Millennial Money: 7 credit card moves to stretch your budget

Oct 25, 2022, 4:00 AM | Updated: 8:01 am

As prices on goods and services soar, every bit of value squeezed from credit cards helps.

Perhaps paying an annual fee became less appetizing. Maybe you scaled back expenses in certain categories a credit card once rewarded, or you’re seeking opportunities to save with your credit cards.

When you aren’t focused on debt and are looking to make the most of your cards, consider these seven tips to free up money for other goals.

1. REQUEST A PRODUCT CHANGE

Ask your issuer if you can upgrade or downgrade your credit card when it no longer aligns with your spending habits. Downgrading to a different credit card is ideal to avoid an annual fee, while upgrading can provide more valuable perks or rewards.

For rewards credit cards, ask whether existing points, miles or cash back will be affected before making the switch.

2. REALLOCATE YOUR CREDIT LIMIT

Some issuers allow you to reallocate a credit limit from one credit card to another within their product portfolio. Reasons why you might explore this option include:

— Avoiding maxing out a frequently used credit card.

— Earning more rewards.

— Preserving credit before an account closure.

— Qualifying for a new credit card with less risk to the issuer.

Cindy Greenstein, a points and miles consultant and creator of the blog The Points Mom , has tapped this option to increase her likelihood of approval for a new card with the same issuer, but she says it doesn’t work with every bank.

“Call a special reallocation line and say to them that you only want the card and the bonus,” the New York resident says. “It usually makes them feel better to know that they don’t have to extend you more credit.”

3. SEEK A RETENTION BONUS

When you’re on the fence about keeping a once-valuable credit card, ask the issuer whether it can offer any incentive to help you decide. As a loyal customer with a good track record, you might get a retention bonus that grants rewards in exchange for meeting a minimum spending requirement. Offers may vary depending on the issuer, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get one, but it’s worth trying.

Greenstein and her husband recently accepted two retention offers totaling about 70,000 points on credit cards with high annual fees. She estimates the offers added up to a minimum value of $700.

“You have to figure out if it’s worth it, based on what they offer, for you to keep it,” Greenstein says.

4. MEET BONUS REQUIREMENTS WITH GIFT CARDS

When chasing a credit card bonus, don’t overspend to earn it. If your budgeted purchases aren’t enough to meet the bonus spending requirements within the designated time frame, consider using the credit card to buy gift cards you can use later.

You could buy a gift card to a grocery store, a restaurant delivery app or an often-frequented retailer. Just don’t overdo it because some issuers have rules against abuse.

5. NEGOTIATE A LOWER APR

If your account is in good standing, try negotiating a lower annual percentage rate with your credit card issuer. Your creditworthiness factors into the interest rate, but an issuer may be willing to go lower.

Delia Fernandez, a certified financial planner who owns Fernandez Financial Advisory LLC, a California-based firm , suggests searching for competing offers at a different bank or credit union and presenting them to your credit card issuer to get a lower interest rate.

“You always want to negotiate from a position of strength, if you can,” Fernandez says. “So if you’re paying your bills on time and you’re doing well but every now and then you like to keep a balance on your credit card, it’s worth calling them up and finding out if they negotiate.”

This option may also be ideal if you have plans to finance a large purchase and don’t want to open a credit card with a 0% introductory APR.

6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CARDHOLDER DISCOUNTS

Log in to your credit card account frequently to check your benefits and merchant-specific offers. Some cards offer discounts on delivery service subscriptions, meal kits, streaming services or other options.

Depending on the issuer, you might also have access to additional rewards or discounts by activating offers on your card and using it to make purchases with specific merchants. If the offers align with budgeted purchases, the savings can add up.

7. MAXIMIZE REWARDS

Consider having more than one rewards credit card to maximize your rewards-earning potential. As long as you can keep track of spending on multiple cards to avoid debt, a dynamic duo of rewards credit cards can offer healthy incentives.

For instance, a cash-back credit card that earns 5% back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating bonus categories can snag you $75 per quarter if you meet the terms instead of the $30 you’d earn on a 2% flat-rate cash-back card given the same spending and time period. But use them together — the 5% card for those bonus categories and the 2% card for everything else — and you’ll optimize your spending.

_____________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lissalambarena.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: Don’t ask for a credit card product change until you do this https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-credit-card-product-change

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Millennial Money: 7 credit card moves to stretch your budget