Mastering credit cards took on a whole new meaning when our finances took a turn for the worst in the not-so-great depression of 2008. We went from being middle class to becoming part of the former middle class. The Introduction to my first eBook, The Poor Middle Class Crisis, details what happened to us. As a result we had to find new ways to survive. We created a financial survival toolkit. One of the most essential money making tools became credit cards,the ones we had and new ones we have gotten since then.
Our Financial History Over The Last Decade
Over almost the last decade, we have had to develop credit cards mastery as our invaluable this financial survival tool. It turned into an active endeavour, even an art this year due to the need to visit family in Colorado. That’s when travel rewards credit cards really came into the picture. Before that, our focus had been primarily cash rewards credit card. Due to the need to find a way to afford our trip, we had to learn to master the travel rewards cards.
Earning Credit Card Benefits
The first step in mastering credit cards is learning about them. So that is exactly what I did. I did research locating the best sites and blogs about mastering credit cards. Then I practiced and learned how to do it myself. As part of the process, I created a ‘cheat sheet’ that I could easily refer to. It is called, ‘Tips for Mastering Credit Cards’.
Tips for Mastering Credit Cards
Even though I continue to gather more helpful tips, I think that the ones on this list give me and anyone who reads them a pretty good start. What I would like to do for the rest of this post is go over them and explain any that are not completely transparent already. The detials will cover several blog posts because there is so much information to share.
1. Pay credit card bills in full before the report date and by the due date
The companies that you have credit card and other ‘debt’ with report the amount of that debt. They usually report the current amount of debt to the credit report agencies on a monthly basis. To have them report $0 debt, pay in full before the reporting date. Your credit card companies are supposed to provide you with that date if you request it. Make sure you do and keep track of that date, the due date and the closing date.
2. Learn to build and maintain excellent credit
There are many resources for learning to build your credit. They are listed at the end of this post. Notice the colored sections in the image above. They indicated credit levels. Excellent credit is the bright green bar.
3. Get new credit cards with cash or points bonuses
Many credit card offers include a promotion of either cash or travel points. This is in addition to the regular cash back % and points that they acru. Be sure to compare offers. There are several variables. This includes the promotion, the amount that must be spent to get it, and the regular benefit. The best ‘investment’ I have ever made was a $200 bonus on a $500 required expense. That’s a 40% return. Where else can one get that kind of a deal. It also happens to be a very decent cash back credit card. What a way to use a credit card. This is why we want to learn to master them.
Note the cashback % on this card: 3% restaurants, 3% gas, 1% the rest. Later in this post I will discuss credit card pairing. Therefore if you buy groceries more than you eat out, you can use another card for groceries at 3% like the BoA Cash Rewards card. If you pair these two, you get 3% for both groceries and gas. Then you can really benefit by using the Quicksilver card as one examples which pays 1.5% across the board for other expenses. This will be elaborated on later in this post.
Please note that this post is in several sections and will continue with Mastering Credit Card Tips: Part Two.
I’ve talked a lot about credit cards lately. It feels like I am living in a credit cards world. Actually, this for two reasons. One is because I have wanted to learn everything I could about them, credit scores and credit reports, too. The other reason, probably the most important one, is that credit cards have become one of my most important survival tools.
The Credit Card Maven
As a result of my intense interest and need to know everything I can about credit cards, I’ve even created a Facebook page called The Credit Card Maven. This is where I post information as I have researched and sourced it. I have found a number of websites, blog posts, Facebook pages (listed here) and groups that are extremely helpful resources in my quest for knowledge as The Credit Card Maven in my credit card world. Included are:
• Credit Card Mastery
• Credit Karma
• Wallet Hacks
• Wise Bread
Credit Cards as a Survival Tool
As I mentioned at the start of this post, credit cards have become a survival tool in my credit cards world. It was not by design that this came to be.
It was more a matter of circumstances. Once I got a feel for how useful and profitable using credit cards could be, my desire to use them and master it increased. Let me give you an example.
I have had a cash rewards credit card for a number of years. I can accumulate up to about $40. in a two month period. That was a good beginning. Then I decided to get a travel rewards card in anticipation of someday going to visit my family in Colorado. I used it and kept on accumulating points.
Credit Card Currency
When I went to check on the conversion to paying for an airplane ticket, the results were not impressive. I had to find something better. This time by design, I set out to find the best deal I could for air travel benefits using a credit card. I found one that I ultimately used for my flight. It rewarded me with 30,000 points and a $100. discount on my airplane ticket. This was such a great deal that I have enough points to return to Colorado for free, right now.
Now that’s what I call using credit cards as currency. If I could do that with a travel rewards credit card, I wondered what other benefits and rewards I could manifest in my credit cards world. I familiarized myself with a few other travel rewards cards as part of getting a second ticket for my husband and having funds for other things related to our vacation. All in all, my activities resulted in a savings of between $400 and $500 for our trip.
Credit Card Investing
Let me present one more situation where the skilled use of a credit card became very profitable. I found an offer for a cash rewards credit card that would refund $100 on spending $500 within 90 days of acquiring the card. That would be a 20% profit. I had never accomplished that in the stock market. It seemed like a very good investment to me. I wasn’t sure if I would be granted another card as I had accumulated quite a few by this point. But it came through. I fulfilled the requirements. Now I am just waiting for my investment to pay off.
Credit Card Monthly Rotation
I made another discovery. It may seem a bit confusing. In fact, I am kind of surprised that I am even able to do this. I am calling it credit card monthly rotation. It is based upon a combination of the nature of credit cards themselves and good credit card hygiene.
Each credit card has a closing date and a payment due date. Since I have several credit cards and they have different closing and payment dates, I can use them and not have to pay them at the same time. If I make my purchased and schedule my payments using my monthly rotation system, I have a revolving credit situation. In other words, if my budget in a particular month needs to be exceeded, I can use a card that has a closing date that will allow payment the following month. I just have to make sure the funds will be available then.
Based upon my understanding and goals to achieve Credit Card Mastery, I believe that I am on my way but I have not achieved mastery yet. When will I achieve it? There are several requirements that I have established for myself:
• My credit scores average will be over 800 again. It is only about 10-20 points from that now.
• My monthly rotation system will have proven itself to work and I will have a sense of mastery in my credit card world
• My Credit Card Management Chart will be complete and committed to memory. As a result, I will have a firm grasp on all my cards and a natural flow for their use in rotation as needed.
To many people, understanding credit scores and reading credit reports are overwhelming and confusing. There is no need to not have transparency and clarity about your credit cards world. Credit cards are an important tool and can even be crucial for personal survival and business development. Study the resources provided. Take the Credit Card Mastery Course if you can. Having one’s finances in order and being able to live solvently in a credit card world are not luxuries. They are necessities and everyone deserves to have them.
I am The Credit Card Maven. I have learned ways to master the use of credit cards for survival and profit. This post is designed to share these techniques with my friends and followers.
I started using charge cards many years ago. I never abused them. The bills were always paid on time. But they were not credit cards. They were charge cards for department stores. At one point, I decided to eliminate most of them.
Credit Cards Replace Charge Cards
My FICO score has always been in the excellent range. In spite of that, I had no idea how FICO scores worked. It was just one of those mysteries of life. I continued to carry a limited number of cards as well as having a credit score of over 800. When our financial situation changed in 2008, credit cards took on a totally new meaning for us.
Credit Cards Become Currency
Due to circumstances which I detail in my first eBook, The Poor Middle Class Crisis Introduction, our financial profile changed drastically. Our equity was gone as well as our income. We no longer had savings. Suddenly credit cards became a way to earn money and derive other benefits from them, as well.
The biggest incentive to use credit cards as currency was our need to take a trip to Colorado to visit our families. Because of that, I signed up for a total of four travel rewards cards. One of them was the airline travel rewards card. I signed up during a promotion. If I spent $1,000 in three months using this card, I would get 30,000 bonus points and $100. off the airfare. I have earned enough points for a free trip to Colorado and back, again. Hopefully it won’t take six years to see our families again.
Credit Card Mastery
As you can imagine, using so many cards can become very confusing. I am still perfecting my system. But I can tell you what I have learned so far. We are fortunate enough to have excellent credit. So we were easily able to secure all the cards we wanted. If you don’t have great credit, do everything you can to improve it. There is a link to an article from NextAdvisor.com in the Sources and Resources section about paying down if not getting out of debt. Do read it.
Treasure An Excellent FICO Score
For the person with excellent credit, you want to keep it. Great credit is precious. Here are some golden rules on how to train yourself to use your credit cards wisely.
• Sign up for cards that best meet you needs and spending habits. There are websites that show you which to use.
• Always pay bills in full and on time.
• Make a chart of closing and payment due dates for all your cards.
• Keep an accounting of how much you spend each month so that you do not exceed your budget.
• Use no more than 30% of the credit limit you have on each card.
• It is better to charge larger amounts on a few cards than to charge small amounts on many cards.
• For cash rewards cards, write on the card itself the cash back % you get on each category of purchases.
• Do not close old credit card accounts. It is best to have as long a credit history as possible.
• Avoid fee based cards unless the benefits greatly outweigh the out-of-pocket expense.
Credit Card Myths and Tips
Myths about credit cards abound. So here are some tips to dispel them.
• A credit score will not necessarily be lowered by having numerous cards. But don’t sign up for too many too close together. That can appear to the credit card score companies like you are in crisis.
• Almost every credit card company has a ‘Check Your FICO score’ feature. You can use it without negatively impacting your score. This is a ‘soft’ check.
• A ‘hard’ check can negatively impact your score. That could be checking by a loan company, a future employer,etc.
There is so much more that can and will be said about credit cards, their use and mastery in future posts. Credit cards can be like a loaded gun. They can be dangerous, even deadly if you do not know how to use it. On the other hand, they can be a lifesaver when properly trained.
I am a Savvy Savings Shopper. Why do I call myself that? It is because I have had to learn, adopt and develop as many money saving, frugal habits and techniques as possible so that I could survive.
It has taken time, energy, research as well as trial and error to learn what to do and how to do it so I could be considered a savvy savings shopper. Consequently, the things that work have helped me to go from being One Day From Homeless, to a Senior Suburban Survivalist and now to A Savvy Savings Shopper.
Therefore the purpose of this blog post, A Savvy Savings Shopper, is to review some of these techniques, tools and tips I have learned. I wish to share what has worked for me with other people who need and want to survive, too. In addition, recognition goes to others who have accomplished a similar feat and to recognize them with The Savvy Savings Shopper Award.
ASKING FOR HELP
Back in 2008 when the stock market crashed and my husband was laid off from his job, all within one week, I realized we were going to need help. It really sank in when we had to use his pension and lose my savings just to survive. We needed help. As a result, I had to swallow my pride then learn to ask for help.
We researched and applied for whatever social services we could qualify for. We sought help from our local senior center. We got food stamps which were very helpful initially. This was because the amount we got is based upon a peculiar formula reflecting past income and medical expenses. But as time went on, our income was reduced to unemployment and there was less money for medical expenses. As a result, our monthly food stamp allotment diminished substantially.
APPLYING AND QUALIFYING FOR GOVERNMENT ASSISTED LIVING
Since we had such limited income and minimal food stamps, we had to find other sources for food. There are food pantries in just about every town where we live. Most are open once a month and some are weekly. We have found the ones that work best for us. But even then, there is still a shortage of fresh produce and meat.
GOING TO FOOD PANTRIES FOR CLOTHES
Some food pantries also have clothes that have been donated. Depending upon the source and the community, the clothes can be very good quality. Since I cannot afford to even go to thrift stores any more, these ‘Lord’s Taylors’, as my husband calls them, are a tremendous help.
Some websites are specifically for coupons for food, household and all kinds of item. One of them is coupons.com.
AARP.COM is a great source for senior discounts. In addition, there are restaurants and stores that give discounts to seniors. But don’t wait for them to tell you. ASK rather than wait for them to let you know!
Some supermarkets give everyday discounts to seniors, like Wild By Nature. Others have senior discounts one day of the week, like Gala Fresh and Compare. Riteaid gives seniors a discount on the first Wednesday of the month.
SHOPPING AT DISCOUNT STORES
There are all kinds of discount stores from cheap dollar stores to high end ones. My favorite is HomeGoods. In fact, if you use their credit card for purchases, you earn points and get a $10 store coupon for each 1000 points earned.
SHOPPING WHERE I GET GREAT SAVINGS
CVS Pharmacy, their official name, carries much more than prescriptions. I buy all kinds of household items there. Because they regularly offer discount coupons, I regularly shop at their stores. In fact, they just acknowledged me as being in the top 4% of supersavers in their New York stores. This is because I regularly make purchases at deep discounts from CVS. These include:
• all my paper goods
• kitchen accessories
• dental care products
• occasional candy and dessert treats
• nasal and vision aids
• over the counter medical needs
• clothes and shoes
• hair care products
• special body soaps
• skin care products
GETTING FURNISHINGS FROM THE TRASH (STREET FINDS) AND GARAGE SALES
Unless something is made out of fabric and stuffing, like beds and chairs, I have gotten almost all our furniture from street finds or garage sales. In fact, the quality of old wooden furniture is far superior to the new cheap materials, chipboard and fast growing pine. Consequently, old furniture is in demand.
A manual that describes the process step-by-step is in progress. This makes it possible for anyone to upcycle old furniture and furnishings.
USING CREDIT CARDS RESPONSIBLY
PLEASE NOTE THE NEW SECTION DEVOTED TO CREDIT CARDS USAGE. BECAUSE OF THIS, CREDIT CARD USE SYSTEMS ARE NO LONGER PART OF SAVVY SHOPPING SAVINGS TOOLS.
Because of the potential financial dangers of using credit cards irresponsibly, I especially caution that only people with excellent credit and extreme diligence with their use of credit cards follow these ideas. I compiled two booklet from resource materials that detail the best credit cards to use for cash back and travel rewards. They are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards and The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards. Furthermore, there is a website creditcards.com that will actually calculate which are the best credit cards to use for individual needs.
PARTICIPATING IN SOCIAL MEDIA ON THIS TOPIC
Participating in Facebook groups and pages as well as websites can provide lots of new information. The groups can also function as support groups. I strongly recommend joining and participating. Some of my favorite sources are listed below.
READING AND WRITING BLOG POSTS WITH SUGGESTIONS ON THIS TOPIC
Reading and writing blog posts are two great ways of learning new tips as well as processing what one knows on this topic. Here is another blog post I wrote on this topic, Living A Consciously Frugal Life.
READ EVERYTHING I CAN ON THIS TOPIC AND WRITE AN eBOOK ABOUT IT
Especially relevant to writing on this topic to read, are other sources of material. Based upon extensive research and writing, I composed, The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook. It is designed to ‘tell our story’, going from ‘One Day from Homeless’ to where we are now. The book is filled with savvy savings shopper tips.
In conclusion, the list of resources is growing exponentially. It will continue to grow as the need and demand for savvy shavings shopping tips increases.