5 benefits of shopping with a credit card

And no, none of them are “To Build Credit”.

My First Credit Card

I originally was against getting a credit card. However, I quickly learned that I would need one for various adulting milestones, like applying for an apartment (credit score is needed to apply in many places). When I first opened a credit card and joined the 80% of adults in the U.S. with at least 1 credit card, I didn’t know that there were any benefits besides rewards points. And rewards points were hardly a perk in my eyes. With the card I had, I would need almost dozens of thousands of points for a sweater (for example), and I only earned one-point per dollar. #Notworthit

My 1st credit card had a terrible rewards program

What I have learned since then

As I have gotten older, I have learned that there are more perks than rewards programs. Some of these I have benefited from a lot. Others just give me peace of mind. Some I didn’t even know about until recently (always learning something new). Also, with proper education of benefits, and proper planning, rewards programs aren’t so bad either for some cards.

So here is what I have learned and why I always use my credit card when shopping.

Theft Protection

This is the top benefit, in my opinion. I have unfortunately had to deal with my credit card information being stolen 4 times so far. Once was even the same day I activated my card. All I had done was purchase a snack at a gas station, and by the time I got to my destination I was getting a call from American Express asking if I spent $500 in some state I had never even visited. I said no, and they froze the card and mailed me a new one right away. I didn’t have to pay anything, and while it was frustrating to know I was a victim of this theft, the process was pretty simple.

For me, I find that kind of monitoring itself a perk. The credit card companies are monitoring my card usage and will call to verify if a purchase looks fishy. Sometimes the purchases are actually me, but I’d rather the call to confirm than losing the money to fraud. If I find a purchase myself, all of my cards have very straightforward processes to dispute a transaction directly on their website or in their app. Now some apps even offer “card freeze” features, where all transactions will be denied if in a frozen state. This offers peace of mind if your card is stolen or you lost it.

Besides the monitoring and freeze features, there is also the protection from having to pay for what the fraudster spends. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), the maximum liability to you as a cardholder for unauthorized charges is $50. If you report your card stolen right away, you’re liable for nothing. Even if you have your card in your possession, a fraudster can make a purchase, either by duplicating your card or purchasing online. In my experience, disputing a fraudulent transaction a few days after noticed (being more aware of transactions on your card is a side benefit of budgeting), the card issuer didn’t ask me to pay anything. Of course, this will vary by issuer and circumstance, but I have read and heard of other experiences where the cardholder’s got the liability waived by asking. And some card issuers offer Zero-liability as a perk.

Purchase Protection

This will vary issuer to issuer, but many cards offer purchase protection. This means that if you use your card to purchase an item, the card company will provide warranty protection in tandem with the manufacturer warranty and/or any protection you purchase from the seller. Sometimes this extends beyond the manufacturer warranty end-date or even begins once the manufacturer warranty ends. This is another peace of mind feature. Unlikely to be used for most purchases, but for a big-ticket item like a laptop or new TV, this is a sweet perk.

In addition to warranties, some cards will insure your purchases. For example, one of my cards offers cell phone insurance up to $600 if my phone is stolen or broken. That’s a pretty nice perk that I don’t need to pay for. I’ve paid for phone insurance from my provider and then when my phone broke, they gave me a hard time about what was covered. With this, I at least know I am not paying for the insurance. I have luckily not needed to use it yet though, so I cannot speak to how smooth the process may be.

Price Match

Okay, I just found out about this one. I’ve had one of my cards for 4 years and didn’t know about this perk until a few weeks ago when I was re-visiting my benefits on my card portal. I looked it up, and obviously not every card offers it, but there is a handful.

What the Price Match perk does is allow me to make a purchase, and if the price goes down or is found cheaper anywhere else within 90 days, I will get a refund for the difference. I have to enter the item into the price-protection portal so they can track it using their database data. So not everything is protected, only what you record. But for big-ticket items (again, think computers, TV’s, appliances), I can rest assured that I just need to worry about where I can find the best price right now. If I enter the item into the portal and the price drops or is cheaper somewhere else, I get back the difference. Cha-ching!

Price match can help you shop with peace of mind when buying big ticket items, like a new TV or game console.

Travel and Rental Insurance

This will vary card to card, but many cards offer car rental insurance and travel insurance. This means if you rent a car using that card to pay the full amount, you are insured up to a certain amount if an accident or theft occurs. For cards that offer travel insurance, they usually will offer insurance for flight cancellations or if you can’t make a flight because of a reason such as a sickness or an injury.

I once was in a pretty bad accident. The rental was totaled. We were luckily safe, but it shook us up pretty bad. When we got home, my brother and I learned that the rental company was seeking the full cost of replacing the car from my brother and I. We had insurance through the rental company, which they denied. It was a long process of me pulling up the terms and conditions (which they had since changed), arguing with people on the phone, and worrying about if I was going to be starting adulthood with massive debt because of this accident. During this time, I learned my credit card insured car rentals. I used my debit card at the time (remember, I used to think credit cards were evil), but once I learned that, I never used my debit card for a purchase like that again.

Rewards Points

I no longer have a card with crappy perks. I changed to the Citi Double Cash Back card a few years back for all of my main purchases. This card offers 1% cash back when I buy, and another 1% back when I pay my bill. When I was recently looking for a new card, I saw plenty of promotions that would help with travel-hacking, but in my eyes, cashback is king. I got another cashback card, this one with %’s varying by category of purchase, ranging from 1% to 4%. 4% is for dining and 3% for travel and online shopping. Those 3 cover my largest budget categories, after rent. So that’s a nice amount of cashback.

Even non-cashback cards offer some pretty sweet rewards. Travel cards offer miles, and some with large sign-up bonuses. My advice would be to never sign up for a card just because of a promotion though. Really look into the card and the benefits, as well as any fees and the interest, and think about if it’s the best card for you. While you can close a card if you decide it’s not the best fit, it’s a pain to do (of course the card companies don’t want to make this easy).

So what about you. Do you know about any rewards (common or uncommon) that I didn’t mention here? Have you checked your benefits lately to see what your credit card protects you from? Maybe your card has a great perk that has helped you a lot? Let me know in the comments down below.

My boss wants me to work during vacation

I’ll start by saying I am lucky to work at a job that allows me to work from anywhere. As long as there is an internet connection, I’m able to get my job done. I also have a fairly generous vacation policy.

But when Mrs. 5to9 and I scheduled a vacation for 3 weeks (my first time in my 7 years with the company taking more than a week), I was surprised to see how quickly those benefits could backfire.

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Are Credit Cards Evil?

I was recently discussing credit cards with the Mrs., specifically all the rewards and perks which she wasn’t aware of, as well as credit scores and some stuff about your rights legally if you are denied for a card. As we discussed, I paused and remembered back when I thought credit cards were evil and sought to avoid them. I would pay for everything with my debit card or cash. I thought this was the only way to make sure I didn’t spend more than I had and go into debt.

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Goal Update – First 5K results and lessons learned

It’s been a while since my last update. I have found myself struggling to decide on what to write. In addition, I have been bogged down at work. Mrs. 5to9 and I are making an emergency trip to see her family for 3 weeks, and because of how short the planning and heads up was, I had to fit nearly a months worth of planning into a week at work. I’m a Product Manager, and now is the time when we plan for next quarters projects and goals. I’ll talk more about this in another post because it didn’t go over so well with my manager, but it worked out because I had leverage on my side. Now, on to my update on my goal to run a 5K …

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How we have Movie Dates for practically FREE

And we don’t use MoviePass! More on why at the end of this post.

Are you as excited for this summers movie releases as I am? I am a geek when it comes to super-hero movies, and this summer looks like it’s going to be packed with some good ones. Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are behind us now (both were pretty great, in my opinion), and we still have Ant-Man and The Wasp ahead. On top of that, there are plenty of non-super-hero movies like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Incredibles 2, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and a variety of rom-com’s that I am sure Mrs. 5to9 will want to watch coming out this summer (we already saw Overboard and it was pretty funny. We saw Life of the Party as well, I didn’t like it much but Mama and Mrs. 5to9 both found it funny).

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