Top 10 Credit Card hacks

Our tricks to help you get more from your cards

To celebrate 10 years of Be Clever With Your Cash, we’re sharing a series of top 10 hacks – the tricks that you can use to get the most from your money.

In this article, we’re focusing on credit cards. So, here are 10 ways to make them work for you.

Check eligibility on comparison sites

It’s easy to just go to a credit card website and click apply. Don’t. That application will have put a hard search on your credit report. Fine if you’re accepted, but bad news if you’re rejected.

This hack helps you reduce the chances of that happening. Instead, it’s best to first to check your eligibility. This effectively tells you the chance of getting accepted. If it’s low, you might want to rethink your application. And doing this won’t see anything appear on your credit file.

Though most credit card companies will let you do this direct, the next part of this hack is to do this via a comparison site. Here you’ll see a range of different cards, giving you a sense of whether you’re more likely to get one card over another. That’s particularly useful when you’re looking at 0% Balance Transfer cards. It’s only when you then apply properly that the search is recorded on your file.

Apply via cashback sites

We’re often sharing decent offers from credit card companies that’ll give you a bonus when you apply or spend a certain amount. Good, but not a hack.

The hack is to first check cashback sites, like Quidco and TopCashback, to see if there’s another bonus you can get on top. You’ll see this for most Amex and Barclaycard cards, as well as those from Tesco, Santander and others.

You can also see if a friend has a referral link. Occasionally these can pay more than cashback sites, and your friend will get a kick back too.

With both, just remember to check eligibility first.

Get multiple welcome offers

Most card providers limit you to one welcome bonus, but there are some exceptions and workarounds. First, you can often get a card as an ex-customer, as long as that was more than a certain time ago, usually between one and two years.

So the hack is to cancel your card, ideally once you’ve reached the bonuses on offer or before a fee comes along, and then wait until you are eligible again. Of course, the rules can change, but it’s worth a go.

And in that time, if you have a partner, they can always apply and get a card in their name. They’ll get the welcome bonus and you’ll still be able to keep earning cashback or points until you are able to reapply. They can then cancel and start the clock ticking again before they can do the same!

Plus, depending on which Amex card you have, you might be able to also get a bonus again from either the BA Premium Plus or Platinum card.

Add a supplementary card

You could consider getting an additional card linked to your account in someone else’s name, if you’re trying to reach a certain spending threshold to get certain rewards. The card will have the other person’s name on it but any spending on their card will be added onto yours.

Now, you can’t just give out cards to anyone as you’ll be the one responsible for the bill. This option is probably best for a trusted partner who agrees not to go on huge spending sprees and to just use the credit card for necessities.

The Section 75 £1 rule

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act offers brilliant spending protection. If you buy something that costs more than £100 and less than £30,000 on your credit card, you are legally entitled to get your money back if things go wrong.

For example, if your hotel closes down before you’re due to arrive or something doesn’t arrive in the post, the credit card company is just as responsible to compensate you as the business you paid. In fact, you can go straight to the credit card provider for a refund, if you want to, or if the company has gone bust or isn’t responding.

Now, while the goods or service has to cost over £100, you can just pay £1 of it on your credit card to get the protection. However, there can be grey areas. For example, if you pay a third party, like a travel agent, you may not be covered by Section 75 as you’re breaking the chain and you need to be paying for the service directly.

Stack your rewards

Ideally you’ll be using your rewards credit cards alongside other things to maximise your earnings. For example, spending via cashback sites, using discounted gift cards and stacking your cards.

Airtime Rewards allows you to link Visa and Mastercard to the account so when you use it with certain retailers, such as Boots, Greggs and Waitrose, you can earn cashback. For example, our editor-in-chief Andy gets 1.25% when he spends at Waitrose with his John Lewis card and another 2% or 3% cashback via Airtime Rewards.

You can’t use American Express cards with Airtime Rewards, sadly, and sometimes retailers don’t accept Amex. But you can boost your Amex reward spend if you link it to your PayPal account and make payments via PayPal. However, as you’re using a middle-man, this will break the chain of Section 75, so you may not be covered if things go wrong.

Get stoozing

Stoozing is where you get a 0% money transfer credit card and transfer the available credit balance to your bank account to use as you wish. These cards give you a set time limit, say 12 months, to pay off the balance so in the meantime you could use the money for paying off overdrafts and catalogue debts.

You could also stash the money in a high-interest savings account and profit from the interest you’d be earning. However, this will only work if the interest you’re earning on your savings beats the money transfer fee, which is usually around 3% or 4%. Interest rates are starting to fall, but you can get a top rate of over 5% at the moment, which is more than you’d earn with most cashback options.

Set up new payment pots

Many people are uncomfortable with moving all your money onto a cashback credit card as it’s harder to keep track of your spending and what you owe. The best way around this is to set up a standing order or direct debit to pay off the full amount each month.However, you need to make sure you’ve got enough money in your account in the first place.

Some banks such as Starling and Monzo let you set up dedicated pots to keep your money separate for different reason, such as a holiday or emergency fund. So you could set up a pot specifically to cover your cashback credit card spend, or a new current account at an entirely different bank, and use it to pay off your balance each month via direct debit.

As the month goes along, you can check your cashback credit card account every few days and see how much you’ve spent. You can then transfer the money to the dedicated credit card account to make sure you’ve always got enough money to pay off the balance.

Read our full reviews of Starling and Monzo.

Don’t cancel before calling

There may come a time when you don’t want or need your credit card anymore. For example, you may have already got the welcome bonus and you’re happy to leave it there.

Rather than cancel the card straight away, call up the provider and tell them you’re planning on leaving. They may ask you a few questions and offer you something to keep you, such as bonus points or promising to wipe the membership fee. There’s no guarantee the offer will be worth keeping the card, so weigh it up.

You may also be offered a pro-rata refund. There aren’t many providers that offer this and Amex is planning to stop its pro-rata refunds at some point, but if you’ve paid for a 12-month membership, and you want to cancel after six month, there’s no harm asking for a pro-rata refund.

Keep your oldest credit card, even if you don’t use it

Finally, even if you don’t want to keep your card and it’s doing nothing for you, don’t cancel it if it’s the oldest one you’ve got. Longevity is important when it comes to your credit history – it looks good to lenders and makes you appear more responsible. Read more about your credit score and how to improve it.

If the card you’ve had for the longest has a fee, that’s a different matter. Call up the provider and ask to be downgraded to free version of the card – Andy’s done this before and they should be able to help.

One thought on “Top 10 Credit Card hacks

  1. Keep your oldest credit card, even if you don’t use it.
    I’d say use it once in a while, if only for a token transaction. Especially in the months leading up to its expiry date. If you don’t use it at all for a long time it may not be renewed I’ve had this happen to me in the past. I also tend to keep cards I only use occasionally for Direct Debits on current accounts that I might want to switch. Even if I haven’t used the card for a good while it’s easy to make the direct debit “active” again by a single small purchase should the need arise.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.