How to Make the Most of Your Credit Card Reward Points

How to Make the Most of Your Credit Card Reward Points

So you’ve been more at ease with reaching for the plastic, learned the major differences between using credit and debit, and have made strides in boosting your credit score. Congrats! But what are the best ways to earn points on your credit cards, and how can you make the most from your rewards? Here are some ways you can maximize the reward points on your credit cards:

Figure out what’s most important to you. Are you a globetrotter—or aspiring to be? Do you have certain stores you absolutely love to shop at? Or would you rather have extra cash in your pocket to pay off your student debt? Think about which type of reward would serve you best.

When it comes to which credit card has the best rewards, it depends on what you’ll want to spend the rewards on. It’s important to be realistic as to whether you’ll end up redeeming the reward. Even though a particular card may have the best offers for certain stores, when was the last time you shopped at that store? It’s probably more practical to get an e-gift card for a place you love and frequent.

Compare the value on different cards
When shopping around for a card, do a quick comparison on which cards reap the most value per dollar spent, suggests Jason Steele, the credit card expert for CompareCards.com. Just spending some time comparison shopping could set you up for the most rewards with your credit card down the line. Don’t forget to look at the usual things, such as any annual fees and interest rates that may make getting that card not worth your while.

Redeem your points on a regular basis
“Don’t save points for too long, especially hotel points and frequent flyer miles,” explains Steele. “Every year, most programs will increase the number of points needed for many awards, so your points will always become less valuable over time.” Check in on how many reward points  on your credit card you’ve racked up and make a point to use them up on a regular basis.

If you find yourself having trouble doing this, look for reward points on your credit cards that require fewer points, such as a gift card for a lower denomination, or plan to redeem airline points to a local destination instead of for an international trip. Be sure to check for any expiration dates on points with your credit card. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of points you’ve earned expire before you could use them.

Combine points from business and personal cards
If you have multiple cards from a single credit card company, combining points from different kinds of cards will allow you to earn credit card points quicker and broaden your options on how you can redeem them. For instance, if you’re a member of a credit union, through the Member Rewards by CO-OP, you can combine points from both your debit and card cards.

Be loyal to a few brands
By focusing on accruing points on just a few brands, you will earn credit card points much quicker. “It doesn’t help you reach your goals to have miles and points with 20 different loyalty programs,” says Lee Huffman, Chief Bald Officer at BaldThoughts.com. “They simply won’t accumulate fast enough to redeem for a free flight or hotel stay.”

Instead, concentrate to one hotel brand or one airline. “You’ll accumulate points toward rewards much faster and you may even reach higher levels of loyalty,” Huffman explains, “which will come with better perks, such as upgrades and other goodies.”

Plus, credit cards for one hotel, airline, or retailer usually comes with a higher value for each point. For instance, you may earn two points for every dollar spent instead of say, one point for every dollar spent using a credit card issued by your favorite retailer.

Keep an eye out for opportunities to score more points
You may also accrue more points by programs that will allow you to earn more points on your credit cards for spending the same amount. Some credit cards also offer double points if you spend on certain categories during certain times of the year. For instance, you may be able to earn more points if you use your credit card on groceries in the fall months, or if you swipe the plastic on gas during the summer.

Just be careful not to overspend or by something you don’t need. To help you curb your spending, you can set alerts and spending limits on your credit cards with tools such as CardNavSM  by CO-OP.

With a little bit of research and comparison shopping, you’ll find easy ways to maximize the rewards on your credit cards without having to do too much extra work.