October 19, 2022

What Should Go on Your Credit Card?

Eric Bank
Former Citadel Director of Business Analysis

“Everything!” is, unfortunately, not the correct answer, for two reasons: 

  • You have a finite credit limit that will stretch only so far.
  • You can end up with a mountain of high-interest debt.

Strategic deployment of your credit card maximizes its value – you’ve got to know when to charge purchases on a card and when to pay with cash. Here are some tips to spur your thinking.

1. Big-Ticket Items

Credit cards, gleaming new ones, are the perfect way to buy expensive appliances and electronics. You want a new card with a signup bonus and a 0% introductory APR for at least 15 months. When you splurge at the big box store, your credit card helps in several ways:

  • Buy your expensive items in the first three months after opening the account, which will go a long way toward satisfying the spending requirement for the signup bonus. This alone can cut several hundred dollars off your net costs.
  • You can finance your washer, dryer, TV, etc. for free during the introductory 0% APR promo. That means you can stretch out your payments without any interest charges. Marvelous!
  • You can earn rewards on your spending in the form of cash back, miles, or points. Use these to cut your cost further, or maybe use your rewards for a nice vacation.
  • Get a card with purchase protection (against damages and theft), price protection (in case you can find a lower price elsewhere), and extended warranty protection. Look for a card that offers all these features and charges an annual fee below $100 – some great cards waive the yearly fee entirely.

2. Recurring Bills

By putting recurring monthly bills on your credit card, you can earn rewards for items you have to pay for anyway. These include utilities, cellphone service, cable TV, internet, streaming services, insurance, and student loans. If you rent, some landlords accept credit card payments, and third-party payment services can also arrange rental payments.

3. Travel

Many great credit cards offer extra perks for travelers, including high bonus rewards for travel purchases as well as generous travel-related benefits. Depending on the annual fee, you can get travel credit cards that provide the following:

  • Free access to airport lounges 
  • Travel-related insurance, including coverage for lost baggage, auto rental collision damage waiver, interrupted/delayed flights, and accidents and illness while traveling.
  • Free luggage check
  • Travel credits
  • Reimbursement of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fees
  • Unique hotel deals and vacation packages 
  • No foreign transaction fees

In addition, several credit cards increase the value of their reward points when you redeem them through the issuer’s travel agency.

4. Home Repair

Many contractors accept payment via credit card, thanks to the availability of mobile payment apps. Using your card is a good idea because it gives you leverage should problems crop up. You’ll have the credit card company to advocate for you and help work out the issues.

One Last Thought

Finally, avoid putting certain items on your credit card, including cash advances (too expensive), expensive events (too easy to overspend), medical bills (a payment plan is cheaper), and a car (vehicle loans are less costly). Treat your credit card right and it will reciprocate.

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