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Should you use your credit card for holiday shopping?
We’re currently in the thick of the holiday season. According to research from the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend nearly $1,000 on gifts and other holiday items this year—that’s a chunk of change. When used responsibly, your credit card is the ultimate tool to reap the benefits of holiday shopping—below are a few reasons why you should use your credit card to take care of your gift-giving this holiday season.
Earn rewards while you shop
The most obvious benefit of using your credit card for holiday shopping is rewards points. For most cards, you’ll earn around one point for every dollar charged to your card. But, there’s potential for even more—some cards offer extra rewards earning on specific categories or retailers. So, depending on where you shop, you can earn up to 5% cashback on your holiday spending—benefitting you in the long run.
Protect your purchases
Another fantastic thing about using credit cards is the purchase protections offered. Unlike debit cards, many credit cards offer various protection programs to ensure your purchases are safeguarded from theft, damage, and more—something crucial during the holidays.
Extended warranty protection
Your credit card may offer an extended warranty program. Manufacturer warranties only go so far—you’ll have peace of mind knowing if you purchase gifts using a card with extended warranty protection, you may still be reimbursed for repair or replacement costs or even have the original purchase cost reimbursed after the manufacturer warranty expires.
Some credit cards also offer buyer’s protection, which acts as insurance for eligible purchases made with your credit card. Buyer’s protection ensures your purchases are covered against theft or damage within a certain period after purchase. While they sound similar, this is different than extended warranty protection, which offers more comprehensive damage protection. Buyer’s protection provides more coverage against theft or damage.
Porch Piracy Protection
Another fantastic perk some credit cards provide is Porch Piracy Protection, which covers qualified purchases against theft. Let’s say you order gifts online to make holiday shopping easier. You get the long-awaited delivery notification—only to find that your porch is empty. If you made those purchases with your eligible credit card, you could be reimbursed for the total purchase price, up to a certain amount per claim.
The holidays are prime time for scammers—shop worry-free knowing you’re protected in the event of fraud, as you typically aren’t held liable for unauthorized purchases. For example, if your credit card information is stolen, you don’t need to worry about checks bouncing or automatic payments being declined for insufficient funds, as the fraudulent purchases won’t come directly from your checking account.
Redeem your points for gifts
If you’re tight on cash this holiday season or want to keep the cash in your wallet, you can redeem your credit card rewards points for gifts. Use your points to purchase gift cards, merchandise, travel, and more. If you’re not sure what to give that special someone, we’ve got you covered with our holiday gift guide—from gifts for the kids or electronics to outdoor goods or kitchenware, you’ll find gifts for everyone on your list. Or, if you find yourself visiting family this holiday season, you can even redeem your points on travel, like airline tickets, rental cars, or hotels—saving you some cash.
Make the most of your holiday shopping this year with a Georgia’s Own Visa Signature® or Platinum contactless credit card. You’ll enjoy fantastic features, including no annual fee, enhanced fraud controls, and Flex Rewards* to redeem for cash back, gift cards, and more. Don’t have a Georgia’s Own Visa? Click here to make your holiday shopping count.
*Georgia’s Own Credit Card points will expire five (5) years from the date earned. Points, including any rollover points or points transferred from an existing Georgia’s Own Credit Card, will not expire before May 31, 2023.
Are credit card rewards points worth it?
Are credit card rewards programs worth the hassle—or the cost? It all depends on you and the rewards you want. For example, airline miles can be difficult to redeem, with blackout dates, limited seats, and inconvenient flight times being just a few of the challenges. Comparably, hotel and merchandise points are relatively easy to earn and redeem, as are cash-back rebates. But is accruing a credit card balance worth it in return? We think so—if you use your card responsibly. Below are a few tips to consider about your credit card’s rewards points:
Get the right credit card
There’s no one-size-fits-all credit card, so it’s best to make sure you’re using a card that pays back in rewards that match your spending. If you’re primarily using your credit card to earn points for travel, consider a card that pays in miles or free hotel stays. Or, if you find you’re always grocery shopping for your family, consider a card that earns high cash-back rewards at supermarkets. Finding a card that works best for your spending is crucial to maximizing your rewards.
Understand your credit card
You need a clear and detailed understanding of your credit card’s rewards program. Many programs set minimum spending requirements each month before points can be earned, while others have minimum redemption requirements. Miles sometimes can only be redeemed on one named airline. Big cash-back advertisements may be for a limited time or restricted to specific shopping categories. Each program is different and unique, so heed the small print. There are also credit card terms to consider. Rewards credit cards typically have a higher APR than a non-rewards card, so make sure you can pay your statement balance each month. If you can’t, the cash-back bonus won’t make a dent in the interest you’re accruing. And, some credit card companies charge a hefty annual fee.
Don’t be tempted to overspend
If you’re spending money—which you probably are—why not get something in return? Credit card rewards points are a great option for consumers who love to travel, can be flexible, and are organized enough to keep track of offers and deadlines. The points that can be redeemed for cash are even better. But, it’s crucial to keep your spending in line. While it may be tempting to rack up your spending to earn more points, remember to spend within your means.
Maximize the benefits
To make the most of a rewards program, you should plan to use your credit card frequently—you should also try to maximize the benefits. You don’t need to change entirely how you spend, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of your credit card’s rewards categories—especially if you use multiple credit cards. If one of your cards earns 5% cash back at a department store and the others earn 1%, don’t miss out on the higher return rate. Other cards have quarterly rotating rewards categories, so keep an eye out for those, too.
Ask any group of people why they chose a given credit card, and a vast majority will say it’s the rewards that reeled them in. For some consumers, they work. For others, they sound too good to be true. But, understanding the details and knowing your spending habits are what will help you choose the card that best suits your needs and make the most of your rewards points.
If you’re looking for a credit card that offers tremendous rewards, competitive rates, and more, then a Georgia’s Own Visa contactless credit card is for you. You’ll enjoy fantastic features, including no annual fee, enhanced fraud controls, and Flex Rewards to redeem for cash back, gift cards, and more.* Plus, through December 31st, you can earn up to $150 when you open a new Visa Signature, Platinum, or Student Visa credit card.** Ready to make your purchases count? Click here to start earning now.
*Georgia’s Own Credit Card points will expire five (5) years from the date earned. Points, including any rollover points or points transferred from an existing Georgia’s Own Credit Card, will not expire before May 31, 2023.
**Promotional period begins January 1, 2022 and ends December 31, 2022. Open a new Georgia’s Own Visa Signature® card and spend $1,500 in the first three months of account opening and earn 19,500 points, which can be redeemed for $150 in cash back. Open a new Georgia’s Own Visa® Platinum card and spend $1,000 in the first three months to receive 13,000 points, which can be redeemed for $100 in cash back. Points will be applied within three billing cycles if the account is in good standing. Offer may be withdrawn without notice.
Free ways to check your credit score
Are you the kind of person who loves to keep up with your credit score, or do you prefer it to come to you as more of a surprise (which we don’t recommend)? Either way, you will have to know your credit score at some point in your life, and it’s better to be prepared for that day. We know you’re on a budget, so here are some ways you can track your credit score for free.
Understand how it works
Before you check your credit score, you need to know how your score is determined. Your score is based on a number of factors: how much debt you owe, the status of debts you have paid in the past, the length of your credit history, and a few other things. Basically, your credit score is a snapshot of how reliable you are when it comes to paying back money you have borrowed. For example—if you currently have a lot of debt, your credit score may be lower, even if you have consistently repaid loans in the past.
Why does my credit score matter?
You have an apartment you love, a car that’s paid off, and no student loans—so why do you want better credit? First, it’s important to remember bad credit can follow you for a long time, as in several years. That means you need to plan now for the future. You should also remember your credit score can affect a lot of aspects of your life, like renewing a lease, buying a house, or even getting a job. Your credit score is not just about how much money you have—it’s about how dependable you are in repaying your debts.
Where to check for free
There are a few services that allow you to check your credit for free. While you may be limited in the number of times you can check your score for free, these services are still reliable resources for being able to track your credit score on a regular basis.
Annual Credit Report: You are entitled to a free credit score every year through the Annual Credit Report service. If you’re not taking advantage of this report, you should start. A) It’s free! and B) Even if you have great credit, no credit, or are currently living off the grid where no one can find you, it’s nice to check in once in a while and make sure your score has not undergone any unexpected changes in the last year. There are no downsides, so sign up for this service ASAP.
Equifax: This service currently offers six free reports a year. This is frequent enough to help you stay on top of your credit score, but not so frequent that you will be getting updates every day. If you want a way to keep tabs without notification overload, this might be the right choice for you.
Credit Karma: This is an option that’s grown in popularity over the last few years. With the ability to check your score anytime, the Credit Karma service is useful for those who like to track every change in their credit. You can sign up for email or text alerts, and download the app to get even more updates and info.
Other places: Did you know your credit card statement probably has your credit score on it? So do your mortgage documents, and your bank can sometimes tell you more about your score. These are great and easy ways to find your current score and see how your credit is improving.
There are various options for checking your credit score for free, but starting with one of the examples here may be a great way to dip your toe in the water, so to speak. Of course, you can always do some research on your own and look for even more choices that allow you to check your credit for free.
Your credit score will change (but not how you think)
Credit scores aren’t always consistent from service to service. Different credit bureaus use different criteria to determine your overall score. So, you may see one number on your bank statement and receive a different number from your annual report. Be sure to check the date of the report, as that can also account for any discrepancy you see between scores.
Be cautious about over-checking
It’s tempting to run your credit score all the time, whether you are just curious or even trying to apply for something small, like a store credit card. Be careful about running your credit too often (aside from checking through services like we mentioned above) because this can harm your credit rating. As long as you keep an eye on your spending and debts, you can get a general idea of how your credit score is faring for at least a few months at a time.
Managing a credit score is never easy, but it can be done with the right resources and a little planning. You don’t have to avoid it—you don’t even have to pay for it. Keep up with your credit so your future can remain secure.
Breaking down the basics of contactless credit cards
Have you noticed how there are dozens of ways to pay with your credit card these days? From tapping, dipping, or swiping, to mobile wallets, our payment methods are continuously evolving. Many financial institutions are switching to contactless credit cards, and for good reasons—it makes paying faster, safer, more efficient, and more secure. With the tap of your credit card, you can make purchases in seconds, all while ensuring your card’s information is protected. Before you make your next trip to the register, learn more about the benefits of using contactless credit cards.
What is a contactless credit card?
Contactless credit cards are a new payment method that allows you to make purchases with just a quick tap. They are powered by RFID technology to communicate with contactless-enabled payment terminals. Payment terminals transmit high-frequency radio waves. When you place your card within two inches of the terminal, it connects and authenticates your payment information. Then, your purchase is verified. They also have an EMV chip and credit card number, expiration date, and magnetic stripe, so if stores don’t have a contactless reader, you can make purchases using the other methods.
What are the benefits?
There are dozens of benefits. Tapping to pay takes less than a second, which is quicker than inserting or dipping a chip card—and significantly faster than cash. Because they are an almost instantaneous payment method, you’ll spend less time waiting in line and have more time to enjoy your favorite coffee. They are also just as secure as a chip card. Each contactless transaction creates a unique, one-time code or password to safeguard your payment information, thus reducing your chances of becoming a victim of fraud.
How do you use one?
All contactless card payments work the same way. Here’s how to use yours:
- Make sure your card has the Contactless Indicator, and ensure the merchant’s credit card terminal has the Contactless Symbol. The Contactless Indicator and Symbol are four curved lines and look similar to a WiFi symbol.
- When prompted, hold the card within one or two inches of the Contactless Symbol.
- Wait for confirmation. If your purchase is approved, you’ll hear a beep or see a green light or checkmark. That’s it!
Where can you use it?
Contactless payments are becoming popular at establishments across the country. You can use your contactless credit card at your favorite places, whether it’s the coffee shop, restaurants, vending machines, grocery stores, taxis, and so much more, ensuring you can swiftly and securely make purchases.
Georgia’s Own is thrilled to provide members with the convenience and accessibility of contactless credit cards, plus low rates, enhanced fraud controls, and more. Don’t have a Georgia’s Own Visa® contactless credit card? Learn more or apply today.
Does a balance transfer affect your credit score?
Balance transfers are an excellent way to consolidate your debt and pay it off as quickly as possible. But, it does have positive and negative impacts on your credit score. Despite some minor negative impacts, balance transfers can immensely transform your credit score. Here’s how:
How does a balance transfer negatively affect your credit score?
A balance transfer can cause a dip in your credit score in the short run. When you apply for a balance transfer, lenders conduct a hard inquiry to determine if you’re a capable borrower. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for about two years. Several hard inquiries show you’re seeking credit from too many sources, which could indicate you may not be a reliable borrower. This differs from a soft inquiry, which is when you check your credit or a lender is trying to pre-approve you. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score.
Balance transfers can also lower your credit score by reducing the average age of your accounts. If you have three cards with an average account age of 48 months, and you decide to open a balance transfer card as your fourth, the average age of your accounts would lower, which could drop your score.
This has a minimal impact on your credit score, but it’s still critical to be aware of. It’s imperative to keep old, unused accounts open to maximize the average age of your accounts. But, if an old account has a high annual fee that you can’t afford, then it might be in your best interest to close it—weigh the pros and cons before closing the account.
How does a balance transfer positively affect your credit score?
Despite some hindrances, a balance transfer can considerably raise your credit score. Balance transfers reduce your credit utilization rate, which is the percentage of available credit that you’re using.
Low rates show that you’re not accumulating debt. Ideally, you want your credit utilization rate to be below 30%. For example, if you have multiple credit accounts and move the balances to a single account, your credit utilization rate shows as 0% on the old accounts. It’s crucial to take advantage of the 0% APR period so you can pay off your debt as soon as possible. This will then decrease your credit utilization rate over time.
Your credit utilization rate accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score, which is the score most used by lenders.
What should I do after I apply for a balance transfer?
After you’ve applied for a balance transfer, avoid applying for more credit. Limit the number of hard inquiries on your credit report as much as you can, and only apply for loans unless they’re necessary.
Don’t make purchases with your balance transfer card. The sole purpose of your card is to pay off debt, not accumulate more. When you add to that debt, it makes paying your balance during the 0% APR period more challenging. Create a budget to cut out unnecessary expenses and avoid accruing more debt.
Lastly, set up auto payments to ensure you’re paying your credit card bill on time each month. This boosts your credit even more—payment history accounts for a large portion of your FICO® Score. Choose a specific amount to transfer from your checking account to pay your bill. It should be enough to pay off your card within your 0% APR period.
Balance transfers can do wonders for your credit score, despite some drawbacks. When you use a balance transfer card responsibly, your credit score can grow in the long run. Check your spending habits, stick with your budget, and you’ll be debt-free in no time with a credit score on the rise.
If you’re ready get your finances in order, try a balance transfer.
Why get your credit card from a credit union?
In today’s market, there’s no shortage of credit card options, so it can be difficult to decide which one is the smartest choice. It’s always wise to shop around for the best deal, which, more often than not, is your local credit union.
Same function, better features
Why should you consider a credit card from a credit union over a big bank issued credit card? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Better rates. Credit union credit cards carry an average annual percentage rate that can be several percentage points below those offered at big banks. In fact, federal law prohibits federal credit unions from charging interest rates higher than 18%. Big banks have no restrictions on the amount of interest they can charge their credit customers.
Lower fees and penalties. In addition to lower APRs, many credit unions waive balance transfer fees, and levy significantly lower over-limit, cash advance, and late payment fees. With all of your options, be sure you’re aware of the fees before you sign on the dotted line. One misstep could be especially costly.
Generous grace period. Credit unions typically extend a five-day grace period for late payments in comparison with one day at big banks, and most will give you a second chance before raising your interest rate. Over time, an increased interest rate adjustment can amount to a substantial penalty if you carry a balance each month.
Rewards programs. The same incentives provided by big bank credit cards are also offered through credit union credit cards. If points, travel, or gift cards are what makes you happy, you won’t have to sacrifice your favorite perks. Most of those bonuses come from the payment processor, like Visa or MasterCard, not from the card issuer, so rest assured your refund protection and car rental insurance can very possibly remain intact.
A strong competitive edge
Credit unions are able to offer more customer-friendly options and conveniences because they are owned by their members. They are not-for-profit organizations and, therefore, don’t need to maximize their revenue. In fact, profit on credit cards is used to provide lower mortgage rates and higher savings account rates to its members. In today’s cost-conscious market, their consumer-focused service and competitive products have earned them a substantial edge over the traditional big banks where profit is a top priority.