Last updated on August 14th, 2020
Responsible users of credit cards have many options when it comes to making a large purchase such as televisions, vacations, and home appliances. On one hand, there are many institutions offering generous 0% introductory interest rates (APR) for up to 18 months, and there are just as many card issuers offering perks in the form of airline points, free nights at hotels, and concierge services.
Smart consumers who save up for a big purchase and pay it off with a specific kind of credit card have many more options than someone who just spends with cash on an item down. Consumer A, Consumer B, and Consumer C all spent months saving up for a brand-new 55″ 4K television costing $1,000. Consumer A applied for a 0% APR credit card from the electronics store which doesn’t charge interest for the first 36 months. Consumer B decided to apply for a credit card from a major hotel chain, and the issuer will offer them 100,000 intro bonus points if they spend $3,000 in three months. Consumer C paid for the television in cash with exact change.
Consumer A has more options as a result of the three-year period where they aren’t being charged any interest. A 55″ 4K television at a price of $1,000 with a 7% sales tax adds up to $1,070, and divided by 36 months the average payment would be $29.72. Consumer A could feel very comfortable with this figure as they’d save up the full purchase amount, and then realize they’d rather go with a 65″ inch television for $1,200. The 65″ television costing $1,200 would total up to $1,284 with the same sales tax, and divided by 36 monthly payments would cost $35.67 – a difference of less than $5 in payments per month. Consumer A could also get the original $1,000 television with a 0% APR credit card, pay off the television with 36 monthly payments of $29.72, and spend $200 of the originally saved up $1,000 on a powerful soundbar to compliment the stunning picture of their new TV.
Consumer B has options in the form of what kind of travel perks they’d enjoy. If they like local staycations they might want a hotel credit card. If they fly more often it would make sense for them to use an airline credit card. Consumer B can receive a travel credit card where $3,000 spent in three months unlocks 100,000 intro bonus points, charge the $1,000 4K television to it, and only $2,000 will need to be charged before the 100,000 intro bonus points threshold is reached. If Consumer B has more than $2,000 of bills to pay (not including rent or mortgage payments) in three months those 100,000 intro bonus points can be easily unlocked. A fun way to think of this is Consumer B is buying a $1,000 4K television, and getting a few round-trip flights or a couple of nights at nice hotels for free.
Consumer C has the least flexibility as paying with cash doesn’t improve their credit score, or give them any amazing travel rewards. Both retail and travel credit cards offer the most bang for the buck when big purchase items are charged to them, and anyone paying with just cash is missing out on up to hundreds of dollars in benefits. Consumer C’s bills may not exceed $2,000 in three months, but even a cash rewards credit card can offer them a bit of money back with just the cost of the $1,000 television alone, and their credit score will go up.
Saving up $1,000 and looking up the specifications of various 4K televisions in a particular price range isn’t the only research consumers should do when making a big purchase. Wise users of credit cards can strategically use big purchases to stretch out the payments of a specific item, unlock hundreds of dollars of travel rewards, and improve their credit score. Everyone either really looks forward to or dreads their next big purchase, but with the right credit card, it can also be a great excuse to also plan a vacation.