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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for July 2019

July 3, 2019
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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July is the thick of summer and a prime time to take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather. Your choice of credit card can help with that.

There’s a right card for every kind of spender, and depending on your preferences, we’ve got some suggestions for how to make the most of this month’s expenses.

» MORE: Browse our archive of credit card tips

For the sun seeker

For you, this month is all about the great outdoors. Weekends typically find you in your flip-flops at a beach, pool or lake — or really anywhere you can soak up the sun.

If that’s you, then many of your expenses are likely to lean toward stocking up on outdoor essentials like sunscreen, bug spray and laundry detergent to keep a constant supply of fresh beach towels on hand. You can snag some savings on those items with the right card:

  • Use a card that earns bonus rewards at the supermarket: If you’re picking up your summer essentials along with your milk, consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores; and 1% back on all other purchases. Terms apply. It has an annual fee of $0. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee in exchange for a higher rate at U.S. supermarkets, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express could be a better option. (More on that card later.)
  • Or choose a card that pays a high flat rate on all purchases: If you rarely shop at a supermarket, a cash-back rewards card that earns the same rate on all spending might net you the most savings overall. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer carries a $0 annual fee and pays a total of 2% cash back: 1% when you make your purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill.

» MORE: How to choose a cash-back credit card

For the urban jungle dweller

Nature? Um, no thanks. Your favorite summertime activities all have one thing in common: air-conditioned comfort. On any given summer day, you can be found lounging indoors staring at the screen of your choice. Even couch potatoes can maximize their credit card spending by using the right card.

  • Put your monthly streaming subscriptions on a card that will reward you for it: The above-mentioned Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express also earns an industry-leading 6% back on select streaming services. Terms apply. The annual fee is $95 — but keep in mind the rest of the card’s rewards structure. You’ll also earn 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% back on transit expenses including U.S. gas stations, taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses; and 1% on all other spending.
  • Use a card that offers cash back on indoor pursuits like movies and museums. Summer is Hollywood blockbuster time, and if your idea of happiness is a giant theater and a tub of popcorn, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card might be just the ticket. With this card, you can choose two categories each quarter from a list of 12 to earn 5% back on up to $2,000 in combined purchases per quarter. Movie theaters are one of those 5% options. The card also earns 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category — such as gas stations or grocery stores — and 1% cash back on all other spending.

» MORE: Have a rotating bonus category card? Check your current categories

For the road warrior

Going on a long road trip to visit friends or family? You may need a credit card for gas. Fortunately, several good options exist:

  • Activate your card’s bonus categories: The Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. And for the third quarter of this year (July 1 through Sept. 30, 2019), the card’s bonus categories are gas stations and select streaming services. But you’ve got to remember to activate, which should take only a few seconds via your card’s mobile app or website.
  • Use a card that earns high rewards on gas year-round: The Ducks Unlimited Rewards Platinum Edition® Visa® Card is another option to consider, as it offers an unlimited 5% cash back on gas purchases, not to mention an unlimited 5% back on sporting goods store spending. All other purchases earn 1%. So you can fill the tank with gas and your trunk with frisbees, camping gear or whatever else fits the bill for your road trip adventures.

» MORE: How to choose a gas credit card

For the fireworks fanatic

The Fourth of July is the pinnacle of summer for you. You spend hours strategizing the best spot for viewing the big show, and you plan to go all-out and splurge on a new set of lounge chairs, a big cooler and one of those fancy bug zappers. If all this spending stretches your budget beyond the comfort zone, try these techniques:

  • Get a card with an intro 0% APR offer on purchases: Although it’s never a great idea to spend beyond your means, sometimes you just need a little extra breathing room to pay off a big buy. A card with a 0% intro APR offer will let you do that. The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has one of the longest interest-free stretches on the market today, an offer available exclusively via NerdWallet: Get an intro 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 20 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 12.24% - 20.24% Variable APR. That gives you nearly two years to pay off your July Fourth party.
  • Consider a store card: If you’re spending a significant chunk of cash at the same place over and over again, it may benefit you to get rewarded for that loyalty. Although store cards generally don’t offer the same flexibility in redemption as more general-purpose rewards cards, they often feature perks and discounts specific to the brand. If you’re looking to get rewards on everything under the sun, consider the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, which earns 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; and 1% back on everything else.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for large purchases

Information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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