Earning rewards on your credit card is a wonderful benefit to consumers who completely pay off their entire balance on time every month. These rewards enable you to receive money, points or miles by simply making transactions with a credit card.
But sometimes credit card companies make it slightly challenging to redeem your rewards. Issuers make it easy to spend money, but you may have to jump through a hoop or two to obtain the rewards. In order for you to get the full value from your credit card’s reward program, know the rules and take advantage of the opportunities that you are afforded. Pick the right credit card for you by choosing a card with a rewards program that corresponds to your spending habits.
Know the Rules
Credit card companies have a plethora of different rewards programs. These rewards programs can be simple, or they can be complex with rotating categories that require you to register each quarter. There might be limits on the amount of rewards you can earn, especially cash back rewards. The responsibility is on you as a consumer to know the rules of your rewards program. Be familiar with these limitations or guidelines before you begin using the card so you know any spending threshold you need to meet or certain blackout dates for your travel rewards. Doing the extra research might be a bit time consuming, but it will save you money in the long run.
How Much Do You Expect to Use Your Card?
If your card only gives an early spend bonus after you have spent $5,000, but you only expect to spend $1,500 on the credit card this year, it makes no sense to apply for that credit card. If you are looking to maximize your rewards, there are better options to choose from that will optimize your ability to use your rewards. Remember, you shouldn’t be spending on your credit card just to get rewards—you should be factoring in your budget and how much you plan to spend. For example, if you are going to spend a good deal of money on travel each year, it might be worth it to get a credit card with strong travel rewards in order to maximize your credit card rewards.
What Types of Purchases Will You Make?
A number of cards have revolving categories. That means individuals using these cards can earn enhanced rewards on purchases made in a certain category, but the categories change after a set period of time. Usually, that’s each quarter of a year, which means after three months, you’ll have to make a different type of purchase to earn these enhanced rewards. The categories can vary from restaurants and travel to streaming services or gas. Check to see if you’ll make purchases in the different revolving categories, or else applying for the credit card might not be worth it. For example, if you don’t eat out, and one of the revolving categories is restaurant purchases, it may not make sense to apply for that card. Make sure your credit card offers enhanced rewards in categories that fit your purchase patterns.
Don’t Let Your Rewards Expire
This may seem obvious, but don’t let your rewards expire. Know if and when your points or miles expire, and if there are any specific restrictions on using them. After all, what good are your rewards if you can’t use them? Your rewards might expire before you think, so contact your credit card company if you have any questions regarding the program. Understand the terms and conditions of the rewards program before you start making purchases.
Watch Out for Late Fees
You might think missing a payment on your credit card doesn’t have anything to do with your bonus points. For some cards, that’s not the case. Double check the terms of your card since some programs may take back all the bonus points you have earned in a given month if you fail to make your payment on time. Late fees can affect your rewards, bank account and your credit score, so be vigilant in paying all of your credit card bills on time. Making a major purchase and losing out on the bonus points can be painful, so always pay your credit card bill on time. Don’t forget that many credit card companies may increase your interest rate if you miss payments.
There are plenty of ways to maximize your credit card rewards. Perhaps the most important choice you can make is the type of card you obtain. Get a credit card which fits your lifestyle, and one where your rewards program works within your current spending patterns. Spending money simply to get rewards is a recipe for falling into debt, which nobody wants to do.