Some people use credit card rewards to pay for awesome vacations that they could not otherwise afford – and that’s fantastic. Truth be told, I’m a bit jealous.
Because my credit card reward victories, while they seem awesome to me – are ordinary.
I don’t use them for travel or to buy myself something extravagant. I use them to stretch our budget a little bit further.
See, we’re in PayOffDebtAsFastAsWeCan Mode, and that means our budget is very tight, and very strict. But what happens when we throw un-budgeted for medical bills into the mix? Do we skimp on healthcare? Do we let the bills go to collections?
The answer to both is “No.” We use credit cards rewards to help us pay for unexpected or higher than expected costs that don’t fit into our budget, and that don’t really qualify as emergency enough to pull from our savings.
Our Debt payoff date, as of now, is July 1st, 2017. I WILL NOT let our debt drag out any longer than that. Recently, we had about $700 worth of unexpected doctor’s bills. Between therapy for my husband’s knees and some dental work that needed to be done, we were struggling with what to do about these bills. We budget $50 a month for doctor’s bills, but the reality is there is about $200 worth of bills each month (at least for the next couple of months). and we felt like it was barely making a dent in what we owed
Then I heard about Chase Freedom giving $200 bonuses to new cardholders who spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening the account. To make the deal even sweeter, they were giving a $25 bonus on the first purchase made with the card, as well as 5% back in rotating categories. Considering we were in the market for a better rewards card, when compared without our current card that only gives 1% cash back and no bonus, that seemed like a pretty sweet deal. I couldn’t help but think that maybe this was our answer!
Naturally, I was afraid of our credit hindering us from being approved for the cards. We are young, which naturally leads to lower credit scores. But more than that we made a couple of mistakes in the past. One was with a credit card. We thought we had rolled over the balance to another card, but it wasn’t actually completed and I didn’t bother to check. So, we stopped making payments on the old card. 90 days later we have collections people calling us.
Now this was bad form by the credit card company, I think. Becuase I swore I had logged into the old account to double check that the balance had been moved to the new card and saw a zero balance as it should have been. So, when we started getting collections notices, I naturally questioned why we hadn’t been getting statements (either by email or mail), and tried to pull all of our old statements. The online accounts would only let me pull 6 months worth of statements, and when I called they refused to send them to me. I tried being nice and I tried being mean, but nothing worked. So, not knowing what to do, we just paid the balance and completely closed the old account. Also, I asked about why we hadn’t been getting statements, and the company told me that she didn’t know. Our statements were set to paper (not email) but we hadn’t received a single one. Strange.
….And that’s the story of how we kind of messed up our credit…..
Regardless of what the credit card company did, the responsibility falls to us, as we were not vigilant. As a result, our credit scores are still recovering. They are considered fair, and we are getting really close to “good” again, but I still had concerns about applying for new credit cards for each of us and not getting them, which would hurt our scores more!
Nevertheless, we both applied for separate cards – to maximize the bonus and we were approved! Within a couple of months we had racked up enough points between us for $600 in statement credits – which paid off all but $80 that we owed the two doctors! We simply paid both off with our credit cards and then applied our credits. The $80 that was left we easily paid off within the next couple of months with the 5% back the card gave!
Maybe the day will come when I can use credit card rewards to pay for vacations – but that day is not quite here. Until then, I’ll be thankful to all of you bloggers and advertisers who bring awesome deals like this to my attention.
P.S. – If you don’t know where to go to find credit cards that will help stretch your budget just a bit further, check out Credit Card Insider! There you can find the perfect card to fit your life, needs, and personality!
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John @ Frugal Rules says
Very cool Gretchen! We used rewards, on the Freedom card actually, for a number of years to help us stretch our budget. We would redeem them for gift cards so we could get stuff at Target for the kids or something like that. Sorry to hear about the past experience as it doesn’t sound fun at all, but great that you moved on and handled it the way you did. :)
It’s awesome to know, that when you need something uenxpected, it’s there! Plus, I’m really liking them, so we might keep them beyond the bonus period ;-)
Credit Card Rewards are a nice bonus. If things go over you can pay off some of the extra expenses and if things all go to plan (or better) you have extra cash to invest or pay off debt. Not a bad deal as long as they are paid off in full no matter what. I haven’t seen the Chase Freedom bonus of $200, but I already have the card so I don’t think I can get that one.
Yeah, unfortunately you have to be a new cardholder to get the bonus :-(
The Natural Homeschool says
Thank you for sharing your post with The Natural Homeschool and The Life of Jennifer Dawn Linky Party. :) See you next Wednesday! :)
Great post! Thanks for sharing at the Bloggers Brag Pinterest Party.
Great post, thanks for sharing! We use our rewards points for bonus things. I would use them to pay off bills if that was the case!
They’re a nice little bit of extra, aren’t they?