Solutions to Make Better Decisions with Your Money

When to Take the Upsell

When to Take the Upsell - TaxACT

Last year, my boyfriend and I celebrated Christmas with tickets to see the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Caught up in the splendor of the holidays in New York City, we decided to indulge in some horrifically overpriced theater cocktails. As the bartender began pouring my boyfriend’s gin and tonic, he asked “Just one shot or would you rather make it a double?”

After a moment of hesitation my boyfriend said sure and took the upsell, suddenly making a $12 drink $20.

The horrified expression on his face when he heard the price for the double-shot gin and tonic is burned into my mind as an example of when to avoid an upsell.

But there are moments when the upsell may actually make sense.

As a general rule, I avoid the upsell.

Whether it’s a movie theater concession attendant asking if I want to upgrade to a medium popcorn for a dollar or an airline website suggesting I pay an extra $25 to upgrade to priority boarding (such a shame), I go on auto pilot and say or click “no thanks.”

Last month I took a remarkably out-of-character upsell and opened a store credit card.

While perusing the clearance rack at Banana Republic, I overheard a store associate tell another customer about the storewide sale. Shoppers could get 40 percent off the already marked down items, plus an additional 10 percent off and 15 percent off a full-priced item by opening a store card.

As an infrequent shopper, I knew the card wouldn’t carry much value outside that first purchase.

The rewards on a store card rarely offer more than one percent back and if you ever carry a balance, then you get hit with horrifically high interest rates.

I was out expanding my professional wardrobe and had allocated a budget of about $200. By opening a store card, I quickly realized I would be able to expand my Banana Republic purchasing power.

It seemed almost enough to tip the scales in favor of opening a credit card.

Then another perk came to me while evaluating my mountain of potential purchases. As a rare, debt-free millennial I didn’t have student loans, or any other kind of loan, to use for building credit history.

I had relied on being a responsible credit card user to establish credit history and build up a strong credit score. This store card represented an opportunity to continue climbing to a higher score, which would be useful in case I ever did need a loan (likely a mortgage).

Utilization rates are part of how your credit score is evaluated.

Ideally, you should keep your utilization rate below 30 percent. One way to drop your utilization is to increase your amount of available credit.

By opening a store credit card and putting it in my hypothetical freezer, I could expand my available credit and drive down my utilization (assuming I didn’t give into any lifestyle inflation with the extra credit).

A store credit card can also be useful for people trying to build their credit scores as you are more likely to be approved with a lower score than you would by going directly to Visa, MasterCard, American Express or other companies.

When considering opening another line of credit, it’s important to know yourself. Tweet this

When to Take the Upsell - TaxACT

If you know you couldn’t open another card without running up a bill and carrying a balance, this strategy isn’t right for you. It also isn’t wise to open a bunch of credit cards all at once.

When you apply for a credit card, it results in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Though typically small, this will cause a drop in your credit score.

Too many inquires in a short period of time is a red flag to both lenders and credit card companies.

Taking an upsell means parting with more of your hard-earned dollars, so approach with caution.

Don’t jump into a credit card deal, purchasing add-ons to financial policies or even saying yes to a bartender’s offer for a double shot in your favorite cocktail.

You should take a moment to evaluate the consequences of your decisions instead of feeling pressured to make a choice in seconds.

Do your research and ask questions before saying yes, but accept that sometimes it makes sense to go ahead and accept the upsell offer.

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About Erin Lowry

Erin is the founder of BrokeMillennial.com, where she uses sarcasm and humor to explain basic financial concepts to her fellow millennials. Erin lives and works in New York City. She's developed quite the knack for finding deals and free events. Connect with Erin on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.