Of course, if you know you'll be able to zero your balance within a matter of weeks then go ahead and enjoy those rewards. For example, in the last quarter of 2012, Discover is offering card members a 5 percent cash-back bonus on up to $1,500 in department store and online shopping purchases, though you have to register online or through the company's call center to be eligible.

However, if you won't be zeroing your balance anytime soon, it's virtually inevitable that you'd be better off using low interest credit cards. Those with the lowest rates don't generally offer rewards, but you could save a bundle with them. For instance, on that same fateful day Hurricane Sandy came ashore, the Simmons First Visa® Platinum card, which is available only to those with excellent credit, had a variable rate of just 7.25 percent APR.

Balance transfer credit cards

One more trick you might want to pull from your sleeve is to apply for balance transfer credit cards that offer a zero-percent introductory APR. Using these, you can pay down your card debt more quickly because you can use the money that would normally have gone on interest to reduce it. However, these products need to be treated with care: that interest-free 6, 12, 15 or 18 months is going to fly by, and you must be sure you can afford payments when the card moves to its standard rate.

Balance transfer offers change notoriously quickly, and you should click that link to check what's current by the time you read this. But, at the end of October, at least six cards were offering 15 months at zero percent APR, and a couple were giving 18 months. Most -- though not quite all -- charge a one-off balance transfer fee, which is usually 3 percent.

Credit cards can be our friends during difficult times such as these, but only if they're treated with respect. If Hurricane Sandy has already wreaked havoc with your home and belongings, don't let it continue to ruin your life through future financial hardship.