Managing your credit cards isn’t a one-and-done task — you’ll need to keep at it to get the most out of your plastic. Every month, the Nerds round up a new set of tips to help you maximize rewards and minimize costs with every swipe.
For August 2015:
1. Use bonus malls to cash in on back-to-school shopping.
If you or your children are starting a new semester in August, you probably have some shopping to do. Most common back-to-school purchases — such as clothing, school supplies, snack foods and electronics — can be purchased online, which means you can use bonus malls to supercharge your rewards earning.
Bonus malls are online shopping portals offered by credit card issuers. By using your credit card and shopping through a bonus mall, you can get extra rewards or discounts on purchases from online retailers without any additional cost to you. Here’s what you need to know about how to use bonus malls, as well as some of the Nerds’ favorite shopping portals.
2. Stock up on summer gear at a discount and earn rewards.
August is the best month of the year to purchase air conditioners and outdoor furniture, according to Consumer Reports. This is a good opportunity to prepare for next summer, while also earning rewards with your favorite credit card.
Any rewards credit card will do, but if you’re strategic about it, you may be able to get better-than-standard rewards. For instance, credit cards with 5% rotating bonus categories often have extra rewards on home improvement stores around this time each year. And many bonus malls offer additional rewards or discounts at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.
3. Pull your credit reports if you haven’t done so in the last 12 months.
Reading over your credit reports may not be the coolest end-of-summer activity, but it’s a good idea to get it done now. September through December is hectic for many families — back to school, extracurriculars, holidays and the fourth-quarter push at work — so this may be the last chance to clear this off your plate.
It’s important to pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at least once a year to make sure they’re accurate and up to date. The information from your credit reports is used to calculate your credit score, so an error could result in a denied loan application or unnecessarily high mortgage rates.
You can check your credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. After you follow the prompts to enter your personal information and answer security questions, you can download one, two or all three of your reports. Each of your credit reports can be obtained for free once every 12 months.