Until very recently, I put the majority of my spending on credit cards that offered me travel rewards. I favored an airline card for personal spending and a business travel card for freelance spending. Since I (used to) travel relatively often, I was very interested in earning and burning my travel rewards as quickly as possible. This week, I switched my spending to cash back credit cards.
The “why” should be all-too-depressingly obvious: I seriously considered when I might be traveling again, and decided my rewards aren’t going to do me much good for a long time. Professional conferences have already been canceled through the summer, and the odds of taking an out-of-town vacation any time soon are looking… let’s say unlikely.
So I put the travel reward game on hold for now. For the next few months—and maybe longer—earning cash back on my purchases feels like the smarter move.
If you’d like to adopt a similar strategy, here are my tips for getting everything switched over quickly:
- Pull up your credit card statements and scan them for any subscriptions or automatic payments. If you’ve got a recurring payment that’s assigned to a travel credit card, visit the appropriate website or app and reassign that payment to a cash back credit card.
- Make cash back cards the default option in your digital wallets.
- Open up your rideshare apps, online shopping apps and other credit-connected apps and add your cash back cards as the default payment method.
- Double-check your utility bills, monthly insurance premiums and other automatically billed services. These tend to be the most frustrating to adjust, and it can take a full month’s cycle before the company adopts your new payment method; I changed the automatic payment settings on my health insurer’s website, for example, but my April premium still auto-charged to my travel rewards card.
- Don’t forget about switching the card attached to your Amazon account!
As you switch your automatic payments over to cash back credit cards, it’s also a good opportunity to ask yourself whether you really want to keep all those subscriptions, streaming services, premium apps and so on. The process of changing cards only took me about five minutes; if you can spend those five minutes both swapping your payment methods and stripping down your expenses, all the better for your future financial health.
A final note: Switch over payments, yes, but don’t actually cancel those travel credit cards, unless it’s one of those with a high annual fee and you don’t see yourself earning enough rewards to cover that cost. Closing a credit card you’re no longer using is generally a bad move for your credit score: You’ll lose some of your available credit (which means your credit utilization ratio goes up and your credit score goes down) and, if you close the oldest card in your possession, you lose that all-important age-of-credit factor.
And as hard as it might be to imagine now, you may end up wanting to use those travel rewards cards again someday. Until then, let’s continue to work together to flatten that curve.