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6 reasons to put all your wedding expenses on one credit card

Using a single card to pay for the big day can help keep track of spending and stick to a budget

By Darci Swisher  |  Published: September 13, 2017

6 reasons to put all your wedding expenses on one credit card

Engaged couples planning their big day are spending far more than they anticipated, and keeping track of wedding expenses is one of their main challenges.

WeddingWire’s 2017 Newlywed Survey found that, despite budgeting and planning, more than 70 percent of couples come in over budget. Considering the survey also showed the average wedding ceremony and reception totals $29,000 and involves up to 13 vendors, it’s easy to see how that happens.

“Most wedding-planning couples know they have many purchases and bookings ahead of them for the big day, but once they really get into the planning season, it can be jaw-dropping and overwhelming to see just how many are adding up, and how many more are yet to come,” says Sharon Naylor, author of “The Brides Guide to Freebies” and 35 other wedding books.

By using a single credit card for wedding-related expenses, experts say you more easily keep your budget on track. These strategies will ensure you spend only what intend.

TIPS FOR CHARGING ALL WEDDING EXPENSES ON ONE CARD
  1. Match your credit limit to your budget: Sticking to one credit line will help you stay on budget.
  2. Review expenses regularly: Monitoring expenses on a single account is easier and less stressful.
  3. Categorize your spending: Creating tags for each category helps compare spending vs. budget.
  4. Stay on top of payments: Card transactions will show what you paid for, so you don't have to pay twice.
  5. Prioritize your budget items: Tracking expenses on one card helps you streamline those Pin-worthy must-haves.
  6. Take advantage of promo rates and rewards: Score points for a free honeymoon or get extra time to pay off big-day expenses.

1. Match your credit limit to your budget. 
“If you commit to using just one credit card for the entire wedding, you’re limited to the available credit line on that card,” says Bill Simonet, founder of Texas-based Simonet Wealth Management. 

If your card’s credit limit is higher than your budget, he recommends contacting your credit card company. But instead of lowering your credit limit, which could negatively affect your credit score, you can ask either for a lower spending limit or for notifications of transactions over a certain amount.

Without these precautions, you may confuse your credit limit for your wedding budget, he says. “The credit card isn’t the budget. The credit card is the tracker. The budget is set by what you plan on spending.”

“The credit card isn’t the budget. The credit card is the tracker. The budget is set by what you plan on spending.”

2. Review expenses regularly.
Most credit card transactions hit your account in real time. With just one card dedicated to wedding expenses, monitoring these transactions requires logging in only once to the credit company’s mobile app or website. 

While using one card makes reviewing easy enough to manage on the go, sitting down together regularly to review how credit card transactions are measuring up against the wedding budget is not only wise from a practical standpoint – you may also head off one of marriage’s biggest stressors: money.

If the wedding is a couple’s first major joint expense, it can provide valuable insight into each person’s spending habits, their values and how they accumulate debt, says Paula Levy, a Connecticut-based marriage and family therapist and licensed CPA. With one card, there’s no place to hide spending or overspending.

“Is this person ignoring the budget and spending more?” she asks. “Are they respecting the budget they agreed to do? Are they spending impulsively? Do they make decisions without consulting the other person?”

3. Categorize your spending. 
Spreadsheets for tracking spending in 20-plus wedding categories can be challenging even for the most Excel-savvy. But finding a way to organize expenses that makes sense to you is key to sticking to any budget.

“You want to make sure you’re in sync with your budget,” says Sallie Mullins Thompson, a CPA and financial planner based in New York City. “It adds up so quickly. The sooner you know the impact on the budget, the sooner you can rectify it.”

While some credit cards stick you with a set group of general categories, others allow flexibility. For example, Discover and American Express let you create “Tags” to customize categories. (American Express also gives you the option of uploading your receipts and matching them to transactions, so you can safely stash them away.)

 

Video: Wedding credit perks

Match any tags you create for your credit card transactions to the categories you created for your wedding budget, so you can compare your actual spending to what you budgeted, Thompson says. “Weddings are now months of spending. Over time, it’s really easy to lose track.”

Thompson says that charging on multiple cards, or using a variety of payment methods, only adds to the confusion. As a bonus, with one card used solely for wedding expenses, “you’re not distracted by other items being there,” she says.

4. Stay on top of payments.
The number of down payments to wedding vendors can be dizzying, with photographers, venues and florists often wanting money up front or in installments. Your credit card transactions will show what you’ve paid for, should a vendor question receiving payment or if you need to make a return or request a refund. 

“You have the proof, and that nips any arguments in the bud, potentially saving you from legal battles and having to repay a bill,” Naylor says. “If you had paid in cash, you might not have this kind of airtight record for your protection.”

5. Prioritize your budget items.
Wedding magazines and Pinterest boards are filled with wedding must-haves, but everything comes at a price. You can’t have everything, and you can also safely assume that at least one planned wedding expense will go over its allocated amount.

If you’re tracking expenses with a single credit card, you can immediately adjust your wedding budget to accommodate the unplanned or the unexpected, Simonet says, as well as streamline your priorities.

After Simonet’s wife saw two of her must-haves – take-home champaign flutes and embroidered cloth napkins – left behind at another wedding and trashed during clean-up, she agreed to bubble bottles and wands, which guests enjoyed in real time and for far less the cost. The couple added the money they saved to the food budget.

“You have the proof (if you pay with credit card), and that nips any arguments in the bud, potentially saving you from legal battles and having to repay a bill ... If you had paid in cash, you might not have this kind of airtight record for your protection.”

6. Take advantage of promotional rates and rewards. 
Strategically charging wedding expenses to one credit card can not only help keep your wedding budget in check, but also help you rack up major rewards points and give you more time to pay for the big day’s expenses.

The key to any credit card purchase is having a plan for paying the bill when it arrives. If you plan to pay your credit card bill in full each month, a card offering rewards like airline miles or hotel stays that you can use for your honeymoon might beat out one with a lower interest rate.

“Some cards offer nice initial rewards if you meet spending requirements,” says Brett Spencer, a Chicago-based financial planner with D3 Financial Counselors. Elite cards including Sapphire Reserve, Citi PrestigeU.S. Bank Altitude Reserve or American Express Platinum, are currently offering generous bonuses of 50,000 to 75,000 points if you spend $4,000-$7,500 in the first three months.*

Whereas normal, day-to-day spending might not let you reach the spending threshold these types of credit cards require, wedding spending dedicated only to one card probably will.

 

Video: Score a free honeymoon using rewards points

If you’re not confident you can pay what you charge off immediately, Chicago-based financial planner Brett Spencer recommends choosing a card with an extended 0 percent promotional rate – with one caveat.

“Check with your potential credit card company regarding their minimum payment calculation,” he says. “Even though there will be 0 percent interest for the initial term, there will still be a minimum payment and each credit card company can have their own calculation for how this is figured.”

Keep in mind that if you miss a payment, or make a payment late, you risk losing your promotional rate, be charged all that interest, as well as incur a late fee.

Also, when choosing your sole card for wedding expenses, see what additional benefits are offered, such as price and return protection, purchase protection and extended warranty protection. You may need to read through some fine print to find out which of these benefits a credit card offers, but it will be worth the effort if it saves you money on your big day.

*The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

See related: 8 ways to save on wedding costs, avoid debt, How credit cards cut the costs of your wedding, How not to go broke as a wedding guest

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Updated: 09-23-2017

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