9 cool things you can do with a credit card
To children, credit cards seem almost magical.
That little piece of plastic is an all-access pass to a favorite movie with a spree at the concession stand beforehand and an ice cream sundae after the show.
As an adult, using a card means being responsible: stressing over bills, shopping interest rates, tracking due dates and calculating credit scores. But your plastic can still do some fun, cool stuff.
So forget the errands, the groceries and paying at the pump. Here are 9 fun things you may not have realized credit cards will do for you — and some of them are free.
When you buy your concert or event tickets with certain credit cards, you’re the one who gets treated like a rock star.
Depending on the card, the event, and the location, those privileges could include everything from special access to tickets (before everyone else, or at better prices) to backstage passes or celebrity meet-and-greets, says Kendal Perez, spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com.
And the list of artists is pretty varied — including acts ranging from Luke Bryan to Black Sabbath, she says.
One example: Perez paid $80 each for “OK” seats at a Ray LaMontagne concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver.
For the same show in Los Angeles, for the same money (or less), she’d have garnered premier seating, admission to a pre-show sound check and a meeting with the artist.
“That’s a lot of perks you’re getting because you’re a cardholder,” says Perez.
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Rent a bike
Leave the car and take off on 2 wheels for lunch or shopping. App-based bike sharing and renting programs, like Zagster, operate on credit cards. So you can be off having fun in no time without having to worry about hitting an ATM or cleaning out your pockets for change.
The idea is gaining momentum, says Jon Terbush, communications manager for Zagster. The company now has “over 50,000 active riders,” and operates almost 3,000 bikes in 30 states, he says.
Cost: For Zagster, it varies, depending on the community and the sponsors, says Terbush. While some corporate campuses or communities offer bike sharing for free, in other areas it might cost up to a few dollars an hour, he says. But the first half-hour or hour is often free, he adds.
A trip to the farmers market
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Cost: Whatever you want to spend.
It used to be that the farmers market was strictly cash and carry. But these days, thanks to the prevalence of affordable card scanners, small independent purveyors will often accept your favorite debit or credit cards, too, says Perez.
Another twist on the theme: You can use your card to buy tokens that are then good only for merchandise at the farmers market, she says.
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Free museum visits
Want to spend a day at your favorite museum?
Forget the pricy admission. Your card might be able to get you in for free.
On the first full weekend of each month, “Bank of America and Merrill Lynch (credit and debit) cardholders are entitled to one free admission to more than 150 museums, science centers, botanical gardens and other venues in 98 cities,” says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of “thepurplebook: The Definitive Guide to Exceptional Online Shopping.”
So you can save your cash for lunch or the gift shop.
Discounts on golf
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Want better tickets the next time you go to a golf tournament? How about a few tips from a pro to cure that slice?
If you’re a MasterCard World or World Elite customer, you might be able to get just that. The company sponsors the PGA Tour, so cardholders have access to a wealth of golf-related goodies, says Mendelsohn. They can get complimentary tickets to tournaments, special access to on-course lounges, discounted tee-times, and even one-on-one lessons with PGA Tour pros.
“If you’re a golfer, that’s a really cool thing,” says Mendelsohn.
Pro tip: “Supplies are limited, and events book up quickly so plan ahead,” says Beth Kitchener, spokeswoman for MasterCard. Both cards come with annual fees, which vary by issuer, she says.
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Free expedited shipping
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Do you do any of your shopping online? You might be eligible for free expedited shipping and not even realize it.
American Express gives customers a free ShopRunner.com membership, which provides 2-day shipping and return shipping for free, as well as some deals and discounts, says Mendelsohn. Normally, “it costs $79 a year, so that’s a big savings.”
Cost: Free (though in some cases you may have to register or share shopping information).
Some cards will strike up deals with retailers that net its users a better price. And if you’re buying an item anyway, that means you get to keep more of your own money.
So if you use a specific card at a certain store during a set time period, you’ll get the discount or free shipping or whatever else the merchant is offering, says Perez. And it could be online or in the stores. The typical range of additional discounts: 5% to 35% off, she says.
Pro tip: Pay attention to how you get the savings. Sometimes you have to start your online shopping trip at the card site to get the deal. Other times, you get a coupon code to use online (check sites like CouponSherpa, or search “coupon” plus the card name and the store name). Or you might download coupons to your phone or print them to use in brick-and-mortar stores. And sometimes you get the discounts just by presenting your card.
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Gourmet picnic in the park
Ever dream of a romantic picnic in Central Park? Turns out, there’s an app for that.
Giftagram allows consumers to buy gifts and experiences through its app and pay for them via credit card. One of the most popular presents: a gourmet picnic lunch in the heart of Manhattan.
After booking, buyers swing by Chef Daniel Boulud’s Epicerie Boulud to pick up a custom-prepared picnic lunch for 2 “with everything you need,” says Warren Needler, a vice president at Giftagram.
All you have to do is stroll into Central Park and enjoy. No surprise that “this is a very popular gift,” he says.
Private museum tour
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Cost: $600 for 5 people
Ready for a splurge? How about your own private hour at the American Museum of Natural History in New York?
Whether you want to get up close and personal with the giant T-rex, check out the jaws of a velociraptor or just gaze at the life-sized model of the blue whale, you can see it all in relative privacy.
You and 4 guests will have an expert guide for a special one-hour tour before the museum opens to enjoy your favorite exhibits, without the crowds, says Needler of Giftagram, which is one of several places (along with the museum’s website), where buyers can purchase the experience.
After the tour, you get a private movie screening of the museum’s Space Show, plus tickets to the museum.
Oddly, the most common buyers for this one aren’t parents planning kids’ parties or love-struck suitors searching out the perfect proposal venue. The typical purchaser: companies looking for cool corporate gifts, says Needler.