A financial guide to the gaming season
Rewards programs can help take the gaming experience to the next level.
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November through February is typically the busiest time of the year for gamers, game manufacturers and retailers. Getting the most out of every dollar is an important part of maximizing the gaming experience, and rewards programs and certain credit card offers can help.
Using your credit cards to snag virtual rewards
Many gaming manufacturers offer some type of virtual reward for purchasing their products. This works well if you’re an avid fan of a particular manufacturer, such as Nintendo. You basically stay inside the manufacturer’s virtual ecosystem to earn and use rewards. In the gaming universe, there are really only two major ecosystems where you can earn and spend rewards:
My Nintendo Points: With the My Nintendo points program, you can redeem your points for a free game after purchasing 20 games (one game usually costs $59.95). However, there are other ways to redeem points through their online shop. Nintendo’s points come in the form of coins, and you can use them to purchase physical and virtual products, including game assets. Using coins for purchases provides a 5% return on each purchase.
Sony Rewards: Gamers can earn up to 5x points per $1 spent on PlayStation games, subscriptions and other Sony products. With a basic rewards account, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent. That increases to 2x, 3x or 4x the points if you subscribe to multiple PlayStation services. PlayStation® Card users can earn 5x points on PlayStation Store purchases and PlayStation and Sony products at authorized retailers.
While Nintendo and Sony offer decent rewards programs, it’s worth exploring those also offered by Microsoft, Gamestop and Best Buy.
Best credit cards for gaming
Some credit card issuers offer rewards credit cards unique to gamers.
Gamestop PowerUp Rewards Credit Card: The Gamestop credit card’s initial bonus includes, “15,000 points for Pro cardmembers, 5,000 for Basic cardmembers”. The card is offered by Comenity, LLC. Each 5,000 rewards points translates into $250. The card does not have an annual fee, but you can only redeem your rewards at Gamestop.
Amazon Visa Credit Card: While not specific to gamers, this no annual fee credit card still offers plenty of benefits. With the Amazon credit card, you’re locked into their ecosystem. This means any points that you earn can be spent on virtually anything at Amazon. For gamers, you can purchase computers, desk, monitors and more. Once you’re approved, you’ll get a $50 Amazon gift card ($70 for Prime members). From there, you earn 3 points per $1 spent at Amazon and 1-2 points per $1 on all other purchases.
Playstation® Card: Offered by CapitalOne, the Playstation® Card lets you earn 5,000 Sony rewards points after making your first purchase and allows you to customize the card image. Subscription purchases can earn 10% in cash back rewards, while other purchases can earn up to 5x points per $1 spent.
Using rewards to improve your overall gaming experience
Gaming can be an expensive hobby. Computers, monitors, and controllers – just to name a few – can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Gaming equipment also changes all the time, meaning keeping up with new innovations and technology upgrades is an expensive race to run.
The Amazon store card is an alternative option to the Amazon Credit Card and can help you finance expensive purchases without interest charges. For eligible purchases, Amazon offers 0% financing for 6, 12 or even 24 months. You do have to qualify for the Amazon card, and 0% interest financing is broken down into the three types, depending on the term:
- 6 months for purchases of $149 - $598.99.
- 12 months for purchases of $599 or more.
- 24 months for purchases of $799 or more.
The way Amazon does this is through its Equal Pay Financing program. Each payment will be the same amount. You must pay off the purchase in full within its terms to avoid finance charges.
Looking for credit cards that have promotions for no interest payments is another way to spread high-cost purchases over longer periods of time. The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card, U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card and BankAmericard® Credit Card all offer 0% intro APRs on purchases. All have no annual fee. Here are the 0% interest offer details of each card:
- Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card: 0% introductory APR for 18 months (17.74% - 27.24% variable APR after).
- U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card: 0% introductory APR for 20 months (12.24% - 24.24% variable APR after).
- BankAmericard® Credit Card: 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles (See terms for variable APR after).
There are many similar cards offering 12 and 15 months promotions as well. If a balance transfer suits you better, you’ll find similar balance transfer promotions on these same cards.
For parents: Keeping your child safe online this gaming season
Oftentimes, parents set up gaming accounts for their kids. It’s a way to keep their personal information offline, and if games require subscriptions or purchases, parents are usually the ones paying for them. However, there are still ways for a child’s personal information to end up online, and kids can accidentally overspend when credit card information is readily available.
Avoiding unnecessary in-app purchases
During the gaming season, gamers are online playing games and making in-app purchases. It might sound surprising, but it isn’t uncommon for parents to discover high credit card charges made by a child on a gaming account.
Making in-app purchases is as easy as clicking a button. If your credit card information is saved to the account, kids can spend money without realizing how much they are charging.
The easiest solution is to not save your credit card info within any gaming accounts that your children use. You can use a pre-paid card with a specified budget to give your kids an “allowance” for their gaming purchases. This way, you won’t have to worry about filling out credit card information or your children running up crazy credit card debts in pursuit of winning Fortnight.
Avoid compromising your personal information (and past purchases)
Many games have a social aspect – you can chat with other gamers from all over the world. Just like any app that has a social component, children have to be cautious about what they’re sharing with both friends and strangers online. You never know who is really lurking on the other side of the screen and what their motives might be.
The best way to avoid this is to keep an open dialog with your kids about online safety and gaming. Make sure they know not to share any personal information with strangers online, and be careful of phishing attempts where malicious hackers will attempt to trick users into giving up financial or personal information.
If you have small children playing games online, you might be able to set up parental controls to block the social aspect of some games.
Here are a few other tips to help you avoid fraud without taking all the fun out of gameplay:
- Don’t store credit card info in the game. Instead, use a virtual credit number that expires after a set period of time or use a pre-paid card.
- Don’t talk to people you don’t know.
- Don’t click links in messages from strangers.
- Never give out your login credentials.
Gaming and Giving
While we’re trying to squeeze the most out of our gaming rewards, it’s important to remember how lucky we are as gamers. We have the time and finances to play some of the most exciting games available, as soon as they come out. For others, it isn’t so easy, whether because of a physical handicap or a negative financial situation.
There are a few ways to give back, though. Here are three charities along with the type of giving they do. All are specific to gaming:
- Able Gamers helps children with disabilities play games through custom gaming setups.
- Childs Play contributions directly impact the lives of children in hospitals and shelters.
- Charity Nerds provides new and used video games to kids in hospitals, foster homes, at-risk youth centers, special camps, and active duty military families.
Through giving, you can have a positive impact on a community that enjoys gaming just like you.
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