5 Money Hacks Hiding in Your Wallet

Your wallet has a secret. Buried in your billfold, bound in a money clip, or stuffed in a pocket on your phone case are untapped benefits on credit and debit cards that could save you hundreds of dollars a year. Here are five money hacks hiding in plain sight.

1. Use a savings app

Build savings even as you spend money by linking your credit and debit cards to an app like Acorns or Digit. Acorns automatically rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then adds the difference to your savings. Digit analyzes your spending and income and sets aside a little of your extra money for savings.  It’s like a tip jar by the register or a spare-change dish, but the money goes to your future.

2. Maximize your card benefits

Credit cards often come with valuable but easy-to-overlook benefits. According to a 2019 J.D. Power study, only 36% of cardholders understand the supplementary benefits on their cards.

“Consumers generally are probably not very knowledgeable about all of the features of their credit cards,” says John Cabell, director of wealth and lending management at J.D. Power and a lead researcher on the study. Money-saving card benefits “may not be clearly communicated or communicated proactively by the issuers.”

Among such benefits:

  • Travel perks. Cabell points to airline cards that offer free checked bags and airport lounge access, as well as cards that charge no foreign transaction fees. Several cards reimburse the application fee for TSA Precheck and Global Entry.
  • Cell phone insurance. Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Mastercard and other credit card companies offer cell phone coverage with certain cards when you pay your bill with the card.
  • Automatic credits. Some cards automatically reimburse you for things like travel expenses, rideshares, meal delivery or purchases at select merchants, up to a monthly or annual limit.

Read your credit card’s benefits guide to see what’s included. You might be surprised by how much you can save. A checked-bag benefit, for example, could save you $120 on a single round-trip with a companion. Getting cell phone coverage from your card could shave $9 to $15 a month off your wireless bill if you were previously paying for it through your carrier.

3. Use your rewards cards for everything

Some people have a habit of using credit cards only for “big” or “important” purchases while paying for smaller or everyday purchases with cash or debit. But every purchase that isn’t on a rewards card is money left on the table.

“I think if you pay your balance in full every month, it’s kind of silly not to have a rewards card because you’re getting something for nothing,” says Holly Johnson, who with her husband, Greg, runs the money-saving tips blog ClubThrifty.com.

Rewards cards essentially give you a discount on all your spending. Depending on the card, how its rewards are structured and where you use it, you’ll typically earn rewards equal to 1% to 6% of the purchase price. Even earning a paltry 1% on everything, a modest $100 in spending a week turns into more than $50 in rewards in a year.

4. Stack savings with a cash-back portal

Websites such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and BeFrugal pay you a percentage back on every qualified purchase from participating retailers. A Rakuten spokesperson, for example, says the average member earns 4% to 6% in cash back on purchases made through the site, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.

The trick is to get into the habit of checking the sites before you shop and to use them only for purchases you were going to make regardless.

“I am a big online shopper, and once I learned about Ebates a couple of years ago, I thought ‘Why would anyone not use a program like this?’ You’re ordering from the store anyway, so why not get cash back?” says Stacey Wallenstein, a parenting blogger at The Mint Chip Mama and mother of three from Plainview, New York. Wallenstein says she has saved more than $175 in 2019 just through Rakuten.

Use a rewards credit card on a cash-back site, and you’re multiplying your savings with zero extra effort.

5. Know your price protections

Here’s another good reason to keep your receipts: You might be able to get money back if something you bought goes on sale for less somewhere else. If your credit card has price protection, you can claim a refund of the difference if you submit proof of the lower price on an eligible item within a particular time period after your purchase. Don’t have price protection on your card? Several major retailers offer their own version if certain competitors offer the same item for less. Participating stores include Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and Home Depot.

An earlier version of this article misstated how the Digit app works. It has been corrected.

The article 5 Money Hacks Hiding in Your Wallet originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Watch Your Credit Card Rewards Pile Up With These 5 Tips

Just because summer’s approaching doesn’t mean your wallet gets a vacation. From graduation season and Father’s Day to the Fourth of July and back-to-school spending, you’ll likely drop some dollars.

Rewards-earning credit cards can help you save on these expenses — but you can also combine those rewards with other money-saving strategies to help you hang on to even more of your cash.

Here are five such “stacking” strategies for your credit card.

1. Check your account offers

Some card issuers have online bonus malls — accessible via account login — that offer discounts or higher rewards rates at hundreds of merchants, on top of what your card already earns.

“I recently bought new outdoor furniture and a gas firepit, and I logged into Chase, clicked through the portal to Lowe’s, and got an extra 3 points per dollar spent,” says Holly Johnson, founder of Club Thrifty, a personal finance blog dedicated to saving money.

You can also check for one-time or limited-time promotions that are specific to your card. Chase Offers and AmEx Offers, for example, are visible to eligible cardholders when logged in. They feature discounts or bonus rewards at dozens of retailers, including many brick-and-mortar merchants, although you must opt in by “adding” the offer to your card.

2. Sign up for a retailer’s email list

Ever had a salesperson offer you a discount on the spot if you sign up for the store’s credit card? Similarly, when you’re shopping online, many stores will offer you a percentage off your first order if you sign up for an email list, so snag that discount on top of your normal credit card rewards.

Or maybe it’s free shipping you want. Seventy-five percent of consumers now expect it even on orders below $50, according to a report by the National Retail Federation. Signing up to receive a retailer’s emails can be one way to get free shipping, at least on your first purchase. (Note that retailers charge different prices for shipping and may not add that cost to your total until it’s in your cart.)

Another way to dodge shipping charges: Buy online, preferably through an online bonus mall, and pick up in store. This may also require you to submit your email address and be added to a mailing list. But agreeing to receive correspondence from a retailer is much easier than signing up for a store card. If those emails start getting overwhelming, just unsubscribe.

3. Use cash-back sites with a cash-back card

Cash-back sites like Ebates, TopCashBack or BeFrugal function much like online bonus malls, but they’re not tied to any particular card issuer.

When you join one of these portals and log in, you’ll see hundreds of participating retailers, as well as the percentage back that those retailers offer for shopping through that portal. Click on the offer you want, and you’ll be directed to that merchant’s website to shop.

You’ll get a percentage back on your purchase by using your rewards card and an additional percentage back from shopping through the portal.

4. Buy discounted gift cards to the places you shop

Gift cards remain popular: 45% of respondents in NRF’s 2019 Mother’s Day Spending Survey said they were planning to purchase them.

There are two approaches to saving money via gift cards. First, you can buy them at a place where you already earn elevated rewards for shopping. For example, if you have a card that pays high rewards on supermarket purchases, pick up a gift card for your favorite retailer while you’re getting those groceries. You’ll earn the same high rewards as you would on your milk, eggs and bread.

Your other option is to use a rewards credit card to buy gift cards through an exchange site like GiftCardGranny or Raise, where people sell their unwanted gift cards at a lower-than-face-value price. You’ll save on the card itself, plus you’ll get a percentage back on the purchase via your rewards card.

5. Track prices across different sellers

Before you shop with a specific retailer through a bonus mall or cash-back site, it pays to compare. Consider using tracking tools like CamelCamelCamel, which focuses on Amazon prices, or sites like PriceGrabber and Google Shopping to see which retailer is offering what you’re looking for at the lowest price.

With that quick bit of research, you can get your item at the lowest price, rack up portal rewards and pile on credit card points for that category or retailer.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

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The article Watch Your Credit Card Rewards Pile Up With These 5 Tips originally appeared on NerdWallet.