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In addition to the first day of spring, March brings you a possible tax refund, March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day — all of which may nudge you to spend. It's worth coming up with a credit card strategy to get more value from those upcoming purchases.
Whether you're trying to get debt under control or maximize your purchases, here's how you can make the most of your credit cards this month.
Put your tax refund toward debt management
If you’re getting a tax refund this year, plan how you’ll make it work for you. Without debt, you can use a tax refund to pad your emergency fund. With high-interest credit card debt, a tax refund may offer the opportunity to pay it down.
By doubling up on strategies like using a tax refund and a balance transfer offer, you may advance your way out of debt. If your tax refund only puts a small dent in your debt, consider getting a balance transfer credit card like the $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card.
It offers a 0% intro APR on Purchases for up to 21 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.74%-25.74% Variable APR For transfer requests made within 120 days from account opening, you'll pay an intro balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater. After that, the card charges up to 5% of every amount transferred, with a minimum of $5. If you’re a ways from paying down debt, the intro fee is worth paying if it means saving money on interest charges over time.
Get more value from spending on March events
While paying down credit card debt, it’s important to stop making new purchases with your cards. Some festivities in March, like March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, may lead to extra spending. You can still participate, as long as you can stay on track by budgeting for expenses and keeping costs low. A no-spend month, or even a few no-spend weeks, after this month's events can also keep you on the get-out-of-debt track.
But, if you’re debt-free and you live for the NCAA basketball tournament or green drinks, your credit card may offer some value.
A card like the $0-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a solid choice for these types of events and it will continue to be fruitful in other eventful months. It earns 3% back on dining, eligible streaming services, grocery store purchases and entertainment, and 1% cash back on other purchases. Streaming services include ESPN+, Hulu, DirecTV and SlingTV, to name a few. The dining category also includes purchases at restaurants, bars and other establishments.
» MORE: What to buy and skip in March
Book last-minute spring break getaways
For spring break getaways, a travel credit card may lower the costs of this vacation or the next one. Again, it’s not worth pursuing a travel credit card if you’re working on paying down debt. If that’s the goal, you can still have a frugal spring break and stay on course by going camping or visiting national parks, for instance.
When you’re free of debt, a travel credit card that you pay off in full each month can potentially cover a chunk of your travel budget. The $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, offers a healthy sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
It also earns 5 points per dollar spent on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar spent on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout), 3 points per dollar spent on select streaming services, 3 points per dollar spent on online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar spent on travel not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases. It offers a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year. Altogether, the incentives add up to huge savings on travel.