NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for March 2017

Ellen CannonMar 1, 2017

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March brings spring break, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness — and tax preparation. The Nerds have tips for using your credit cards for all of these events.

Take a spring break trip

If you’re hitting the road with your family for a spring getaway, you’ll want to save money however you can. Saving on gas is a great start. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express rewards you with 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, plus 6% cash back for U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $6,000 in U.S. supermarket spending per year, then 1%). Terms apply. Meanwhile, gas is a 5% bonus category this quarter for both the Chase Freedom® and eligible Discover credit cards. (How these cards work: You get 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending, and 1% on all other spending.)

Speaking of rotating bonus categories, if you haven't yet opted in to this quarter's bonus categories, it's not too late. When you activate on the Chase Freedom® or a Discover card, you'll get the bonus for all eligible purchases this quarter, even those you made before activating.

Those jetting to a warmer climate can earn rewards with the right travel credit card:

  • If you’re flying to the Southeast: You may have flights booked on Delta, with a giant hub in Atlanta. With the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, you earn 2 miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1 mile on all other eligible purchases. Plus, you'll receive priority boarding and the first checked bag free for you and up to eight other people on your reservation. Terms apply.

  • If you're flying to the Southwest: You may be flying Southwest Airlines. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card earns 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines, 2 points per dollar spent at partner hotels and rental car agencies, and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. Plus, you get a 3,000-point “thank you” bonus every year on your cardholder anniversary.

  • If you're flying somewhere else: The Nerds have two roundups that can help you maximize your travel spending. Check out our best general travel rewards cards, and our best airline credit cards. Or see our page for the best current credit card offers.

Wear the green

Throughout the year, MasterCard celebrates “Priceless Cities” by offering access to special events in select cities. Use your MasterCard to visit Chicago and see the Chicago River dyed green for the St. Paddy’s Day festivities or join 2 million spectators in New York City to experience the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world.

Dive into March Madness

Even if you're not a college basketball fanatic, you can still get in on the action. Capital One is a “Corporate Champion” of the NCAA, and the issuer is sponsoring the March Madness Bracket Challenge. Choose your teams and follow their road to the Final Four in Phoenix from the comfort of home. If you really want to experience March Madness, though, get off the couch and fly to Phoenix with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You earn 2 miles for all spending, and you can book any airline at any time with no blackout dates.

But why wait for the NCAA championship to get crazy over basketball? The ACC tournament will be held March 7-11 in New York City, and with a Citi credit or debit card, you have preferred access to tickets through Citi Private Pass. Who knows — the ultimate NCAA champion may come out of the ACC (North Carolina and Duke are always factors), and you can say you were there at the beginning.

Pay your taxes (preferably by check)

After all the fun of spring break and NCAA hoopla, it’s time to get serious and pay your taxes. The question of whether to pay your taxes with a credit card comes up a lot this time of year. The Nerds have some warnings about doing that. In short, it's an option — but it's not a very good option because of the extra fees that get tacked on. According to the IRS, you can pay your taxes by credit or debit card through three authorized payment processors. But you need to calculate the fees you'll pay in addition to your tax bill.

Payment Processor

Debit Card Fees

Credit Card Fees

PayUSAtax.com

$2.65

1.98%, minimum $2.69

Pay1040.com

$2.59

1.87%, minimum $2.59

OfficialPayments.com/fed

$2.25 up to $1,000, $3.95 over $1,000

2.00%, minimum $2.50

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