I haven’t stepped foot in a bank, or visited an ATM, in almost a year. Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve embraced magical technology available to me all along, like mobile check depositing and credit card portals. Is this good or bad? I’m unsure.
Last year, right before lockdown, I went to the ATM one last time and took out $300. This seemed like a smart thing to do, considering the world was becoming mysterious. Toilet paper? Gone. Hand sanitizer? Disappeared. Bleach? Now you see it, now you don’t. At least I had cash, I figured, in case things got hazier.
That cash has circulated in my house ever since, as allowance payments, birthday gifts and bribes. I pay the kids for service rendered, the kids buy something online and pay me back, etc. The currency goes around and around, never leaving the house.
For everything else, I’ve used our credit card, and paid off the balance each month so as not to accrue debt. At first, I did this because it seemed less germy than using cash. But then, as I became more knowledgeable about how my credit card worked, I became a self-titled credit card portal wizard who could wield the magical world of points.
My card is through Chase bank, but many credit cards offer similar shopping portals. Here’s how it works. Let’s say I have something I need to buy like a new kitchen knife. I go to my credit card website, log into my account, and click the shopping link.
Usually I get one point per dollar back on my purchases. One thousand points is worth $10 cash back. When I shop through the portal, however, I get extra points back. I could buy the kitchen knife at the mall’s Macy’s and get one point per dollar, or I could buy that same knife through the credit card portal’s link to Macy’s website and get three points per dollar.
I’ve known about the portal for a while, but wasn’t careful about using it until the pandemic. Now, I always check it whenever we need to make a purchase.
In December, I did most of our Christmas shopping through the portal. By wielding portal magic, I received a nice amount of money back at the end of the year. But did I save money? That’s a good question.
From a psychological perspective, it’s easier to spend more on a credit card than it is when you see hard-earned cash change hands. It’s possible that I spent more money than I normally would have spent because I thought I was getting a deal. But it’s also possible that I took my normal spending habits intact, moved them to the portal and received cash back.
Speaking of cash, our household collection of greenbacks looks pretty shabby. It might be time to finally visit the bank and exchange them for fresh, crisp bills.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.