NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for April 2018

Mar 30, 2018
NerdWallet's Best Credit Card Tips for April 2018

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April is a month of renewal, whether that involves spring cleaning, spring showers or even spring financial planning. It's a great time to reset or reevaluate your goals for the rest of the year.

Here are some credit card tips to help you optimize your spending and your planning this month.

Activate your card's Q2 bonus categories

The rotating bonus categories for the Chase Freedom® and some Discover cards start April 1 and go through June 30. With the Chase Freedom® during this quarter, you can earn 5% cash back at grocery stores and on PayPal and Chase Pay purchases, on up to a $1,500 spending cap in combined spending. Eligible Discover cards, including the Discover it® Cash Back, also are offering 5% cash back on groceries during the second quarter, also on up to $1,500 in combined purchases. All other spending earns 1%.

These cards require you to activate the bonus categories to get the cash-back bonus for your spending, so be sure to do so through your online account.

As long as the merchant's category code is labeled as a grocery store, any purchase you make there in the second quarter will qualify — even non-food items such as gift cards, magazines, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. (Also keep in mind, however, that big-box retailers and wholesale clubs generally don't qualify as grocery stores.)

Let your card be your vacation buddy

Sure, you've likely already booked your spring break vacation, but there still may be some ways your credit card can save you money once you get to your destination — or even before. Check the cards in your wallet to see whether they offer features such as free checked bags, complimentary airport lounge access or insurance benefits. And if you're headed overseas, use or get a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.

Maybe you're already looking ahead to summer travel? Hotel rooms, flights and transportation costs can earn you extra rewards points if you book with a credit card that caters to travel-specific purchases. Or, if you’ve already accumulated points that you’d like to use, jump on the opportunity to book a getaway with your rewards. You can use a general travel credit card or, if you’re a brand loyalist, you can use a particular airline or hotel co-branded credit card.

Take advantage of Financial Literacy Month

Many people start their adult lives without an education on how to use credit cards responsibly. Help your young adult get started on the right track during Financial Literacy Month by introducing them to credit card basics. Consider looking into “training wheel” options, like adding them as an authorized user to your card or, if they're eligible, helping them fund the security deposit on a secured credit card.

If they can learn how to use those tools responsibly — ideally with your help — they’ll benefit not only by building good habits but also by having a longer credit history that can boost their credit scores.

Spring-clean your wallet

If you don’t use all of your credit cards regularly, reevaluate your underactive accounts and focus on the ones that will help you meet your goals.

This can be a delicate balance. Even if you determine that you no longer want to pay a card's annual fee, or that a different card may better fit your spending habits, the best answer may not be to immediately close an account. That's because closing an old account can affect the length of your credit history and your credit utilization ratio, both of which affect your credit scores.

Instead, try negotiating with your credit card issuer. For example, you could ask the issuer for a product change, which would allow you to upgrade the card but retain your account number and history. Or, if you have multiple cards with the same issuer and want to close one, you could see whether the issuer can transfer that card's available credit limit to the card or cards that you plan to keep open. The length of your credit history might take a hit this way, but your credit utilization would be less affected.

This checklist can help you as you consider whether to ditch plastic you no longer want.

Reassess your 2018 financial goals

Your New Year’s resolutions might be long abandoned, but it’s never too late to create a financial plan. If your goal is to pay down your credit card debt or to boost your credit score, evaluate your spending and see what you can change to eliminate debt or spend more responsibly.

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