Learning how to manage your finances seems complicated, but it’s really quite simple. Always live under your means and save as much as you can. Beyond those two pillars of personal finance, having a few tricks up your sleeve to help you save extra time and money is a big plus, especially if you can learn it in about 60 seconds.
Check out MyBankTracker’s roundup of the top 20 highly skillful things you can learn about your money.
1. Boost your credit score with a credit limit increase. Many credit card issuers allow you to ask for a credit limit increase just by logging into your online account. It’s one of the easiest ways to boost your credit score.
2. An easy mental trick to help you save more money: Tell your employer to split your direct deposit: a portion into your checking account and a portion into a savings account. The idea is, if you don’t see the money, you won’t really feel like it’s “missing.”
3. Stop the annoying ATM questions each time you visit the bank. Set your preferences for language and receipt options (either online or through the ATM) because it’s just plain annoying to answer those questions over and over again.
4. Use social media when your bank’s customer service can’t solve your problem. Many banks have social media accounts (especially on Twitter) to address customer complaints, so give it a try when traditional customer service can’t help you.
5. Don’t close that credit card just because you’re tired of paying the annual fee. Instead, downgrade it. Ask to downgrade to a version of the card that has no annual fee. Your credit score stays intact, and you won’t have to worry about paying an annual credit card fee.
6. When your bank’s ATM isn’t around, get cash inside a store. You can use your debit card at a grocery or convenience store for a small purchase (like a pack of gum) and ask for “cash back.”
7. Establish a great credit score immediately by becoming an authorized user. Ask someone to add you to their good-standing credit card account as an “authorized user” and your credit will enjoy a nice boost.
8. “Fake” a direct deposit to avoid monthly fees. In your checking account, set up an account alert to notify you when you receive a “direct deposit.” Here’s how to do it: transfer or receive money from another bank or financial account (e.g. PayPal) to see if the transaction is labeled as a direct deposit from your bank. If it does trigger an alert that means it worked. All you need to do is repeat the transaction once every month to avoid a monthly maintenance fee at your bank.
9. Pay down your credit card balance before the billing cycle ends to maintain great credit. Before the end of each credit card billing cycle, pay down as much of the card balance as possible so that the smaller balance is reported to credit bureaus. This will eventually lead to a higher credit score.
10. Always get proof of a closed bank account in writing, in case of disputes. Whenever you shut down a bank account, request a written statement that the account was closed.
11. Don’t let card issuers automatically close your dormant credit cards. Link your unused credit cards to small, recurring bills (e.g., magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, utilities, payments for Uber or Lyft, etc.) so that they appear active. You’ll benefit by having a higher credit score.
12. Build your retirement portfolio with just one investment. By investing in a target-date retirement fund, you are investing in several mutual funds at once that are already diversified and balanced for you — until you retire. It’s the lazy way to invest, but it really does simplify retirement investing for many.
13. Keep a close eye on your credit, for free. Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you get 3 free credit reports per year — one from each of the three credit bureaus. Pull one report every 4 months to monitor your credit throughout the year.
14. Prevent yourself from spending the money that falls into your lap. If you ever come across a windfall, put a large portion of that money into a certificate of deposit (CD) to keep yourself from making poor decisions with it.
15. Cut down your auto insurance premiums when you drive less. When you notice that you’re racking up less mileage on your car each year, let your car insurance company know, and ask for a premium adjustment.
16. When negotiating, use open-ended questions. For instance, instead of asking “Can you waive this overdraft fee?” change it to “How can you help me to waive this overdraft fee?”
17. Adjust your withholding for taxes and get more money per paycheck. In a previous MyBankTracker story called 7 Reasons You Haven’t Received Your Tax Refund, many readers expressed issues with the IRS when waiting for their tax refund. Adjust your withholding with your employer so you don’t have to go through this hassle, and you can get more money per pay period that you can throw into an interest-bearing savings account.
18. Get the right credit card to save money and minimize fraud when shopping internationally. When traveling overseas, use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees (typically 3 percent of the transaction) and has an EMV chip. Not only will you avoid fees, you’ll also shop safer.
19. Earn more credit card rewards and cash back than you thought you could. You earn credit card rewards based on where you buy, not what you buy. For instance, you can use your credit card that earns 3 percent at grocery stores to buy Apple gift cards while inside the supermarket, and still earn generous rewards. Effectively, you’re also earning rewards on Apple purchases with your gift card, even though you made the purchase at a grocery store.
20. Never pay for an ATM fee again. Cash withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs are expensive (costs about $3 each time). Get an online checking account that waives ATM fees. You can simply use the account just for cash withdrawals and you’ll save plenty of money on ATM fees!
Do you have a skillful money tip that can be learned in around a minute? Share it with our community in the comments below!
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.