Maximize those credit card points (and save some dough)

Whether it's that late-night run to the grocery store or at the gas pump on the way to work, you’re always using your credit card for everyday purchases—and everyday convenience. So why not claim some of the everyday benefits? Check out these tips on how to cash in on credit cards that reward you for big-ticket items and daily purchases alike.

Know your options

Skip the search—you usually don’t have to look far to find a credit card rewards program. Paramita Pal, Head of Product Management & External Acquisition for US Bankcard at TD, says, “Many cards have nice perks just for making purchases.” How great is that?

“There are also nice perks that are useful, like cell phone protection, for example. Be on the lookout for cards you can make the most of in terms of value.”

Some of the most common reward types include:

  • Cash back: Earn a credit or direct cash deposit on purchases based on a percentage of your spending.
  • Points: Get a certain number of points for every dollar you spend that you can redeem for things, like gift cards or money back on your statement.
  • Travel: Points or “miles” go directly toward saving you money on flights or hotel stays.

Rewards vary by card type and company, so how do you choose the right credit card? “Pay attention to exactly where you tend to spend,” Pal says. “If you don’t travel much, then don’t go for the travel card. It might have great perks, but it won’t work for you.”

Earn more with everyday use

Swapping out your debit card for your credit card can work in your favor, especially for everyday expenses. “Pulling out that card when you’re dining or fueling up will help you maximize your rewards,” says Pal. “You can reap benefits from using credit cards, which you won’t be able to do with a debit card.” So, you might want to think twice next time you reach for your debit card.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payment required by the due date to save yourself from late fees. And try to pay the full balance every month to avoid paying interest.

Stay on top of rotating rewards

Credit card companies often rotate rewards for certain types of spending. “Today, it could be 3% back on gas; tomorrow it might be 5% back on groceries or 4% back at a restaurant. You should go after good offers when the categories rotate and remember to be methodical and disciplined,” Pal explains. It’s an easy way to get back some dough (without doing much).

Consider multiple cards

You might be able to step up your earnings by using a few different credit cards. Signing up for a travel card, retailer (store) card and a general card can help you snag a variety of points—and may improve your credit. However, you don’t want to get carried away. Make sure to take on only what you can handle.

Do your research

Credit cards vary, which is why Pal says it’s important to address lots of questions in your research.

  • Is there an annual fee? If so, are you fine paying it?
  • Is the introductory offer appealing?
  • What’s the interest rate once the promotion ends?

Plus, remember to keep your eyes peeled. “Sometimes, we just look at the bonuses and we tend to ignore reward expirations or potential fees and charges. So, be careful about that and pay attention to the fine print,” reminds Pal.

Take advantage of extra earnings

Special deals and extra points are also just a click away when you shop via your bank’s online reward portal.

"Beyond that, go for a card that can earn you an introductory bonus,” Pal suggests. “You might have to spend a thousand bucks in three months to get a hundred-dollar bonus.” So, a good time to sign up for a new credit card might be when you’re already planning on spending a lot of money—like when you’re moving, traveling or vacationing. Just make sure you're able to manage your credit card balance as the rewards come in and don’t overdo it just to get the bonus.

Finding the best credit card rewards can help you save on flights (hello, resort getaway!), get cash back on purchases and more. As always, you’ll get the most out of your card when you practice the basics. “Try not to carry a balance, and pay your bill on time,” advises Pal. Your next reward could be just a purchase away.

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This article is based on information available in November 2021. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.