By  Updated on Mon Nov 26, 2012

Get More From Your Credit Card Rewards Program

 
Get More From Your Credit Card Rewards Program

meddygarnet / flickr source

People are always on the lookout for a good deal. It’s the reason people brave the crowds on Black Friday or spend hours matching grocery coupons to the weekly store sales. Looking for a good deal is also the reason many people turn to rewards credit cards, since it allows people to earn rewards simply for making purchases they were going to make anyway.

To get more from your credit card rewards program, you will want to limit yourself to one or two rewards cards – otherwise you will be spreading out your rewards earnings on too many different cards and you won’t spend enough on any one card to earn substantial rewards.

Here are additional tips for getting more from your credit card rewards program:

Increase Your Rewards Earnings

With stingy credit card rewards programs you probably will not earn a ton of rewards if you aren’t making a conscious effort to use your card to build your rewards. If you just use the credit card in an emergency situation or when you don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for your purchase, you’re not going to benefit much from the typical rewards program.

People who earn substantial rewards (cash back, free travel or discounted travel, or valuable merchandise) are people who use their credit cards to pay for all of their monthly purchases. To avoid paying more interest and fees than your rewards are worth, this strategy for increasing credit card rewards earnings will only work if you are financially disciplined and pay your balances in full each time you receive your statement. Rewards credit cards almost always have higher interest rates than non-rewards cards, so it’s important that you avoid spending more than you can pay off when your statement comes. As soon as you start carrying a balance from month to month, your interest payments will generally eat any rewards you earn from using your credit card.

Choose a Card With Rewards You Actually Want

It won’t help you to use a credit card to earn rewards you are not likely to use. If you will absolutely never fly, a rewards program offering free or discounted flights has no purpose for you. Look over rewards cards carefully and pick the best credit card that has rewards you will really want to redeem.

Many rewards programs are currently offering flexible benefits so you can choose how to redeem your rewards from a variety of options. You may have the option to turn in your rewards “points” for gift cards, cash back, merchandise or travel.  Flexible rewards programs are ideal.

Don’t Forget about Rewards You’ve Earned

In a study by Colloquy and Swift Exchange, it was discovered that credit card companies were keeping about a third of all rewards earned by cardholders simply because the cardholder never redeemed their rewards. If you use a credit card, find out whether or not you have been earning rewards – you could have a stack of rewards just waiting for redemption!

Also keep an eye on credit card rewards expiration dates. If the rewards have an expiration date, mark it down in your calendar so you don’t forget to redeem the rewards before they expire.

Exchange Rewards for Gift Cards

Many credit card rewards programs will give you more for your rewards points in the form of a gift card than they will as cash back. If your credit card allows you to redeem your rewards for a gift card, look through the list to see what retailer offers the highest value gift card for your points, and redeem. If you already shop at that retailer, you already made out better than redeeming your rewards for a lower amount of cash back, but if you don’t shop at the retailer offering the highest value gift card for your credit card rewards you can sell your gift card with a service like Cardpool.com or plasticjungle.com.

Credit card rewards programs can help you get free or discounted travel, merchandise, cash back, or gift cards just for using your card to pay for things you have to buy anyway. In order to use it to your advantage, make sure the card you use offers rewards you actually want to earn, keep track of rewards expiration dates, and remember not to spend more than you can pay off in full when you receive your statement.

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