My credit card saved me $242.21 on Uber rides

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You Probably Didn't Know Your Credit Card Could Do This

My budget would be a lot better off if I deleted the Uber app from my phone, and I'm sure plenty of other people could say the same thing. You see, in the last year, I've spent nearly $1,000 on Uber rides. As bad as that might sound, it could have been worse.

For the last year, Capital One and Uber have had a deal where customers using Capital One QuicksilverOne and Quicksilver cards get a 20% statement credit for every Uber ride — I took full advantage of the offer. (Other credit card issuers also have similar deals with rideshare companies.) I remember setting the card to my default payment method as soon as I heard about the promotion (behold: the power of marketing), and I had my husband update the payment info in his app, too. Not quite a year later, we've saved $242.21.

View 6 easy steps to put more money in your pocket:

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My credit card saved me $242.21 on Uber rides

Automate your finances. 

Set up your finances so that money is taken straight from your paycheck and deposited directly into your savings account or a retirement savings account. You can also set up your fixed bills like your Internet and cable to be automatically deducted from your checking account. Automate your finances to save time and prevent overspending. If you see extra money in your account, chances are you’ll find a way to spend it, leaving you little to invest in your future. Automation helps keep your priorities in line so that as money comes in, it is dispersed to your other accounts immediately.

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Cut back. 

At least twice a year, look at your expenses line by line and see if you’re getting the most bang for your buck. For example, do you read the magazines you subscribe to or maximize that gym membership? If the answer is “no,” consider canceling or negotiating a better rate. Take that money you save, and apply it toward bigger payoffs like debt reduction, retirement or an emergency fund.   

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Get rewards. 

Lots of people use debit cards to make it easy to buy and budget for groceries, gas and other routine purchases. Instead of doing that, look into a credit card with a great rewards program for those daily purchases, and set it up to automatically pay the statement balance from your checking account each month. Over the course of the year, you could potentially pocket a few extra hundred dollars just by using a card with a good rewards program instead of your ordinary debit card (just make sure you’re paying off your credit card every month, so you don’t pay extra in interest).

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Boost your income. 

If you love your job and want to grow your career, it's time to think about boosting your income as well. Make it a goal to negotiate a raise this year. Consider your strengths and look at the value you've provided to your company over the last six months to a year, and discuss it during a performance review. This can feel intimidating, but it never hurts to ask.

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Get a side gig. 

Take advantage of your skills, or turn a hobby into profit. Doing so can help you generate extra income – which you can put toward reaching your financial goals. Etsy, for example, is a great place to sell one-of-a-kind products.  If you have Web design, copy editing or other creative skills, consider offering your services on freelance websites such as Fiverr or Elance. These types of side gigs will allow you to earn extra income while also growing your skills.

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Track your progress. 

You can’t save money if you don't know where your money is going. Every month, track your net worth using a personal finance tool or app that will show you exactly where your money is going. This will make you think about your entire financial picture from income and expenses to investments and taxes. With this focus, you can ultimately make the greatest impact on your finances in 2015.

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Of course, we had to spend $1,211.05 to get to that level of savings. I'd say the majority of those trips were totally justified, given that we don't have a car and Uber is at times our best transportation option. Many of the most expensive rides happened on business trips, meaning they were reimbursed, so it wasn't quite the budget buster it may seem. Since we would have taken most of these rides anyway, I'm thrilled we saved some money on them.

But there's another side to this story, one that often comes up when rewards credit cards are at play: We didn't always feel so bad about the spending, knowing that we were saving 20% with our credit card. That's a dangerous mindset. Spending more than you should, just to earn rewards, makes it more likely you'll go over budget and find yourself unable to pay your credit card balances in full. At the moment, my card has a 17.15% APR, so carrying a balance would cost me quite a bit. (The card has a variable interest rate and differs by cardholder, partially based on the cardholder's credit standing.)

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Photo via Credit.com

We never found ourselves in credit card debt, but I definitely felt better than I should have for taking those rides as often as I did when it wasn't totally necessary. For example, there were a few times I didn't leave myself enough time to get somewhere, and instead of paying $2.50 in train fare, I took a $12 Uber instead. I'd think, "At least I'm getting 20% back," when really, I was barely saving enough to buy a cup of coffee. Another example: Last week, my husband didn't leave himself enough time to get to our polling place via bus after work, so he took an Uber to go vote. You might say $19.61 (minus 20%) is a small price to pay for democracy, but as far as the cost of procrastination, it's a little steep. We're both guilty of using Uber to compensate for poor planning, and probably more so because that 20% discount makes us feel a little better about ourselves. Sadly, the phrase "Try not to use Uber this month" has become a common part of our budget discussions. (I don't see us using it much more before the deal ends April 30.)

Still, a little overspending doesn't totally negate the value of the rewards. (On top of the Uber discount, you get 1.5% cash back on every purchase using the Quicksilver, reviewed here, or QuicksilverOne cards.) My experience is a good example of how a credit card can be a helpful tool for maximizing your purchasing power, as well as how tempting it can be to abuse that power. It's also important to know that many of the best rewards credit cards require cardholders to have good or excellent credit scores, so make sure you get an idea of where you stand before you apply. You can get two free credit scores every 30 days on Credit.com.

RELATED: How to find your Uber passenger rating

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How to find your Uber passenger rating
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My credit card saved me $242.21 on Uber rides
1. On the menu screen (pictured) click on Help 
2. On the Help screen (pictured) click on Account
3. On the Account screen (pictured) click on I'd like to know my rating
4. On the rating screen (pictured) click Submit
5. Your passenger rating will appear in seconds! 
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Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More from Credit.com:
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Review: 6% Cash Back at Supermarkets
The Best Travel Credit Cards in America
Citi ThankYou Premier Review: Flexible Rewards for Travelers

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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