Nothing feels better than reaping rewards for doing something as simple as shopping. But are you getting the most rewards possible?
Popular credit-card rewards take many forms, including cashback and points. The most common credit card-reward are airline miles, which most people want given the recent steep fare prices.
Every carrier from Delta to Hawaiian Airlines offers flight rewards for using their branded credit cards and they give out millions of points and miles to customers each year.
People are seduced by racking up the points, they shop for everyday items and splurges alike with an eye on collecting rewards and saving up for their next vacation.
However, many people are unaware of an even easier way to accelerate the accumulation of credit card rewards and it’s something you do several times a month, every month: paying those dreaded bills.
There are more than 10,000 service providers, like utility, cable/satellite TV, wireless, telephone, Internet and insurance companies that accept payments with a credit card. On average, a household has 12-17 bills a month to pay; five to eight of those bills are possible to pay with a credit card.
When you add up an average household’s bills, these payments come to roughly $450 a month or $5,400 a year. Simply by paying your bills with a credit card, you can easily accrue over 5,000 points towards a free flight or even a night’s stay at a swanky hotel.
Check Your Credit Card Provider
Before you start to go credit card crazy, check to see if your biller accepts your credit card of choice. Many companies have a bill pay section on their web site that lets you know if they accept payments from credit cards. You’ll want to know if they accept Visa, but not American Express. These sites will also give you important information, like if a biller will charge a convenience fee or give you the option to set up an automatic payment plan, so you are never late paying your bills.
To avoid the drag of interest fees, use a credit card to pay bills that allow you to earn rewards ONLY if you have the discipline to pay off your credit bill each month. Otherwise you’ll end up paying more in interest than the value of the reward points.
Cut the Convenience Fee
If a biller charges a convenience fee, only use your credit card if there is another compelling reason like 30 days free interest or earning cashback, not just because you want to earn reward points. In the end, you will pay a convenience fee that is costing you more than the value of the rewards points you will earn – and nobody wants that.
To put things into perspective, 5,000 miles a year earned by paying bills with a credit card means you will earn a free airplane ticket in approximately four years. And that’s not a bad reward for doing nothing, but stay on top of your monthly bills.
Who would have thought paying bills online could add up to such fun?
Murali Subbarao brings over 16 years of experience in high-tech industry. Previously, he was Senior Director, Strategy and Alliances, for the Financial Services Business Unit of Hewlett-Packard, developing solutions for Internet Banking, CRM, B2B Payments, and Electronic Exchanges for financial institutions worldwide. He has also served as VP of Business Development at Arula Systems, a provider of remote management appliances, and as COO at Imeco Ultrasonics. Murali has an MBA from UC Berkeley, MS in Computer Science from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India.