4 credit card resolutions for 2013
By Jennifer Gregory
As I scribbled down my New Year's resolutions for 2013, I realized that my list looked a lot like those of previous years, filled with vague goals about exercising and organizing my home. It hit me that I had never actually made any resolutions specific to my finances. So I decided to make this year's list a little different.
Here are four things I resolve to do with my credit cards in 2013.
1. Research card options throughout the year
Like many consumers, I tend to get complacent and use the same credit cards without re-evaluating whether my current cards suit my situation. Issuers release new credit cards throughout the year, many featuring 0 percent offers, and new promotions on existing cards appear too, such as the seasonal bonus offers on my airline credit card. But while I've planned to compare cards in the past, the task has stayed at the bottom of my to-do list.
This year, I plan to spend a few minutes on the first Monday of each month researching credit card options to see if I need to rotate the cards in my wallet. By marking a specific date, I hope to make good use of some of the card possibilities I've ignored in the past.
2. Pay my balance in full every month
I always try to pay off my credit card every month, but there are usually a few months throughout the year when that doesn't happen. It sometimes takes us through February or March to pay off our Christmas gifts, and sometimes our summer vacation lingers on our cards a month or two longer than I would like.
But even carrying a balance for a month or two costs me interest, which adds up over the years. In addition, keeping too large a balance on my cards for too long can impact my credit score. I resolve this year there will no exceptions to paying off my credit cards each month -- even in January.
3. Reduce my "latte" expenses
When I saw this infographic about a lifetime of daily lattes costing $311,870 (with interest), I was surprised how quickly a coffee habit can add up. But since I don't drink coffee, I didn't pay too much attention to the startling statistic.
However, a few days ago I realized that my "latte" habit is actually taking the kids out for a snack after I pick them up from school several times a week. I was shocked when I added up the costs that our ice cream cones and donuts amount to over the year. I estimated that I spend more than $800 a year on these treats. So this year, I am going to stock up at the grocery store on fun afternoon snacks and only take the kids out twice a month.
4. Use mobile wallet applications on a regular basis
A few weeks ago I downloaded the new Square mobile wallet app, but I haven't used it as regularly as I would like. While this resolution isn't as financially important as the others, I am going to make an effort to use my smart phone to pay more often and keep better track of my loyalty programs.
After reading earlier this year that consumers spend an average of $600 more a year using contactless credit cards, I will need to be careful to avoid excess spending. But in addition to saving time at the register and getting discounts only available for mobile payment users, I believe the money I save from actually using my loyalty programs -- rather than just letting those cards hang on my key-chain -- will add up throughout the year.
Keeping these pledges will take discipline, but I'm eager to take on the challenge. I'd like to not have to make the same resolutions again next December.