Credit cards can be a helpful financial tool but only if you use them wisely. Unfortunately, many people don’t. In 2016, nearly 44% of families carried debt on their credit cards, up from 38% in 2013. Using credit cards to finance your lifestyle is an expensive choice but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them completely. With well-planned credit card hacks, you can even come out ahead at the end of the month.

Let’s look at five of the best credit card hacks.

1. 0% Balance Transfers

If you’re not paying off the full balance on your credit cards every month, you’re likely paying a lot of interest. There are a lot of cards available that offer 0% interest on balance transfers from other cards.

These offers are typically for a limited time such as six months or one year. Learn more about how to sign up for one of these cards and transfer your existing balances to save money on interest. If you can pay it off by the end of the promotional period, great. If not, sign up for another one and transfer the balance again.

2. Set Up Pre-Authorized Payments

Late payments can hurt you in two ways:

1. They can damage your credit score.

2. Some cards will increase your interest rate if you have too many late payments.

It’s easy to get busy and overlook the due date but you can avoid this problem by setting up pre-authorized payments from your bank account. If the same bank issued your credit card, you can even choose whether to make the minimum payment or pay off the full balance. The bank will know what those amounts are and process the payment automatically.

And more importantly, they’ll process it on time.

3. Manufactured Spending

Many credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses such as cash-back or travel points have minimum spending rules to qualify for the bonuses. It’s not always easy to hit those minimums without buying things you don’t need.

Rather than making unnecessary purchases to reach the spending minimum, use manufactured spending instead. In other words, buy gift cards now that you will be able to use later.

4. Price Protection

Many credit cards offer price protection. If you buy something today and the price drops within a certain period, they will reimburse you for the difference. Some cards even offer a service that watches for lower prices and credits your card automatically.

This lets you buy things when you need them and not have to wait for sale prices, but still get the benefit of any lower prices when they happen.

5. Change Credit Card Products

If you have a card with a certain type of benefit, such as travel points, and your needs have changed, you might be better off with a different type of card. There might be a hefty annual fee that was worth the money when you could use the points but doesn’t make sense now.

Rather than canceling the card, see if the credit card company offers another type of card that suits you better. You will likely be able to switch products without a credit check or any type of fee.

The Best Credit Card Hack

The best credit card hack is to not carry a balance whenever possible. Using credit cards to finance your life can work for short periods but in the long-run, it’s going to cost more than almost any other type of borrowing.

Used wisely, credit cards offer convenience and protection, but it’s easy to let your spending get away from you. Use the hacks in this article to help you stay in control.

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