July means cookouts, travel and staying cool during the dog days of summer — but it’s also a great time to optimize your spending for fun activities.
Use these tips and tricks to make the most of your credit cards this month.
Host a 4th of July bash …
If you have any credit cards that give you bonus points or discounts at supermarkets, wholesale stores, big-box retailers or Amazon, then put your plastic to work by buying all of your food, drink and decorations at those merchants.
For example, if you have the Chase Freedom®, you might consider buying as many of your party supplies as possible from Walgreens, which is one of the card’s 5% bonus categories from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2018. And you might remind any guests who also have that card that Lyft and gas stations are the other bonus categories for Q3. They can get rewarded just for attending your gathering, whether they drive themselves to it or hail a ride.
Chase Freedom® cardholders earn 5% cash back in these bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (1% back after that). You’ll have to activate the categories to earn the bonus.
If you have a flat-rate cash-back card, check your card’s online shopping mall to see whether you can earn any bonus cash back in special summer categories.
… Or hit up your local barbecue buffet
Maybe you don’t feel like playing host and would rather let someone else do the cooking. That could work in your favor, too.
For eligible Discover cards like the Discover it® Cash Back, restaurants are the third-quarter bonus category. From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2018, cardholders who opt in can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases at restaurants (1% back after that).
If you’re a new Discover it® Cash Back cardholder and are still in the first year of being a customer, you’ll have further incentive: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
Start planning your winter getaway
Though the cold winter months might seem far away in the sweltering heat of summer, they’ll be here before you know it. Start investigating vacations to warm locales so that you aren’t stuck at home dreaming about beachy destinations.
Check your balances for hotel-loyalty, frequent-flyer and credit card points to see where you stand and/or how much more you might need for a freebie. But also, if your travel rewards credit card has a bonus mall, hop on now and look for package deals. They’ll likely be far cheaper now than they will be in late fall, plus you won’t need to worry later about a trip interfering with your holiday budget.
Apply for federal trusted traveler programs
A number of travel credit cards are now offering reimbursement of the application fee for Global Entry, TSA Precheck or both. These programs can help you skip the long lines (and headaches) associated with airport security processes.
Enrollment for both programs lasts for five years. TSA Precheck costs $85 and allows travelers to use an expedited security line at the airport that has less-stringent security requirements: TSA Precheck travelers don’t need to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets.
Global Entry costs $100 and has the same perks as TSA Precheck, but it also gives you expedited customs screening when coming back to the United States after traveling internationally.
Application for either program can involve some minor work and hassle — but you’ve got plenty of long summer days to get it done. Learn more about which program is right for you.
Happy spending this July!