Credit Card Rewards: Money in Your Pocket

By Kelly Hodges
If you’ve taken a good hard look at yourself and your credit card spending habits and determined that you have power over the plastic then congratulations, you’re a step ahead of many!   Now it’s time to figure out how to get the most out of your credit card, and its rewards program.  When used responsibly, credit card rewards programs can be a great way to earn free flights, gift cards, hotel stays, or even cash just for doing what you’re doing anyway- spending money!

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your credit card rewards program.

1.  Choose the right card.  There are tons of credit cards to choose from out there, so how can you find the one that’s right for you? You could sit down and painstakingly read through all the fine print of every credit card offer that comes your way, or you could let someone else do it for you.  There are several websites available that can analyze which credit card is most inline with your personal spending habits and rewards needs.  BillShrink is one such website, and how it works is simple; plug in your average monthly spending, approximate credit score, 3 categories you spend the most money, and credit card you are currently using (if you have one).  BillShrink will then go through all the credit card options available and make a list of the ones that best fit your profile and show you the rewards earning potential over the next 3 years.  You will also get details such as annual fees, interest rates, and special sign-up bonus offers available.  It really does all the hard work for you!

2.  Charge everything!  We all know that we can use our credit card at shopping malls, gas stations, and restaurants, but there are many other places you can pay with plastic as well.   Medical bills, the cable bill, utilities, cell phone bills, and charitable contributions are just a few things that can be charged.  Have a big-ticket item you’re planning to buy?  Why not charge that down payment on your car or your child’s tuition?  As long as you have the cash to back it, take out the card to earn the points and then pay it off.  Every time you pull out your checkbook double check if there is an option to charge it instead.

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3.  Don’t get caught up in spending just to earn rewards.  Earning rewards (and then redeeming them) can be great.  But just remember that the rewards program is a bonus, and not a reason to spend more than you should.  The potential points earned should never be a consideration when determining if you should or shouldn’t buy something. This is a dangerous way of reasoning that will likely lead to you convincing yourself to overspend.   It’s not a bad idea to audit your credit card bill every few months to make sure that you are remaining a responsible spender.


Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of her employer or any other person or entity.

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