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As the pandemic subsides and life slowly returns to normal, you might start to hear wedding bells ring in the distance. When it's time to plan and pay for your big day, a credit card might leap to mind as a way to cover wedding costs. But is it a good choice?
COVID-19 severely impacted wedding spending in 2020, causing the average amount spent on weddings last year to fall to $19,000. But the costs to say "I do" in 2021 and beyond are expected to bounce back, which means the average wedding cost could return to pre-pandemic levels of $28,000 or more. That kind of debt on a credit card can leave you contemplating those "for richer or poorer" vows. Still, there are several ways to save on your wedding finances with smart credit card use.
Benefits of Using a Credit Card to Pay for Wedding Expenses
Unless you can afford to pay them all off immediately, you shouldn't charge every wedding-related purchase to your credit cards. Credit cards are still a great tool to have at the ready, however. Generous credit card benefits could help you finance your big day interest-free, and even reward you for your spending with points, miles or cash back you can put toward your honeymoon.
- Save money with 0% intro APR periods. You can pay for your wedding over an extended period (typically 12 to 18 months) without racking up interest charges if you get a card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR). The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is one option, with 15 months of 0% APR on purchases (14.99% - 23.74% variable APR after that)—plus, it includes some excellent perks, such as 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase.
- Maximize rewards with intro bonuses. Rewards cards may incentivize you with a substantial intro bonus in the form of cash or points—that is, if you charge enough on the card during the allotted time. So, why write a check for the caterer or photographer when your purchase can instead go toward earning a bonus? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, rewards you with 100,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months you have the card. That's enough for $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Travel rewards like that can be a great way to save—or justify a honeymoon upgrade or two.
- Personalize your advantages. Cards with benefits that fit with your spending can save you money on the wedding and beyond. If travel is in your future, you may want to secure a hotel rewards card that can help you save on hotel bookings, or a card without foreign transaction fees for when you're abroad. You can strategize with multiple cards to reap the most rewards.
- Protect your purchases. The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to file a dispute for products or services charged to your card that weren't "delivered as agreed." Imagine, for example, a vendor stiffs you and doesn't deliver what they promised on your wedding day. When paying with a credit card, you'll have some additional recourse through your card issuer.
- Borrow no more than you need. With credit cards, you'll only owe what you charge to the card (plus interest if you carry over a balance). Some couples opt for a loan to cover wedding expenses, but they risk getting stuck with unnecessary debt if they borrow more than they end up needing.
Disadvantages of Using a Credit Card to Pay for Wedding Expenses
We wish it could be all discounted honeymoon flights and fun, but there are several reasons you may want to avoid using your card:
- You could go into debt. Credit cards are a very convenient option, which can make it easier to overspend. Starting a marriage with credit card debt is something many couples would prefer to avoid. But if you have a plan to pay it off, and can afford to do so, you may feel comfortable using a credit card to cover some wedding costs.
- You could face high interest rates. Unless you pay off charges before the end of a 0% intro APR period, any balance you carry may face steep interest charges. Credit cards tend to have much higher interest rates than other financing options, such as personal loans. Even with generous card benefits, interest charges can easily put you in the red if you're not careful.
- You could hurt your credit score. Buying a home after the wedding? A good credit score can unlock affordable loan rates. Wedding purchases that max out your card or increase your credit utilization ratio, however, could drag down your score. Missing one or more payments on a credit card can take a major toll on your credit score.
- You could incur fees. Rewards cards can become far less appealing if you have to pay a steep annual fee. Some wedding vendors may also charge a processing fee for credit card payments, tacking up to 4% more onto your purchases.
Alternative Ways to Pay for Your Wedding
A credit card isn't your only option to cover wedding costs, and you can mix and match the alternatives.
- Pay in cash. You could simply use cold, hard cash—preferably from a dedicated savings account where you stashed away wedding funds. You won't enjoy the same level of rewards or consumer protections, but you can avoid interest and spending money you don't have. You might even prolong your engagement to help you save more and avoid wedding debt.
- Forgo the big ceremony and head to city hall. Or, you could downsize your wedding plans to be less extravagant. You don't need to eliminate all the bells and whistles, but you may want to narrow down your guest list or cut venue costs to avoid taking on too much debt or depleting your savings.
- Use a high-yield account. Stash your wedding savings somewhere that can earn you money passively. High-yield savings accounts can provide better returns than standard savings accounts. For example, the Cashero account becomes available from Wells Fargo starting in June, and can earn you up to 5% annual percentage yield (APY) on your cash, paid out daily.
- Think about your registry. Do you really want a new blender more than a loaded bank account? If the answer is no, consider alternative wedding registries with sites like Honeyfund so your guests can pad your savings or help fund your honeymoon.
- Consider a personal loan. With a good credit score, you can probably land lower interest rates on a loan than you might with a typical credit card. However, you may face additional fees and you'll be saddled with the balance whether you spent the total amount of the loan or not.
The Bottom Line
Using a credit card for your wedding can pay off when you combine it with a savvy budget and accumulated savings. Plan wisely to avoid incurring interest and avoid spending money you don't have. The goal should be to supplement your wedding savings—not make wedding debt your new ball and chain. If you're looking for a credit card, Experian CreditMatch™ can show you personalized credit offers.