3 Credit Card Mistakes I Made This Summer That I Hope to Never Repeat

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  • It's important to keep track of credit card rewards and offers.
  • It's also important to know when not to use your credit card.

Learn from these blunders so you don't wind up kicking yourself.

As someone who's used credit cards consistently for many years, and who also writes about them, you'd think I'd be pretty immune to credit card blunders at this point. But alas, over the past couple of months, I managed to fall victim to a few credit card mistakes that I'm still kicking myself over. Here's what those blunders entailed -- and why you should try to avoid them.

1. Using my cards at restaurants that charge a fee for doing so

In my area, restaurants have been increasingly imposing fees for customers who use credit cards. This isn't news to me -- it's been happening more and more through the months. 

Meanwhile, summer is when I tend to dine out the most, namely because I enjoy eating meals outside. But instead of making a point to take out cash to pay for restaurant meals, I instead wound up in several situations where I had to swipe my credit card due to not having another way to pay for my food.

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Meanwhile, my most generous credit card on the restaurant rewards front gives me 3% cash back for those purchases. But many nearby restaurants charge a 3.5% to 4% fee for using a credit card. So all told, I've been losing money needlessly by not bringing cash along.

2. Giving up rewards

One of my credit cards gives me store dollars to redeem during certain periods. Over the spring, I did a major summer stock-up because I realized my kids had outgrown just about all of their shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits. As such, I snagged a pretty generous reward that I had until early August to redeem.

Only I didn't redeem that reward -- I let it expire out of sheer laziness and forgetfulness. And so instead of getting about $25 in free merchandise, I got nothing. 

And the worst part? You don't even need to visit a store to snag those rewards. I could've sat on the couch and ordered stuff for my kids online. But I didn't note my rewards' expiration date on my calendar, and it wound up slipping my mind.

3. Passing up an easy-to-snag sign-up bonus

During the spring, I came across an offer for a credit card sign-up bonus that would've given me $250 for hitting a very reasonable spending threshold. Since I'm not planning to apply for any major loans in the near term, I figured a single hard inquiry on my credit report wouldn't be a big deal, so I had every intention of applying for that offer.

Only then I got busy, and I forgot. And now, the offer is gone. Granted, there will likely be a comparable one in the not-so-distant future. But I'm annoyed that I passed up the chance to easily snag $250.

We all make mistakes in life, so the fact that I dropped the ball on the credit card front isn't something I'm going to let myself lose sleep over. At the same time, I'm sharing my story in the hopes of preventing others from going a similar route -- and kicking themselves afterward.

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