What Does 2% Cash Back Mean? Is It Worth It?

What Does 2% Cash Back Mean? Is It Worth It?

Who doesn’t like a bit of extra cash in their pocket? And earning money from spending you’re already doing is arguably even better. If you prefer cash-back rewards with your credit cards, a card that features a 2% cash back flat rate — meaning 2% back on all purchases — can be a solid way to reap rewards.

Let’s go over the ins and outs of what 2% cash back actually means, as well as the pros and cons of a 2% cash-back credit card, to help you determine whether it’s worth your while.

What Is Cash Back?

Cash back is a form of reward that cash-back credit cards offer that allows you to earn money back on purchases you make. Other examples of credit card rewards include points or travel miles.

With a flat-rate cash-back card, all of your purchases earn the same amount in cash back. Other credit card issuers might offer higher cash-back rates on certain spending categories, such as on gas or groceries.
Meanwhile, some may feature rotating bonus categories to give your rewards-earning abilities a boost. For example, you might earn 5% cash back in the fall months on purchases made at restaurants and on gas.

You can redeem the cash-back rewards you earn in the form of a check, bank transfer, or gift card, or as a statement credit. Other options might include making a charitable donation or making a purchase through the issuer’s online portal. Depending on the credit card, there might be a spending threshold you need to meet before you can redeem your cash-back rewards.

What Is 2% Cash Back?

If you’re wondering, ‘What does 2% cash back mean exactly?,’ here’s how it works. Earning 2% cash back simply means that for every $100 you spend on your credit card, you’ll get $2 back. So if you were to spend $1,000, that’s $20 back in your pocket — though you’ll then have to redeem that cash back in order to make the rewards usable.

How 2% Cash-Back Credit Cards Work

As mentioned previously, having a 2% cash-back credit card means you’ll earn 2 cents back for every $1 you spend using the card, or $2 for every $100, and so forth.

There might not be a limit to how much you can earn in cash back. However, in other cases, the card may cap the amount of cash-back rewards you can earn for either regular spending or spending in bonus categories.

Pros and Cons of 2% Cash Back

While a 2% cash back card does come with some advantages, there are some drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at both:

Pros and Cons of a 2% Cash Back Card
Pros Cons
Easy to use Higher APRs compared to non-rewards credit cards
Can rack up rewards quickly Earning caps may apply
Often no annual fee Don’t often offer travel rewards or perks

Pros

•   Easy to use: A major benefit of a 2% cash-back credit card is that the rules are simple: You spend money, and get a certain amount back. Plus, redeeming rewards is usually pretty straightforward, and you have a choice of how to do so.

•   Can rack up rewards quickly: If you use your credit card for everyday purchases, you’ll accrue rewards fairly fast. Of course, only put everyday purchases on your card if you can afford to pay them off, and always use your card responsibly, considering what a credit card is and the implications overspending can have for your credit score.

•   Often no annual fee: Many cash-back cards don’t have an annual fee. That means you won’t need to worry about spending enough to offset the fee.

Cons

•   Higher APRs compared to non-rewards credit cards: While your annual percentage rate (APR) on a card partly depends on your credit and other financial factors, rewards credit cards like cash-back cards tend to carry higher interest rates. If you keep a balance on your account, you can expect to pay a pretty penny in interest, given how credit cards work.

•   Earning caps may apply: While some credit cards allow you to earn unlimited cash-back rewards, others place a limit on how much you can earn. If you’re looking to max out your rewards potential, a cap could make that harder to do.

•   Don’t often offer travel rewards or perks: If you’re hoping to earn rewards that apply to travel, such as airline trips or hotel stays, a cash-back credit card likely isn’t the form of rewards credit card for you. While some cards may offer travel redemption options, most don’t, and many also charge foreign transaction fees.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Is a 2% Cash Back-Credit Card Worth It?

Whether a 2% cash-back credit card is worth it really depends on how you’ll use the credit card. This includes what types of purchases you’d like to make, and if you plan on using your card for bills and everyday expenses, such as gas and groceries. If you use the credit card regularly, you’ll be able to earn a greater amount of cash-back rewards.

However, you’ll also want to balance that spending with sticking to important credit card rules, like not spending more than you can afford to pay off. Because rewards credit cards tend to have higher interest rates, it’s important to avoid carrying a balance so you don’t cancel out the cash back you earn.

A cash-back rewards card might not be worth it if you prefer to use your credit card rewards for travel. In that case, a travel rewards credit card typically will offer more lucrative ways to earn points or miles to use on trips.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Guide to Using a 2% Cash-Back Credit Card

If you get a 2% cash-back card, here are some tips to keep in mind to use it effectively:

•   Read the redemption rules. Familiarize yourself with credit card requirements, and see if there are any limits on how much cash back you can earn. Similarly, check if you need to hit a minimum amount in cash-back earnings before you can redeem those rewards.

•   Be intentional with your purchases. Devise a plan for how you intend to use your cash-back credit card. Perhaps you would prefer to use it on big-ticket items, or maybe on seasonal purchases, such as during the holidays or back-to-school season. This will help you make the most of your card.

•   Choose how you’ll receive your rewards. You’ll also want to decide whether you plan on receiving the cash-back in the form of an ACH transfer to your account, as statement credit, or as a check dropped in the mail. You also might be able to use your rewards by making online purchases through the credit card’s shopping portal, or by purchasing gift cards or donating to charity.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Maximizing 2% Cash-Back Earnings

If you have a cash-back credit card, it’s worth your while to take the time to determine how to maximize your earnings. Here are several ways to do so.

Use Your Card For Everyday Purchases and Bills

Consider using your cash-back card on major spending categories to earn the most on rewards. For example, if you spend $4,500 a year on food for you and your family and put all of your groceries and dining expenses on your card, you’ll get $90 in cash-back on just that spending alone.

You might also consider putting your recurring bills and subscription services on your credit cards. This will allow you to scoop up points in areas you already spend.

Just make sure you aren’t spending beyond your means. Keep an eye on your expenditures, and commit to paying off your balance in full each month.

Put Big-Ticket Buys on Your Card

If you’ve been saving up for a sleek new laptop or coveted designer shoes, consider putting that cost on your 2% cash-back card. That way, you can get the item and earn a bit of cash back on the purchase.

Your card may even come with added perks, such as purchase protection or an extended manufacturer’s warranty.

Look for a Card With No Annual Fee

A card without an annual fee means you won’t need to spend as much to make the cash-back rewards worthwhile. Case in point: If you get a card with a $40 annual fee, you’ll need to put $2,000 in purchases to break even at a 2% cash-back rewards rate.

Pay Off Your Balance in Full Each Month

As cash-back credit cards tend to have higher APRs, make it a point to pay off your card in full. This will help you avoid racking up interest charges, which can cut into the cash-back rewards you earn.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Strategize When You’d Like to Redeem Your Cash Back

To maximize your 2% cash-back rewards card, it helps to be intentional with how you choose to redeem your cash-back rewards as well as when you do so. For instance, if you tend to dig a debt hole during the holidays, use your rewards to pay for gifts and other related expenses. Or, you can put the rewards you’ve accumulated toward a statement credit, or redeem it for a gift card for your loved one.

The Takeaway

Whether a 2% cash-back credit card is right for you may depend on a few considerations, such as how often you plan to use the card, whether you may purchase higher-priced items with it, and if you plan to pay off the balance in full each month. It’s also important to understand all of the rules that apply to the credit card. Some cards have limits on how much you can earn in cash back or have annual fees that could cut into the value of your rewards.

A 2% cash-back credit card that’s used regularly, however, can provide you with a steady stream of extra cash that could benefit your budget, and you can also be strategic about how you redeem the rewards depending on your needs at a given time.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Is 2% cash back good for credit cards?

A 2% flat-rate, cash-back credit card can be a strong choice as a go-to credit card if you intend to use your card for everyday spending. Earning rewards at a flat rate and in this manner is simple and straightforward, as you don’t have to worry about keeping track of rotating categories or figuring out point conversion values.

Is 2% cash back better than points?

A 2% cash back credit card is a no-hassle, straightforward way to earn rewards. While you might earn more points on a travel card, redemption values and ways to redeem points on a travel rewards card can be more complicated. A flat-rate cash-back card can be a good choice to use as a foundation. Then, you can also open a travel card if it makes sense for your needs.


Photo credit: iStock/LaylaBird

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Are Credit Card Rewards? How to Take Advantage of Them

Credit Card Rewards 101: Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Card

If you’re like many Americans, you swipe and tap your way through your day, using your credit card for everything from that morning latte to that late-night movie download. And, of course, for other purchases and services, from plane tickets to Pilates classes. That spending can add up, but using a rewards credit card can help make those expenditures pay off.

How rewards credit cards work: They pay the cardholder back with bonuses based on a small percentage of the amount spent. You’ll find different offers from credit card issuers in terms of how you can earn and redeem rewards, so you may want to review a variety of programs to see which ones best suit your style and needs.
In this guide, you can get a good grounding in how these programs work, including:

•   What are different types of credit card rewards?

•   How can you make the most of credit card rewards?

•   How do you redeem credit card rewards?

Types of Credit Card Rewards

What credit card rewards are, specifically, depends on the type of rewards your specific credit card pays out. The credits earned for making purchases can come in the form of cash back, points, or airline miles.

By reviewing the options below, you can better understand what kind of rewards might suit you best. This can help you get ready to apply for a new credit card.

Cash Back

For cash back rewards cards, reward earnings are based on a percentage of the amount charged to the card. The rate of earnings can typically range from 1% to 5%. In some cases, you’ll earn a higher rate for an introductory period or on a particular category of spending for a specific period of time.

Calculating what the rewards rate equals as money back can be simple for cash rewards: Just apply the cash-back percentage to total spending on the card.

•   Example: If you had a credit card that offered 2% cash back on all purchases, you’d earn $2 back for every $100 you spent using your card.

In some cases, cardholders will earn a flat rate across all purchases made with the card. But a rewards credit card may offer tiered earnings, as briefly noted above. This means the percentage back will vary depending on the category of purchases or the total amount spent during the year.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Travel Miles

As the name suggests, this type of rewards credit card allows you to earn airline miles in exchange for your spending responsibly with a credit card. You can either get a card affiliated with a specific airline or a more general travel rewards credit card.

It’s possible to earn a fixed rate of miles for every dollar spent, or you might earn more miles through spending in certain categories.

•   For instance, you might earn a mile per every dollar spent. Or you could get one mile per $1 in all purchase categories with the exception of travel costs, where you’d earn three miles per every dollar spent.

While they’re called miles, these rewards don’t necessarily translate to airline miles traveled. Rather, you typically redeem the miles you’ve earned to help cover the cost of flights or other travel-related expenses, such as hotel stays.

Unlike cash back rewards, where the value is pretty straightforward, the valuation of airline miles can vary by card. This is worth evaluating when deciding between credit card miles or cash-back rewards. The value of an airline mile can usually range from just under one cent per mile up to around two cents.

Points

Another way to earn credit card rewards is by getting a certain number of points for every dollar spent using the card. You can then redeem those points in a variety of ways, such as in the form of cash back, merchandise, travel purchases, gift cards, and even events.

Credit cards that reward cardholders through credit card points will pay out a certain number of points for every dollar spent on the card. Some considerations:

•   They might offer bonus categories, where cardholders can earn more points for every dollar spent in that particular category.

•   For some cards, earned rewards points may have a set redemption value — for example, every 10,000 points might be worth $100 in flight or merchandise redemptions. However, redemption rates can depend on the type of reward you choose. For instance, there might be different points requirements for flights as opposed to merchandise.

Given these scenarios, cardholders may have to be strategic. They may want to consider the type of reward they select and the actual cost of their selections to get the best bang for their buck.

How to Optimize Credit Card Rewards

It’s clear that the returns you can earn when using a rewards credit card can vary tremendously. But in addition to choosing a rewards card with the best earnings rate, there are other ways to take maximum advantage of credit card rewards.

Find the Best Card Based on Individual Spending Habits

Some rewards cards accrue points on a flat-rate basis. This means points or miles are awarded at the same rate regardless of what an individual charges to their credit card.

Others, however, offer higher levels of earning for different spending categories. For instance:

•   Some cards may offer more points per dollar spent on groceries or gas.

•   Other rewards credit cards may provide more miles back when an individual spends on flights or hotels.

For people who tend to concentrate spending on specific categories, some cards may offer added value back. Before signing up, it’s worth taking the time to assess the different types of credit cards you may qualify for and which will be most valuable given your spending habits and the kind of rewards that would be most beneficial.

Max Out Available Promotions

Some rewards credit cards offer higher introductory earning rates, as noted above. This means you can earn more points than usual for a set amount of time or up to a specific spending threshold.

Other promotions may be offered as well, such as greater earnings during a specified time period. Enjoying credit card bonuses like these is key to making the most of credit card rewards.

For instance, you may want to time big-ticket items and other purchases to take advantage of those greater returns.

One important caveat: While offers to earn more rewards certainly seem attractive, it’s wise to ensure that spending is within your budget. That’s because carrying a credit card balance may incur interest and/or penalties that can cancel out the value of any increased earnings. Avoiding interest on credit cards requires paying off your balance in full.

Be Strategic About Redemptions

Given the variability in the value of rewards points, it’s a good idea to crunch the numbers before redeeming. This is especially true because fluctuating prices and redemption promotions can help to stretch earned rewards further. And who doesn’t want to squeeze as much value as possible from their rewards?

•   Get the timing right for your needs. For example, using points to book a $200 short-haul flight may not optimize the value of your reward. But booking that same route at the last minute may be considerably more expensive. In such a case, if you have to travel ASAP, using those points may yield considerably more value.

•   You might also use points for a statement credit redemption. This means the points can be translated into cash that is applied to your credit card balance.

This can be especially helpful if there’s a month where money is tight and you are concerned about meeting your minimum payment. Applying your rewards could help you keep your account in good standing.

•   Be aware that rewards programs may have redemption minimums. This could mean that, say, you need to accrue a certain dollar amount or number of points so you can use your reward. For instance, maybe you have $20 in rewards that you want to use to help meet your credit card statement’s minimum payment. If your card only allows you to redeem rewards when you reach a threshold of $25 or 2,500 points available, you will be out of luck. You’ll need to earn more rewards before you can use them.

•   Also look for redemption promotions or opportunities to redeem for the highest-value choices. This can help you get the most out of a rewards credit card.

Redeeming Credit Card Rewards

Once you’ve racked up some credit card rewards, it’s time to redeem them. Here’s how:

1.    Log into your credit card app or portal. You can usually find your rewards listed somewhere on the main page, though the exact placement depends on your credit card issuer.

2.    Click on your rewards balance. You should be able to see your total available rewards, as well as your options for redemption.

3.    Choose how you want to redeem your rewards. Options for redemption may include a statement credit, a check, merchandise, gift cards, or travel, depending on your specific credit card.

4.    Move ahead with redeeming your rewards. Once you select the option to redeem your rewards, that amount will get deducted from your balance. How long it takes to receive your rewards will depend on how you chose to redeem them.

Do Credit Card Rewards Expire?

It is possible for credit card rewards to expire. However, whether your rewards will expire — and how soon their expiration date will arrive — depends on the type of credit card rewards and your credit card issuer.

•   Airline miles and hotel points often expire (though not always).

•   Points or cash back earned through your issuer’s program are less likely to expire.

•   In some cases, your rewards might even get automatically credited to your account if you forget to redeem them or haven’t used your account in a while.

Check your credit card’s terms and conditions to find out how your credit card works and what the rules are for your credit card rewards.

Once you know the details, you will likely want to stay aware of any expiration date, just as you probably pay attention to when your credit card payments are due.

The Takeaway

Getting rewards — whether in the form of cash back, points, or travel miles — when you spend money is an attractive proposition. However, when it comes to how to take advantage of credit card rewards, you’ll need to do more than just swipe your card. You’ll want to be strategic about earning and redeeming your points to get the most benefit. You’ll also likely want to make sure to max out any promotions that are available.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.



Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Guide to Automated Credit Card Payments

If you’re like many cardholders, you will likely want to take advantage of any opportunities to streamline your finances. A commonly used credit card feature that can make life more convenient is automated credit card payments, or credit card autopay. It’s a way to have your bill paid seamlessly on time so you don’t have to wonder, “Is my credit card payment due around now? Have I already paid it for this month?”

Understanding what autopay is and how it works can help you decide if enrolling in automatic payments is right for you. There are definite benefits to setting up autopay, but there are downsides to take into account as well. You’ll also need to consider how you’d like to configure credit card autopay, as there are a few different options.

In this guide, you’ll learn about all this topic and gain the insight you need to decide if autopay for your credit card is a good fit for you.

What Is an Automated Credit Card Payment and How Does It Work?

An automated credit card payment, or autopay, is a recurring payment that’s scheduled for the same day each month. The automatic payment is typically made on a date that’s either before or on the statement due date.

Autopay allows cardholders the convenience of making credit card payments on a periodic basis without having to manually set up payments. This also helps with avoiding late or missed payments.

When you enroll in automated credit card payments through your credit card issuer, you’re authorizing the issuer to request a certain payment amount on a specific date from your banking institution. When the autopay date arrives, your card issuer’s bank will send your bank an electronic request for the payment amount you’ve set up.

Your bank then will fulfill the payment request and send it to the merchant’s bank (i.e., your card issuer).

Credit Card Autopay Options

There are a few ways to approach automatic bill payments through your card issuer. Each has its benefits and caveats, so assess your own financial situation before choosing an autopay strategy for your credit card.

Paying the Minimum

One option is establishing automated credit card payments for the minimum amount that’s due on your billing statement. The minimum payment is the smaller amount due that’s shown on your statement or online account, and the amount varies based on your total charges at the close of your card’s billing cycle.

Selecting to pay the minimum can be useful if you don’t have enough money to repay the entire statement in one fell swoop. By paying the minimum, you’ll fulfill the issuer’s minimum requested payment and keep your account in good standing — which, in turn, helps keep your credit score in good standing.

However, this means you’ll roll over the remaining statement balance into the next billing period, which will lead to incurring interest charges. That’s one aspect of how credit cards work.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

Paying the Full Balance

You also can choose to pay the full balance as shown on the billing statement for each recurring payment. Paying the full balance is beneficial, because it allows you to avoid rolling a balance into the next billing cycle. This, in turn, means you can avoid interest on a credit card.

However, since your balance will likely vary month to month, you need to be sure you have enough cash in your bank account to cover it. Otherwise, you could wind up overdrafting.

Paying a Fixed Amount

Another option is to set up automated credit card payments for a specific, fixed amount. For example, if you exclusively use your card to pay your fixed monthly cell phone bill of $50, you can establish an autopay for $50 toward your account on a recurring schedule. You can also use this option if you’d like to make extra credit card payments throughout the month.

Benefits of Automatic Credit Card Payments

Choosing a credit card that allows autopay can be helpful for various reasons. These are a few of the major upsides to enrolling in automated credit card payments:

•   You won’t risk forgetting about a credit card payment due date.

•   You’ll avoid penalty fees and penalty annual percentage rates (APRs) for making a late payment.

•   Your positive payment history is maintained.

Drawbacks of Automatic Credit Card Payments

There are also some caveats to consider before you set up autopay. This includes the following:

•   You might face other fees if you have insufficient funds when using autopay.

•   You might slack on reviewing your monthly credit card statement for red flags.

•   You might inadvertently overspend on your card because you feel as if you’ve got the payment covered.

Factors to Consider Before Setting up Automatic Credit Card Payments

Before setting up automated credit card payments, honestly assess your finances and habits. Verify that you have sufficient deposits into your checking or savings account to cover the autopay amount you’ve set up.

And if you do set up automatic credit card payments, make sure you continue to check your monthly billing statements. Confirm that all transactions are yours and are accurate, and that your total spending is still manageable.

Setting up Automatic Credit Card Payments

The exact process for how to set up automatic credit card payments can vary somewhat from issuer to issuer, but in general, it’s pretty easy to do.

•   You will need to first log on to your credit card account either online or through the mobile app. It’s also possible to call the number listed on the back of your card to have someone talk you through it.

•   Pull up the section labeled payments, and you should then be able to find an option to manage or set up autopay. You’ll need to connect a bank account where the payments will get pulled from and select the date and frequency at which you’d like the payment to occur.

•   You should also be able to select which payment option you’d like (minimum due, the full balance, or another amount).


💡 Quick Tip: When using your credit card, make sure you’re spending within your means. Ideally, you won’t charge more to your card in any given month than you can afford to pay off that month.

Tips for Stopping Automatic Payments on Credit Card

What if you have credit card autopay activated on your account but need to halt automated payments moving forward? Federal law protects your right to rescind authorization for automatic payments. Here are a few ways to go about it:

•   Turn off autopay through your card issuer. Many credit card issuers give cardholders the ability to turn autopay on or off through the app or via their online account’s payment settings. Just make sure you do so before the next automated payment is processed.

•   Revoke authorization from your card issuer. Call your credit card issuer to revoke authorization for autopay. Then follow up the call with a written letter revoking authorization, and requesting a stop to automatic payments on your account.

•   Request a stop payment order from your bank. You can also contact your bank to place a stop payment order on any automated payment transactions requested by the card issuer.

Regardless of how you stop automated payments from occurring, continue reviewing your monthly statement and account activity to ensure that the autopay has ceased.

What Happens if You Overpay Your Credit Card Balance?

Let’s say you inadvertently set up autopay to higher than the balance — what could you do then? Typically, credit card overpayments are processed as a negative balance. A credit for the overpaid amount should be reflected on the next billing statement, assuming your new transactions bring your account above a zero balance.

However, you do have the right to request a refund from the card issuer, instead of having it applied as a credit. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has in place regulatory credit card rules for card issuers when it comes to an overpayment on your card account. It states that upon receipt of a consumer’s written refund request for an overpayment, an issuer must provide the refund within seven business days.

The Takeaway

Automated credit card payments are a convenient option and can mean one less thing to remember. In addition to helping you keep your card account in good standing, autopay can provide peace of mind. By automating payments, you’ll more easily avoid credit card late payments, penalty fees, and penalty APRs for late payments.

FAQ

Is it a good idea to automate monthly credit card payments?

Whether enrolling in automated credit card payments is a good idea depends on your current financial situation. You must reliably have the payment amount in your checking or savings account each month and not be at risk of overdrawing or having insufficient funds. Also consider your other financial responsibilities and personal money management habits to decide if automated payments are right for you.

Do automatic payments affect your credit score?

Thirty-five percent of your FICO® credit score calculation is based on your payment history. Automatic payments can help you make on-time payments for at least the minimum balance due so your payment history builds or remains positive. As long as the deposit account that automatic payment is drawn from has adequate funds, the credit card autopay transaction can be advantageous to your credit profile.

Do banks charge for automated credit card payments?

No, banks and credit card issuers don’t typically charge an additional fee to make automated credit card payments. Autopay is intended as a payment convenience for cardholders. But ultimately, it helps card issuers and banks better secure repayment from customers, thereby lessening the risk of a late payment or delinquent account.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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Does a Phone Bill Build Credit? How Phone Bills Affect Credit

Does a Phone Bill Build Credit? How Phone Bills Affect Credit

If you’re one of millions of Americans with a blank credit file or too little data on your credit reports, you might wonder: Does a phone bill build credit? In short, paying your cell phone bill typically does not help you build credit.

That being said, there are steps you can take to have your phone bills affect your credit. For instance, paying your monthly bill with a credit card and then making on-time payments on your balance can help you build your credit score from scratch. You also could enroll in a third-party service to have your phone payment activity reported to the credit bureaus.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

How Cell Phone Bill Payments Work

If you have a cell phone, each month you will likely receive a bill — either in the mail or digitally — with an amount that you have to pay for using the cell phone carrier’s service. This amount will vary depending on the type of plan you have and how many lines you have under the account, among other potential charges like device protection or insurance. If you’ve financed the cost of your physical cell phone, that amount will also get added into your monthly cell phone bill.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

Will Paying Your Phone Bill Build Credit?

Unlike payments on your credit card or loans like your auto loan or mortgage, cell phone payments usually don’t get reported to the credit bureaus. As such, cell phone payments typically don’t show up on your credit report and therefore don’t impact your credit score.

The only exception to this is if you finance a cell phone and the creditor reports your payments to the three major credit bureaus. In that scenario, those payments could help build your credit.

There are also a couple of ways that you can get your phone bills to help with building credit. These include:

•   Reporting payments to the bureaus through a third party: Cell phone companies usually don’t report directly to the credit bureaus, nor can you self-report your cell phone bill payments to the bureaus. Instead, you can sign up for a third-party service that will report your payment activity to the bureaus on your behalf, so they appear on your credit report. You might owe a subscription fee for this service though.

•   Paying your cell phone bill using your credit card: By paying bills with a credit card — in this case, your cell phone bill — and then making on-time payments on your credit card balance, you can help build your credit score. Beyond serving as a credit-building tactic, using your credit card to cover your phone bills can offer access to added perks like cell phone protection.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Miss Phone Bill Payments?

While your phone bill payments don’t directly impact your score, should your account become delinquent, then the delinquency does get reported to the credit bureaus. At this stage, your cell phone bill can negatively impact your score.

Your cell phone account could become delinquent if you miss several payments in a row, or if you end your contract with your carrier earlier and fail to pay off your balance. This information can remain on your credit report for up to seven years from the date the delinquency occurred.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Start a New Phone Plan?

When you apply for a new phone plan, the carrier will do a hard pull of your credit to help them determine how likely you are to stay on top of your cell phone payments. A hard pull can negatively impact your credit score, though its effects are usually minor and short-lived.

However, your subsequent payments on your new phone plan likely will not get reported to the credit bureaus, meaning your payment activity generally won’t affect your credit.

Recommended: Effect Paying Off Debt Has on Your Credit Score

Does Buying a New Phone Affect My Credit Score?

Buying a new phone won’t impact your credit score. And should you get financing through your cell phone carrier and enter a payment plan, your payments usually don’t get reported to the credit bureaus.

One way that a new cell phone purchase can impact your credit score is if you pay for your new phone with a credit card. If you make on-time payments on your credit card balance, that could help you build your score. But on the flipside, making late payments or missing payments entirely could negatively affect your score.

Importance of Building Credit

Establishing credit and building a strong credit score can not only help you get approved for that car loan, mortgage, or credit card in the future, but it can help you land the most favorable rates and terms.

Without a good credit score, the cost of taking out a car loan or mortgage, or carrying a balance on a credit card, could be more costly. Getting approved is also more challenging with a thin credit history or a credit score that’s not so great.

Other Ways to Build Credit

Besides reporting your cell phone bill through a third-party company or paying your cell phone bill with your credit card, here are some ways you can build your credit from scratch.

Open a Secured Credit Card

If you’re just starting out on your credit journey, consider applying for a secured card. A secured card works just like a credit card, but it requires a deposit. Your deposit serves as collateral.

Secured cards are designed for those who are building their credit and as such, generally have lower credit limits. The deposit you make is usually the same as your credit limit. For example, if you have a $250 credit limit, your deposit is also $250.

Once you demonstrate a history of on-time payments, you might graduate to a traditional credit card, which does not require a deposit as collateral and which generally offer higher credit limits. Plus, once you move up from having a fair credit score, you may have access to lucrative rewards and perks.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Get a Credit-Builder Loan

Banks, credit unions, and online financial platforms might offer credit-builder loans, which are small loans that are stowed in a savings account. Unlike with a typical loan, where you receive a lump sum upfront, you only get the loan amount once you’ve paid off the loan in full. The payments you make on a credit-builder loan are reported to the credit bureaus, which can help you build credit.

Become an Authorized User

Being added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card means you can make purchases using their card but aren’t on the hook for payments. Instead, the authorized user, generally a family member or trusted friend, is responsible for making payments.

If the account holder maintains responsible credit card behavior, that can help you on your credit-building journey, as their activity appears on your credit report.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Use a Credit Card Responsibly

Using a credit card responsibly and making on-time payments each month can help you to build your credit score. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO Score, making timely payment the most influential factor among what affects your credit score. Additionally, keeping your credit card accounts open can help increase the average age of your credit accounts, another factor that influences your FICO Score.

Beyond building your score, a credit card can offer other advantages as well. The SoFi Credit Card, for instance, offers competitive cash-back rewards on purchases made using the card. Cardholders can redeem those rewards to save, invest, pay down eligible SoFi debt, or use as a statement credit.

The Takeaway

Paying your cell phone bill likely won’t help you build credit. However, there are steps you can take if you’d like your phone bills to affect your credit score. This includes using your credit card to cover your phone bill, and then making on-time payments on your balance. You can also build credit with cell phone payments by getting them reported through a third-party company. No matter how you do it, building credit is crucial to do, as it opens the door to future financial opportunities.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

How long does a cell phone bill stay on your credit card report?

Cell phone payments usually aren’t reported to the credit bureaus. In turn, they won’t show up on your credit card report. However, should you miss several payments in a row, the account can become delinquent. Delinquent accounts can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

Will missed payments on my cell phone bills hurt my credit score?

Missed cell phone payments won’t hurt your credit score unless you miss several payments in a row, and the account falls into delinquency. Delinquency can linger on your credit report for up to seven years.

Does upgrading my phone build my credit score?

Because your cell phone carrier generally doesn’t report to the credit bureaus, any changes to your cell phone plan, such as a phone upgrade, will not build your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/Kanawa_Studio

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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What Parents and Grandparents Really Want This Holiday Season

Your mom wants something surprising for the holidays this year. And so does your dad. In our holiday gift survey, we asked parents and grandparents to reveal the number-one present they hope to find under the tree this season. What they told us is going to make your holiday shopping very merry and bright.

In past years, you probably spent a lot of time searching online and in stores for the perfect Christmas gift ideas for parents and Christmas gift ideas for grandparents. This year, there’s no need to stress out about it because you’ll know exactly what to buy.

So what do mom and dad want you to get them? And what do grandparents want for Christmas? In our survey, we asked 1,000 of them (250 of each — moms, dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers) to share the holiday present they really want this season — and what they don’t want. Here’s what they told us; consider these survey findings our gift to you.

Source: Based on a What People Actually Want This Holiday Season survey of 1,000 U.S. adults from October 26, 2022 to October 27, 2022.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Gift Cards Are the Favorite Gift by Far

Parents and Grandparents Want Gift Cards More Than Anything This Holiday Season

The number-one gift requested by moms, dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers is … a gift card! And it wasn’t even close. Gift cards were the most-requested gift across the board.

Almost 33% of respondents picked gift cards as their most-wanted holiday gift. Here’s how it breaks down across the generations:

•   Moms: 39%

•   Dads: 31%

•   Grandmothers: 34%

•   Grandfathers: 27%

The Type of Gift Card You Give Makes a Difference

There are all kinds of gift cards to choose from, including gift cards for restaurants, stores, and airlines, to name just a few. So, as you get ready to shop and celebrate the holidays without blowing your budget, which type should you get for your parents and grandparents?

A gift card that can be used anywhere, like a Visa gift card, was the top choice, selected by:

•   45% of moms

•   44% of grandmothers

•   40% of grandfathers

•   38% of dads

The one group that wants a different kind of gift card? Moms ages 35 and up. They preferred a gift card to a retailer like Target, Amazon, or Walmart.

The way gift cards function is similar to how credit cards work, since your parents and grandparents can use them to buy whatever they like. Perhaps that’s why they were so popular in our survey: Your relatives can pick out exactly what they want.

Skip the Fancy Jewelry

What Do Parents and Grandparents Want the Least for the Holidays? Fine Jewelry.

You might think mom would be thrilled with luxury goods like an expensive necklace, bracelet, or earrings, but jewelry is actually at the very bottom of her list. When asked the gift they wanted least, most moms (22%) said fine jewelry. Dads agreed — 21 percent chose fine jewelry, such as a watch, as their least favorite holiday gift.

Grandparents also said no thanks to fine jewelry:

•   26% of grandmothers picked it as their least favorite gift

•   21% grandfathers chose at gift they wanted least

Recommended: Secrets to Not Paying Full Price

Holiday Gift Ideas for Mom

What moms Want Most for the Holidays

Here’s what Mom wants most:

•   A gift card: 39%

•   No gift at all — she just wants to spend time with family: 14%

•   An experience (like a concert or vacation): 10%

•   Clothes or shoes: 9%

•   A homemade gift like a photo collage: 7%

•   Electronics: 6%

•   Jewelry: 6%

•   Home goods: 5%

•   Donation to a charitable organization: 3%

•   Beauty/Health products: 2%

Holiday Gift Ideas for Dad

What Dads Want most for the Holidays

Here’s what dad wants most:

•   A gift card: 31%

•   Electronics: 14%

•   No gift at all — he just wants to spend time with family: 12%

•   An experience (like a concert or vacation): 12%

•   Clothes or shoes: 10%

•   Jewelry: 9%

•   A homemade gift like artwork: 5%

•   Donation to a charitable organization: 4%

•   Home goods: 2%

•   Beauty/Health products: 2%

If you’re thinking about getting dad the electronics he wants, but you don’t have the cash to pay for the gift upfront, applying for a credit card, and charging the electronics to it, is an option you may want to consider.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Grandmothers

What Grandmothers Want Most for the Holidays

•   A gift card: 34%

•   No gift at all — she just wants to spend time with family: 22%

•   An experience (like a concert or vacation): 12%

•   Clothes or shoes: 8%

•   A homemade gift like artwork: 6%

•   Electronics: 5%

•   Jewelry: 4%

•   Donation to a charitable organization: 3%

•   Home goods: 3%

•   Beauty/Health products: 2%

Holiday Gift Ideas for Grandfathers

What Grandfathers Want Most for the Holidays

•   A gift card: 27%

•   No gift at all — he just wants to spend time with family:14%

•   Electronics: 12%

•   An experience (like a concert or vacation): 10%

•   A homemade gift like artwork: 10%

•   Clothes or shoes: 8%

•   Donation to a charitable organization: 8%

•   Home goods: 5%

•   Jewelry: 4%

•   Beauty/Health products: 2%

Recommended: 41 Charities to Support This Year

Who Buys the Best Gifts?

Who Gives the Best Gifts?

It’s unanimous: Moms, dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers all agree that their spouse or partner is tops when it comes to choosing holidays gifts. No other person even comes close.

Who Gives the Best Gifts?

•   Spouse/partner: 37%

•   Parents: 18%

•   Friends: 10%

•   Siblings: 9%

•   Other relatives: 9%

Whose Gifts Rate the Worst?

Ranking at the bottom of the best gift-giver list: In laws and bosses. Only 4% of respondents said their mother-in-law and father-in-law give good gifts, and just 1% said their boss does.

Regifting is Real — and It Can Be Pretty Awkward

How Many People Have Regifted a Gift?

There’s a lot of regifting going on: 41% of our respondents admitted they’ve done it. But when the tables are turned on them, things can get a little uncomfortable. Fortunately, many have a sense of humor about it.

Almost 1/3 of Moms Have Been Regifted a Gift They Gave First

•   68% thought it was funny

•   32% were hurt, annoyed, or mad

Yet this didn’t deter them from doing it themselves: 38% of moms have regifted what they didn’t want. Most of these unwanted gifts were from friends.

Almost Half of Dads Have Been Regifted a Gift They Gave

•   71% thought it was funny

•   28% were hurt, annoyed, or mad

Dads are even more likely than moms to regift: 47% of them have done it — mainly with presents from distant relatives.

Lots of Unwanted Gifts Are Sitting in a Closet Someplace

When they get a Christmas present they don’t want or need, the overwhelming majority of respondents said they hang onto them, rather than exchange them. This was the answer chosen by:

•   80% of grandmothers

•   79% of moms

•   74% of grandfathers

•   70% of dads

So Whose Gifts Do They Take Back?

Of those parents and grandparents who return or exchange gifts:

•   Moms are most likely to return gifts from friends

•   Dads are most likely to return gifts from parents or other relatives

•   Grandmothers are most likely return gifts from distant relatives

•   Grandfathers are most likely to do return gifts from distant relatives or coworkers

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Plenty of Moms and Dads Are Wishing for a Vacation

If you splurge and get your parents a trip as their holiday gift, expect them to waste no time in packing their bags. Of the moms and dads who chose an experience as the gift they most want for the holidays, a vacation was at the very top of the list.

While paying for a vacation can be expensive, you might want to think about splitting the cost with your siblings or putting it on your credit card to help cover the cost. This is one reason why getting a credit card can be helpful when you’re buying holiday gifts.

Time Together Might Be the Greatest Gift of All

You may not need to get your parents a lot of presents (besides a gift card, that is!). A number of moms and dads who took our survey said they wanted family time over the holidays more than anything. In fact, for moms, spending time with family is their second most-wanted gift.

For dads, family time came in third. Electronics like gaming systems edged it out slightly.

Grandmothers and grandfathers want to spend time with family most of all. Each of them chose it as their second favorite gift option.

The Takeaway

One specific holiday gift will please your parents and your grandparents this year: a gift card. Not only does this make your shopping easier, but it gives your loved ones exactly what they want. A gift card that can be used anywhere, like a Visa gift card, is what the respondents to our survey wanted most.

If you’re looking for other gift options, dads are partial to electronics, like gaming equipment, and both moms and dads would be happy to find airline tickets for a vacation in their stocking.

As you’re doing holiday shopping for your family, you can get a gift for yourself at the same time. With a credit card from SoFi, you can earn generous cash-back rewards on all purchases.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.


Photo credit: iStock/seb_ra

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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