in your phone app. But they aren’t accepted everywhere. There are other promising products in development now, like the so-called Wallet Card, but it’s not here yet, and we don’t know if it’s going to be free when it arrives. In the meantime, if you don’t want to miss out on your credit card category bonuses, you can use less sophisticated, low-tech methods:
Use stickers. Just place a small sticker on your rewards card that would remind you where to use it. If it’s a quarterly category, place a new sticker and remove the old one every quarter.
Write a simple spreadsheet and keep it in your phone. Revise it when necessary (set a Google reminder if needed).
These simple (some would say, even primitive) techniques will help you maximize your rewards while we’re all waiting on that next-level hi-tech solution.
Greg Johnson - Owner of Club Thrifty
Carrying a balance is by far the biggest mistake I see seasoned rewards card enthusiasts make. In almost every case, this negates all the good you’re trying to do. The entire goal of using rewards cards is to save money, right? Well, by carrying a balance on your card, you’ll almost certainly be paying interest. Worse, interest rates on credit cards are usually extremely high. By carrying a balance, you end up spending more than you intended to spend on your purchases. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Additionally, carrying a balance on a card can become dangerous quickly. Racking up credit card debt is a terrible idea for your long-term financial health. And, once you’ve adopted the “buy now, pay later” mindset, it is extremely hard to break the cycle. Instead of traveling the world for pennies on the dollar, you may spend years trying to dig yourself out of a deep financial hole.
Overspending to meet signup bonus requirements is another major mistake that is common.
Yes, signup bonuses are awesome; still, they’re only helpful if you’re not overspending to meet them. For instance, if you spend $3,000 dollars on new furniture you don’t need just to meet a minimum spending requirement, you’re not really saving money, are you? It may feel like you are, but you’re not. Overspending can also lead to carrying a balance on your card, so you’re hit with a double whammy. Meet those minimum spending requirements with your normal monthly spending instead.
Jason Steele - Well known within the community of travel rewards enthusiasts as the Senior Points and Miles Contributor for The Points Guy and other outlets on the subjects of airline rewards and family travel.
Of course, the big one is incurring interest by carrying a balance. But a really close second is kind of the opposite. It’s when you always avoid interest by paying your balance in full, yet you fail to use a rewards card. It’s amazing how many experienced, responsible credit card users will use the same card that they’ve used for years, or even decades, which doesn’t offer rewards. All this time, they could have been earning valuable points, miles or cash back by selecting one of the hundreds of reward cards available. And since they never pay interest, there is no tradeoff to using a rewards card that will typically have a higher interest rate.
Next to that, are those who use obsolete and non competitive reward cards. I don’t expect the average person to obsess over credit card rewards, like I do. Yet, if they just checked out the latest cards once every year or two, they would earn far more valuable rewards than continuing to use the same card, year after year.