A wedding is a major life milestone and a considerable drain on your finances. Your credit cards, though, can help you recoup some of the costs in cash back and rewards. In some cases, rewards could even foot the bill for flights and hotels for your honeymoon.
The average wedding costs $29,000 — excluding engagement ring and honeymoon, according to WeddingWire.com. If you’re planning to take a honeymoon — or, as some may call it, a “money-moon” — it will set you back even more. In all, the average wedding costs about $37,000.
A wedding may be a one-time event, but it’s not a singular cost. With months or years of planning, you’re looking at a bulging folder full of separate expenses. Before you say “I do,” make the most of your credit cards to help out with the costs of the celebration and reap some of the following benefits:
1. Earn cash back with every wedding-related purchase.
Some of the major expenses couples face leading up to their wedding include rings, an engagement party, and the bride’s gown and the groom’s tux. Then there’s the ceremony and reception, which often includes renting a hall, hiring a band or DJ and lining up caterers. With a cash back card, you can get back some of those costs.
Ideally, you should apply for a low-interest cash back credit card, preferably with a long introductory 0-percent interest period. And don’t forget to look for a good sign-up bonus. You’ll likely be charging a lot leading up to your walk down the aisle, which will make it easy to meet that minimum spend.
“Charge every expense on a cash back card,” says “ESI,” a 50-something retiree who writes for ESI Money. ESI stands for Earn, Save, Invest, and ESI will only give his first name as John. He adds, though, “You should be able to earn 2 percent back as a minimum.
“When you are spending $20,000 on a wedding, that cash back can really add up!” he says.
2. Use miles for a destination wedding or your honeymoon.
Some couples get married in on a beach in the Caribbean or travel to an exotic location after the big day.
“Weddings are a great opportunity to rack up lots of miles and points that you can use for free travel,” says Eric Rosenberg at Personal Profitability.
“If you’re hosting your wedding at a hotel, consider signing up for that brand’s premium credit card,” he adds. “Some cards offer as much as 5 points per dollar you spend at the hotel. Between rooms, catering and other expenses, you could have enough points for a couple of free trips to Europe!”
Rosenberg’s wedding was paid for by a relative, but he says, “I paid for the honeymoon — our flights were free with credit card miles.”
Here’s how your card rewards can help pay for the flights and hotels — and save you money when you’re out of the country:
Flexible travel cards: A big sign-up bonus could net you 50,000 or more points to help cover airfare for the bride and groom. Travel credits with elite cards can also take a bite out of your airfare, and credits for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry save you money and time at the airport. If you’re skipping a limo in favor of Uber, Lyft or Silvercar, your elite travel card might get you a free ride to the church or City Hall.
Hotel credit cards: A hotel chain’s credit card can net you a haul of points (sometimes 60,000 or more) upon opening the card and meeting the minimum spend. That could help cover the cost of the resort for the honeymoon. Bonus tip: Some hotel cards include an annual award of a night’s stay, which could help if you’re getting married in another city — or cover a romantic anniversary getaway in the years ahead.
No foreign transaction fee cards: Many travel credit cards waive foreign transaction fees, which can add up if you’re traveling outside the U.S. for your wedding or honeymoon. Our 2016 CreditCards.com Credit Card Fee Survey found the biggest change was in foreign transaction fees — 61 cards charged the fees, down from 77 in 2015.
3. Protect your purchases — and yourself.
There’s another reason to charge your wedding expenses and travels on your credit card(s): peace of mind.
Refunds when things go wrong: “I paid for my 2005 wedding with a credit card and I am glad I did,” says one-time bride Alexandra Chauran of Issaquah, Washington. When the beer keg she rented jammed at her reception, Chauran asked the vendor for her money back. No luck.
“The company that rented it to me refused to refund my money,” she says. “So, I just disputed the charge with my credit card company and got all my money back that way.”
As Chauran discovered, paying with a credit card gives you extra ammunition to fight back against vendors — and potentially recover your losses — via a chargeback. After all, you don’t want your wedding planner, photographer or florist running off with your cash ahead of the big day.
Travel insurance: “Your credit card may also offer additional protection on wedding-related travel, like trip cancellation insurance, coverage for medical emergencies or reimbursement if the airline loses the garment bag that had your wedding gown in it,” says Lisa Rowan, personal finance expert at The Penny Hoarder,
“No one wants to think about these types of problems, but it’s better to be covered by your credit card than to have to worry about how you’d recover if any of these events took place. Preparing for a wedding is stressful enough!” Rowan says.
Ease of record-keeping: “By making purchases for wedding prep or your honeymoon on a credit card, you can keep all your related transactions in one easy-to-track account, rather than trying to organize all your expenses from various credit and debit cards,” says Rowan.
“If you’re using money from a savings account to pay for wedding-related expenses, it can help to keep the spending separate — and then pull the funds directly from that special account to pay your credit card bill,” she says.
4. Use credit wisely for your wedding and always.
Since a wedding is a special occasion, you may be tempted to splurge, which is fine — if you’ve budgeted for it. Using credit to fund your wedding or honeymoon can be advantageous, but it also can leave you starting your marriage with a good chunk of debt if you’re not careful.
“Before you start swiping away, figure out all your costs and what the likely credit balance is going to be,” says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner and blogger at WealthPilgrim, “Then, calculate how long it’s going to take you to pay it off. Then add in the interest you are going to pay.
“Finally, ask yourself and your intended spouse if four hours of fun is worth years of financial stress and servitude. Hopefully, this exercise will impact you enough to scale down your wedding to something you can really afford without going into debt,” he says.
If this doesn’t work, you might suggest that in lieu of gifts, your guests provide cash for your wedding fund.
“Use that money to pay off your credit debt wedding costs rather than for an exotic honeymoon,” he adds. “Don’t wake up the day after your wedding with credit card debt that will take years to pay off.”
Editor’s note: This story, “How credit cards cut the costs of your wedding” originally was posted on CreditCards.com.
Stay up-to-date with the industry’s top news and strategies for earning cash back. Check out Bankrate’s cash back catalog for everything you need to know to earn the most out of every swipe.