As summer quickly approaches and things re-open in the U.S., it is prime time for enjoying many of life’s most fun activities — travel, dining out, sports, and more — or maybe even some big life changes like moving or a new job. Especially if you expect spending shifts as a result, it’s a great time for taking stock of where you stand financially and re-setting your credit card strategy to help you meet your money goals for the rest of the year. Think of it as an opportunity to focus on what’s working, take advantage of new opportunities, and recalibrate your spending patterns. Here are five simple ways to do so.
Check Your Credit Report
It’s always a good time to check your credit report, but doing so mid-year can be especially useful if you’re planning for any big, upcoming purchases (such as home buying, which can often occur during the summer, and which I’m considering at the moment). Staying abreast of any changes on your credit report can help you address any issues, but can also alert you to opportunities. If you credit score has increased recently, for example, you may qualify for higher credit limits or lower interest rates on loans or credit cards. You can get a full credit report for free once per year at freecreditreport.com. For more frequent credit monitoring, some credit cards even provide free monthly FICO credit scores.
Plan Ahead for Big Purchases
One of the best aspects of responsible card use is enjoying rewards for your purchases. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card is an especially useful tool, because it allows you to change your 3% cash back category every month. So, since I know I’ll be traveling to see family in August, I can change my category to “travel” that month from my usual choice of “dining.” Plus, with an introductory 0% APR offer lasting more than a year, you can plan for big purchases — such as home remodeling, or new furniture. You can even set your monthly cash back category to your intended purchase category to layer your rewards. Combine this with a banking loyalty program, and you can layer your rewards together. As an added bonus, because I am a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, I’m able to boost my cash back earnings even higher.
Review Your Rewards
The summer is also the perfect time to review card rewards earned to date. Mid-year can be a useful time to review the rewards you’re receiving, how much you’ve earned in rewards, and reset your rewards strategy, if needed. You can also plan for ways to use your card in order to maximize your earnings in the remainder of the year. Plus, loyalty programs often add or change their offerings, making card use even more rewarding in various ways, so check in with your credit cards to determine whether you’re enjoying the full range of benefits available.
Monitor Card Changes
Has your card’s APR changed since last year? If your credit has improved, do you now qualify for zero APR card offers, lower interest rates, or premium cards? Have there been other changes to your card program, such as terms of service, offerings, or card benefits like concierge services or purchase protections? Mid-year is a good time to refresh your understanding of your card’s features, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Review Your Spending & Budget
Many credit cards allow you to see your spending history by category, so that you can track your monthly spend and expenses against your budget. Summer is an ideal time to review your spending to date, assess whether you’re meeting your budget goals, and re-formulate intentions for the rest of the year. As many businesses re-open, and new spending opportunities are again available, your habits or spending may change to reflect the post-pandemic economy. Think about how you want your spending habits and budget to look. For example: If you’re ready to travel again (which the majority of Americans are, according to a Bank of America survey), should that be re-added into your budget? If your work commute is back, are you incorporating that into your monthly expenses? Your credit card can be an excellent tool for tracking your spending, ensuring you stay within budget. And your rewards can even be another way of ensuring you stay within budget — especially if you get cash back.