How I used a credit card to pay less in taxes without paying interest.
In 2022, I did something I had never done before.
I put everything I bought during the entire year on one credit card.
It was a move that had felt contrary to all that I had learned. At 18 years old, I got my first credit card and regardless of my cautious approach to finances (thanks to a vital lesson I learned from working as a bank teller at 16), I quickly found myself with a mini mountain of debt-despite a seemingly small balance.
Like millions of others, I was stuck in a dizzying dance of one step forward, two steps back (or more aptly, five steps back). I would have been among the 55 percent of Americans who fail this simple three-question credit card quiz.
Against what felt like all odds, eventually, I paid off my credit card balances. And upon doing so, tucked my credit cards into a drawer and decreed that I would only ever use them in the case of an emergency.
Fast forward over a decade later, and there I was, with a shiny new credit card that I had decided I would use for absolutely everything.
My concept was simple: set up automatic payments to pay off my full balance each month. Since I didn’t carry a balance, I didn’t pay interest. And because I automatically paid the balance from my bank account, my credit card acts as a debit card with incredible benefits. But not the benefits I ever expected.
I set out with the expectation of collecting airline miles, safeguarding my bank account, and eventually, working my way up to having status with my go-to airline. If I’m honest, I wasn’t incredibly hopeful.
In the past, no matter how many miles I had accumulated-they never amounted to a flight. I never got upgraded and I surely didn’t gain access to luxurious lounges. But I figured, my debit card didn’t afford me any of these either. And so, hey, if I started now, maybe by the time I’m of retirement age I would finally manage to be crowned with airline status.
Much to my surprise, I got all of these things in my first year. But it wasn’t until tax time came around that I discovered a whole new benefit that I could never have imagined.
While we associate credit cards with a lot of things, taxes generally aren’t one of them. And yet, it turned out to be one of the best perks of my credit card that saved me time, money, and the usual headache come tax time.
My credit card became my assistant-and more
While I consider myself a well-organized person, the reality is that I’m not as organized as I like to think I am.
Amid the chaos-or better yet, excitement-of life, I have a lot of other things I’d rather be doing than keeping track of and organizing my finances. And so, if I’m honest, it takes a backseat as a trusty passenger that is always tagging along-but I largely ignore.
I did this on purpose. Though, this doesn’t mean I made frivolous financial decisions or neglected my finances while merely hoping for the best.
Instead of babysitting my finances, and taking care of every penny in and out, I got a sitter-my credit card. But it’s not just a sitter. It’s also a security guard, an assistant, and a bookkeeper.
My credit card automatically organizes my finances, and when it came to tax time, it made my life a lot easier.
It streamlined the tax process-and helped me find more deductions
There’s no denying that the U.S. tax system is complicated. But part of what can make tax time so daunting is just having to collect all of your deductions. Because without them, you’ll be stuck paying more.
Even in the age of debit cards, and online shopping-complete with accounts that house your order history, there are still lots of things you could deduct that you might forget. And these little things add up.
When it came time to do my taxes, I had one centralized source: my credit card account.
There, I could easily review everything I bought throughout the year. I could filter by category, search by name or date. And though it sounds evidently simple, it eliminated the need to jump between different accounts in search of all the things I paid for. It also eliminated the risk of overlooking anything.
Everything I bought was all just there, in front of my face housed within one master list at my fingertips.
With that, I was more easily able to collect-and submit-all of my tax-deductible expenses. I submitted more deductions than I ever have before. In return, I managed to lower my taxable income, effectively decreasing the amount I needed to pay in taxes.
My credit card bought me time and eliminated stress
Ultimately, the benefit is that my credit card simplifies my life. I don’t need to worry about becoming overly organized. The credit card does that job for me.
I don’t need to worry about my card getting stolen and my bank account getting drained. I don’t pay international fees. I don’t pay for a checked bag and domestic flights cost less than lunch at a drive-thru.
It’s not to say there aren’t even better ways to strategically use credit cards for maximum benefit. But the benefit of streamlining my finances and eliminating the stresses that come along with that is a mission accomplished in my book. And for busy professionals, parents, and business owners alike, finding ways to save time and money is vital.
You won’t get your time back but you can decide how you spend it. For me, it won’t be spent micromanaging my finances or scouring through receipts come tax season, thanks to my credit card and the strange simplicity it affords me and the organization it provides for me.
A lot of money is lost to disorganization. People and businesses need to find efficient ways to effectively manage and organize all facets of their life and business. In most cases, there are tools available to help, it’s simply a matter of finding them and using them. Those that do, are often those who end up finding more time, money and enjoyment along the way.