Since August, 2015, I have deposited $507.38 in checks into my personal savings account from my Citi MasterCard. This cash isn’t a refund of an over payment or a credit due to a product return. It’s the money I’ve earned from the credit card’s 1% cash back on all purchases.
I’m not a big believer in incentive or loyalty programs. I don’t fly enough to earn more than a trifling of miles. I hate the extra baggage of loyalty punch cards. And I think fundraising “Entertainment” coupon books are pure tyranny.
You want to kill any spontaneity and joy in a marriage? Try this the next time the kids are at their grandparents’:
Me using excited voice: “Nora, drop everything, I’m taking you out to dinner.”
Her: “But I look a mess.”
Me using reassuring voice: “You look beautiful to me. Get your stuff, let’s go.”
Her: “Ok, let me get the coupon book. You want Chinese, Italian, Greek, or American?”
Me using deflated voice: “I don’t know, let’s just go to Tamber’s”
Her: “They’re not in there. You want to go to Owings Mills, Columbia, or White Marsh?”
Me using resigned robot voice: “Whatever you want honey.”
One incentive program I can get behind? One-percent cash back on all my credit card purchases, without me having to jump through any hoops. It just happens as a result of my using my credit card, something I’m going to do anyway.
Credit cards without any incentive are already man’s best friend (Sorry, Baxter) if they are used judiciously. Assuming you pay them off every month (and I do), you get these things for free:
- A couple weeks float or grace period (essentially an interest-free loan) to pay off charges
- Protection against deceptive vendors – the ability to protest fraudulent charges
- Depending on your card, other features like free travel or car rental insurance
- A mechanism to build your credit score
- The ability to quickly and easily accumulate debt if a disaster strikes
You want to keep your credit card month-to-month debt carry-overs to a minimum or it will quickly wipe out all those other benefits, but this ability to essentially borrow money can be a life-saver in a pinch. Just be sure to pay it off as quick as you can.
If you’ve done the math, you know that I’ve charged $50,738 on my credit card in under two years. That sounds like a lot, but I think it’s pretty typical for a middle-class family of four that attempts to charge practically everything – even McDonald’s Happy Meals – to a card.
Debit cards are good for people who aren’t disciplined and can’t be sure they’ll pay off their balance every month. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord…and pay via credit.
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