I went to Target yesterday and stocked up on some essentials – toothbrushes, soap, dish detergent, etc. The total was $54.00+, and I only paid $27.00+, getting everything for almost half price. How did that happen?
I had a $1.00 coupon for one of the items, and I had a $25 Target gift card. No one gave it to me; I earned it through points on my Capital One card.
I have two credit cards – Capital One and Target Visa. Both give me points for the dollar amounts I charge. At Capital One I can convert the points into merchandise or gift cards. So far I’ve gotten cards for Barnes and Noble (I got several gardening books) and Target. At Target, once I’ve earned 1000 points, I get a card for 10% off all purchases in one day. I usually stock up when I have one of those, too – although not as much as this time, since the gift card was a much better deal!
I use both of the cards fairly often. The Target card has my monthly Netflix fee on it, and my monthly donations to ASPCA and The Elephant Sanctuary. I also use it for smaller online purchases. For big things, like appliances and travel, I use the Capital One card. Here’s the key: as soon as I use both cards, I go ahead and subtract the amount from my checking account, as if the cards were debit cards or I had written a check. Then, when the bill comes, the money is already allocated, and I pay the whole balance off.
If it’s a big expense, I will usually subtract at least part of the total from my account in the month or two ahead, which essentially saves the money until I have to spend it. For instance – when I went to Wales, the bill for Ralph’s stay at the kennel/spa was $551. I had already saved $500 out of my checking account in the two months before I traveled, so when I went to bail Ralph out, I only had to subtract another $51, and that bill was “paid.” So, when the actual bill came, I just paid it – no problem.
I never, never carry a balance. Capital One inundates me with those “checks” they send, but I never use them. I receive and pay both bills electronically, so they are never late. (My mortgage, electric, phone, car loan, student loan and cable are all paid automatically and electronically as well – never late.) As a result, my credit score is really, really good.
Using credit cards can have some excellent rewards – but you’ve got to pretend they’re debit cards. You can’t spend what you don’t have.