3 ways credit cards can help you achieve your fitness goals

By Kelli Bamforth  |  Published: August 28, 2017

3 ways credit cards can help you achieve your fitness goals

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Whether you exercise at home, join a gym or splurge on a personal trainer, the truth is that fitness doesn't come cheap. 

Case in point: Did you know the average American spends nearly $700 on gym membership fees every year, which can be closer to $2,000 annually for classes at specialty workout facilities like such as CrossFit? 

Perhaps you can’t put a price on health, but you can save a few bucks on the way to achieving your fitness goals with a bit of strategic credit card usage. 

Just follow these tips: 

1. Get the right kind of card.
First things first: You'll need to select a credit card with a redemption program that works for your goals. In this case, it means staying away from rewards cards that deal primarily in airline miles or hotel stays and sticking with a card that allows you to redeem cash back via check or direct deposit. This makes it easier to use rewards for their intended purpose, such as saving money on your monthly gym membership or purchasing equipment for a home workout space. 

Examples of cash back rewards cards with such redemption options include the Capital One Quicksilver, which also comes with a generous sign-up bonus of $150 when you spend $500 in the first three months; the Discover it card, which matches all your cash back at the end of your first year of membership (i.e., your 5 percent cash back on quarterly rotating categories becomes 10 percent); and the Citi Double Cash card, which (as the name suggests) doubles your cash back on all purchases (i.e., 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent when you make your monthly minimum payment on time). 

If your credit card of choice doesn't offer those kinds of redemption choices, chances are it does allow you to redeem points for merchandise and/or gift cards, both of which can be important tools in your fitness journey when used to purchase tech gadgets such as activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, stopwatches, odometers, calorie counters and more. 

One piece of advice: Do the math to make sure you're getting the biggest bang for your buck. Cash back rewards are usually the better way to fund your fitness gear, since trading points for merchandise or gift cards often causes their value to drop depending on the rewards program. 

2. Outfit your home gym.
Working out at home becomes a lot easier when you have the proper equipment. Depending on your fitness goals, the cost of a home gym can reach into the thousands of dollars. Luckily, there are several credit cards to help take the sting out of your initial investment by way of sign-up bonuses and/or special financing. 

For example, the Sears Shop Your Way Mastercard comes with a decent sign-up bonus of $150 for new cardholders who spend at least $2,000 in the first 30 days of account opening, plus extended warranty and price protection to help safeguard your new weight rack or cable trainer. 

However, be wary of the card's special financing deals – while they might come in handy on those big-ticket buys, they actually include what's called deferred interest, which means interest accrues during the promotional period and is applied to your account if you don't pay your entire balance by the end of the term. 

A credit card with true 0-percent financing – i.e., a card that doesn’t incur any interest until your introductory period expires – is probably the safer way to finance your home gym, and there is a plethora of options. One of the best is the Citi Diamond Preferred card, which includes an exceptionally long 21-month 0-percent period on new purchases – this gives you lots of wiggle room to pay off your balance before the high interest rate kicks in.

Finally, with a smaller spend requirement of $1,000 in the first three months, you can snag a $100 sign-up bonus with the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. If you plan on overhauling your diet along with your fitness plan, you'll also enjoy the card's 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), especially since research shows the healthiest diets cost roughly $547 more per year than the least healthy diet. 

3. Dress the part.
Discount department stores are great places to purchase exercise-appropriate clothing with the kind of support you need to safely smash those workouts. The Target Redcard, for instance, offers automatic 5 percent savings on just about everything Target sells in-store and online, including athletic shoes and activewear. You should also take advantage of Target's Cartwheel app, which you can use to search for in-store coupons by product or category. You can stack these coupons on top of your Redcard discount for even more savings at the register. 

Though the Kohl's Charge credit card offers paltry 1:1 rewards on Kohl's purchases, cardholders receive monthly coupons and secret sales that can help them save a considerable amount of money on a workout wardrobe – and that doesn't even take into account Kohl's cash. 

While embarking on a new fitness journey can be scary, knowing you have the right cards in your wallet to help you achieve your goals can make the process less intimidating, not to mention more affordable. So, what's holding you back?

See related: 5 apps that pay you to get active, No card, no problem: Pay with your ring, watch, bracelet


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Updated: 10-23-2017

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