Credit cards can be a fiscal fiasco. Shop, swipe and spend and the next thing you know, debt collectors are calling.
But if you play your credit cards right, you can make the banks pay you!
"It's such a copycat business. Credit card issuers are always looking at what the competition is doing," Matt Schulz of creditcards.com said.
Schulz said right now banks are offering unbelievable sign up bonuses.
"The credit card marketplace is so competitive that banks are bending over backwards to get customers and keep their current ones," Schultz said.
For example, the Southwest Plus card from Chase offers 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000. That's about the equivalent of two round trip tickets across the country. More if you take shorter flights. That perk more than cancels out the $59 annual fee.
If flying is not your thing. How about cash?
"If you're getting ready to buy a big-ticket item like a refrigerator or computer or big screen TV and you've already saved up cash for the purchase, instead of paying cash, apply for a new credit card and buy that big-ticket item with it," Schulz said.
For example, the Chase Freedom card will give you $150 back after you spend $500 in the first three months and there's no annual fee! That is literally $150 for free.
A favorite Smart Shopper hack is to watch for when the Southwest card bonus climbs to 50,000 or 60,000 points. If you have a decent credit score, you should be able to qualify for both the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier. Once you collect 110,000 bonus points, you automatically receive a companion pass. It enables you to fly another person with you for free for the remainder of the year you qualify and for the entire following year.
"Truth is if you can play that game well, it can be lucrative and you can get a lot out of it," said Schulz.