10 May 2006

Frugal Moment: What My Credit Card Can Do for Me

In less than two years, Si and I have received over $600 in giftcards to our favorite stores and restaurants. I remember the first time I was able to order a giftcard, and how excited I was to have "earned" a free-to-us date at Chili's. Later, I obtained my dream shower curtain {too expensive for me to consider buying with our family money} for a shipping fee of five dollars, because I had "earned" a $50 giftcard to Pottery Barn to cover the majority of the cost.

Now, I am well aware that credit card debt is a plague in our society*, and I would Credit Card Imagenever suggest this method to a person who tends to spend too much, or who is tempted to spend more when using a credit card. But our family habits are to pretty much literally {with a couple exceptions for dates and hobbies} not buy anything we don't need. And our definition of the word "need" is quite narrow. But in a world where grocery stores and gas stations and even second-hand stores take credit cards, it is easy for a thrifty person to rack up some serious credit card points.

If one is to earn the maximum amount of points, one must be creative. For instance, I learned that I could pay our health insurance bill by credit card if I inconvenienced myself by calling the company and paying the bill over the phone rather than writing a simple check. That earned us over 400 points a month until Si got the new job.

I also learned that if I went to our credit card's website and used their link to jump to the likes of a site like Amazon, I could buy a gift I was going to buy anyhow, but earn three points for every dollar instead of one, just for using their website first! There are a world of ways to "earn" points without ever increasing one's monthly expenses.

In fact, one can actually use credit card points decrease one's monthly expenses. I have done this before. I used points to "purchase" a giftcard to Target where I bought our regular household items like toilet paper, shaving cream, and even ink for the office printer.

I must note that we have never paid interest to our credit card company. Ever. This is a very important element of our point-gathering habit. If we ever paid interest, we would instantly turn this situation around, and it would become the farthest thing from frugal. But if one has the self-discipline necessary to make this work for one's family, it is, in my opinion, a very nice "bonus," especially to a person such as myself who hasn't earned a regular paycheck in four years.

*Of course, I haven't yet read Usury: Destroyer of Nations by S.C. Mooney. I plan to someday. And once I do, I might be writing a very different sort of post.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with credit card points. Our more "financially sophisticated" family (both bankers) use the same approach, but I am just too scared I will increase my spending when using plastic.

  2. Meredith,
    I totally understand being scared to do this! I know some people who only use it to pay bills online--they never take their credit cards out with them because of this fear. I think one of the reasons this works for us is because neither one of us is a shopper!


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