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While credit card debt remains a significant challenge in the United States, Americans are nonetheless quite fond of their rewards cards. In fact, a 2018 survey found that about 57% of Americans had a rewards credit card of some sort. Despite the concerns many American consumers have about credit card debt, it’s easy to see why so many people still sign up for these cards. The various benefits they offer, including cash back on purchases, remain very popular with consumers. However, despite the widespread use, many Americans fail to take advantage of these cards, and it’s common for rewards points to expire before they’re redeemed. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Here are five great tips to make sure you put your credit card reward points to good use.
1. Go for the Cash
One of the best ways to ensure that your rewards points don’t go to waste is to make them as liquid as possible, and nothing is more liquid than cash! Unlike other types of rewards points, which may offer discounted airfare or consumer items upon redemption, cash back rewards give you actual cash. If you have a cash back rewards card, you can use your rewards to buy additional items or services; in many cases, your credit card company can transfer the earned cash to another account, or mail you a check. You can apply the cash back to your credit card account to pay down the balance as well. The tremendous flexibility of cash back rewards has made these among the most popular types of credit cards. Using the cash you earn back with one of these accounts is a great way to maximize the benefit of a credit card rewards program.
2. Choose Rewards Cards You’ll Actually Use
A rewards card won’t do you any good if you never have an opportunity or desire to use it. If you want to get the most out of your credit card rewards program, ensure that it aligns well with your activities and interests. For example, if you’re a frequent traveler, try to select a card that’s linked with the airline or train service you use frequently. Similarly, if you typically stay in a certain type of hotel during your travels, a card that helps you earn additional benefits on your many hotel stays is a great choice. Having a card aligned with what you do normally will help ensure that you continue to rack up points, and ensure that you’ll be likely to use the points prior to their expiration.
3. Use Them Frequently, but Be Careful
To reap the most benefits from whatever type of rewards card you have, you’ll need to use it as much as possible. Doing so will allow you to maximize the rewards you’re earning, which you can then redeem for the benefits your rewards program offers. Try running as many purchases as you can through your rewards cards, and then put those points to good use once they’ve accumulated. However, of equal importance, ensure that you have a plan to pay off your credit card balance each month. It’s no good to reap the benefits of a credit card rewards program if you’re just going to end up heavily in debt and racking up interest charges that outweigh the rewards.
4. Keep Track of Your Rewards Program and Points
Having the best rewards card in the world isn’t going to do you any good unless you actually use it. However, the fact remains that about 20% of people fail to use credit card rewards points, and instead just let them expire. To ensure that you put those rewards points to good use, take the time to track them. If possible, sign up for online banking with your card, so you know how many points you have and can gauge when they expire. As a bonus, you’ll be able to monitor your credit card balance and make online payments. You should always try to monitor the terms and conditions for your rewards points too, especially when you’re required to sign updated terms. The more aware you are of your rewards program and points, the better opportunity you’ll have to make the most of it.
5. Improve Your Credit Rating
If you want to be part of a great credit card rewards program, you’re going to need good credit. The better your credit is, the more options you’ll have for great credit card rewards. Generally, having a credit score of 700 or better opens you up to a much wider array of cards with highly prized rewards programs. So, if you want a rewards card with the best features and great perks, start working on that credit rating today. You can order a free annual credit report to get a good snapshot of your current credit situation. Then, you’ll have a good idea of the steps you need to take to improve your credit and qualify for a great rewards program.
Credit card rewards programs can be beneficial, especially if you work to get the most out of them. If you’re interested in reaping the maximum benefits from your rewards card, follow the tips offered here, and start putting those rewards points to good use. However, ensure that in your pursuit of additional rewards points you don’t allow your credit card debt to get out of control. Strive to pay your rewards cards off each month if you’re using them, or otherwise keep low balances on them. No credit card rewards program is worth the burden of a high level of debt and snowballing interest charges.