3 credit card mistakes I made this summer that I hope never to repeat

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Learn from these blunders so you don’t end up kicking yourself.


Key points

  • It is important to keep track of credit card rewards and offers.
  • It is also important to know when not to use your credit card.

As someone who has used credit cards regularly for many years and also written about them, you would think I would be pretty immune to credit card mistakes at this point. But alas, in the past couple of months, I’ve managed to fall victim to a few credit card errors that I continue to blame myself for. Here’s what those blunders entailed — and why you should try to avoid them.

1. Use my cards in paying restaurants

In my area, restaurants are increasingly charging customers who use credit cards. This isn’t new to me – it’s happening more and more as the months go by.

Meanwhile, summer is when I most tend to dine out, partly because I like to eat out. But instead of making it a point to withdraw cash to pay for restaurant meals, I instead found myself in several situations where I had to swipe my credit card because I had no other way to pay for my food.

Meanwhile, my most generous credit card on the restaurant rewards front gives me 3% cash back for those purchases. But many nearby restaurants charge a 3.5% to 4% fee for using a credit card. So all in all, I wasted money unnecessarily by not bringing cash.

2. Forgoing Rewards

One of my credit cards gives me store dollars to redeem during certain times. In the spring, I stocked up on a large summer stock because I realized my kids had outgrown their shorts, t-shirts, and swimsuits. As such, I landed a fairly generous reward that I had until early August to redeem.

Only, I didn’t redeem that reward – I let it expire out of sheer laziness and forgetfulness. And so instead of getting about $25 in free goods, I got nothing.

And the worst ? You don’t even have to go to a store to get these rewards. I could have sat on the couch and ordered stuff for my kids online. But I didn’t note the expiration date of my rewards on my calendar, and it eventually slipped my mind.

3. Skip an easy-to-get sign-up bonus

In the spring, I came across a credit card sign-up bonus offer that would have given me $250 for reaching a very reasonable spending threshold. Since I don’t plan on applying for large loans in the short term, I figured that one serious inquiry into my credit report wouldn’t be a big deal, so I had every intention of applying for this offer.

Only then did I get busy, and I forgot. And now the offer is gone. Granted, there will likely be a comparable one in the not-too-distant future. But I’m annoyed that I passed up the chance to grab $250 easily.

We all make mistakes in life, so the fact that I dropped the ball on the front of the credit card isn’t something I’m going to let myself lose sleep over. At the same time, I share my story in hopes of preventing others from going down a similar path – and kicking themselves afterwards.

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