Anna Scott

Isn’t it exciting to get rewarded when you shop? 

That’s what credit card issuers are banking on. You get so excited about earning rewards that you forget that you are spending money to earn them.

If you’re not careful, you can spend yourself into a deep hole. Plus, if you can’t pay your balance each month, you’ll lose all the benefits of the rewards you earned because you have to pay interest.

However, if you charge things you would normally spend money on anyway and play smart, you can make money off your credit card company. 

Here’s how. 

1. Choose the Card That Works For You

The first step is to pick a card that will work for your spending habits. Some cards offer higher rewards for spending in certain categories. Some give you rewards that you can use in certain stores while others are more versatile but perhaps less lucrative. Some cards offer cash back, some let you accumulate miles. 

Are cash-back or miles credit cards better? Everybody wants to know, but the answer lies in where you spend your money. There isn’t a perfect card for everyone. Your spending habits will determine which type of card will be the most lucrative for you. 

Do a little investigating and compare Visa vs MasterCard vs American Express vs Diners and other credit card options out there. 

Don’t forget to compare rates and fees as well. Some of the more attractive rewards cards also come with an annual fee or higher rates. The rates won’t matter as long as you don’t carry a balance, but you shouldn’t ignore them completely in case you ever need a month or two to pay the card in full. 

As for the annual fee, make sure that the rewards you will be earning are worth paying the fee. 

2. Put Everything On Your Card (And Pay It Back!)

Most advice on how to manage a credit card centers around NOT using the card — or at least using it as little as possible. Spending can get quickly out of hand. Plus, if you don’t pay your balance in full each month, the card will start racking up interest. 

However, if you want to make the most of your rewards, you have to use the card as much as possible. Pay everything you can with your card. 

Before you do, though, be sure you aren’t paying a convenience fee. There’s a reason shoppers love rewards credit cards but retailers hate them. The merchant has to pay a fee to charge your card. 

Most stores and supermarkets will eat that cost. However, sometimes you’ll pay a convenience fee for charging your rent or another type of bill. If the convenience fee costs more than the rewards you’ll be receiving, you’re actually working against yourself. 

But there is one important caveat. Always, ALWAYS, pay your balance in full. Credit card rewards are not worth it if you end up paying interest on your purchases. 

3. Pick More Than One Card

What if there are multiple cards that could benefit you? For example, you might often shop at a specific retailer, and their card offers hefty rewards on purchases at their store. It would be beneficial to use that card when making those purchases. However, the rewards that card offers when shopping at other stores is quite puny by comparison. 

There’s no rule that says you have to stick with one card! If you don’t mind juggling two or three cards, this is a great way to maximize rewards. Use that retailer-specific card when shopping there, but choose a different card with higher rewards for other purchases. 

Again, don’t get carried away. Always treat your cards like cash, and don’t spend more than you have. Once you start paying interest, you’ll quickly wipe out any rewards you earned. 

4. Be Aware of Bonus Categories

Many cards offer big rewards, but only in certain categories. On top of that, the categories may change quarterly, and you might even have to opt-in each time to qualify for them. 

For the biggest rewards, you need to stay on top of these. 

Set reminders for yourself to opt-in each quarter so you won’t miss out on those higher reward rates. If you juggle multiple cards, keep a list of which one to use where to maximize the rewards that each card offers. 

Pay particular attention when you’re planning to make a large purchase. Wait to make that purchase until the category it’s in becomes eligible for higher rewards (if applicable). 

5. Know About All the Perks

Credit cards offer a ton of hidden perks. Some of them are so good you might wonder how they can get away with offering them. 

The secret is that few people know about them, and even fewer people take advantage of them. 

Most of these perks have specific conditions you have to meet in order to be eligible. For example, making a purchase at a specific store or redeeming the rewards through their credit card issuer’s reward site.

Most of them apply to a narrow audience, which is why credit card issuers can afford them. Even if everyone knew about them, only a few people would qualify for them. 

Take some time to occasionally peruse the cards you have as these perks can change. Plus, that will help to keep them fresh in your mind so you can take advantage of them at the opportune moment. 

Watch Your Rewards Balance Climb

Racking up something on your credit card usually isn’t a good thing, but in this case, it’s wonderful! With the right combination of cards and spending, you could earn significant rewards on purchases you would have to make anyway. 

So, if you travel a lot, get yourself a frequent miler credit card. If you have a big family, choose a card with big rewards at grocery stores. Find the combination that works for you and go for it!

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