4 Credit Card Hacks to Avoid

Quick Answer

Some hacks for earning credit card rewards might have worked in the past, but they could wind up being costly mistakes today. And hacks for improving your credit score with your card might be based on misconceptions about how credit scores work.

Young man using his credit card on the laptop

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There's no shortage of advice on how to get the most out of credit card rewards programs or quickly increase your credit scores. However, many of these credit card hacks can backfire. You might wind up losing your rewards, paying fees or interest, hurting your credit or even losing your credit card altogether. Best to avoid these so-called hacks altogether.

1. Sending Money Using Payment Apps

Many payment apps, such as Venmo, PayPal and CashApp, allow you to connect a credit card for payments. The apps can be a safe way to send money to friends or family members and to make purchases.

And while using a connected credit card to send payments might seem like an easy way to earn rewards, the hack doesn't actually work. Payment apps generally charge a fee for each payment or transfer you make using a connected credit card, such as 3% of the transaction amount. The fee could be more than the rewards you'll earn.

Additionally, your credit card issuer might consider the transaction a cash advance, which won't earn rewards. You might have to pay a cash advance fee and your cash advances could start to accrue interest immediately.

2. Purchasing Prepaid Cards to Earn Rewards

Buying prepaid gift cards also might seem like an easy way to earn credit card rewards. You could even try to use the money on the prepaid gift card to pay off your credit card bill.

However, buying prepaid cards is also often considered a cash advance. Even if the prepaid card company doesn't charge you a fee, you still won't come out ahead if you're paying a cash advance fee and interest.

3. Purchasing Gift Cards to Earn Rewards

Buying gift cards is a gray area rather than something to avoid altogether. Depending on your card issuer, where you buy the gift card and the type of gift card you're buying, the transaction might be classified as a standard purchase.

For example, if your credit card offers bonus points at grocery stores and you buy someone a $25 gift card at your local grocery store, you might receive the bonus points for the purchase. However, if you regularly buy gift cards to boost your rewards points, the card issuer might consider that to be gaming the rewards program, take your points and close your account.

Additionally, if you use a gift card for a purchase, you won't receive the purchase protections and benefits that many credit cards offer.

4. Opening Lots of New Cards for the Welcome Bonuses

Many credit cards offer a welcome bonus that you can earn for opening a new card or completing certain requirements. These welcome bonuses can be quite large, and some people open new credit cards to earn the bonus without any intention to use the card later.

Repeatedly opening and closing credit cards for the initial bonus is sometimes called credit card churning or credit card flipping. You might be able to earn lots of rewards quickly, but credit card issuers may view this as gaming their rewards programs.

As a result, the card issuer might take back your rewards and close your credit card account. It also might close other credit cards or bank accounts you have at the company and deny new applications you submit.

Even if you're not regularly opening or closing new cards, you also might lose your rewards if you earn a welcome bonus and then close the card within 12 months of opening the account.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • This 15/3 credit card hack is something you might see on TikTok or another social media platform. The specifics can vary, but the basic idea is to make a credit card payment 15 days before the bill's due date—sometimes paying half the bill is recommended. And then make another payment three days before the due date.

    Some people mistakenly think that the credit card company will report two payments to the bureaus, and that this will improve their payment history. But that's not true. Card issuers generally only send one monthly update to the bureaus to indicate whether you paid on time or not.

    Paying down your balance before the end of your statement period might result in a lower credit utilization rate, which could help your credit scores. But you don't need to make multiple monthly payments or time them based on your bill's due date.

  • Credit card flipping is another name for credit card churning, which is the practice of opening credit cards primarily to earn an initial welcome bonus.

    Churning credit cards might take a toll on your credit scores due to the frequent hard inquiries, and it's often against the credit card issuer's terms and conditions. The credit card issuer might take back your rewards, close your other accounts and even deny future applications for bank accounts or credit cards.

  • There are many ways to maximize credit card rewards, but the most straightforward is to use credit cards that align with your major purchases. Often, using two or three cards that are part of the same program can also be helpful.

    For example, one card might offer bonus points on travel and dining, but a low rewards rate on everything else. A second card might offer a higher flat rewards rate on every purchase. You can earn more rewards overall if you use the first card for travel and dining purchases and the other card on other purchases.

    Also, look for ways to maximize your rewards on purchases by using shopping portals, signing up for limited-time bonus offers from your card issuer and figuring out the best ways to redeem your rewards.

Get Matched With Great Rewards Cards

Many credit card hacks focus on increasing your credit card rewards and credit scores. Often, these hacks can backfire and cost you money. But there are many legitimate ways to improve your credit scores and benefit from a rewards card.

You could start by checking your credit score for free to see where your credit stands. Your Experian account also comes with free credit score and credit report monitoring. And once you log in, you can get matched with credit card offers based on your unique credit profile.