Using credit cards to meet your 2019 financial goals


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Are you making good on your promise to take better care of your money — and yourself — this year? Or did you make a New Year’s resolution that you’re struggling to keep?

It’s completely normal to suffer resolution fatigue, particularly if your financial goals require a lot of change all at once. Fortunately, there are tools you can lean on to help with you stay on track. And yes, some of the best tools are credit cards.

Choose the right card for your financial goals

While credit cards work mostly the same when you use them to make purchases, different cards come with special benefits and perks. That’s why, if you want to use a credit card to address debt, you need to choose the right card for your specific goal.

Consider how each of these resolutions could be easier once you have the right card working in your favor.

Pay off high-interest debt

When it comes to debt, credit cards can be problematic if you don’t use them responsibly. They usually have much higher interest rates than other types of loans and borrowing tools, and it’s far too easy to make only the minimum payment and get stuck in a cycle of debt that’s hard to break. Still, a certain type of credit card can flip that script. With a balance transfer credit card or 0% APR credit card, you can avoid interest for a limited time and pay down debt faster.

Most balance transfer credit cards let consumers pay down a transferred debt with zero interest for 12 to 21 months, although some do charge a balance transfer fee of 3% or 5%. Even with the fee, however, you can still wind up far ahead once you factor in the interest you’re not paying.

If you’re wondering how to get out of credit card debt and thinking a balance transfer card could work in your favor, take time to compare balance transfer cards in terms of their introductory offers and fees before you decide.

Consider this card: We like the Chase Slate because it offers 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months (after that, 16.24% to 24.99% variable APR based on your creditworthiness), provided you transfer your high interest balances within 60 days of account opening. This card also comes without an annual fee, and you get a free FICO Score on your monthly statement.

Check off your bucket list

Wondering how to keep New Year’s resolutions that involve both finances and fun? Maybe your financial ducks are already in a row but you’re simply seeking more out of life, including finding the time — and the money — to travel more and explore the world.

In that case, you may want to consider travel credit cards that can help you cover the cost of flights, hotel stays and other expenses with rewards points. Many travel credit cards let you rack up airline miles good for flights or hotel points good for free overnight stays, but some credit cards let you earn points that can be used in more than one way.

Consider this card: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is popular with consumers since you can redeem your miles for any type of travel. Once you sign up, you can earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles worth $500 in travel after you use your card for $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. You’ll also earn 2x miles for each dollar you spend, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Cook more at home

Dining out less often can reduce your food spending, whereas making meals from scratch could help you eat more nutritiously. If you focus on eating healthier at home, you may even lose some weight. These are just a few of the reasons many people strive to cook more and dine out less.

Believe it or not, the right credit card can catapult your efforts even further. Several rewards credit cards offer valuable rewards for grocery spending you can use to reduce your grocery bill or score more free food. Ideally, you’ll look for a card that offers maximum bang for your buck on food spending with minimal fees, but also note that pretty much any cash-back credit card could help with this specific financial goal.

Consider this card: If your financial goal is earning the most rewards you possibly can, it would be hard to outpace the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. This card only has a $95 annual fee( rates and fees) and lets you earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in spending at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%). You’ll also earn 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more, and 1% back on all other purchases. To sweeten the pot, the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express offers a $250 welcome bonus as a statement credit after you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Save for a rainy day

Saving money for the future is a noble goal, but it’s also wise to build up some “fun money” you can use however you want. Rewards credit cards can help tremendously with your efforts since they can help you earn money you wouldn’t have otherwise. The key to using them in your favor is paying your balance in full each month so you never, ever pay a dime in interest.

Most people angling to build a rainy day turn to cash-back credit cards since they tend to let you redeem points for cash in your bank account or statement credits. Many cash back credit cards are also free of annual fees, although you’ll want to check any card you’re considering before you sign up. As you compare cash-back credit cards, also note their earning structures; some offer a flat rate of rewards while others offer tiered earnings or bonus categories that change each quarter.

Consider this card: The Discover it® Cash Back is popular with consumers because it lets you earn 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%. (You’ll need to activate your bonuses on Discover’s Cash Back Calendar.) You also earn 1% back on all other purchases, and there is no annual fee. Finally, Discover will match all the cash back you earn during the first year.

Tap into resources for resolutions

From figuring out how to get out of credit card debt to saving more for retirement, reaching your financial goals can take up a lot of time and mental energy. The good news is that judicious use of credit cards and other financial tools can help you stay on track. Don’t hesitate to stock your toolbox and use it wisely.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.