“She didn’t want me paying out of pocket. I said, ‘I can buy it all with points.’ It was the ‘aha moment’ for both my parents,” Glosser says.
After that conversation, Glosser — a certified financial planner in Santa Monica, California, and partner at Abacus Wealth Partners — helped her parents apply for new credit cards based on their spending habits and travel goals. Previously, they had just used the cards that came with their bank. “I said, ‘You are really missing out here,’” Glosser recalls.
Her parents were soon using travel rewards to go on trips they would have hesitated to take before.
Sometimes, parents can use a little credit card help, especially if they aren’t earning rewards or are letting credit card points languish. We asked financial professionals who also help their parents optimize their credit cards for their tips on approaching the conversation.
First, acknowledge what they have taught you
To mitigate the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, start the conversation by pointing out all that your parents have taught you about money. “I’m regurgitating what she taught me,” says Kalyn Hochstrat, an investment advisor in Midvale, Idaho, of her mother. “Be respectful of their knowledge and wisdom … . It’s not that you know everything,” she adds, but that you care enough that you want to help them.
Hochstrat’s mother knew plenty about avoiding debt and paying off credit card balances, but she was less familiar with leveraging her credit card spending to earn reward points for travel. That’s where Hochstrat came in. “Now we use miles to visit each other,” Hochstrat says.
If necessary, review the basics
Before some parents can think about earning rewards, they need a gentle reminder about the importance of paying off their balance each month. “Sit down and see the layout of where they are,” suggests Devon Klumb, a financial planner in Cincinnati and co-founder of the financial firm RhineVest. If you spot any signs of credit card debt, broach the topic of a payoff plan. “Educate them on the dangers of using credit cards irresponsibly,” he suggests.
Tell them your story
The topic of credit card points can come up naturally when you’re pulling out plastic to pay for dinner or buying plane tickets, Klumb says. “You can start with, ‘Hey, I got this credit card, and this is how it works. Have you ever done anything like that?’” he says.
It’s less awkward when the topic comes up organically, Glosser says. When her parents asked her how rewards covered the France trip, “It quickly moved to, ‘Wow, you know way more about this than we ever did, we love what you did, tell us how to get there,’” she says.
Help them choose the right card
Sorting through hundreds of credit card options can be overwhelming. Clint Haynes — a financial planner in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and founder of NextGen Wealth — says he started the conversation by explaining the credit card landscape, including general travel rewards cards, cash-back cards and cards for specific hotels and airlines. “For my parents, it was cash back,” he says — it made the most sense based on their spending preferences.
From there, he helped his parents find the best cash-back card for them. He says they got a card that gives them 1% cash back on all purchases and 1% cash back when they pay them off, referring to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. “That was a couple years ago, and after the first year, they said the amount of cash they earned back was more than they had ever earned before,” Haynes says.
Emphasize the benefit of more frequent family gatherings
Glosser’s credit card advice has led to more family visits. For example, her parents flew from their home in Virginia to visit Glosser this past January for the Rose Bowl. “They used credit card points and never had before,” she says. For many parents, the ultimate reward is getting to see their grown children more often.