Credit Card Hacks You’ve Never Tried

'Nearly free' cash back

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 1.59.55 PMThe recently-launched American Express Bluebird account has become a popular tool for schemers who were prowling for some added cash back. Bluebird is basically a prepaid card that has no activation fee or monthly fee; fund reloads are made possible through Vanilla Reload cards (the key to this hack).

Because Vanilla Reload cards (maximum reload value of $500 per card; $3.95 fee applies) can be purchased at supermarkets, drugstores and office supply stores, consumers can amass a large amount of cash back if they have the right credit cards.

For instance, in the first quarter of 2013, the Citi Dividend offers 5% cash back at drugstores, where you can purchase multiple Vanilla Reload cards. With a purchase of two Vanilla Reload cards for $1,000 total, you earn $50 in cash back and pay $7.90 in fees - netting $42.10. Then, you reload your Bluebird account, which you use to pay for things that don’t earn cash back.

Note: Retailers are cracking down on this scheme by imposing purchase limits on Vanilla Reload cards or requiring cash or debit card as the payment method for such reload cards.

For more information on the best cash back cards, click here.

Cashing in on sign-up bonuses

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 2.03.45 PMIf you’re yearning that long-overdue vacation and looking to use a credit card sign-up bonus to fund the trip, this hack is for you.

There are plenty of travel credit cards that offer extraordinary amounts of points or miles to lure new cardmembers, but they often require major spending during a limited period of time. Again, the Bluebird account comes in handy -- just buy Vanilla Reload cards to meet the sign-up bonus requirements. Or, you may consider purchasing branded gift cards for stores that you regular shop at anyway (preferably, the gift cards don’t have an expiration date).

Currently, credit cards that may be worth using this trick on include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months) and the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard (20,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days).

To read our editor's review on Chase Sapphire, click here.

Finding rewards in unexpected places

amexElectronic stores don’t only sell electronics, gas stations don’t just sell gas and supermarkets sell more than just groceries. Since credit cards dole out rewards based on the merchant category, not the item’s category, you might find that you’re earning rewards on purchases that would not yield such rewards in a direct purchase.

For example, American Express Preferred cardmembers can earn 6 percent cash back at supermarkets when they buy store-branded gift cards (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Gap, etc.). Anyone with a U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card can effectively earn 5 percent cash back at Amazon by purchasing Amazon gift cards at Best Buy (Cash+ cardmembers can earn 5 percent cash back at electronic stores).

You may go as far as to buying prepaid debit cards at supermarkets to pay your taxes.

For more information on the American Express Preferred, click here, or to read our editor's review on the U.S. Bank Cash + Visa Signature.

Pay less interest on student loans

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 2.14.00 PMWith student loan debt at all-time highs (more than $1 trillion), any relief from this financial burden may prove to be extremely helpful in the long-term.

Enter the balance-transfer credit card offers, which have the potential to help borrowers reduce the amount of interest that they pay on their student loans, especially on private loans.

Occasionally, credit cards will have introductory offers such as zero-percent APR for 12 months. Even with the typical balance-transfer fee of 3 percent, you may still be saving on interest payments.

A borrower with a private loan that carries a 10% interest rate may transfer part of the loan balance to a Chase Slate card (0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months) and take the 3 percent fee. For the next 18 months, the transferred balance is not subject to interest charges.

This hack does have a few caveats. The balance transfer is limited by the credit card’s credit line, which may be significantly less than your loan balance. You’ll also have to make regular payments to both the loan and the credit card.

Check out our editor's review on Chase Slate.

  • they are desperate to get some of the money owed from invdiduals for over due takes