It can be hard to spend on a budget at the best of times, but when you’re looking for ways to fight inflation, the task might feel even more impossible than usual.
Millions of Americans turned to credit cards this year in an attempt to make ends meet. In fact, in the first two months of 2022 alone, consumers opened 11.5 million new credit card accounts.
While credit cards can bring necessary relief to families suffering under the weight of inflation, credit card debt can quickly spiral out of hand.
To keep your credit cards from pulling you under, make sure you’re following these seven crucial credit card tricks.
Transfer your balance
Do you have more than one credit card? It could be worth looking at the terms, conditions, rewards, and interest rates for each card, then moving your balance from one card to another.
Bear in mind that a balance transfer can impact your credit score, especially if you open a new account to transfer your existing balance or if you keep spending on your freed-up older card.
However, if one of your credit cards has a lower APR or better travel rewards that can help you save money on gas, the transfer could reduce your debt while freeing up more cash.
Open a new account
Maybe your credit card provider worked fine for you before the pandemic, but now that prices have soared, you’re noticing that your card’s rewards don’t compensate enough for its high interest rate.
If that’s the case, it might be worth transferring your card balance to another bank with better terms and rewards.
As we said above, this will likely affect your credit score. You should weigh the pros and cons of transferring your balance to a new bank very seriously.
If you’re applying for a loan anytime soon, avoid opening a new account. You don’t want to lower your chances for a good rate or disqualify yourself from getting a loan just for the benefit of better rewards.
Match your card to your purchase
Instead of using your credit card to cover every expense, take the time to decide which card or account you’ll use for different purchases.
If your card only earns cash-back rewards on gas purchases, try to use that card for gas and your debit card for everything else. If your card gets double rewards points when you use it at certain stores, limit your card use to just those stores as much as possible.
Being strategic about which cards you use for each type of purchase can give you back some spending power. Using one card for everything can cause you to rack up debt at a high APR without getting any rewards in return.
Use cards that reward your shopping habits
Do you spend a good chunk of your monthly budget on grocery shopping? Are you trying to save money for a major cross-country trip next year? If so, find a credit card that rewards you for spending exactly the way you do.
For instance, some cards offer cash back on all grocery store purchases. Others help you rack up SkyMiles as quickly as possible.
Finding the right card takes a little research, but it’s worth it to find a credit option that makes your biggest expense a little easier on your budget.
Take advantage of your customer loyalty
If you’ve been with the same credit card provider for years, you might be able to turn your long history of loyalty to your advantage.
Before switching to a different credit card, consider asking your current provider if they’d be willing to expand your benefits to retain you as a customer.
They might be willing to offer you double rewards points or a lower fee — or you might learn they’re not worried about losing your business and don’t care to negotiate.
Either way, you don’t have anything to lose by asking, but you could stand to gain a little relief from the rising economic pressure.
Raise (or lower) your card limits
Are you charging more or less to your credit card than you were this time last year? Your credit card should be semi-customizable to your needs, including your credit limit.
For instance, if you know you’ll spend and spend until your card is maxed out, talk to your provider about lowering your credit limit so you don’t accrue more debt than necessary.
If what worked for you last year no longer works, it could be time for a change.
Pay off your balance
A credit card can be a useful, even necessary financial tool when your budget is stretched thin.
But to combat inflation around the country, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. As of November 28, 2022, the average credit card interest rate was 19.28%.
If you don’t pay off your credit card debt as soon as it comes due, it won’t matter how much cash back you got on your purchases. The interest you owe will far surpass any savings.
Depending on the card and your financial situation, a credit card can help you stay ahead of inflation.
These seven crucial tricks can help you make your card work for you and help you avoid money stress while you ride out 2022’s inflation wave.