Making a Large Purchase? How to Choose Which Credit Card to Put It On

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  • Different credit cards offer different benefits and rewards programs.
  • When making a big purchase, it's important to see if you can snag extra cash back or reap other benefits.

It's important to charge expenses strategically. Here's how to map out your strategy.

Chances are, you're used to charging expenses on more than one credit card. When it comes to small, everyday purchases, you may not put all that much thought into which card you're whipping out -- especially if all of your cards have similar rewards programs for things like groceries, gas, and the other things you spend money on all the time.

But if you're gearing up to make a larger purchase, you'll want to choose the credit card you use wisely. Ask yourself these questions to decide which of your credit cards is best for your next big spend.

1. Can you take advantage of a sign-up bonus?

While it may be possible to put a large purchase on one of your existing credit cards, an even better bet could be to apply for a new one and put it on there. Many credit cards offer sign-up bonuses that allow you to score extra points or cash back for meeting a certain spending requirement within a few months of opening your account.

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Say you qualify for an offer that gives you a $300 sign-up bonus for spending $3,000 within three months of opening a new credit card. If you normally only spend $800 a month on your credit cards, you may have a difficult time meeting that requirement. But if you're planning to make a $1,500 furniture purchase, suddenly, that offer makes sense to go after.

2. Is there a revolving rewards category that'll pay you more?

Some credit cards offer bonus rewards or cash back in revolving categories. It pays to see what those are when making a big purchase.

Say you're planning to update your wardrobe to go back to work, so you'll be spending $400 at your favorite department store. If one of your credit cards is offering 5% cash back instead of its usual 1% on department store purchases that quarter, that's a good card to use.

3. Are there added perks for using a specific card?

It's not just bonus points or cash back you should look at when deciding which card to use for a large purchase. You should also pay attention to some of the peripheral benefits you might enjoy.

If your large purchase is a flight, for example, then it could pay to put that charge on a travel rewards credit card. Using one of these cards may render you eligible for perks like free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases. You may also get more built-in protection when you book flights on a travel rewards card in case something goes wrong, like a flight delay. Though, to be clear, that coverage won't necessarily be able to take the place of actual trip insurance. You may still want to purchase a separate policy for maximum protection.

Chances are, you only make large purchases from time to time. It pays to be strategic about the credit card you use. Running through these questions could help you land on the right choice -- and receive the most benefit.

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