How can I get the best value out of my home repair projects?
An increasingly popular survival strategy adopted by more and more consumers is to personally take on routine chores and tackle major projects themselves rather than paying others to do them, notes a recent report on the growth of the DIY market2.
While it may not be the first thing you think of—a rewards credit card can help you get even greater value from your home repair projects. Using a rewards credit card when fixing up a living room, for example, may earn you enough rewards, points or cash back to redeem for a new flat screen TV. Even small changes to your home can add up to significant savings when you use a rewards credit card.
Here are some ideas on how to get the best value when fixing up your house—whether you’re doing minor maintenance or tackling major repairs.
Home Repair Tip #1: Look for energy-efficient appliances
Replacing old appliances and equipment can help you cut your utility bills. If you own a home, check to see if your home improvements qualify for tax credits and rebates at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (Dsireusa.org). You may also qualify for rebates from the U.S. Department of Energy when you purchase new Energy Star-qualified appliances when you replace your used appliances.
Before you head out the door to shop for energy-efficient appliances—check to see if your rewards credit card offers special discounts or additional cash incentives from partner merchants, home improvement stores or department stores. You may be able to earn 1% to 5% cash rewards or points on your appliance purchases.
Home Repair Tip #2: Find easy ways to cut your utility bills
When you reduce heat loss you save money on utilities. Check door and window frames for leaks and add insulation, weatherstripping or caulk. Look for energy-saving products such as a programmable thermostat, storm windows, energy-conserving window treatments and water heater insulation blankets. See if your local utility company offers energy audits, rebates or other incentives for purchasing efficient products—and you may be eligible for lower rates by using energy at off-peak hours.
You may also be able use your rewards credit card to automatically pay for your ongoing or recurring utility bills —and accrue rewards, points or cash back with each utility bill payment.
Home Repair Tip #3: Even small home repairs pay off
By staying on top of regular home maintenance—you can make sure your home stays energy efficient and avoid expensive problems later. But you don’t have to be an accomplished do-it-yourselfer. Even small jobs like recaulking, replacing furnace filters and leaky garden hoses can help you save on your utility bills. If your DIY skills don’t extend much past replacing a burned out bulb, consider taking workshops from home improvement stores like Lowe’s and The Home Depot. The Internet also is a great source for free how-to tutorials.
Home Repair Tip #4: Keep records of your “capital improvements”
Be sure to keep records of big-ticket capital improvements that increase the value of your home. Categorized credit card statements make it easier to keep track of your major home repairs—replacing a furnace, water heater or central air conditioner, built-in appliances or carpeting, for example.
When you use a rewards credit card for your home improvement projects, you can easily keep track of all your purchases and accumulated rewards or points—you also have a clear understanding of your expenditures. See what resources are available from your rewards credit card to help you manage and analyze your expenses.
Your rewards credit card can make a good home repair deal even better.
Add up all the ways you plan to invest in your home—appliances, electronics, heating/cooling, landscaping, lighting, insulation and more. Consider using a no annual fee rewards credit card that will give you top points or cash back on your expenditures—and comes with a low APR.
In addition to looking for a rewards credit card that gives you the best cash rewards or points for your purchase habits—look for a credit card with a low interest rate and low fees.
Compare the various credit card offers. Is there a low APR offer? Is there an intro balance transfer offer? Will you have a low interest rate after the intro APR expires? Does the card charge an annual fee or is it a no annual fee card? Be sure to read the terms and conditions and understand what fees—and benefits—are involved.
TIP: Only about 10% of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs results in light—the other 90% is wasted as heat. Longer-lasting and energy-efficient compact fluorescents (CFL) can save you hundreds over their lifetime.
TIP: You get better consumer protection when you make home maintenance purchases by using your credit card. The ConsumersUnion.org reports, “By using a credit card, you will have more leverage to return a product than you would if you were to pay with a debit card or cash. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to defend against payment of a credit card charge if you show that the merchant failed to resolve a problem with the goods or services satisfactorily.3“
1. New York Times Aug. 22, 2009
2. Experian Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS) data interpreted by Market research publisher Packaged Facts
3. Fair Trade Billing Act: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0219-disputing-credit-card-charges#billing
Discover card believes that consumers should be armed with the information they need to help them make informed credit decisions.
Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice.