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5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Basic Credit Card

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Do you use a credit card that doesn’t earn rewards? Doing so can be a smart choice if you tend to carry a balance since basic credit cards typically offer lower annual percentage rates (APRs) than rewards credit cards. Non-rewards cards also make sense if you’re tempted to make additional purchases to earn more rewards.

But just because you are not earning any points, miles, or cash back doesn’t mean that you can’t receive additional value from your credit cards.

Here are five ways to make the most out of your non-rewards credit card.

1. Leverage Your Grace Period

Nearly all credit cards offer a grace period that allows you to avoid interest charges so long as you pay your entire statement balance each month between the end of your billing cycle and your due date. And when you use your grace period each month, you essentially receive an interest-free loan. To get the most value from this feature, find out when your credit card’s statement closing date is, and try to postpone major purchases until the next billing cycle starts. By delaying a purchase by just a few days, you might receive additional time to pay purchases back interest-free. By law, any interest-free grace period will be at least 21 days long, and several credit card issuers, such as Capital One, offer 25-day grace periods.

2. Receive a Balance Transfer Offer

There are many credit cards that offer 0% APR financing on balance transfers. And while some cards that offer 0% APR promotional financing have rewards, it turns out that many of the best offers are for non-rewards cards. The most competitive promotional financing offers feature 15,18, or 21 months of interest-free financing on balance transfers, although nearly all require a 3% fee for them. But when you consider that you can use the offers to save hundreds of dollars on interest charges, they can be far more valuable than earning rewards for your spending. For example, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card doesn’t offer rewards, but it does include 21 months of interest-free financing on balance transfers with a 3% balance transfer fee. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and Capital One advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) You can read more about the best balance transfer credit cards in America here.

3. Avoid Interest Charges on New Purchases

Many cards also offer promotional financing on new purchases — and, similarly, these cards don’t always have any other type of rewards. For example, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers 12 months of interest-free financing on new purchases, but it is not a rewards credit card.

3. Utilize Ancillary Travel Benefits

While there are many travel rewards credit cards, there are also some basic cards that don’t earn points, miles, but feature valuable travel benefits. For example, many credit cards offer an auto rental collision damage waiver policy that allows you to decline the costly policies sold by the rental car companies. Other common travel insurance policies found on non-rewards cards including travel accident insurance and an emergency travel assistance hotline. For instance, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card features auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance and 24-hour travel assistance including roadside protection without offering points, miles or cash back.

4. Use Shopping Protection Policies

In addition to travel insurance, many non-rewards credit cards also offer benefits that apply to merchandise you’ve purchased. Your credit card may include accidental theft and damage insurance, extended warranty coverage and a price protection policy that offers a refund when a covered item experiences a price drop. For example, the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card includes a cellphone protection policy that covers damage or theft up to $600 with a $25 deductible, so long as you use your card to pay for your monthly service charges.

If you’re looking for a simple credit card, you can check our our recent ranking here. Remember, it’s important to read the terms of conditions carefully for any credit card you may be considering. And you should check your credit before applying since a good credit score can help you qualify for the best products in whatever card category you are looking into. You can do so by viewing your two free credit scores each month on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Citi Diamond Preferred and Capital One Platinum credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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