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Top credit card tips and tricks

A credit card appropriately used can save you money and time. Here are some invaluable tips and tricks for your plastic.

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Credit cards can be a useful weapon in any Kiwi’s spending arsenal. They’re incredibly useful and flexible and may come with all manner of great features, such as complimentary insurance policies, discounted foreign transaction fees and discount on a range of products and services.

However, the value of these benefits is significantly reduced by fees or interest if you fail to use a credit card correctly, so read on to find out how to get the most from your card.

Top credit card tips

Take a moment to read through these credit card tips for more information on your card and how to use it.

  1. Carefully read all the terms and conditions. It doesn’t take up much of your time to read through a booklet of terms and conditions, so it’s surprising how many people don’t do so, especially as most use their credit card every day or at least every week. The terms and conditions booklet explains the fees and charges, and how features such as rewards programs work.
  2. Use balance transfer credit cards to reduce debt. A balance transfer rate is a low promotional rate given to those who transfer their existing credit card balance over to a new credit card. The rate usually lasts a set number of months and allows you to make progress paying off your debt, without the usual high-interest charges. Please note, typically you can only balance transfer up to 90% of your approved credit limit, and card providers don’t accept balance transfers from all card providers.
  3. Negotiate. If you have been a valuable customer to the credit card company, you can sometimes negotiate if you can’t make a payment or your account attracts a fee.
  4. Pay more than the minimum. Making only the minimum repayment drags out the debt, and you pay more interest in the long term. If you make more than the minimum repayment, it increases the amount going towards the balance rather than the interest. If you have a balance of $1,000, with a rate of 18.5% and minimum repayments of 2% of the balance, you will pay off the debt in just over eight years. Your debt increases to $1,924, due to interest. If you raise your repayments to $50 a month, the debt is repaid in two years and costs a total of $1,183.
  5. Sign your credit card. If your card is stolen and there is no signature on the back, the thief can sign it and proceed to spend up big. If you haven’t done so, sign the reverse of the card, so it’s harder for a criminal to gain access to your account.
  6. Have a card for each different purpose. If you need to carry a balance over from one month to the next, you should have a separate card, and another card for day-to-day expenses that you pay off at the end of the month. Especially as carrying a balance cancels out the interest-free days you receive on a credit card.
  7. Have a separate business expense credit card. Even if you run a small business, you can keep track of your business expenses using a credit card and use it for deductions at tax time.
  8. Use price protection. Most gold and platinum cards offer this feature, and you can receive a refund on the difference between the lower-priced item and the one you purchased within 30 to 90 days.
  9. Use the included purchase protection. Many premium cards provide purchase protection when you use the card to buy an item. This protection usually covers the cost of repairing or replacing the goods if it’s lost, stolen or damaged.
  10. Pay your balance in full every month, when possible. The perfect credit card scenario involves paying off your balance in full. This means you won’t pay interest on your card, only annual fees. Credit cards come with interest-free days, and if you pay your balance in full within these days each month, you can avoid interest charges.
  11. Choose the correct rewards program. If you are a traveller, get a card that offers Airpoints. Likewise, if you love spending on your card, get one with sufficient credit so you can purchase the required merchandise. If you like to minimise credit card costs, a card that allows you to use points for refunds on your annual fee could be for you. If you want a rewards card, estimate the value of the rewards you’re likely to receive in a year and compare this to the annual fee you have to pay.
  12. Cashback cards can be a great way to minimise weekly costs. Some rewards credit cards allow you to get cashback on your shopping bills, which can help better manage your expenses.
  13. Look for rewards offers when comparing cards. If you’re looking for a rewards credit card, have a look at the bonus points offers. These can kickstart your points balance and help you get closer to your points goal.
  14. Keep track of your expenses. It’s a good idea to track all your spending on the card, in much the same way you would the cheques you write. This helps identify where you need to cut down on spending.
  15. Know what your card provider counts as a cash advance. The usual transactions included are ATM withdrawals; gambling transactions; buying foreign cash, travellers cheques or money orders; buying and loading up a prepaid credit card, and some bill payments. As always this depends on the card issuer.
  16. Use the right card when travelling. In addition to the usual interest charges, New Zealand credit cards used overseas will incur foreign transaction fees and fees when withdrawing money from ATMs. There are credit cards which waive these fees, so make sure you apply for one before travelling.

The main gist of these tips and tricks is “have a careful look at your credit card”. When misused, a credit card can cost you thousands in interest each year and contribute to a negative impact on your credit file. When you next compare credit cards, or if you feel you’re not getting the most from your card, check the above points to ensure you’re on the right track.

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