Credit cards can be a dangerous game. If you do everything right, you have access to cash back and travel rewords worth thousands of dollars. If you miss payments and skip paying your bill in full, you can end up with thousands of dollars in costs. How you handle your accounts is up to you, but these five credit card secrets might make your credit card use a little more beneficial.

You Can Get a Signup Bonus and Close the Account

Credit card companies regularly offer big signup bonuses to lure customers to sign up for a new card. Those bonuses can be worth thousands of dollars alone. Last year, I signed up for the American Airlines Executive card from Citi for a 100,000-mile signup bonus. That 100,000 miles took me and my wife from Portland to Europe and back for only a few hundred dollars each!

But there’s always a however. This card also has a $450 annual fee. After 11 months, I decided that fee wasn’t worth it to keep the card so I cancelled it. But I got to keep those 100,000 miles anyway.

You can Get a Fee Waived or Lower Interest Rate if You Ask

If you make a late payment or miss a payment, you will run into fees and possibly an increased interest rate. Those fees can quickly add up, and higher interest rates can quickly lead to crippling debt.

Some banks are willing to lower your interest rate or waive a fee. You just have to call them and ask nicely. Really. It happens all the time! Try this script to get yourself started.

Issuers Make a Ton of Money from Interchange

Every time you use a credit or debit card, a complex series of electronic communications and charges takes place. The merchant has to pay a fee of around 2%-5% of the total transaction which is split between the card issuer, banks, and payment processing networks.

Those processing fees add up to billions of dollars in profits each year for your credit card issuer. You can open a no annual fee credit card and never pay a cent of interest, but your bank will still make tons of money if you use the card regularly. Keep that in mind, as it is an incentive for banks to want to keep you around, even if that means waiving an annual fee or throwing in an extra perk every once in a while.

You Can Convert a Card to One with No Annual Fee

If you have a credit card with an annual fee and don’t want to keep paying the fee, closing the card can hurt your credit score. You can call up the issuer and ask to convert the card to one without any fees and most of the time they are happy to oblige.

I used to have an American Express Delta airlines card with an annual fee just shy of $100 per year. I wasn’t getting $100 in benefits, so I called and asked them to convert it to a card with no fee. I now have the no fee version of the same card, and my credit score keeps on rising.

A Perfect Credit Score is a Gateway to Free Travel

The best travel rewards credit cards are reserved for those with the best credit scores. If you qualify, you can regularly earn bonuses of 50,000 to 100,000 miles for opening a new card and spending a few thousand dollars on the card in the first few months after opening the new account.

Some rewards programs come with flexible hotel and airline transfer partners. Some offer cash back on travel purchases. Others still allow you to book travel directly through the issuer’s travel portal to use your points with no blackout dates or restrictions.

Put Your Credit Card to Work for You

Credit cards can be a financial ball and chain, or they can open up the entire world to your family. How you use your cards is up to you. If you keep these secrets in mind, you’ll be on your way to free travel in no time!

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer originally from Denver, Colorado living in Ventura, California. When away from the keyboard, Eric he enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers, and spending time with his wife and baby girl. You can connect with him at his own finance blog Personal Profitability.

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