After a brutal January gave us plenty of terrible weather across the nation, it’d be nice to get some relief. The Nerds can’t control the skies, but we do have February tips for keeping money resolutions, lowering credit card rates and even enjoying Valentine’s Day.
Renew your money resolutions
Have your New Year’s resolutions for managing money failed already? Scale back your giant goal and set smaller ones that you can accomplish in a short time span. If your objective was to pay off credit card debt in 2018, take it month by month, or even week by week. For example, find some extra cash to put toward your balance by making your lunch at home instead of dining out for a week. (We know this is a money-saving cliche, but it works!) Or pick up a side hustle if you can. Then make credit card payments several times a month, which will reduce your debt faster.
Or let NerdWallet help you attain your goals. As a registered member, you can set and track goals; get recommendations for a better credit card, savings account or other financial product; and check your TransUnion credit score.
Dial for dollars
When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, as it did in 2017, your credit card rate increases. If your current credit card rate is high, now is the time to head off any increases. Good customers — those who pay on time and don’t go over their credit limit — can try calling their credit card issuer to ask for a lower rate. Start by doing some homework to find out which cards with lower rates you might be able to get. Then explain to your current issuer that you’re a loyal customer, but you can get a lower rate with “XYZ” credit card. Most issuers would like to retain good customers.
By reducing the interest rate on a current card rather than applying for a new one, you avoid having a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can briefly lower your score. A word of warning, though: If you’ve missed some payments or your balance is close to the credit limit, asking for a lower interest rate may backfire. While most credit card issuers periodically review accounts, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself if your account isn’t in good shape.
Conquer Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day brings pressure to deliver the perfect date, especially for men. Celebrations usually include a romantic restaurant, flowers and candy. You can plan a memorable day, and save money or earn rewards points, by using your credit card. Many online shopping portals, such as Discover Deals or Delta’s SkyMiles Shopping, offer discounts or bonus points. For example, at SkyMiles Shopping, you can earn 20 miles per dollar spent on flowers at FTD.com. At Discover Deals, you can get 20% off bouquets at Teleflora or 15% off sweets for your sweetie at the Sweet Factory.
Last year, Zagat estimated the average bill for a Valentine’s Day dinner would be $170.53. If you expect to top the $100 mark, be sure you’re using your best credit card for bonus rewards on dining. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® pays 3 points per dollar on dining. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, one point is worth 1.5 cents, which means your effective earn rate on dining out could actually be 4.5% back.
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