Automate your billsShutterstock/Sata-Production
When you’re being conscientious and seriously trying to sock away every dollar possible, you can undo all your good work in one fell swoop when you inadvertently rack up late fees. Brittney Mayer, a credit strategist at CardRates.com, offers a simple solution: Automate your bill paying. “It’s easy to do, not just through your bank but through your credit cards. You’ll never miss a payment again.” Mayer estimates this strategy can save consumers a solid $30 per month.
Take advantage of card-issuer shopping/deals portalsPapzi555/Shutterstock
Many credit card issuers have created shopping portals and deals pages that offer discounts and rewards on everything from coffee perks to hotel stays, Mayer tells Reader’s Digest. Take advantage of those shopping-and-deal portals for things you are going to have to purchase anyway, and you could save up to $20 per month.
Find a credit card that offers price protectionlentamart/Shutterstock
Did you know that some credit cards will automatically hunt for lower prices on your recent purchases and even refund the difference? Well, it’s true, Mayer tells us. It’s called “price protection,” and it can save you up to $1,000 a year (Citi Price Rewind caps your savings at $1,000, for example), so you could save as much as $83 per month.
Seek out credit cards offering cash-back rewardsMalochka Mikalai/Shutterstock
Stop paying cash or debit for purchases that could be made with a cash-back credit card. Mayer points out that there are cards that offer as much as 6 percent back on purchases. Some credit cards offer higher rates of cash-back for certain types of purchases (say, gas or groceries). Seek out these deals and strategize which card you use to pay for your purchases: Mayer estimates you’ll end up with an extra $50 in your pocket every month.
Make sure to collect the rewards you’ve earnedMamuka Gotsiridze/Shutterstock
If you are already racking up cash-back rewards, just make sure you’re taking that extra step to redeem them. For some credit cards, it’s as simple as a swipe on a smartphone app. For others, though, you may need to redeem them at the card site. If having to take that extra step to redeem them is too much for you and you find that you just don’t do it, seek out a type of rewards card that works for you.
Take advantage of other credit card perksAfrica Studio/Shutterstock
In addition to price protection and cash back, many credit cards offer other perks, including purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, and travel insurance. Mayer tells Reader’s Digest you can save, on average, $15 per month by taking advantage of these perks.
Apply for a co-branded travel cardTZIDO SUN/Shutterstock
This is a credit card partnered with a travel company, such as the Amex Starwood card. “Some co-branded travel cards offer things like free checked bags, in-flight discounts, free hotel stays, and room upgrades that can make your annual vacation much more affordable,” says Mayer; she estimates a savings of around $10 per month on average.
Negotiate annual fees on credit cardsRido/Shutterstock
Still paying annual fees on your credit cards? If so, Mayer’s guessing you haven’t tried to negotiate those fees away. “Many cardholders have luck when requesting a waiver of the annual fee because credit card companies are motivated to retain your business,” she says. Depending on the quality of the retention offer, this could save hundreds a year, or equate to an average monthly savings of $30 dollars, Mayer tells us.
Look for 0 percent APR credit cardsrangizzz/Shutterstock
If you typically carry a balance on your card, you should consider shopping around for a credit card that offers 0 percent APR. Your savings will vary depending on your balance, says Mayer, but you’re guaranteed to put dollars back into your pocket.
Transfer your credit card balance to the 0 percent cardTi_ser/shutterstock
Got that 0 percent APR card? Now use it to pay off the credit cards debt that are carrying higher percentage balances. “It may sound counterintuitive to get a new credit card in order to save money, but you absolutely can do it,” Matt Shultz of CompareCards.com tells us. Just be sure to pay down that 0 percent APR card before the rate goes up—you usually have up to 12 months. You don’t want to end up right back where you started.
Negotiate lower interest rates on your credit cardsiJeab/Shutterstock
Schultz also tells us that it’s possible to negotiate a better interest rate with your credit card issuer. “Your chances of success are far higher than you think, and the money you save can be significant. Don’t expect to go from a 25 percent APR to a 15 percent APR, but you can still save real money,” he advises.
Improve your credit scorecreate jobs 51/Shutterstock
Consumers who have a fair or poor credit rating often see monthly savings just by improving their credit scores, Mayer points out. “Higher credit scores can lead to better credit offers, including lower interest rates, which can help consumers with debt save $10 or more each month in fees.”
Take advantage of free FICO tracking that cards offeriMoved Studio/Shutterstock
While you’re working on your credit score, be sure to take advantage of credit cards that offer free monthly FICO tracking, Mayer points out. “This can represent a monthly savings of $15 or more versus purchasing scores and tracking through a third party.”
Take your savings account to an online bankSyda Productions/Shutterstock
Have you considered putting your savings into an online savings account? You should, recommends Brian Karimzad of MagnifyMoney.com: “Online savings accounts can earn over 2 percent per year in interest, with the same FDIC protection. That’s a higher interest rate than most bricks and mortar banks offer. If you keep $15,000 in your savings account, it could be $300 a year in savings—or about $25 per month.”
Seek out low- or no-fee fund mutual fundsWAYHOME studio/Shutterstock
Mutual funds often charge fees that come right out of your pocket. But Karimzad points out that Fidelity offers several funds with no fee at all. Based on the average household retirement account balance (which Karimzad estimates to be about $144,560), that’s $850 a year ($70 a month) in savings. If you can’t find an appropriate no-fee fund, seek out funds with lower fees. Lowering fund fees means more money savings for you.
Download and use shopping rewards appsI AM NIKOM/Shutterstock
“Another way to save money is to use rebate sites and discount apps for online shopping,” Gonzalez, tells us. Examples include Ebates, NerdWallet, and Ibotta. Think of it as an extra layer of savings even before you get cash back from your credit cards. Just connect your existing credit cards, shop for deals at participating stores, and the cash back will show up on your credit card statement.
Download this price protection appmangpor2004/Shutterstock
“The consumer advocacy app Earny automatically gets you refunds on the stuff you buy when prices drop,” says Carla Dearing, founder and CEO of Sum180, an online financial wellness service. “Refunded money will automatically be placed back in your wallet.” Earny shoppers have gotten more than $2,200 back in a year and more than $800 back in a single refund. And as with shopping rewards apps, it’s an extra layer of price protection on top of any you may have from your credit card company.
Audit your subscriptionssitthiphong/Shutterstock
Dearing also pointed out to Reader’s Digest that if you take a good, hard look at your monthly credit card bill, you might be surprised to see you’re paying monthly for services you never use. Services like Hulu, Netflix, or your gym membership can all be useful if you use them. If you don’t, it’s a waste of money, and it adds up fast. You can catalog all your subscriptions and then personally contact each company, one by one, to cancel the subscriptions you no longer want.
There’s an app that audits your recurring chargesHenk Vrieselaar/Shutterstock
If you’re looking for a more efficient way to track those monthly subscriptions, the app Trim can do the auditing for you, Dearing says. Trim scans your transactions on a recurring basis and cancels anything you don’t want to keep paying for. But note that Trim charges a $6 fee for “hard to cancel” subscriptions, such as those that require notice by certified mail.
Boost your 401k contributionShutterstockProfessional/Shutterstock
“Another great way to save money is by boosting your 401k contribution.” Gonzalez reminds us. “These contributions are pre-tax, so even the smallest increase will translate into several hundred dollars extra in savings each year, without taking a hit to your paycheck.” Of course, saving is a balancing act; putting aside money for later might not make sense today if, for example, you are carrying a lot of debt on high-interest rate credit cards. You’ll want to pay down high-interest debt first.