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Rewards Credit Cards: Maximize your Benefits

Updated on April 2, 2013

What you do with the rewards from credit cards makes more difference than which type of reward program you have. Plan to earn the maximum rewards and to multiply rewards when you redeem them.

There are basically three types of rewards cards:

  • miles
  • points
  • cash-back

The variations, of course, are endless and ever-changing. Most rewards programs allow the rewards to be redeemed in more than one way.

No-fee versus first-year-free promotional

You want a no-fee card, of course, unless there is a promotional offer to give a certain number of miles (or whatever) to get you started–and no fee the first year. It’s OK to go ahead and take advantage of that, but be sure to make a note to cancel in about the tenth billing period, and to redeem the rewards before cancelling so you won’t lose them.

Warning: They can make it frustratingly difficult to contact the cancellation department, and you might stay on hold for quite awhile. If it rolls over past the twelfth billing month, you’ll be charged the annual fee for the coming year, and that certainly sours any of the rewards you received.

Rewards Credit Cards

A stack of typical credit cards offering rewards
A stack of typical credit cards offering rewards | Source

Earn the maximum rewards

The cards that offer the highest percentage in rewards restrict the categories that apply, sometimes cycling with the calendar or putting a spending cap on the reward. And what worked this quarter last year might have changed slightly for this year. If you don’t mind keeping up with it, this can add up nicely.

This kind usually requires you to sign up online for each promotion, so don’t forget!

It helps to have a few cards that complement each other. One may be best for groceries this month and another better kept for gas, while a third always gives more at restaurants unless a cyclical card hits that category. Stick a gummed label across the top of each card with the current usage so you don’t fumble unnecessarily at the checkout counter. Yes, it passes through a card reader just fine—go ahead and let the clerk give it a suspicious glance!

Tips to get the most out of your Rewards Cards

Rewards cards usage poll

Have you benefitted from the use of your rewards cards?

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Multiply the rewards when you redeem them

Rewards programs usually offer various ways to redeem rewards. For example, if you can get a $100 gift card for $80 in cash-back rewards instead of requesting a check or statement credit, then you essentially earned an additional 20% reward!

Select gift cards that offer not only high value in this manner, but also that are for stores where you know that you or the recipient will shop. It is a waste to redeem for a gift card that won’t be used.

It might be fun to redeem the rewards for all of your cards in November and call that your Christmas shopping fund. Or maybe you’d prefer to let it accumulate for three or four years towards a Caribbean cruise. Whatever you choose, make it memorable—it makes the rewards, uh, rewarding!


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    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Takes a lot of planning, doesn't it, to make good use of these cards.


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