12 Totally Life Changing Credit Card Hacks!
Ok, maybe these hacks aren’t life changing, but we thought we’d give the whole click bait thing a try!
Use whatever superlatives you want, but these are some of our favourite and most impactful credit card hacks. Whether you’re looking for cash back, free flights, low interest, insurance or whatever else, some of these hacks are sure to help novice and expert alike!
This is just a start folks. We’ll be treating this as a live document to keep it fresh, relevant and a destination resource. For the sake of our entire readership, feel free to suggest, add, question, discuss or simply opine in our comments section below. We’ll add your thoughtful suggestions to the list in the article below!
In This Article:
Credit Card Hacks
1. Free Flight Sign-Up Bonuses
If you’re looking for a free flight, there’s no easier, cheaper and faster way to do it than simply signing up for one of the top credit cards with a healthy welcome bonus. Why spend $25,000 to earn 25,000 miles, when you can simply earn 25,000 miles by signing up for a new travel rewards card with a big sign-up bonus?
- Look for welcome bonuses that also waive the first year annual fee, making the bonus truly free
- Look for bonuses that don’t require significant minimum spend within the first 3 months
- See if you can apply for the card, get the points, keep the points, cancel the card, rinse, wash, repeat!
2. Annual Companion Tickets
Did you know some Canadian travel cards offer an annual round-trip companion voucher? The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard let’s you bring someone along for $119 (plus taxes, fees and charges) to anywhere in Canada or the continental U.S.! You can bring your companion to Hawaii with the Alaska Airlines World Elite® Mastercard® credit card companion ticket for a mere $121 USD! The card has a Standard Annual Interest Rates of 19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on balance transfers✪ and access cheques, 22.99% on cash advances, and a very reasonable $99 annual fee.
- See if your voucher will allow your companion to sit in the same class of seat as you i.e. you buy business class, your companion gets business class at no extra cost!
3. Free Bags
Airlines are beginning to charge for checked bags, regardless of short-haul, long-haul, domestic or international. At $25-$30 each way, the costs can easily add up, especially for large families. That’s why finding a credit card that offers free checked bags can be so compelling. Imagine a family of four saving $100 each way.
- The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard waives the first check baggage fee for the primary cardholder and up to 8 travelling companions on the same reservation.
- Watch-out for free checked bag offers that only apply to flights in which you redeemed your rewards.
4. O% Interest Rates
Credit cards get a bad wrap as a high interest source of debt. The truth is there are plenty of low interest promotional rate offers for balance transfers, new purchases and cash advances in the Canadian marketplace. At 0%, credit cards are beating mortgages and secured lines of credit.
- If you have credit card debt, transfer it to a balance transfer card. if you still haven’t paid down your balance at the end of the promotional term, find another balance transfer offer to switch to. Called balance surfing, you can avoid some serious interest if you put together a good plan.
5. Foreign Exchange Savings
Whether you’re travelling abroad or purchasing items online in a currency other than the Canadian dollar, foreign exchange can cost an arm and a leg. Did you know some Canadian credit cards don’t charge any foreign transaction fees and foreign exchange fees at close to the spot rate!
- The Rogers Platinum MasterCard gives 3% cash back on all purchases made in U.S. dollars. While they do charge a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, you’ll come out ahead with 0.5% cash back on purchases made in U.S. currency! Use a regular cash back credit card that gives you 2% cash back, and charges 2.5% in foreign transaction fees and you’ll lose .5% on U.S. purchases!
6. Avoid Sky-High Aeroplan Taxes and Fees
Ever get completely floored by the taxes and fees charged by Air Canada when redeeming Aeroplan miles? You’re not alone. However, did you know that if you book on a non-Air Canada flight in the Star alliance program, like United, the taxes and fees will be dramatically lower? For example, we found one ticket flying to Paris where Air Canada charged $586 in taxes and fees, United only charges $186!
- For even lower fees, if you can fly out of a cross border airport in the United States, you’ll only be charged $14.20 when redeeming you Aeroplan miles for a United flight!
7. Never Make a Late Payment Again
Obviously late payments are the worst sin in credit card land. No matter how hard we try, some of us simply forget to make our payment, procrastinate, or worse deliberately avoid making our payment. One way to take the decision out of your hands is to make pre-authorized payments to your credit card. On a day you select, your bank will either pay the minimum payment or entire balance of your credit card – your choice.
- The goal here isn’t to only avoid a late payment, which can destroy your credit score. It’s also to avoid debt, which can do a lot more damage than a weak score. As a result, we highly recommend you pre-authorize paying off your entire balance.
8. Stack Your Cash Back
Many of the best cash back credit cards have bonus cash back categories. If you get multiple cash back credit cards with different bonus categories you can maximize your overall cash back earned.
- The no-fee Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is the only cash back credit card in Canada that allows you to choose two 2% money-back categories from a selection of ten. Choose a third category if you get approved for and deposit your money into a Tangerine Savings account. Tangerine can be your wildcard, to fill in the bonus categories the other cards don’t cover.
9. Multiply Your Cash Back Bonus Categories
Let’s say your cash back credit card gets you 4% cash back at the grocery store. You’re about to make a purchase at Amazon, how can you get more than the standard 1% cash back your card provides in non-bonus categories? Easy. Buy an Amazon gift card at the grocery store (Or learn how to get it for free)! That means you can get 4% off on the entire gift card rack! Another option? Use a credit card that gives you extra rewards for shopping on Amazon. Double win.
- Some credit cards won’t give cash back rewards on cash like transactions like re-loadable gift cards or lottery tickets.
10. Never Miss A Sale Again
What’s worse than paying full price only to find the same item on sale down the street or a week or two later? Some credit cards offer price protection, where if you make a purchase and find the same product advertised in Canada at a lower price within 60 days after purchase, the difference will be refunded, up to $500, subject to a maximum of $1,000 per account, per year!
11. Meeting Minimum Spend Requirements
Many Canadian credit cards are starting to add or increase their minimum spend requirements to be eligible for their hefty welcome bonuses. If you feel you may not be able to spend $1,500 in 3 months to get your bonus, you might want to consider manufacturing spend by buying gift cards now and using them later, to ensure you hit the minimum spend requirement.
- If you need an extra $250 of spend to get a welcome bonus worth $300, simply go to the gift card rack at any grocery or drugstore and get some gift cards worth your shortfall.
12. Raise Your Credit Limit
This may seem counterintuitive, but raising your credit limit may actually improve your credit score. This is because the biggest factor in determining whether your credit score is high (good) or low (bad) is your credit utilization.
If you’re close to your overall limit, then you have a high credit utilization percentage, which will negatively affect your credit score, but if you are utilizing a lower percentage of your available credit, this will weigh heavily in potentially raising your score. It’s recommended that your credit utilization be 30% or less if you want to have a chance at raising your credit score.
Therefore, if you find you’re using a lot of your available credit, the moment you are granted a credit limit increase your percentage of utilized credit will go down because suddenly there’s more available. This decrease in utilization is a quick way to raise your credit score, but resist the urge to use more credit just because you suddenly have it.