Hacking used to be an obscure term that was used mostly by computer geeks to describe unauthorized access to a computer system. But somewhere along the way, the word evolved to include all sorts of tricks that were discovered to make our lives easier. One of the best ways to employ these so-called lifehacks is with our credit cards, as their intricate rules, terms and conditions are especially ripe for creative workarounds.
Here are eight credit card lifehacks that you may not be using as often as you should.
1. Use price protection policies.
Don’t sit around and wait for something you want to go on sale when you can buy it now and get the lower price later. Many credit cards offer a price protection benefit that will reimburse you for the difference if a lower price is advertised on a previous purchase. In fact, Citi’s Price Rewind service will even find lower prices for you, and reimburse you automatically.
2. Get a business credit card, regardless of the size of your business.
You might think that business credit cards are just for incorporated, full-time business owners, but they’re not. You can open up a business credit card account as an unregistered sole proprietor. And you can even get a business credit card for your part-time venture, no matter how small. So if you dog walk, babysit or just sell stuff online, consider applying for a business credit card. A business credit card can help you build business credit so if you eventually want to grow your business and take on a business loan or line of credit, you have a credit history to build upon and can access lower interest rates and better offers. (You can check your personal and business credit scores for free on Nav.)
Having emergency cash on hand can be your key to managing cash flow.
3. Use your personal card for business expenses.
You can use your personal card for business expenses, and for some new business owners who haven’t taken out advice and applied for a business credit card yet, this may be your only credit option. You might do this when it offers you better rewards at gas stations or grocery stores, or when you just need a little more credit than your business card offers.
4. Time your purchases to maximize your grace period.
Smart credit card users have always avoided interest charges by paying their balances in full. Get the most out of this valuable feature by holding off on large purchases until just after your statement closes. This way, the charge will appear on the following statement, giving you 30 days, plus your card’s 21- to 25-day grace period to pay it off without interest.
5. Pool your rewards from your business and personal cards.
Even though you have to keep your personal and business finances separate, you can still combine the rewards earned from all of your credit cards. For example, Chase let’s you combine their Ultimate Rewards points, and American Express automatically pools customers’ Membership Rewards points. You can also use both business and personal cards to earn rewards in the same airline or hotel program. (Editor’s Note: American Express is a Nav partner, but that doesn’t result in any preferential editorial treatment.)
6. Try a credit card product change.
If you don’t need a credit card anymore, you don’t have to cancel it. Instead, you can often keep the account and change the card to a different one, without a credit check. You can do this to avoid an annual fee while participating in a different rewards program. Just be aware that you won’t earn a new sign-up bonus when you request that you account be changed from one card to another.
7. Get both the business and the personal version of a card.
Many cards come in both a business version and a personal version. But there’s no reason why you can’t have two cards that earn rewards with the same airline or hotel program. Doing so can offer you double the sign-up bonus and other perks.
8. Use chargebacks to protect yourself.
One of the most powerful protections that credit cards offer is the ability to dispute a charge when you don’t get what you paid for, or what was delivered wasn’t exactly what you ordered. This ability, commonly called a chargeback, is part of the Fair Credit Billing Act. And sometimes, just telling a shady merchant that you intend to initiate a dispute will cause them to do the right thing as chargebacks can have expensive consequences for merchants.