Credit card reward programs put real money in your pocket if used correctly. Used incorrectly they can actually cost you money. A recent personal experience is a textbook example of how dangerous credit card rewards programs can actually be.
I noticed I had $40 of Best Buy reward dollars about to expire. Not about to let $40 be wasted I hunted around on their website for something to buy. I found an inexpensive drone that I could get for no additional money out of my pocket. However, the reviews were terrible. One of them pointed off to a different drone, recommending it as a great inexpensive, entry level drone. The cost of this drone was $100. I ordered it and picked it up the next day.
At this point I had spent $60 I had no intention of spending.
Once I tried the drone, I really liked it. So naturally I got a carrying case, extra batteries, a charging hub and a few other accessories. By the time it was all said and done, I had spent $140 plus my reward dollars.
Let’s look at what happened:
- Started out looking for a free item, quickly turned into getting a a good deal on an entry level drone.
- Got caught up in the idea of having a drone hobby and bought accessories
- Not wanting to let “free money” go to waste ended up costing me $140.
A few lessons to point out from this experience:
- Using my $40 rewards dollars basically amounted to the drone being on sale. It’s not a good sale if you buy something you weren’t planning on buying anyway.
- Since I wasn’t planning to buy the drone, I would have actually saved money by letting the reward dollars expire.
Credit card rewards are a great financial tool when used to buy something you were going to buy anyway. However, treat them as a sale, or a coupon. If you use them to buy something you weren’t going to buy anyway, it’s best to just let them expire.
How about you, EOD Nation, have you ever used rewards because letting them expire would seem wasteful, but ended up spending money unintentionally?
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