How I’m using my credit cards differently during the pandemic
The changes of the COVID-19 pandemic have also brought big changes to my credit card habits.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my credit card usage was pretty much on autopilot. I understood my typical spending habits, knew which cards to use for which purchases, and had a plan for redeeming my rewards.
But as the saying goes, the best-laid plans often go wrong. COVID-19 has arrived, and it’s no exaggeration to say that everything has changed. In addition to the impact on our health and economy, it has also affected our day-to-day lives.
Like just about everyone, my consumption habits have changed a lot. And even though I knew the features of my credit cards by heart, this is no longer the case because card issuers offer all kinds of limited-time offers.
As the pandemic has spread month by month, here’s how I’m using my credit cards differently.
Spend significantly less on normal bonus categories
The credit cards I use the most are travel rewards cards that offer more points on travel and dining purchases. In the past, I’ve earned a lot of bonus points this way because I like to travel and go out to eat at least twice a month.
This is obviously no longer the case. My travel expenses are non-existent and my restaurant expenses are much lower since it’s only an occasional delivery order.
On the bright side, I save a lot more money. It also means I earn less credit card points, which is why this next change was crucial.
Take advantage of limited time offers
Several credit card companies have added new temporary benefits over the past few months. These include spending credits on daily purchases and bonus rewards in areas where people are currently spending more. That’s why I kept an eye on my card issuers’ emails and news so I could jump on the best credit card deals.
By keeping up to date with deals like these, I was able to get big bonuses on groceries and streaming services. This helped make up for the bonus points I was missing.
Splurge more on leisure and entertainment
Since I’m spending less than usual and being home all the time, I’ve been more open to the occasional splurge.
So far, I’ve bought more movies, TV series, and e-books to keep myself entertained. When I decided coffee making would be my quarantine hobby, I bought a manual coffee grinder that cost more than I ever thought I’d spend on one. And because I can only exercise at home, I bought basic equipment to train properly.
Saving money is always important to me, and I made sure to stick to a budget. But if a purchase is going to improve my quality of life or help me adjust to this new lifestyle, then I’ll pull the trigger.
Downgrade or cancel cards I can’t use right now
I’ve never liked paying unnecessary annual fees, but I’ve been particularly fierce during the pandemic. I don’t travel and don’t expect to before the end of the year at the earliest. So it doesn’t make sense to cling to cards that provide most of their value through travel perks – unless they have limited time offers which I love.
My preferred approach is to downgrade these cards to credit cards with no annual fee. If that’s not an option, then I’ll cancel.
What if I want one of these cards again when I return from the trip? No problem. Card issuers usually don’t have any rules against asking for a card you’ve already had. Depending on how much time has passed, you might even qualify for the sign-up bonus again. If I want to reopen a credit card, I will simply reapply.
New habits, same goals
Even though I use my credit cards very differently, my goals have remained the same. I want to maximize my credit card rewards so I can pay for future trips with travel points, and I want to avoid unnecessary annual fees.
If you’re unsure how to manage your credit cards right now, it’s a good idea to first figure out what your goals are. After that, you can figure out how to use current credit card offers to reach them.
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