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8 Smart Ways to Spend Less Money and Save More (Part 2)

More of Money Girl's smart strategies to spend less, take advantage of valuable rewards, and save more money.

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
May 7, 2014
Episode #355

Page 2 of 2

Savings Tip #6: Use Credit Cards Strategically

In addition to leveraging loyalty programs to spend less and save more, many brands offer their own credit cards for additional savings.

For instance, the REI program I previously mentioned includes an REI Visa card exclusively for members, with no annual fee. It gives you 5% back at REI and 1% back everywhere else, added to your annual member cash back refund.

If you shop the GAP family of stores—including GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and Piperlime—they offer a Visa Card with terrific benefits and no annual fee. You receive a $10 reward for every $200 spent, exclusive discounts, free online shipping, free alterations at Banana Republic, and rewards for purchases you make everywhere else.

If you love to travel there are many credit cards—such as Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Card—that charge no foreign transaction fees and give terrific rewards to redeem for airline tickets and hotel stays.

And if you want pure cash back that is not associated with a particular brand or rotating reward categories, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is one of my favorites. You get 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% at gas stations and department stores, and 1% everywhere else with no annual fee.

For even higher cash back rates you can upgrade to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card for a $75 annual fee. With either American Express card, what’s really nice is that your reward dollars can be redeemed for a variety of merchandise or travel tickets—but also as a credit on your statement, which simply reduces the amount you owe.

Spend half an hour to figure out the best way to take advantage of the brand and credit card rewards you already have.

Savings Tip #7: Spend Rewards Points

Many of us have accumulated rewards, points, and miles that we’ve never used. They can’t help you spend less if you don’t use them or let them expire. Spend half an hour to figure out the best way to take advantage of the brand and credit card rewards you already have.

Maybe you can use rewards to buy merchandise or gift cards, book a vacation, or convert them into cash. Remember that using rewards for goods like electronics or handbags means you’re paying full price. In many cases, you could get a much better deal using the strategies that I gave you in Part 1 of this series.

Redeeming rewards for gift cards can be a great option to give as gifts or to spend on brands and restaurants you like. But don’t get gift cards if you won’t use them or would buy something that you really don’t need.

See also: How to Clear Your Clutter Once and for All

 

In many cases, using rewards for travel can give you the most value. However, I’d take a bad or low-value reward over no reward any day! So don’t forget to spend your rewards.

Savings Tip #8: Use Online Bill Pay

A final tip to spend less and save more is to use online bill pay. It’s a free service that most banks and credit unions offer as a feature of online banking. You can send an electronic payment or paper check to any company or person in the U.S. at no charge.

Paying bills online means you eliminate the need to buy checks, stamps, and envelopes to send money by snail mail. Additionally, you can schedule payments ahead of time, so you never miss a bill due date or get stuck having to pay late fees.

I hope you can use one or more of the 8 tips in this series to spend less. If there are loyalty programs you love that I didn’t mention or other money-saving strategies working for you, please share them with me on the Money Girl Facebook page.

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Credit card and money image courtesty of Shutterstock.

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