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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for May 2019

May 1, 2019
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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May is here in all of its flower-filled, pastel-colored glory. It’s traditionally the start of a string of celebrations: graduations, weddings and late-spring holidays, which are all opportunities to maximize your credit card rewards.

Here are our top credit card tips for May.

» MORE: Browse our archive of credit card tips

Transform wedding season from a budget buster to a bounty

Hell hath no fury like someone who just spent $1,500 and three vacation days to attend the destination wedding of a third cousin. But if there’s one thing that can help soften the blow of losing cash and precious weekends to the season of other people’s love, it’s the prospect of using wedding expenses to rake in rewards points.

Use wedding costs to earn a sign-up bonus: A few weeks before you book travel, buy a gift or pick a snazzy new outfit, apply for a rewards card. All of those wedding-related expenses will help you get most of the way to a free flight or a generous helping of cash back. NerdWallet’s list of best sign-up bonuses can help you choose the ideal card for you.

Front the cost of pre-wedding parties: If you’re in the wedding party and have room in your budget, front the cost of the bachelor party beach house or wedding shower venue deposit and have the other attendees or hosts pay you their share of the cost back in cash. When you put in so much effort to plan the perfect event, you should get to keep the points!

Use shopping portals to supersize your earnings: A card with an online bonus mall or shopping portal can help you earn even more points on top of the card’s normal ongoing rewards rate. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, you can shop through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. Buy gifts and wedding outfits at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, shop the couple’s registry at Bed Bath & Beyond, or treat yourself to a new lipstick at Sephora. You’ll get extra points for it all.

Update the credit card from your college days

If you spent your college years slowly building up your credit score with a student credit card, or as an authorized user on a parent’s card, you may be in a position to transition to a more rewarding card once you earn your diploma and start your first real-world job.

Start with simple rewards: A flat-rate cash-back card like the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and is an option for those with fair credit scores (a FICO score range of at least 630). After you make your first five monthly payments on time, you may be eligible for a higher credit limit, too. There’s a $39 annual fee and no sign-up bonus, but this card can be a steppingstone to others that are designed for consumers with good-to-excellent FICO scores of 690 or above.

Graduate to earning more: Attaining a good credit score makes you a more likely candidate for credit cards with even sweeter benefits. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer earns 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay your bill, for a total of 2% cash back. The annual fee is $0. You can pair this card with one that earns more cash back where you spend the most, like the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns 3% back on dining and entertainment. The $0-annual-fee card also has a sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Use the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card at places like restaurants, fast food establishments, bars and movie theaters to get 3% cash back, and then use the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer everywhere else for 2% back. Pairing two rewards cards is an easy way to maximize your earnings.

Save on holiday spending

Between Cinco de Mayo margaritas, Mother’s Day brunch and Memorial Day barbecues, there are a lot of restaurant, bar and grocery bills in your near future.

Earn more rewards at restaurants and bars: Leave the cooking and bartending to others, and pick a credit card that pays you back when you go out. The American Express® Gold Card earns 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, plus this welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. If the $250 annual fee gives you indigestion, consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, as well as this bonus to new cardholders: Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

Earn more rewards on groceries: The aforementioned American Express® Gold Card also earns 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1 point back). Terms apply. But, again, if its annual fee is too high for you, another option could be the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The $95-annual-fee card earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%); 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Terms apply. You’ll earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

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