Spring is in the air and that means it’s time for baseball. I love to hear the crack of the bat and watch skilled players flash leather. Most importantly, I finally have an excuse to eat a hot dog without guilt. I believe that when your team’s starting a new season, you can, too. It’s a great time to take a fresh look at your credit cards. (Don’t you just love that seamless transition into credit cards?)
Baseball and managing your credit cards actually have a lot of things in common. I could come up with dozens of connections, but to hold your interest, I’ll stop at four.
#1: Curve balls are inevitable.
How can I put this delicately? Stuff happens. You go on vacation and forget to pay your credit card bill and you’re slapped with a late fee. You buy something for the rewards points, but oops, you lose your job and you don’t have enough money to pay off the bill when it arrives.
Hitting a curve ball is one of the hardest things to do in baseball, especially when it’s delivered by a crafty pitcher. If you’re expecting a fast ball, you’ll probably have a swing and a miss. Players spend hours and hours learning how to anticipate and hit a curve ball.
Just like a baseball player, you can learn how to handle a credit-related curve ball with finesse. Persistence is the key. If you have a late fee and it’s a simple mistake, call the issuer and ask (nicely, but persuasively) to have the fee removed. If it’s more serious, like a job loss, call and ask to have a payment postponed or have the minimum payment reduced for a while. Keep at it and you’re likely to come away with a little success.
#2: If you don’t pay attention, you could get hurt.
When you have credit cards, you have to pay close attention to your statements. Check your accounts once or twice a week online. You want to look for errors and for any clues that suggest someone has stolen your card information.
You also want to check your credit reports for the very same things. You can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year or you can use Credit.com’s Free Credit Report Card for an overview of your credit standing along with a detailed explanation of how it works. Don’t ignore this “credit housekeeping” chore or you might get knocked in the head by an unpleasant surprise.
Speaking of which, getting hurt in baseball can involve both players and fans. I go to a lot of baseball games and when the batter swings I’m paying attention. I’ve seen too many foul balls and flying bats to let my mind wander during a game. You know how fans often jump into a pile with little regard for personal safety when there’s a foul ball to be had? You won’t see me in that bunch. I’ll be under my chair!
#3: Beware of busting your budget.
If you don’t pay your bill off every month, you’ll pay interest on your purchases, and that’s never good when you’re trying to stay within a budget. With planning and organization, you can be sure you’re never late. You can get text and email alerts from your bank or from free online money management tools, such as Mint.
Just taking your family to a baseball game can cost a small fortune. If you and your brood enjoy buying merchandise with your team’s logo, you can save by using the Major League Baseball Extra Bases Credit Card from Bank of America. You get 15,000 Extra Base bonus points if you spend $250 within the first 90 days. This can be redeemed for $120 cash back or a $150 MLB.com gift card or merchandise. You get one point for every $1 you spend.
Take the gift card if you earn the bonus points. The point value if you redeem for cash is only 0.8 cents. If you redeem your points for the gift card, you get the standard point value of 1 cent ($150/15,000 points = .01). You get a zero percent intro APR for 12 months and then a 12.99 percent to 20.99 percent variable APR. There’s no annual fee.
#4: In the end, it’s all about the score.
Your credit score is a major consideration when you apply for a credit card. If you have a FICO score of around 750 or better, you have excellent credit. That’s what you need to get the cards with the best interest rates and rewards. The bottom line is that we’re judged by our credit score. That’s not the only thing a bank considers when you apply for a credit card, but it’s highly important.
Baseball games keep score, but players are also judged individually by many other “scores” that are kept. Batting averages, RBIs, stolen bases, and much more. Pitchers have ERAs plus a million other stats to evaluate their talent.
The major difference, though, is that a baseball game ends and one team comes out on top. With your credit score, continue to manage your credit responsibly and your score will keep improving.