Rewards cards can feel like you're getting something for nothing, or, at the very least, something extra for your everyday spending. But you can get even more if you use the right card at the right time for the right purchase. You can also earn more money and points by paying attention to card provisions that boost rewards for repeated use or if you buy other products and services from the card's issuer.
Card issuers want your business, so to encourage this, they offer various incentives to earn more rewards. The benefit for you is more rewards for less. Here are six ways to make more on your rewards.
Different Categories, Different Cards
The most obvious way to get more rewards for your buck is to use a card that offers accelerated earnings for specific categories of purchases like groceries, gas or dining out. If you want to maximize your earnings, you can even carry a number of cards, each offering optimal rewards in a different purchase category.
Making the most of your card collection of course requires keeping track of each card's best use. These sometimes change from time to time, since some cards rotate categories every quarter to reflect seasonal shopping patterns, such as home improvement during the spring. Don't forget to register for these quarterly categories.
Buy Through An Online Shopping Portal
Most issuers offer an online shopping portal where you can buy from mainstream retailers like Best Buy and Gap. What you get in return is extra rewards points by making those purchases through the portal rather than at the store or on the retailer's website. Don't forget the portals whenever you click to buy, especially during the holiday season when your spending can spike, thus allowing you to rack up a lot of extra rewards.
Swipe More Often
Card issuers make money from merchants each time you swipe your card. That's why issuers want you to use their card every time you shop. To encourage more swiping, some cards offer a rewards bonus if you make a certain number of purchases within a certain period. For instance, some American Express cardholders can earn a 20 percent boost in rewards points if they make 20 or more purchases with their Amex card within a billing period. It pays, then, to keep track of how often you use a card if it offers this incentive.
Add Another Account From The Card Issuer
Banks want all of your financial business, not just your credit card business. To do this, many banks offer extra rewards just by having another account at the bank. For example, Citibank customers can earn 450 points for each billing period in which they're using the direct deposit and bill payment features on a Citibank checking account. They earn additional points when a savings or money market account, mortgage, home equity loan or HELOC, or personal loan is linked to the checking account. Research any rewards bonuses you get by opening another account with your credit card issuer.
Use The Best Redemption
Making the most of your rewards also involves optimizing how you trade them in. Card issuers may offer several different rates for redeeming your rewards, and it pays to select the best one. For instance, you get one penny for every point earned with the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card when used for cash back or gift cards. But that same point earns 25 percent more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Check your card's rewards program online to find details on redemption rates.
Take Advantage of Bonus Offers
Look out for promotional offers, especially when signing up for a new card. You often can earn tens of thousands of bonus rewards on many cards just by spending a certain amount within a certain time--typically the first three months--of opening a card.
Existing cardholders should also watch for seasonal offers, especially around the holidays. For example, American Express cardholders last year earned double rewards points at certain small businesses in December.