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Built by Blue Sound Construction, designed by MaKe Design, photos by Alex Hayden

Charging Your Remodel

Posted on Sep 26, 2019 in:
  • Maintain
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

A man shops online with a credit card

Q: I’ve been looking to remodel my living room and kitchen. I have decent credit and a few mostly unused credit cards. Is paying for these home improvements with credit cards good idea?

A: Credit cards are enormously useful in remodeling-related purchases, provided you use them wisely. Here are just a few of the advantages of buying services and products with a credit card:

  • Paying contractors. Contractors who accept credit cards also agree to the legal terms set by the credit card companies. In the unfortunate situation that work is left incomplete or subpar, you can dispute the credit card charges, giving you potential leverage when you’re unsatisfied with a job. That’s a level of security paying with cash or check can’t guarantee.
  • Buying appliances. Using a credit card for big-ticket appliances and electronics like refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and TV sets can help rack up cash back or airline miles for rewards cardholders. But for many people, this is just a bonus compared to the benefit of an extended warranty. Along with a manufacturer’s warranty, many credit cards offer extended product warranties if your product bites the dust in the first few years of purchase. Some cards also offer price protection if the purchase price is lowered within a certain time frame.
  • Shopping online. Often the most unique fixtures and accent items can be found online. When you make purchases online, credit cards typically offer protection against fraudulent charges, along with items lost or damaged with shipping. And if there is an unexpected problem, you can keep your cash in pocket while the dispute is settled, and not the other way around.
  • Note: Make sure that your credit card(s) offer these benefits before making a purchase.

Clearly, credit cards are incredibly useful for major home purchases, but it’s important to manage them well to avoid outstanding bills, unmanageable debt, or low credit scores. Now that you know what you want to purchase with credit cards, here are a few tips for getting the most out of them without incurring unexpected costs or problems.

  • Make payments on time. Due dates are easy to miss. All it takes is a vacation or busy schedule on the due date to miss a payment—and accrue late fees and interest charges. Prioritize paying on time—every time—even if that means setting up monthly email alerts, smartphone reminders, or autopay systems.
  • Pay more than the minimum. Minimum payments on your statement balance look straightforward enough, but be warned. Minimum payments are there to keep your account in good standing but come with interest charges and can hurt your credit score.
  • Read your card agreement and know your terms. When you open a new credit card account, you should read the customer agreement and account opening disclosures thoroughly. This way you’ll know what to expect when it comes to due dates, interest rates, fees, etc.
  • Check monthly statements for accuracy. Billing and transaction mistakes are known to happen. You can protect your credit by checking your statements carefully online or when they arrive in the mail. If you do find an error, call your credit card issuer immediately to let them know and identify possible fraud.
  • Stay well below your credit limit. It may seem like staying below the limit is enough, but how far you stay below your limit can affect your credit score. There is no one ideal number, but credit experts recommend using less than 30% of your total available credit.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately. If your card is missing or you think someone might have made off with your account number, report it lost or stolen immediately. Many card issuers offer $0 fraud liability where you won’t have to pay for unauthorized charges, so be sure to report a loss ASAP.

 


Carly Kogler and Robert Martin are vice presidents of Capital One Spark Small Business Card, Washington State, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.

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Photo courtesy Blue Sound Construction, builder; MaKe Design, architect; and Alex Hayden, photographer