Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cash Back on Your Monthly Housing Costs?

   Just about everyone has a utility bill which comes in the snail mail or email each month.  It could be gas, or electricity, or a phone bill.  Recently I had an interesting experience with my gas company, Xcel Energy.  I had been paying my bill by direct debit, but they were in the process of changing from Checkfree, so I wanted to see what my options were.  Lo and behold,  I could pay by credit card! The gotcha was that they wanted a convenience fee.
   Now, most of the time the convenience fee for using a credit card outweighs any cash back savings.  But Xcel's fee was a fixed fee of $4.95, so the larger my payment, the smaller my percentage cost would be to pay by plastic. I happened to have a credit card that was giving me 5% cash back on every purchase, so I used that card to charge $400 to Xcel.  Cash back = $20.00  Convenience charge = $4.95.  Net utility savings = $15.05.  Not bad.
   Virtually every phone company now accepts credit cards without a fee (because the fee is already built into their rates!)  So do most car and home insurance companies. Why write a check when you can charge the fee, get an extra 25 days to pay, and get cash back?  Just remember, it never makes sense to charge for items that you cannot afford to pay for in full.

With tax season upon us, you might be wondering about cash back on taxes.  Well, as a matter of fact, that is a subject of a future post!

Happy shopping!

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