The best cards for home improvement purchases
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At a time when travel has come to a sudden halt and Americans are spending more time at home due to the coronavirus crisis, the home improvement industry is booming.
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, home improvement retailers are seeing an increase in sales of 22.6 percent more than in 2019. A survey by Consumer Specialists in June 2020 of more than 600 homeowners revealed that 57 percent of homeowners did a home improvement project from March to May this year.
On average, those homeowners spent $1,750 on home improvements with “having more time” as the top reason for undertaking home projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans are spending less on dining out and travel, and redistributing those savings back into their homes with remodeling and DIY projects.
Whether you’re remodeling your entire home or simply upgrading household appliances, you will face an influx of costs on home improvement materials and products. We take a closer look at valuable credit cards and possible strategies you should consider to maximize returns on your home improvement expenses.
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Why we like it: For starters, the card comes with a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases which buys you time to pay off those home improvement purchases. Just make sure to pay off the entire balance before the intro period ends otherwise you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%.
You will earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. With the cash back earned, you can choose to receive a statement credit, redeem for a variety of gift cards or book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at 1 cent per point. You can earn higher redemption rates on travel purchases when pairing the Chase Freedom Unlimited card with an Ultimate Rewards-earning card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee: $0
Related reading: Chase Freedom Unlimited: A great card for beginners and pros alike
Why we like it: You can choose a 3% category from a list of six and conveniently, “home improvement and furnishings” is among them. This category expands to include contractors such as plumbers, electricians, landscapers and more. You can also change your 3% category bonus selection up to once a month. This card is great for home improvement purchases but also earns 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (1% thereafter), on up to $2,500 in combined spend across bonus categories each quarter.
If you’re a Bank of America® Preferred Rewards member, you can earn additional 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means the 3% earned on your choice category spending could go up to 5.25% and the 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs could go up to 3.5%.
For larger home remodeling purchases, the card offers a 0% introductory purchase APR for your first 15 billing cycles (then a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% applies).
Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Annual fee: $0
Related reading: The best Bank of America credit cards of 2020
Why we like it: A no-brainer option for those seeking to make large renovations to their home. That’s because this true cashback card earns 2.5% cash back on all purchases, with no categories to track and a generous cash back earnings limit of $250 ($10,000 in qualifying purchases) per billing cycle. You could potentially earn $250 cash back per month if you max out the $10,000 spend on a major home remodeling project each billing cycle. You do have to be a member of Alliant Credit Union (once approved for the card, you can apply), and Alliant requires an excellent credit score for approval.
Sign-up bonus: None
Annual fee: $99 annual fee, waived the first year.
Related reading: Best cash-back credit cards of 2020
The information for the Alliant Visa Signature card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Why we like it: This popular no-annual-fee business credit card by Chase earns 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary. The card achieves robust earnings as cardholders can pay common bills such as internet, cable and phone and purchase home improvement gift cards from office supply stores such as Staples or OfficeMax/Office Depot while earning 5% cash back or 5x points. You’ll also earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year and you’ll get an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Sign-up bonus: Earn $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $0
Why we like it: Simplicity. If you value a stress-free rewards structure on a credit card, the Citi Double Cash is as uncomplicated as it gets. You’ll receive 2% cash-back earnings on all purchases — 1% when you buy and another 1% when you pay. No bonus categories to memorize and uncapped cash back earning potential.
Sign-up bonus: None
Annual fee: $0
Related reading: What credit score do you need to get the Citi Double Cash Card?
Why we like it: The truth is, Amazon has it all. The big box home improvement chains have limited inventory and therefore may not have specialized products for your home improvement job. The card delivers 5% return on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases (3% for none-Prime members), and 2% back on restaurants, gas stations and drug stores (1% on everything else).
You can redeem your available rewards points for all your Amazon orders or part of them and charge the remaining balance to your Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. There’s a strong possibility you will find what you need to complete your home improvement tasks on Amazon.
Sign-up bonus: Get a $70 gift card automatically loaded into your Amazon.com account upon approval.
Annual fee: $0
Related reading: The best card for Amazon shoppers.
The information for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Other strategies that make sense for your home improvement purchases
In many instances, you don’t need to scan through the earning rates of every single credit card to determine which card earns the best return on home improvement expenses. Here are some strategic scenarios where it may make sense to use a different rewards card or generate additional cash back and rewards on home improvement purchases.
Meeting a minimum spend — With home improvement projects comes large expenses. Evaluate your actual projected expenses and if you are looking at high-volume spend, consider knocking out the minimum spending requirements on one or more new cards and earn the welcome bonus offers with ease.
Meeting annual spend bonuses — Analyze the cards you have in your wallet. Some may incentivize additional perks and benefits for meeting an annual spend threshold. Meeting these annual spend requirements could result in airline and hotel elite status, companion tickets, free hotel nights, and bonus miles.
Use shopping portals — As we mention repeatedly here and quite often at TPG, using shopping portals is an easy step to take prior to making your online purchases. Using a shopping portal aggregator like CashBack Monitor will produce return rates for home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot and all you have to do is select the one with the highest return.
Amex and Chase Offers — Another simple step to take prior to making your home improvement purchases is to check your cards for Amex Offers and Chase Offers. Both Amex and Chase partner with retailers to provide you with targeted offers that can save you money or help you earn additional points on purchases. Home Depot and Lowe’s are no strangers to these offers. Log into your online accounts to see which offers you’re eligible for and add them to your card.
As we are pouring more time and money into our homes during this pandemic, knowing how to maximize returns on home improvement purchases is an effective way to lessen the blow of a costly home remodeling project. With the implementation of a few saving strategies and the use of lucrative rewards-earning credit cards, you’ll be glad you chose this route versus paying cash or using a debit card for your home improvement fixes.
Featured photo by @andream.lensing/Twenty20.
Updated on 1/11/21
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