And on that note, Frazier is seeing an increase in beverage centers, which encompasses every drink throughout the day, from breakfast to cocktail hour. “In the past a beverage center was maybe just a coffee bar or a cocktail bar, but now people want them to be multipurposeful, a place where they can make their morning coffee or tea, make a smoothie bowl after a workout or pour a beverage after work.” Most of these areas include a beverage fridge or fridge drawers, a built-in pullout trash can, a wine fridge, a sink, and cabinets for blenders, coffee pots or tea kettles. “It depends on the person, of course, but they are designed for how they want it to function,” she says.

Trend: Cozy spaces

“The light airy home has had its moment,” says designer Kara Adam. “People now want a cozier environment rich in color.”(Michael Hunter)
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Homes built in the last decade mostly feature open-concept floor plans, which usually include an open family room, kitchen and breakfast nook. But Adam is hoping to design cozier spaces in the next year. “No one wants to relax in their family room when they are sitting on the sofa and behind them is the kitchen,” she says. Dirty dishes, a pot of soup on the stove or clutter on the countertops does not create for a relaxing space. “Creating separation is good for your mental health,” she says. “You can step away from it and go back and clean it up later.” Plus, when a space is large and open, there is no breaking point for a designer to do something playful and fun on the walls or molding. “When it’s one huge space, it’s a lot harder to upholster or lacquer a wall,” she explains.

Her clients are also asking for game rooms. “We can’t do enough of them,” she says. “We are redoing spaces so that people can have a mahjong room. In our home we have a table built for mahjong, but when it’s not set up for that, we always have a puzzle out, too. Work on a puzzle for 20 minutes and it’s good for your brain and it slows things down. Then you can go back to running around or going to carpool,” she says.

Trend: Textured and printed wallpaper

Patterns, textures and fabrics are big in wall coverings this year. Brian Yates, principal designer with Yates Desygn, covered this bedroom in Ever Atelier x Yates Desygn “In-Site” patterned wallpaper.(Michael Wiltbank)
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Wallpaper has been trending for some years now, and it’s still holding strong in 2024, especially selections that boast texture, bold patterns and fabric. “In 2023, we launched our first wallpaper collection with Ever Atelier, Ever X Yates, and it led us to experiment with wall coverings in new ways. For example, new construction ceilings are typically much taller nowadays, and implementing wallpaper can help weigh it down and feel more proportional,” says Bryan Yates, principal designer of Yates Desygn. “In addition, we are currently framing three panels of a de Gournay print to work as a 9-foot-by-9-foot piece of art and create a more significant moment in a client’s dining space rather than using traditional panels as a series.”

Adam notes that adding the right wallpaper to a space helps to evoke a mood, too. “People are wanting texture as opposed to a super flat, quiet space. For instance, when you’re having a dinner party in a dining room covered in cool silk wallpaper, it makes people want to stay. We want our clients to have dinner parties that go on all night,” she says.

Related Stories

Source: dallasnews.com

Apache is functioning normally

If you’re planning on giving your home a quick transformation for the new year, a fresh coat of paint can do the job. And if you want to master how to paint a room like a pro, you’ll also need to avoid these common painting mistakes.

I’m always updating my home, and taking on a new DIY project. Over the years, I’ve wallpapered rooms, upcycled old, tired-looking furniture and of course, painted walls.  But despite writing about home decor for a living, I’ve made some rookie mistakes in the past that have cost me time, effort and money!

($15, Amazon), which are more durable.  

2. Consider safety  

Lady painting a wall with wrong footwear (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Just because you’re in the comfort of your own home, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your safety seriously. And while I wouldn’t consider painting to be a high-risk job, there are still certain precautions to take. 

Most paints contain harmful chemicals, so ensure you always open a window, door or have adequate ventilation in the room — especially if you have children at home.

In addition, always wear appropriate clothing, or disposable coveralls like these Cleaing Pack of 3 SMS Disposable Paint Suit ($18, Amazon), to protect your skin/clothes from any splashes. If you need to use a sanding tool, it’s also advisable to wear protective eyewear, gloves and a mask so that you won’t breathe in dust. 

And finally, wear the right, protective footwear to prevent slipping or losing your balance — especially when climbing a step ladder. I’ve been guilty of wearing my slippers to go up a ladder in the past, which is a massive fail! Always treat any DIY/home project as if you’re on a building site — accidents can happen.

3. Prep the walls first before painting

Filling cracks in wall with putty knife (Image credit: Shutterstock)

I’ve been guilty of painting straight onto walls without the right preparation. As a result, any dents or cracks were visible, much to my dismay! But while prepping may seem like an arduous task, this makes all the difference to the overall results and finish. 

Check the condition of the walls, inspecting for cracks, holes or any dents. If these are minor, simply apply caulk to fill these in with a putty knife, and let it dry completely before any necessary sanding. If your walls are not in good condition however, you may need to hire a plasterer, to ensure it has a smooth finish. 

In addition, it’s always recommended to give walls a good clean first with a soapy water solution to get rid of dust, cobwebs and grime. You can either use a damp cloth/sponge, or a sugar soap spray can also be used to prepare walls. Follow this up by washing again with clean water to remove the cleaner residue, then wipe with a clean cloth.

By taking the time to do the prep work, this ensures you have a clean, smooth wall, makes painting easier and will actually save you more time in the long-run. 

4. Use masking tape to secure drop cloths  

Man applying masking tape for drop cloth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

We all know how important it is to protect your floor when you’re painting. However, if you just throw drop cloths down without properly securing them, these can move out of place and cause an accident. In addition, I’d often spend extra time covering areas of the floor again, where it had lifted.

The best way to secure drop cloths is to apply about two inches of masking tape to the quarter round or shoe molding along the edge of wall. Then spread the drop cloth out on the floor next to the wall before applying another layer of masking tape so that it covers both the cloth and trim. This way, it shouldn’t shift while you’re moving the step ladder, or generally walking around the area. 

5. Lining the paint tray before use 

Pouring paint into a lined tray (Image credit: Shutterstock)

One thing I dread after painting a room is the messy clean-up afterwards — especially if you need to reuse your tray soon after. However, a clever painting hack is to line the tray with a plastic sheet or trash bag so that every inch is covered, before pouring out your paint.

The idea is that, once you’ve finished painting, carefully lift out the sheet or bag and throw it out in the trash. This way, your paint tray remains spotless, and ready for the next paint job. Best of all, this is quick, hassle-free and will save you precious time. 

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Source: tomsguide.com

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Ready to simplify your year by cutting back on some of the excess stuff? Here’s where to minimize first.

Is decluttering on your list of resolutions for 2024? (Ours too!) If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got great ideas for you.

1. The pantry

You probably have so many seasonings and food items that you haven’t used in ages. Start with cleaning out your pantry and getting rid of anything you no longer use or eat.

If you have old food or beverages that you have no use for anymore, simply throw them out. Check expiration dates, because it’s likely that you also have expired items that you never even used.

2. Bathroom drawers

Listen, we all know how cluttered and unorganized bathroom drawers get throughout the year. Before the new year, deep clean your drawers and throw out any personal items you don’t need anymore.

Items such as makeup, old toiletries and accessories often get thrown into bathroom drawers without notice. Sooner or later, you realize that your bathroom drawer has become your junk drawer.

3. Kitchen drawers

Similar to bathroom drawers, kitchen drawers can also often become “junk drawers” by accident. Go through your kitchen utensils and cooking appliances to see if there’s anything you don’t use anymore.

More times than not, kitchen items just end up collecting dust. Make sure you actually utilize the utensils you choose to keep.

4. Closets

This is a tough one. Going through your closets might take some time, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Consider giving away clothes that you no longer wear. You can donate the items to different charities.

It’s also a great idea to go through your closet floors and get rid of any items you forgot were even there to begin with. If you haven’t even looked at something in over a year, it’s a telling sign that it’s probably not something you need.

5. Magazines and books

Some people keep a lot of magazines or books in their apartment which is fine, but it’s good to purge this pile every year and start fresh. Old magazines and books serve little to no purpose in that bin next to your couch. Go through all of them and see what you actually want to keep, then decide what to get rid of.

6. Toiletries

This especially applies to people who travel a lot. If you travel often and have a toiletry bag that you re-use for trips, it’s important to clean this out each year. In general, toiletries are worth going through because it’s likely that you have a lot of old items you don’t need anymore. Toiletries need to be replaced often, so take some time to decide what you need to replenish.

7. Storage Areas

Similar to closets, this is another area that might take some time to purge. Whether it’s your storage closet, a garage or another space you keep storage items in, there’s always a lot of junk you can clean out each year. The idea is to only keep items you actually need, not things that just take up space in a storage closet.

All of your items should serve a purpose. This is why we recommend purging your entire apartment for the new year, so you don’t hold onto extra things you don’t use or need anymore. Decluttering will help you start the year fresh and in turn, you’ll feel a lot more organized going forward.

Source: rent.com

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A number of closely followed mortgage rates fell over the last week. Average 15-year fixed mortgage rates climbed, while average 30-year fixed mortgage rates trailed off, while
For variable rates, the 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage decreased.

  • 30-year fixed mortgage: 7.00%
  • 15-year fixed mortgage: 6.46%
  • 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage: 6.37%

In November, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage started making sustained drops from its earlier peak of 8%. The most common home loans are now in the 6% to 7% range. Yet the mortgage market always has some level of volatility, and rates have already started inching back up at the start of this year.

“It’s not uncommon to see a shift in the pattern for interest rates in January, sometimes positive, sometimes not,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage site HSH.com.

The current housing market is difficult. High mortgage rates, expensive home prices and tight inventory are keeping homebuying out of reach for many. If you’re looking to buy a home, don’t try to time the market. Instead, experts recommend patience and preparation: Figure out what you can afford and take steps to improve your financial situation.


About these rates: Like CNET, Bankrate is owned by Red Ventures. This tool features partner rates from lenders that you can use when comparing multiple mortgage rates.


Today’s average mortgage interest rates

If you’re in the market for a home, check out how today’s mortgage rates compare to last week’s. We use rates collected by Bankrate to track daily mortgage rate trends. This table summarizes the average rates offered by lenders across the US:

Today’s mortgage interest rates

Loan term Today’s Rate Last week Change
30-year mortgage rate 7.00% 7.02% -0.02
15-year fixed rate 6.46% 6.39% +0.07
30-year jumbo mortgage rate 7.05% 7.06% -0.01
30-year mortgage refinance rate 7.21% 7.15% +0.06

Rates as of Jan. 19, 2024

How to choose a mortgage

When picking a mortgage, consider the loan term, or payment schedule. The most common mortgage terms are 15 and 30 years, although 10-, 20- and 40-year mortgages also exist. You’ll also need to choose between a fixed-rate mortgage, where the interest rate is set for the duration of the loan, and an adjustable-rate mortgage. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, the interest rate is only fixed for a certain amount of time (commonly five, seven or 10 years), after which the rate adjusts annually based on the market’s current interest rate. Fixed-rate mortgages offer more stability and are a better option if you plan to live in a home in the long term, but adjustable-rate mortgages may offer lower interest rates upfront.

30-year fixed-rate mortgages

The average interest rate for a standard 30-year fixed mortgage is 7.00%, which is a decrease of 2 basis points from one week ago. (A basis point is equivalent to 0.01%.) A 30-year fixed mortgage is the most common loan term. It will often have a higher interest rate than a 15-year mortgage, but you’ll have a lower monthly payment.

15-year fixed-rate mortgages

The average rate for a 15-year, fixed mortgage is 6.46%, which is an increase of 7 basis points from seven days ago. Though you’ll have a bigger monthly payment than a 30-year fixed mortgage, a 15-year loan usually comes with a lower interest rate, allowing you to pay less interest in the long run and pay off your mortgage sooner.

5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages

A 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage has an average rate of 6.37%, a slide of 4 basis points compared to last week. You’ll typically get a lower introductory interest rate with a 5/1 ARM in the first five years of the mortgage. But you could pay more after that period, depending on how the rate adjusts annually. If you plan to sell or refinance your house within five years, an ARM could be a good option.

Calculate your monthly mortgage payment

Getting a mortgage should always depend on your financial situation and long-term goals. The most important thing is to make a budget and try to stay within your means. CNET’s mortgage calculator below can help homebuyers prepare for monthly mortgage payments.

What is influencing mortgage rates right now

Mortgage rates were near record lows, around 3%, at the start of the pandemic. That changed as inflation surged and the Federal Reserve kicked off a series of aggressive interest rate hikes, which indirectly drove up mortgage rates. Now, mortgage rates are still more than double what they were just a few years ago.

However, with the central bank keeping interest rates steady since late July, mortgage rates finally saw some sustained decreases in the fall. With the Fed planning to announce its next policy move in late January (and again in mid-March), experts are waiting for the first interest rate cut. It may be months before that happens, but mortgage rates could stabilize and start inching even lower in the coming months.

““The history of economic cycles has taught us that when the markets believe the Fed is done hiking rates, [mortgage rates] make a big move lower before rate cuts happen,” said Logan Mohtashami, lead analyst at HousingWire.

What affects mortgage rates?

  • Federal Reserve monetary policy: The nation’s central bank doesn’t set interest rates, but when it adjusts the federal funds rate, mortgages tend to go in the same direction.
  • Inflation: Mortgage rates tend to increase during high inflation. Lenders usually set higher interest rates on loans to compensate for the loss of purchasing power.
  • The bond market: Mortgage lenders often use long-term bond yields, like the 10-Year Treasury, as a benchmark to set interest rates on home loans. When yields rise, mortgage rates typically increase.
  • Geopolitical events: World events, such as elections, pandemics or economic crises, can also affect home loan rates, particularly when global financial markets face uncertainty.
  • Other economic factors: The bond market, employment data, investor confidence and housing market trends, such as supply and demand, can also affect the direction of mortgage rates.

Mortgage rate forecasts from experts

While mortgage forecasters base their projections on different data, most predict rates will remain near or above 7% for the rest of 2023. Here’s a look at where some of the major housing authorities expect average mortgage rates to land at the end of the year.

How to find the best mortgage rates

Though mortgage rates and home prices are high, the housing market won’t be unaffordable forever. It’s always a good time to save for a down payment and improve your credit score to help you secure a competitive mortgage rate when the time is right.

  1. Save for a bigger down payment: Though a 20% down payment isn’t required, a larger upfront payment means taking out a smaller mortgage, which will help you save in interest.
  2. Boost your credit score: You can qualify for a conventional mortgage with a 620 credit score, but a higher score of at least 740 will get you better rates.
  3. Pay off debt: Experts recommend a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or less to help you qualify for the best rates. Not carrying other debt will put you in a better position to handle your monthly payments.
  4. Research loans and assistance: Government-sponsored loans have more flexible borrowing requirements than conventional loans. Some government-sponsored or private programs can also help with your down payment and closing costs.
  5. Shop around for lenders: Researching and comparing multiple loan offers from different lenders can help you secure the lowest mortgage rate for your situation.

Source: cnet.com

Apache is functioning normally

Inside: Are you looking to maximize your rewards and credit card hacks? This guide will teach you the most effective methods for using your hacking, signing up for bonus rewards, and making efficient card purchases.

Credit card use extends beyond just making purchases. Savvy credit card users understand that with the right set of hacks and optimal usage, there’s a world of rewards that are ripe for the picking.

Money saved can be money earned, and this simple philosophy forms the cornerstone of these 25 credit card hacks you’ll be learning about today.

Why do credit card hacks matter? Well, I just received a $700 check for credit card rewards. That is enough to pay for a weekend trip away.

What are Credit Card Hacks?

Credit card hacks are creative strategies employed by credit card users to maximize the benefits and rewards offered by their credit cards while also potentially saving more money.

This trend has become more popular in recent years due to the rise in premium travel and cashback cards that offer lucrative ongoing rewards programs. Users who learn about these hacks can save you money on travel or just put cold hard cash back in your wallet.

With strategic approaches, these hacks provide an avenue to optimize rewards and navigate the financial landscape more effectively.

Proven Credit Card Hacks to Maximize Rewards

Tip #1 – Utilize sign-up bonuses

One of the most attractive features of credit cards is the sign-up bonuses they offer, which are essentially rewards that cardholders can earn after meeting a certain spending threshold within a specified timeframe. The bonuses can range from hundreds to even thousands of points, miles, or cash – favorably impacting your rewards balance.

To illustrate, if you take the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card, both partners in a household can get up to 50,000 extra points each as part of the sign-up bonus.

Bonus tip: Stagger your applications, so once one person gets the bonus after meeting the spending requirement, the other person can then apply and achieve the next round of bonuses.

Tip #2 – Increase credit limit

The principle behind this is simply buffering your “credit utilization ratio”, which is how much of your total available credit you are utilizing.

To illustrate how a credit limit increase will work, let’s consider an example: with a credit limit of $10,000 and a credit usage of $3,000, your utilization ratio stands at 30%. But once your credit limit increases to $15,000 with the same credit usage, your utilization ratio drops to 20% – which is a noticeable improvement.

Remember, when requesting a credit limit increase, some card issuers might execute a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could temporarily decrease your score. Hence, you should try to find out beforehand whether your issuer is likely to perform a hard or soft credit pull. Soft inquiries won’t affect your credit score, making them the preferable approach.

Tip #3 – Master balance transfers

A balance transfer, executed proficiently, can be an effective way to handle significant credit card debt. By focusing on reducing the cost of debt through lower interest rates, balance transfer can accelerate your debt repayment process while saving you considerable money over time.

This is what one of my clients did and the date when the 0% interest ended was very motivating to pay off their debt.

This process entails the shuffling of debt from one card (usually one with a high interest rate) to another card—preferably with a 0% promotional APR offer. With this interest-free period, you can focus on repaying the principal balance, hence clearing your debt faster.

As a finance expert, make sure balance transfers are only beneficial if you’re mindful of the terms, like how long your 0% rate will last and what fees are involved in the transfer to the new card.

Tip #4 – Purchase prepaid cards with credit

Need a way to spend a certain dollar amount by a certain deadline? Then, look at purchasing prepaid cards with a credit card as a strategy to earn extra rewards points. This method entails buying prepaid cards or gift cards using your credit card, and later using these prepaid cards to cover those expenses you typically will use.

In other cases, customers have reported that their credit card companies have clawed back rewards points that were initially given for gift card purchases. Double check their terms and conditions, many issuers, including American Express, explicitly exclude such transactions from earning rewards. 1

Tip #5 – Harnessing the 15/3 Methodology

The 15/3 Methodology is a credit card hack that intends to optimize your credit utilization ratio—one of the significant factors that impact your credit score.

Here’s how it works: You pay off a majority of your card’s balance 15 days before your statement date, and then pay off the remaining balance three days before the statement date. By doing this, you create the illusion of a lower balance, which can positively impact your credit score.

There is still a debate about whether or not this strategy improves your credit card score. Paying your bill on time will definitely improve your score.

Tip #6 – Strategies to earn additional rewards through third-party programs

An often overlooked but highly effective credit card hack is utilizing third-party apps and websites that offer additional rewards when you shop at participating retailers and restaurants. These rewards are additional to the cash back, miles, or points awarded by your credit card.

One such app is Dosh, a cashback app. By linking your credit card to your Dosh account, you can earn up to 10% cash back from participating retailers on top of the rewards earned from your credit card. Similarly, apps like Drop and Bumped give users points for every dollar spent, and these points can be redeemed for gift cards.

Furthermore, many airlines and hotels participate in dining rewards programs where you’ll earn extra rewards at select restaurants. Airlines like United, Southwest, Delta, and hospitality giant companies like Marriott and Hilton actively participate in such programs.

Tip #7 – Earn a credit card sign-up bonus then canceling the card right away

Also known as credit card flipping or churning, the tactic of earning a credit card sign-up bonus and then canceling the card right away has been employed by some savvy credit card users to maximize rewards.

However, this practice isn’t as easy or beneficial as it appears. While it sounds like an accessible system to generate easy money, it comes with several potential pitfalls that could make it a risky move.

  1. Firstly, numerous card issuers have, over the years, implemented stricter rules to deter this practice. Chase, for instance, has the 5/24 rule indicating you can have only five new credit cards within the last 24 months. 2
  2. Repeatedly opening and closing the same card can result in a declined application or rescinded bonus and hurt your credit score-perceived as credit misbehavior by the issuer.
  3. It can also be viewed as unethical and potentially lead to you being barred from opening accounts with that issuer in the future.

Churning can negatively affect your ability to get approved for future credit cards and loans because lenders may think you’re a risky borrower.”

Tip #8 – Develop a multi-card system

This method aims to cover all your spending by using different cards that offer elevated rewards for certain purchase categories.

For instance, we have one card that pays an unlimited flat rate of 2% on all purchases. Then, another rewards card offering increased category rewards, with travel and gas. Then a there card that rotates through various categories each quarter.

Diversifying your spending amongst several credit cards can help you to earn the maximum possible rewards. However, endowing yourself with several credit cards is not for everyone as it requires careful financial management. In some cases, the potential of overspending can outweigh the benefits.

Tip #9 – Transfer points between multiple cards

Transferring points between cards (provided they are from the same issuer) is another useful strategy whereby you can redeem them at their maximum possible value.

The goal is to make your spending work for you and maximize the rewards you can earn from daily expenses. However, people should employ this strategy responsibly and ensure they’re not overspending just to earn rewards.

In such a strategy, points on traditional cashback cards can be transferred to airline and hotel partners when you also have a transferable points card like the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred. So, not only are you earning cashback on your purchases, but you’re also accumulating lucrative points that can be redeemed for travel.

Tip #10 – Don’t use cash

In the world of credit card rewards, cash is no longer king. Whenever feasible, you should consider using your credit cards instead of cash or debit to pay for everyday purchases. This allows you to earn rewards on purchases you’re making anyway.

The best way to implement this is for you to bills with their credit cards instead of cash or debit and set this up on autopay. This serves a dual purpose of potentially earning rewards on these payments whilst also conveying a positive message to the banks about your money management skills, leading to possible credit score improvements.

However, this method works best when your spending doesn’t increase as a result. Only use your credit card for expenses that you’d normally pay in cash and for which you already have the money set aside to pay.

Tip #11: Time your purchasing

Being strategic about when you make your credit card purchases can help you wring out some extra benefits.

One way to optimize your earning potential and maintain a healthy credit score is to plan your large purchases around your credit card’s billing cycle. Making your most significant purchases immediately after your statement date ensures that you have the longest possible repayment period, effectively offering you a short-term, interest-free loan.

Furthermore, if your issuer has a rewards cut-off at the end of a calendar year, you can make larger purchases ahead of time to push yourself into a higher rewards bracket.

Tip #12 – Make Micropayments

Rather than making one full payment, consider making multiple payments over the billing cycle, commonly referred to as ‘micropayments.’ This helps keep your running balance low and, in turn, your credit utilization ratio – the percentage of your available credit limit you’re using – also low, positively impacting your credit score.

Plus it helps to keep your checking account at a more accurate level.

Tip #13: Have your spouse apply for the same credit card

Known informally as the “two-player mode” amongst credit card hacking enthusiasts, having your spouse or partner apply for the same credit card can be an effective strategy to earn double the sign-up bonus. This approach is based on the idea that instead of just adding your spouse or partner as an authorized user to your card, they should apply separately.

For instance, if a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers a 50,000 points bonus on sign-up, both partners can potentially earn up to 100,000 points collectively, essentially doubling the bonus.

But remember, this hack should be used strategically – you should stagger your card applications and ensure each of you fulfills the spending criteria to qualify for the bonus.

Tip #14 – Importance of prompt payment

Quite possibly the hack with the most significant impact on both your credit score and your pocket, prompt payment of your credit card bill cannot be overstated.

Making on-time payments can drastically improve your credit score since your payment history is the most heavily-weighted factor that credit scoring models consider.

Plus paying your balance in full each month can help you avoid interest charges and penalties, effectively saving you money in the long run.

Tip #15 – Know What Rewards you Want

Rewards such as travel miles, discounts at partnered retailers, cashback, or access to premium experiences like airport lounges or concert tickets are available, depending on your card.

By understanding and leveraging these varied rewards, you can get the most excellent value out of your credit card expenses.

Cautionary Advice on Credit Card Hacks

While credit card hacks can undoubtedly offer substantial benefits when done right, pitfalls can ensue if one isn’t careful.

Pitfall #1 – Overspending

For starters, these hacks can inadvertently lead to overspending or unnecessary purchases. Be wary of making purchases you don’t need or can’t afford in an attempt to earn more rewards or meet the spend necessary for a sign-up bonus.

Consequently, the pursuit of credit card rewards could also lead to accumulated debt if you’re not diligent about paying off your balance in full each month. The interest that you need to pay on balances carried over can easily eat up the value of any rewards earned.

Pitfall #2 – Impact on your Credit Score

Applying for multiple cards can lead to hard inquiries on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit score. Similarly, canceling cards after acquiring the sign-up bonus could harm your credit utilization ratio and your length of credit history, both key factors in your credit score calculation.

Additionally, irresponsible habits like ‘credit card churning’ and ‘paying for everything with credit’ may risk your relationship with card issuers. Some companies might close accounts or even ban individuals from opening new ones if they’re perceived as abusing the system.

Pitfall #3 – Don’t pay annual fees unless they’re worth it

While some of the top-tier reward and travel credit cards often come with hefty annual fees, not all of them are worth paying. This is especially true when a card’s annual fees outstrip the value of the rewards earned.

Before you sign up for a credit card with an annual fee, it’s advised to read the fine print and estimate what you can earn from it. You should evaluate whether the perks, bonuses, rewards, and credits offered offset the annual fee cost.

Personally, I don’t use any cards that have an annual fee.

Pitfall #4 – Paying interest

Credit card interest can significantly impact your overall financial health if you’re not careful. The money invested toward paying it off could be better used elsewhere – for saving, investing, or spending on your needs and desires. Hence, one of the best “credit card hacks” out there is to simply stop paying interest.

You want to focus on debt free living.

Pitfall #5 – Avoiding counterproductive habits like “balance surfing”

Balance surfing is a strategy where you continually move credit card debt from one card with an ending 0% APR promotion to another card with a new 0% APR offer. While this approach can potentially delay interest payments, it can become a dangerous cycle if you find yourself simply transferring debt instead of reducing it.

Meanwhile, the total debt remains the same. Without a consistent debt repayment strategy, this method can lead to an endless cycle of balance surfing.

What are some of the best credit card rewards and hacks for 2024?

As we venture into the new year, some credit card reward strategies remain timeless while others evolve in response to new credit card offers and updated reward programs. In 2024, here are some of the best credit card hacks worth considering:

  • Take Advantage of Updated Card Offers: Credit card issuers frequently update their card offers and rewards programs. Ensure you stay updated on these changes to maximize your card benefits.
  • Focus on Cards with Flexible Reward Categories: Some cards, like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, allow you to choose your highest cash-back category (like online shopping, dining, or grocery stores). These flexible category cards can be more advantageous as you can adapt them to your spending habits.
  • Leverage Rotating Categories: Cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories that rotate each quarter, once you activate. Plan your spending in advance to leverage these rotating categories optimally.
  • Remain Alert on Loyalty Program Partnerships: Many credit cards and airlines have partnerships with other brands. This can mean increased rewards when shopping with those brands, so always watch for new partnerships or promotions.
  • Revisiting Annual Fees: If your credit card perks no longer justify its annual fee due to changes in lifestyle or spending habits, consider downgrading to a no-fee card from the same issuer. This way, you can save on annual fees without closing your account which could potentially harm your credit score.
  • Diversify Your Rewards: While it may be tempting to concentrate all your spending on a single card, diversifying your rewards can make you earn more. Consider employing a multi-card system to maximize rewards across different spending categories.

Your credit card should be a tool to enhance your financial flexibility, not a burden that leads to financial stress.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Deciding whether to focus on paying off a single card or distributing payments over several cards can seem complicated, but there are a couple of methodologies to strategize your payoff.

  • The Debt Avalanche method suggests focusing on the card with the highest interest rate first. Once you’ve paid this card off in its entirety, you then move on to the card with the next highest interest rate. This can potentially save you more money in the long term as it targets high-interest debt first.
  • Alternatively, the Debt Snowball method, proposed by financial guru Dave Ramsey, recommends paying off the card with the smallest balance first, then moving on to the card with the second-smallest balance. While you may not save as much money in interest compared to the debt avalanche method, the psychological motivation of paying off a credit card balance entirely may be more important for maintaining consistent repayment.

Either method requires you to make minimum payments promptly on all cards to avoid late fees and possible credit score damage.

Getting credit card points without spending any additional money may seem like wishful thinking, but there are certain strategies that you can employ to achieve this. Strategically managing your credit cards can turn your everyday spending into reward points, miles, or cash back.

  • Referral Bonuses: Many credit card companies offer referral bonuses to their existing cardholders who refer friends or family members. If the person you referred gets approved for the card, you can earn bonus points.
  • Cardholder Perks: Credit card companies often run promotions offering bonus points for certain activities. These can range from enrolling in paperless billing, adding authorized users to your account, or completing an online financial education course. Check with your card issuer to view any current promotions.
  • Shopping Portals: Many credit card issuers, and even airline and hotel rewards programs, have their own online shopping portals where you can earn additional bonus points for every dollar spent. If you were already planning on making an online purchase, consider making it through these portals to earn extra rewards.
  • Sign-up Bonuses: Some cards offer sizeable sign-up bonuses for new cardholders who meet a required minimum spend within the first few months. Although this technically requires spending money, it doesn’t require spending more money if you use your card for purchases you were already planning to make.

While implementing certain credit card strategies can potentially earn you higher rewards or save money, they can also unintentionally harm your credit score if not executed responsibly.

Several factors can contribute to this potential downfall:

  • Opening and Closing Accounts: A high frequency of card applications can lead to multiple hard inquiries on your credit report, which might lower your score in the short term. Closing credit cards, especially older ones, can affect both your credit utilization ratio and the age of your credit history, two significant factors in your credit score calculation.
  • Carrying a Balance: Maintaining a high credit utilization ratio—i.e., carrying a large balance relative to your credit limit—can negatively impact your credit score.
  • Late Payments: If these deadlines are not strictly adhered to, they could result in late payments, which can seriously harm your credit score.
  • Excessive Spending: Some tactics lead to unnecessary spending to earn more reward points or meet an initial spend required for a sign-up bonus. Not only can this increase your credit utilization ratio and potentially lower your credit score, it can lead to debt if these balances are not paid off in time.

While both rewards cards and travel rewards cards offer perks to their users in return for spending, the primary difference lies in the kind of rewards they offer and their target user base.

  • A Rewards Card generally offers cash back, points, or miles for every dollar spent, redeemable in a variety of ways. This is the type of card I prefer. For example, you may redeem your accumulated rewards as cash back into your account, use them to purchase products or services, or exchange them for gift cards. The flexibility of rewards makes these cards are suitable for people with varied spending habits and prefer a variety of redemption options.
  • A Travel Rewards Card, on the other hand, is designed specifically for frequent travelers. These cards earn you points or miles on specific travel-related expenses, like booking flights or hotel stays. The redeemed rewards are typically used towards further travel-related expenses like airfare, hotel stays, or car rentals. Travel Rewards Cards often offer additional travel-centric perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access, and more.

Consider your spending habits, lifestyle, travel frequency, and preference in terms of reward redemption.

Protecting yourself from credit card fraud is an important aspect of managing your credit card usage effectively.

Monitor Your Accounts Regularly: Keep a thorough watch on your credit card statements for any unauthorized or suspicious charges. Report them to your credit card issuer as soon as possible.

  • Use Secure Networks: When making online purchases, only shop on secure websites (look for “https” in the web address), and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for transactions.
  • Keep Your Personal Information Safe: It’s important to dispose of old credit card statements properly, and avoid giving out credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you trust the recipient.
  • Protect Your PIN and Password: Don’t share these with anyone, and avoid using easily guessable combinations like birth dates or the last four digits of your social security number.
  • Enable Account Alerts: Most banks now offer optional security alerts that can be sent via text message or email whenever a charge above a certain amount gets made to your account.
  • Protect Your Computer and Phone: Make sure your devices are equipped with up-to-date antivirus software and that your phone is locked with a secure password or fingerprint identification.

In case you become a victim of credit card fraud, know the steps to protect yourself – report it to your bank or credit card company immediately, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, and report it to the three major credit bureaus, requesting them to put a fraud alert or a credit freeze on your account.

Also remember, credit cards don’t have routing numbers.

Making the Most of Credit Card Hacking

When used wisely, credit card hacks and reward strategies can play a significant role in stretching your budget and rewarding your spending. These secrets of savvy credit card use — from aligning your card to your spending habits, making the most of sign-up bonuses and reward categories, to understanding the ins and outs of your credit card’s rewards structure — can help maximize your potential rewards and save money.

Personally, we use all of our credit card rewards to pay for our travel expenses.

However, it’s paramount to remember that these tips and tactics should not encourage unnecessary spending or carrying a balance. Only spend within your means, ensure you pay off your balances each month to avoid interest charges and remember to safeguard your credit score by handling credit card applications and closures cautiously.

Ultimately, credit card hacks and rewards should fit within your overall financial plan and goals, adding value to your everyday spending habits and rewarding you for well-managed financial practices.

Remember your goal is to reach your FI number.

Source

  1. Reddit. “American Express Clawing Back Points Earned From Gift Card Purchases.” https://www.reddit.com/r/AmexPlatinum/comments/14hywaq/american_express_clawing_back_points_earned_from/. Accessed January 19, 2024.
  2. CNN. “What is the Chase 5/24 rule?” https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/money/chase-5-24-rule#:~:text=The%205%2F24%20rule%20is,your%20approval%20odds%20with%20Chase. Accessed January 19, 2024.

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Source: moneybliss.org