Christie Matherne, Credit Card Writer
You can get the most reward points from credit cards by picking the right rewards points credit card offers, qualifying for initial bonuses, taking advantage of bonus categories, and using the cards as much as possible – as long as you can pay off the balances in full each month. Some rewards credit cards also have ways to earn extra points by shopping through the card issuer’s online mall. Chase cardholders can use Shop through Chase to earn bonus points, for example.
How to get the most reward points:
- Get the best points reward credit cards
- Read the rewards program rules
- Qualify for initial bonuses
- Take advantage of bonus categories
- Use the card(s) as much as possible
Get the best points credit cards
Of all the things you can do to earn more credit card points, getting the right credit card is the most important. Remember that not all credit card points are created equal. Some credit card points are worth more than others, so it’s a good idea to assess each rewards program on a deeper level than the number of points they give.
It’s also important to consider your own spending habits and lifestyle. Figuring out your largest spending categories is a good place to start. For example, travel rewards credit cards with lots of points and great travel redemption value are great options for someone who travels frequently. Alternatively, the best credit cards for groceries will serve you well if you do most of your spending on groceries. On the other hand, if you go out to eat most of the time, the best credit cards for restaurants will make for better options. In case more than one card would suit your spending habits, consider getting multiple rewards cards and using the Island Approach to optimize rewards in your highest spending categories. Or, if there are no significant differences between your main spending categories, you could get a flat-rate cash back credit card.
Read the rewards program rules
When comparing rewards credit cards, it’s a good idea to read each card’s terms - especially the part about the rewards program. The terms will state any rules about points earned, such as when they expire, and any conditions that would result in losing the points (such as late payment, for example). A person who’s out to earn credit card points should be aware of all the rules regarding those points.
Qualify for initial bonuses
Many rewards credit cards available today have initial bonuses - usually a lump sum of points, miles, or cash back - that new cardholders can earn by charging a certain amount on the card in the first few months the account is open. The average initial bonus is worth around $200, but many cards give more than that.
Take advantage of bonus categories
If you’re serious about earning credit card points, bonus categories are a great way to rack up more points than you would otherwise. Bonus categories on credit cards are designated types of purchases - groceries or gas, for example - that give a higher point value per $1 spent. With many credit cards, bonus categories change every quarter, and those usually require quarterly registration to earn the bonus rate. That takes a little extra organization, but it can be well worth the effort in the end.
Use the card(s) as much as possible
The reason credit card companies give rewards is to encourage cardholders to use their credit cards more. So, take as much as they’ll give you. Use your credit card to pay your monthly bills, your gas expenses, groceries, online purchases, streaming services, and anything else you already pay for. Every time you have to pay for something, consider how using your credit card could get you something extra.
If you’re willing to jump through an extra hoop or two, you could be rewarded with bonus point opportunities. Some credit cards have online shopping portals that give massive bonuses simply for shopping at popular retailers through the portal. If you were already planning on shopping at that retailer, it’s a win-win situation.
Overall, you’ll earn more credit card points by simply being aware of your credit card’s terms and points-earning potential at all times. Just remember to not spend more than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month. Gains from credit card rewards are quickly eaten up when interest accrues. And if you’re not gaining anything from earning points, there isn’t much of a point in earning them. Also, don't limit your searches to points credit cards. In addition to points, the best rewards credit cards on the market also offer miles and cash back, so pick one based on your individual needs. Feel free to also use WalletHub's CardAdvisor tool to find the best credit card for you.
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