Credit Cards

5 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Benefits

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Ryan Ong

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In addition to giving you discounts, credit cards are great as bookmarks, miniature garden trowels, and lock picks. By placing it in a door slot and…oh, that isn’t what this article’s about? Well excuse me, I think out the box when you use words like “maximize” and “benefit”. I like thinking out the box; it reminds me of life outside prison. Anyway, in the interest of our readers’ economic (and legal) health, here are some less, uh, creative ways to stretch your credit card benefits:

 

1. Top Up Your Petrol Early

A lot of local credit cards have specific petrol discounts. If you look on card comparison sites like MoneySmart, you’ll notice discounts apply at specific stations (e.g. Esso and Caltex).

On top of that, our petrol stations have rewards booklets with on-site discounts. Sometimes this is a load of E-bay fodder, like shoe racks and baby socks. But there are also rewards booklets with 5% – 10% discounts, or maintenance related offers.

 

Thai roadside gasoline
Thank God, I’m on empty. Do you take Visa?

 

But none of it matters if you don’t go to the “right” petrol station. Alfred Hoon, a personal chauffeur, told me how he maximizes the discounts:

A lot of people wait for their petrol to run out, then they must use the nearest petrol station. It may not be the right type. Maybe I have Caltex rewards, but because my tank is empty, I have no choice and must use the nearby Shell. Then my discount is gone. So I always top up early, because I can choose the station that I want.”

 

2. Hit and Run

You know those salespeople who lurk around booths and offer you credit cards? The ones where, if you apply for one card, they’ll end up sending you three to 3,000?

They do that because they only make about $30 – $50 per card sold. But you can work with them instead of against them. Just ask them whether there are any vouchers or immediate cash-back; tell them you only want the cards that come with those.

Once they’ve picked out the cards, apply for them.

 

Credit card applications
Dear Sir / Madam, please stop sending applications. We now have a department named after you.

 

In about 10 working days, credit cards will flood your mailbox like illegal immigrants in a recession. Take every possible voucher or cash-back dollar you can get; then call the bank and cancel the whole lot. You’ll be doing a favour to two people: Yourself, and that poor salesman. There are trained circus animals with fairer wages.

 

3. Argue Against The Fees

Most credit cards have an annual fee. I think of the fee as more of a suggestion than a rule. And how about I pay it never? Is never a good time for your bank?

When you’re faced with the annual fee, call the bank. Tell them you want to cancel the card. When they ask why, tell them it’s because you don’t want to pay the fee. Most of the time they’ll waive it. If they don’t, cancel the card. Then re-apply for the same card (almost all new cards come with three year fee waivers).

 

Phone call to the banker
Hi, I can’t pay any fees because I’m dead. Let’s see you argue against *that* one.

 

You can also argue against late fees. There’s no guarantees, but try it: Call the bank and ask to speak to the manager. Don’t bother arguing this with call centre operatives. Explain to the manager that:

“I’ve been a good customer for X years now, I’m sure you don’t want to lose me over this small amount.” 

Or something to that effect. Most of the time, the bank will waive the late fees. If you want to know more tricks regarding credit card fees, follow us on Facebook. We’ll keep you updated as we find them.

 

4. Check if Your Reward Points Expire

Yes, reward points expire. It’s up to you to know when and how.

This means you need to plan two things: One is when to use to your accumulated points. The other is the the points redemption scheme, and whether your your points accumulation meets the time limit.

 

Old pager
“Can I trade the reward points for the pager? That offer isn’t expired is it?”

 

For example, say you only put $8,000 on a card every year. You look up the reward points for $8,000, and it says “Friendly pat on the back.” You’d need to spend at least $12,000 a year to get any decent rewards. Now if the expiry date for the reward points is one year, there’s no reason to use that card.

You should also note any limits on points accumulation. Cash in your rewards whenever you hit the cap.

 

5. Buy For Others

No, not out of charity. You want others to pay you cash, while you use your card.

This is the quickest way to accumulate reward points. If four or five friends are making purchases via your card, and you’re getting the cash repayments from them, you’re getting points for free. Josephus Yap, notorious miser and procurement officer, says:

I always pay for meals with my credit card, then I collect the cash from everyone. Especially if there’s a 10% or 15% discount. Usually, the cash I collect will exceed the real price of the meal.

There was a time I got a friend to buy a watch on my card; it was around $10,000, and he paid me in cash. I paid it back right away, and I got a lot of reward points for free. So by all means; as long as they pay you back immediately, let friends make purchases through your card.”

Image Credits:
Images_of_Money, dms_303, Troismarteaux, andrew.wippler, Hades2k

How do you stretch your credit card? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.