Knocking Out Debt with Credit Card Rewards

When you think of credit cards, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  Debt? Minimum payments? High interest rates?  Well
when I think of them, I think “rewards”.  Credit cards can be a great tool for helping build wealth for the every day person.  With creditID-100276682 card companies competing for your business, credit card rewards have continued to get better and better.  Whether it is airline miles, statement credits, or straight cash, credit cards can offer a variety of incentives when using them over cash on every day purchases.

Personally, I love getting cash back.  Why?  I’m earning extra money that in turn I can use to help pay down mine and my wife’s student loans.  I avoid using cash in almost all instances.  Besides the great rewards, credit cards also offer fraud protection that cash just can’t match.

So which card do I use?  I use the Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card as our every day card.  And what do I earn with it?

  • 3% Back at Amazon.com
  • 2% Back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • 1% Back on all other purchases

This card made sense for us because we found ourselves purchasing a lot of bigger items from Amazon and two of our other bigger categories are fuel and restaurants.  The main grocery store that we use doesn’t accept credit cards.  The other stores we go to didn’t fall under categories for extra benefits on other cards.  So we found that this was the most beneficial card for us.

As I mentioned above, our reward points have helped us pay down our student loan balances.  I am proud to say that since we began using credit cards exclusively for our purchases over the past couple years, we have been able to apply over $1,000 in rewards towards our student loans.  This is money that we otherwise wouldn’t have had if we had made our purchases in cash.  Never once during this period did we carry a balance, pay a cent of interest, or pay a fee.

Credit cards can be powerful tools when used correctly.  Whether they are used to pay for vacation flights or you earn cash to use to increase your wealth, credit card rewards are a great benefit for buying your everyday items.  Just remember, be responsible and let the payments start rolling in!

Do you use credit cards to earn rewards?  What sorts of things do you use your rewards for?

Note:  If you are looking to find a rewards card, I came across a great tool at  https://www.creditcardinsider.com/credit-cards/reward/.  It has good information on a lot of different cards and helps break them out by the type of rewards you can receive.  If you are currently looking for a rewards card, I would recommend you check it out as you look for which one is best for you!

Disclaimer:  This post is about using credit card reward points to help pay down debt and build wealth.  While credit cards can be a great tool, they are not for everyone.  This blog’s stance is that if you have credit card debt, are unable to pay off the balance each month, or have issues with overspending while using them then you should have them in your day-to-day financial toolbox.  They can be a great tool but they can be very destructive to your financial health if not used smartly.

Photo Courtesy of: stockimages

 

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Car Payments: Just a Part of Life?

In June, I had the pleasure of finding out that my car of 5 1/2 years, and recipient of mountains of maintenance costs, had a transmission that was ID-10098865going out on it.  This led to the decision to purchase a new car a little earlier than we had been planning.  During this search, I was introduced to some “advice” from a car salesperson that I couldn’t believe and truthfully, was saddened to hear.

While looking at a couple vehicles at a dealership, we decided to get pricing on one.  As my wife and I were discussing what we were looking for and our price range, our car salesperson tried his normal tricks at trying to get us to buy more car than we were looking for.  He completely ignored the out-of-pocket cost range that we were looking for and tried to push us up to the longest term loan they could offer.  His reasoning for doing this?  Well, “A car payment is just a part of life.  It is another line on the budget.  I figure that I will always have that car payment sitting there so why try to avoid it.”  This was the point that I completely checked out of the conversation, gathered our items, and left with the wife.  I couldn’t believe what I had just heard and was frankly saddened that this was the type of “advice” that was being given out.

This type of mentality is something that I hate.  The idea that “debt is just a way of life” and “if I can’t afford something, I will finance it” are some of the most troubling ideas in our day to day society.  Just because the ability to take a larger loan and pay it over a longer period is there, shouldn’t mean that you now have the ability to purchase something you otherwise couldn’t afford.  According to Experian Automotive, in Q4 of 2013, the average new loan balance crossed over $27,000 for the first time, while the use of 6 or 7 year terms hit a record 20% of all new loans.  This data correlates perfectly with what I saw during our car search.  Between the audible gasps when I informed our salesperson that we would be putting down 50% cash and the “advice” that we should buy more car than we wanted since they could offer us more financing and a longer term, my eyes were opened to the types of challenges out there.  But these are challenges that can be avoided.  Saving money for big purchases and not taking out extra debt just because it is offered to you are great ways to set yourself up to succeed financially.

Debt is not a way of life.  If your goal is to be financially independent or wealthy, a “keeping up with Joneses” mentality is never going to work, no matter what terms a salesperson is willing to give you.  We might not be able to change the opinion of those around us, but we know the secret.  Debt brings us down, while saving opens up countless opportunities.

Have you ever been told that debt is a way of life?  Do you finance or pay cash for your vehicles? Or a combination of both?

Photo Courtesy of: Stuart Miles, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Linking up with: Friday Jet Fuel

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and
Debt Discipline*

Wealth Hike – The Beginning

Welcome to the debut of Wealth Hike – a personal finance blog set out to help educate others on the different aspects of personal finance.  I’m Thias and I will be your (hopefully) decently informed guide to wealth building.  I’m from Northeastern Wisconsin, where I live with my wife (Nikki) and dog (Murphy), and work as an accountant in the manufacturing industry.

Nikki and I-2

My Story

While growing up, personal finance or investing where never common topics in my home.  I was always encouraged to save money but was never told what to do once I saved it. In college, as most students these days, I paid for just about all of it through students loans and the little extra money I made while working at a gas station.  Upon graduating, I left to start my career with 30k in loans and little idea on how I should proceed.  On top of that, I was newly engaged with a fiance working at getting her Masters and her own set of loans.

So, long story short, we were your typical graduates – lots of debt, little in savings, and no idea where to go financially from there.   So I put away money in my 401k, started making loan payments, and saving what I could.  No real plan, just doing what I always thought I was suppose to.

How Did I Get Here

Blogging has always been sitting in the back of my mind.  My wife runs a healthy living blog (www.grabyourkicks.com) and always talked about how freeing it was to write down her thoughts and ideas.  So you can say that I have been surrounded by blogging over the past year.  The idea was there, but I wasn’t sure what I could add to the personal finance world.  Then, a couple months ago, I found a couple podcasts that changed my view on personal finance and helped inspire this blog.  I began listening to the Listen, Money Matters and Stacking Benjamins podcasts.  These two podcasts changed the way I had been viewing debt, investing, and overall wealth growth.  All of a sudden, the idea of investing in individual stocks instead of index funds lost its appeal.  I thought more about paying off debt and building wealth than finding the next hot small-cap stock.  Discovering these two new sources of information helped me focus on what I actually wanted and to work at starting to develop a plan.  What better way to hold one self accountable than by documenting their journey along the way?

Where Do We Go From Here

I hope that you will join me as I begin my journey of learning how to better manage and grow our wealth.  I hope that I might be a resource to readers out there that are also looking to do the same.  Feel free to send in questions/comments and connect with me on social media.  I see this as a great opportunity to learn new ideas and techniques and be able to pass along that information to others.  Now it is time to see what we can do to give our wealth a hike (see what I did there?!).

Follow Wealth Hike on Twitter (@WealthHike)
E-mail Questions or Comments (wealthhike@gmail.com)