Editor’s Note — As Drip.Us founder and CEO Jessa Morrison joins a series of mental health experts on “CNN Money Friday,” the CNN Money podcast series, she’ll share some tips for saving you time and effort, while maximizing your credit card rewards.
By the time Sunday rolls around, I can hardly wait to get home for a quiet night’s sleep. To nudge me a bit closer to that goal, I’ll grab a quick headband and head to bed about 15 minutes before my husband and I finish up watching the latest episode of our TV series “Flight of the Conchords.”
Back in my teen years, I considered myself an early-bird-at-dawn kind of person, but over the years my sleep habits have suffered. I’ve been on the plane with the show, going to the movies or going to family outings, and all of these hours on the go seem to make it hard to get to sleep.
There’s not much I can do about it — until I begin the process of learning to use my credit card rewards points to help me sleep better.
“I don’t necessarily consider myself a big shopper with an eye on my wallet,” says Jessa Morrison, founder and CEO of Drip.Us. “But I recognize that I’m always looking to maximize my reward points.”
The good news is that rewards credit cards like my own can help you keep your finances in check — even if your efforts go unnoticed and unused.
Here are some benefits of using your credit card rewards points for other household purposes.
Savings up to 50%
If you’re eager to see that savings, I say start with the gas pump.
There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before deciding which kind of credit card to use. One of the biggest reasons people don’t use rewards is that they feel there are a bunch of hidden fees, says Kevin Roddy, co-author of “The Ultimate Credit Card Terms Book,” but there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Just as you’ll have to know the exact price of gas, you’ll have to know how much credit card points to use to buy it. You should also put these points toward better gas and not other uses, Morrison says.
Switching to a credit card with a lower annual fee will save you at least 50% when you get there, according to Roddy.
Plus, starting in August, there’s going to be a perfect match between your energy efficiency and your credit card rewards. About a dozen airlines and credit card companies are launching the program, called “Reward Miles.” Any travel type using the airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi — whether it’s within an airline lounge or outside of a hotel — can use their credit card rewards points.
Basically, your next trip will be free, even if it’s a flight over a weekend.
“Lace up your shoes and go overseas. Think about buying the baguette,” Morrison says.
If you just hopped on the plane to visit family in France, that’s a personal choice. But if your goal is to experience a different culture or language, that might be too much.
Sending some spending abroad (even as a way to pay down the amount you have in credit card rewards) might help you save the time and cash it would take to do it the traditional way. While your dollars might cost less, you’ll still get to enjoy the warmth of a stranger’s palm.
Getting a decent meal at a restaurant is going to be hard work for most of us, especially when we have to figure out where to go, how much it’s going to cost and whether or not it’s worth it. Using your credit card points might be the best solution.
Ways to conserve credit card rewards points
Now you have credit card rewards points. You might want to take a stroll through the airport a few days before you travel.
It’s “more likely that there will be on-sale things as you come through, so you can get the best deals,” Roddy says.
Shop at the cheaper end of the mall. If you’ll be spending a few hours shopping, you’ll likely only buy a few items. Let your wife do the browsing for you or consider taking advantage of a coupon.
If you find a weakness on your grocery list, do a solo shopping trip.
“I love going to a grocery store and saying, ‘Can I come in alone for $5?’ and seeing people buy the items and tuck them into a bag,” Morrison says. “I find that I end up buying two boxes of cereal and toothpaste instead of just one.”