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Most of us pull out our credit cards to pay for our most mundane purchases, such as gas, groceries and restaurant bills. But as you realize the value of your credit card rewards, many start to look for ways to maximize their earnings. And often, this means finding strange ways to use your credit cards to make purchases that most others will use cash or checks for.
Here are 11 strange bills that I’ve found ways to pay for with my credit card, and earned valuable rewards along the way.
Strange Bills I've Paid With a Credit Card
1. Home Improvement Contractors
Although I’m pretty handy, being a homeowner requires paying an endless stream of people to repair and maintain everything that’s beyond my abilities. The vast majority of these contractors won’t accept credit cards, but there’s a few tricks you can use.
If they don’t accept credit cards because they don’t have a credit card processor, I offer to pay them through PayPal, which works often. But if their real problem is that they don’t want to pay the merchant fees, your only recourse is to say you can only agree to make the purchase if you can pay with your card, without imposing additional fees.
Most contractors won’t know that you avoid interest by paying your entire statement balance (which is the only way to do it if you’re in it for the rewards). They will assume that like almost half of Americans (according to data from the New York Federal Reserve), you’re carrying a credit card balance and may not be able to afford their services unless you finance the purchase.
2. Energy Bills
My local gas and electric company allows me to pay with a credit card, but they don’t make it easy. They don’t offer any autopay feature, so I have to login to their site for each and every payment. Thankfully, they charge a reasonable fee of just $1.50, instead of a percentage of the transaction. To save time and money, I just make a few large payments a year, prepaying several months in advance.
3. Water Bills
Like the power company, the municipal water company doesn’t offer autopay options with a credit card. Likewise, I login a few times a year to make large payments, rather than make small monthly payments.
4. Charitable Contributions
Whether it be a one-time donation or regular dues, nonprofits are always happy to accept contributions in nearly any form.
5. Buying a Car
When you purchase a car from a dealer, you always have the option of paying with a credit card. Sure, they’ll never offer you this option. You’ll have to insist on it. But when push comes to shove, I’ve never seen a dealer lose a sale because it wouldn’t take my card as payment.
I’ve done this several times over the years with both new and used cars, so I know the drill. Don’t mention your credit card until you’ve negotiated the price. Only then should you tell them that you can only complete the transaction with your card, and that you’ll go elsewhere if they can’t accept it. Hold your ground and be patient when they “speak to their manager,” and you can be sure they’ll eventually say yes rather than see you walk. The hassle is worth it as the rewards are enormous. Just be sure to pre-clear the large purchase with your card issuer first.
For a big purchase like a car, you could take advantage of a sign-up offer to earn a bonus pretty quickly. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you have to spend just $4,000 in the first three months to earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points. You will definitely hit that $4,000 if you're purchasing a new vehicle.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Our Rating 4.5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
- APR22.49% - 29.49% (Variable)
- Annual Fee$550
60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Earn 60,000 bonus points after using your card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)
This card features an annual credit for travel purchases, which can offset the annual fee, plus bonus points when you sign up. You'll also get free access to tons of Priority Pass lounges and restaurant options around the world, along with access to the upcoming Chase Sapphire Lounge network.
If you’re looking to elevate your travel experience, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you first get approved, you’ll earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months—that’s worth at least $900 in travel-related spending booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and potentially more if you transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners.
- An array of premium travel perks including access to Priority Pass lounges
- Easy-to-use $300 travel credit that helps offset card's annual fee
- Generous rewards rates for spending
- High annual fee may be a deterrent for some
- Perks are starting to get stale relative to newer competition
You might know that you can pay your federal income taxes with a credit card, but you’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t, due to the “convenience fee” of about 2% that’s imposed. Normally, this advice is true, but sometimes it isn’t. I’ll pay my federal taxes with a credit card in order to earn a generous new account bonus that can be worth far more than the 2% fee.
And if I use a card that offers rewards worth 2% then it’s simply convenient for me to do so compared to writing a check. Some states also accept credit cards for tax bills. With the Citi Double Cash® Card, a 2% cash-back card, you'll earn 1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay your bill. Plus, there's no annual fee.
Citi Double Cash® Card
- Our Rating 4.5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
- APR19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
- Annual Fee$0
Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
The Citi Double Cash® Card, from our partner Citi, is among the top cards on the market for general spending. Forget the cards that offer 1% and 1.5% cash back. The Citi Double Cash Card offers you a whopping 2% cash back for all spending. Earn 1% back when you make a purchase and 1% back when you pay your account balance.
The Citi Double Cash® Card, from our partner Citi, offers attractive and uncomplicated cash back for people who value a flexible credit card reward program. The Citi Double Cash Card gives you the chance to earn 2% cash back on your purchases. You can receive 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% cash back once you pay your bill.
- No category bonuses to remember, unlimited 2% cash back on everything
- Earns ThankYou Points, which gives the potential to unlock valuable travel rewards
- Foreign transaction fees are applied
- Limited perks
7. Traffic Fines
It’s no fun to receive or pay for things like parking violations and speeding tickets, but nearly everyone who drives will get one from time to time. To encourage prompt payment, many states and municipalities will accept credit cards, without fees.
8. Local Government Fees
In Denver, where I live, the city has decided to accept credit cards to pay for all manner of licenses and fees. This is unlike many cities, but otherwise just like nearly any store you visit. So if you’re registering your car, paying for trash collection or are even getting married, try using your plastic to pay your city, county or state.
9. Parking Meters
Gone are the days when you’d have to fill your cup holder with quarters in order to park downtown, as many cities now have parking meters that take credit cards. I’m a little less enthusiastic about the parking kiosks that require you to enter your license plate number (usually on a screen that you can’t read in the sunlight) and get a receipt that you have to display on your dashboard—turning a one step process into one that requires three or four.
Either way, I must have earned dozens of points and miles over the years by using my credit card instead of my spare change. If you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® on your parking meters, you can earn 2 points per dollar on travel, which not only includes flights and hotel stays, but also parking and public transportation.
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Secure application on issuer’s website
- Our Rating 5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
- APR21.49% - 28.49% (Variable)
- Annual Fee$95
Sign Up Bonus
60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the gold standards for earning travel rewards. It has a generous sign-up bonus and you can earn points on travel and dining expenses. The card does have an annual fee, but you can continue earning points through bonus categories and an anniversary points boost.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is pretty flexible as it lets you transfer rewards points into miles or points several airlines and hotel programs. You can take advantage of strong transfer partners such as United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt. Similarly, you can book any reservation you want through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Although the card might not be ideal for the most frequent travelers, it has a built-in upgrade path, so when it’s time to level up your travel rewards game, you won’t have to start from scratch.
- Points are easily transferable to airlines and hotel partners
- Accelerated earnings on dining, travel & household purchases
- Excellent travel and purchase protections
- No foreign transaction fees
- Not ideal for the highest spenders
- $95 annual fee
10. Buying Goods at a Farmer’s Market
When you visit a farmer’s stall set up in your town, you probably don’t imagine they are equipped to handle credit cards. But you might be surprised if you ask as many small merchants have card readers attached to their phone now.
Buying money with a rewards credit card seems like a ridiculous idea, but you can often do so in one form or another. I like to buy coins from the U.S. Mint as gifts, and Visa gift cards can always be purchased with a credit card. Just make sure it’s not considered to be a cash advance, or you’ll be on the hook for all of the interest charges and fees imposed on cash advances.