How to Maximize Credit Card Benefits

June 15, 2015, Written By Lynn Oldshue
Cash Back Card words on a credit card to illustrate incentives and money bonuses on a plastic charge account when you spend or borrow funds on loan

Do you want to get the most out of your credit card rewards program? If so, you need to know how to use your credit card in the most efficient way. There are simple adjustments you can make to your spending habits that could have a significant impact on the amount of rewards you earn from your card.

Remember, credit cards can be a wonderful financial tool since you can actually earn money by using them properly. That means paying off your balance in full on time every month. If you do, then using a credit card is profitable–the more you spend, the more you earn. But if you carry any amount of balance from one month to the next, credit cards can be detrimental to your financial well being. The interest penalty you pay for carrying this balance can be excessive. So using a card improperly is one of the worst things you can do to your financial health.

The guide below explains how to maximize credit card benefits. You may be missing out on more than you think.

Choose the Right Rewards Program

Any decision you make in life is usually done through a comparison. You compare houses, cars, insurance policies, schools, and more to ensure that you are working with the right one. Why wouldn’t you want to compare credit card rewards? If you settle for whatever rewards you find first, you may not be choosing the best one for your spending habits. This will have a big impact on the amount of benefits you receive.

In order to choose the right rewards program, you need to think of how you spend money and how you want to use your benefits. If you spend your money mostly on groceries and fuel, you need to find rewards programs that work well with those transactions. However, you also need to make sure you can use the rewards you earn from your use. Someone afraid to travel may not get much benefit if the rewards are airline miles. Find a card that rewards you for your spending and provides you with benefits you can enjoy.

Understand How Your Program Works

Once you have decided on a rewards program, you need to get an idea of how you will be rewarded. Do you just get one point for every $1 spent, or do you get five points for groceries? Is there a limit on the points you can earn, and if so, what is it? All this information will be in the terms and conditions for your credit card, so you have to make sure you read these terms.

Some credit card rewards programs work on a rotating calendar. You may get 5% cash back on home improvement supplies one quarter, and then 5% cash back on restaurant expenditures during another quarter. If you aren’t aware of this, you could miss out on some great opportunities. Cards like the Discover it card or the Chase Freedom card rotate rewards in this way to accommodate for common spending trends. In other words, they want you to get the most rewards possible during the time of year you spend money on certain things. Check out your card’s rewards calendar for details.

Take Advantage of Introductory Offers

A significant number of rewards programs will offer an introductory bonus. For instance, the Capital One VentureOne card gives a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of being a cardholder. And the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express gives you $100 after you spend $1,000 on your new card in the first three months. You need to take advantage of offers like this because you can earn some good benefits in a short amount of time. Make sure you reach that spending threshold in order to qualify for your card’s introductory bonus.

Use Your Card Regularly

The only way to get credit card rewards is to use your card enough to earn them. That means paying for items with your card even when you have the cash on hand. Ideally, you should always be able to pay off your credit card balance when you make a purchase. You are using the card to build credit and to earn rewards. You do not have to wait until the end of the month to pay your credit card bill. You can wait a few days for a transaction to show up in your online account. Then, transfer money from your bank to cover that expense. If you spend money on the card all the time, you’re sure to rack up some good rewards points.

Watch for Expiration Dates

Make sure you use your credit card rewards before they expire. Most rewards never run out, but a handful of cards may have rewards that are only available for a certain amount of time. If you want to know how to maximize credit card benefits, you have to make sure you still have some available to use. Otherwise, you may miss out on good opportunities.

Get What You Want

Once you have enough rewards points saved up, enjoy them and get whatever you want with those earned rewards. This is when all of your hard work finally pays off. Check out the credit card benefits available to you, and see what you can get from your spending. Hopefully you find something that makes it all worthwhile.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of June 15, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.