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As a millennial homeowner I’ve learned one truth. Home ownership isn’t a trap, but home improvement sure is! Lowe’s and Home Depot have begun calling my name on weekend mornings.

Home improvement projects can range all over the place. From little projects, like changing out your kitchen faucet to a more modern design, to bigger ones like doing a full kitchen renovation. Whatever level of home improvement you’re doing, you should have two goals. First, try and save as much money as possible. Second, after saving that dough, get as many points and miles as possible.

You may not know this, but in addition to writing about points and miles, I also flip houses. I’m going to share with you the tips that I use in my house flipping business to generate as many points and miles as possible. You can implement some of these yourself on your next project.

Not everything will apply, especially for smaller projects, but if you’re planning to spend a few thousand dollars or more, pay attention. You might just get that dreamy bathroom and a vacation if you play your cards right!

Step Number One: Plan Ahead

When trying to earn points and miles on home improvement projects, the first step you should always do is plan ahead. You don’t want to be holding up a contractor, delivery, or especially a significant other while you’re trying to decide what cards to open.

If you’re doing a smaller project, this may not be as important. But if you’re planning to spend big on a renovation project, then you’ll want to have the cards out of the way before you begin. It will make managing the project significantly smoother, and help you to avoid headaches

You should also have a plan for how to pay for it. One of the biggest holdups in major construction projects comes down to money. If you’re putting it on your credit card, have a plan to pay it off so that you have more credit available to use for your next payment, and so that you’re not paying exorbitant interest by carrying a large balance month to month.

Pay Your Contractor Using A Credit Card

This one really only applies if you’re using a contractor to do the work. Just a hint: if you’re doing a whole room you likely should be hiring a contractor. It isn’t just about the time spent doing the work, but also about the savings.

I know someone who just spent about $12,000 putting new cabinets in their kitchen that they bought from a big box home improvement store. Meanwhile, my contractor put the same style cabinets with roughly the same linear footage in a recent flip for about $8,000.

Since you should be using a contractor, you should also try to pay them with a credit card.

Contractors typically don’t like to accept credit cards, and for good reason. The fees to accept credit cards can be 2-3% of the total amount. A contractor’s spread is usually an extra 10-20% on top of their cost. This means that it may cost them up to 30% of their own profit to accept credit cards.

Some contractors are willing to eat this – they know that there are people who want to pay with credit cards and so it will bring in more business. This isn’t an unreasonable question to ask when getting quotes from different contractors. Just be sure to clarify if they will charge extra to accept credit cards. Some will gladly accept credit card payments if you’re willing to pay an additional 2-3%.

If you are paying more just to use a credit card, make sure that you’re working on a sign up bonus for a new card. It typically won’t be worth it to pay extra versus just paying in cash.

Pay Your Contractor Using Plastiq

If your contractor won’t accept a credit card payment directly, there’s always a way around it. Enter Plastiq.

Plastiq lets you pay bills with a credit card to vendors that won’t normally accept a credit card.

Plastiq will charge the fee to your card and then send payment via check, ACH or wire transfer.

If you’re paying a contractor, I highly recommend doing an ACH or wire transfer. It is faster, traceable, and more reliable. You don’t want your project being delayed because a check gets lost in the mail.

Before using Plastiq, I highly advise you to set your cash advance limit as low as possible. You can call your bank and request that they change the limit, although some will let you do it online. Calling is always the fastest and easiest way to change your cash advance limit. This will protect you in case your payment is considered a cash advance. It might get rejected, but that’s much better than paying the high fees and interest that come with a credit card cash advance.

There are some limitations to Plastiq. For starters, if you’re doing ACH or wire transfer you’ll need your contractor’s banking information. They should be happy to give this to you, after all they do want to get paid.

Additionally, you can’t use American Express cards to pay for contractors over Plastiq. Amex is pretty strict on who you can pay, and unfortunately contractors tend to fall outside of the scope of businesses you can pay.

Chase also announced some changes going into effect later this year that may impact your ability to pay through Plastiq. We aren’t fully clear on this yet, but it is better to assume that you won’t be able to pay vendors through Plastiq using a Chase card without it being considered a cash advance.

The best go to cards continue to be Mastercard issued cards. Mastercard tends to be very Plastiq friendly, allowing you to pay virtually any vendor category without risking a cash advance. A great way to earn a lot of points and miles on home improvement when paying a contractor through Plastiq is having the Citi Double Cash Card and Citi Premier Card combo.

Citi Premier® Card

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

LEARN MORE 

Yes, there is a fee to pay with Plastiq. The standard rate is 2.85%. This can easily negate any points value that you’re getting, but that’s a cost benefit analysis you’ll have to make yourself.

For businesses like house flippers, it is easier to eat the fee. I’m not an accountant, so check with yours first, but most of the time you can write off the Plastiq fees on your taxes.

Hire SubContractors Yourself

If you don’t want to deal with a general contractor, or paying them with Plastiq, you can subcontract out the work yourself. This is especially useful for more one-off projects, like installing flooring or some tile work.

If you do subcontract out the work yourself, you may run into the same problems above. A subcontractor may not take direct payment with credit cards.

As the service economy continues to grow options have popped up that can help you hire contractors yourself, manage the schedule and workflow of a project, and pay with a credit card.

One of my preferred services for this is Handy. Handy let’s you hire for specific tasks. Everything from house cleaning to installing a new roof. If you’re doing a bigger project, you can even use Handy to book pros to do a full kitchen or bathroom remodel. You’ll pay directly through Handy, which accepts credit cards, to pay for the job.

Using a service like this adds a lot of convenience. You don’t have to go through finding a flooring contractor, a plumber and an electrician. Instead you can book them all in one place. However, convenience doesn’t necessarily mean it is the cheapest option. You should always do some comparison shopping.

Hiring subcontractors directly will likely be the cheapest option. The bookings that contractors take through an app like Handy means that they’re paying a portion of their sales to Handy. You are paying a bit more for the convenience and the ability to pay with credit card, but if saving the absolute most money on the job is your biggest priority then you’ll likely save the most money by hiring the work yourself.

Do The Work Yourself

If you’re a skilled handy person, then you may bypass a contractor route all together and do the work yourself. For those ready to take on the task, this is your best way to save money and pay with a credit card. The trade-off is the time that you’ll have to invest into a project.

Individuals looking to tackle a large job themselves should start by looking into savings programs at local home improvement stores. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot offers qualifying bulk discounts when you spend $1,500 or more through their volume pricing programs. If you’re doing a big job, you’ll easily spend more than this, so signing up in advance can help save you money.

Since you’re doing the work yourself, you’ll be buying the materials yourself. Home Depot and Lowe’s both accept credit cards, as do many other popular home improvement stores. Once you’ve put in the work to plan your job, so you have all the right tools, materials and discounts, then you can swipe your card to get as many points as possible from your purchase.

Portals Portals Portals

Speaking of planning the work in advance, you might be able to stack your purchase through a shopping portal to get even more points.

For both jobs big and small, planning your materials in advance and purchasing online means you can go through a shopping portal to get even more points. If your purchase qualifies for volume discount pricing, just be sure you can stack both of these. It is unlikely the points you get from a shopping portal are more valuable than even $1 saved.

Home improvement stores typically don’t pay very high rates for portals. Most frequently I see them ranging from 0.5 to 1 point per dollar spent. Even still, materials for a full kitchen or bathroom can be in the thousands of dollars. If you’re going to be spending that kind of money you should at least be squeezing every point and mile possible out of your home improvement project.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

One of the final ways to earn points and miles on home improvement is buying discounted gift cards through a gift card reseller like Raise.

You won’t always see a huge discount, especially on in demand gift cards like Home Depot and Lowe’s. But again, even on a $10,000 project, a 1% savings is $100.

Plus, when you buy discounted gift cards from Raise you can also go through a portal. Raise does cap your portal earnings on the first $10,000 spent through them. Some may hit this on a single home improvement project, but compounding the savings will add up over time.

Putting it All Together To Maximize Earning Points and Miles on Home Improvement

The best part about earning points and miles on home improvement is that you can combine a lot of these strategies to really maximize the points and miles that you’re getting. This mostly applies to projects that you’re doing yourself as most contractors will want to get the supplies needed for a job themselves.

If you’re doing the job yourself, here’s how you can stack everything to save money and get the most points and miles possible on your next home improvement project.

First, plan the project. Identify what supplies you need and how much (and always get extra, you can return most unopened boxes).

Second, identify potential savings. If your total is over $1,500, reach out to the Pro Desk at Home Depot or Lowe’s Pro Services to inquire about bulk discounts. For projects that aren’t eligible, go ahead and add the items to your cart but don’t check out!

Third, now that you know what the total for your project is going to be, head on over to Raise to purchase that amount in discounted gift cards. Remember to go through a cash back portal when you shop at raise. If you earn one point per dollar spent, and you get a one percent discount on the gift cards you’re already going to be saving 2%.

Finally, go through a shopping portal to make your purchase at your home improvement store. This may again just be one or two percent in the value of points, but it all adds up. On top of the savings you’ve gotten from the gift cards, you’ll be looking at about four to five percent extra in points earned.

Final Thoughts

Now you’ll be a pro at earning points and miles on home improvement projects. Even if you want to hire a general contractor to run the show for you, and they won’t take payment with credit cards, you have tools like Plastiq to pay them with your card anyway.

If you choose to hire subcontractors yourself you can go through apps like Handy so that you know you’ll be able to pay with a card. Just keep in mind, this may cost a bit more than paying them directly.

Finally, if you’re up to the challenge of tackling the job yourself, be sure to stack every opportunity to save costs. From bulk discounts to discounted gift cards, you can easily layer these opportunities to get four to five points per dollar spent.

Whatever option you choose, now you won’t sacrifice any opportunity to earn more points and miles on your next home improvement project.