How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards (2023)

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Credit card rewards can be a great way to earn cash back, points or bonuses that can add up to significant savings.

Beth Braverman

How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards (1)

In addition to helping you boost your credit and making everyday purchases easier, reward credit cards also give you the opportunity to earn valuable cash back, points or miles that can save you a lot of money. But most rewards card holders don't make the most of the rewards they've earned.

a recentLendingTree Studiofound that nearly seven in 10 rewards cardholders have unused cashback rewards, points or miles in their accounts, and 40% have not collected any rewards in the past year. While many of these people (63%) hold their rewards until they reach a certain limit, credit card rewards tend to lose value over time, so it's important to have a strategy in place to enjoy them.

"Those who avoid credit card interest by paying the balance in full are leaving money on the table if they don't maximize their rewards," says Jason Steele, credit card expert and producer of the CardCon credit card exhibit. Here's how to get started:

Match the type of rewards program to your habits and motivation to maximize rewards

The best card for you pays the biggest rewards for the things you spend the most money on, whether it's traveling, shopping, or gas. The card that is best for one consumer may not make sense for another. HeGold American Express® Card, for example, pay membership rewards four times®points for money spent at restaurants, plus pickup and delivery, in the US and four times rewards per membership®points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases and points one time thereafter). Cardholders can also earn Triple Points for flights booked directly with the airlines or at (terms apply).

If you're looking for a travel credit card and have an airline or hotel chain that you like or use frequently, it might make sense to get a co-branded card that offers extra rewards or benefits when you fly or stay with that company. . .

However, maximizing travel and other rewards can be tricky, so if you know you're not likely to spend time learning the ins and outs of a card's program, you might want to stick with a cashback credit card. Simple.

"Everyone understands the value of a dollar," says credit expert John Ulzheimer, formerly of Equifax and FICO. “It's not about airline miles or hotel points or some dull point you don't understand. You just don't have to think too hard about it."

Consider having more than one card

While using multiple credit cards can make shopping a little more complicated, it can be worth using specific cards that align with specific types of spending to get the most value out of each transaction.

“The average American has four cards in their wallet,” says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and president of "You can also replace them with cards you can benefit from."

One strategy might be to get a store credit card if there is a store where you shop regularly to use the card for all your purchases. HeCapital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®For example, you pay 5% cash back on purchases and 2% cash back on in-store purchases, so it might be a good option for those who shop there frequently.

Check your card website for opportunities to earn more rewards

Some cards have additional bonus categories or other short-term programs that allow you to earn additional rewards for certain types of spending. To take advantage of these offers, you usually need to log in to the card portal or website and activate them. During one of these bonus periods, you can get 5% cashback on supermarkets, for example, compared to 1% cashback on all other purchases. However, the rotating bonus levels are temporary, so the sooner you activate them, the more time you have to earn these rewards.

Another way to earn additional rewards is to shop online through the website's shopping portal. By clicking through the portal to retail sites before purchasing, you can earn cash back or additional rewards, or in some cases, get a discount on these purchases.

“You're not really doing business with the shopping portal,” says Nick Ewen, director of content at The Points Guy. "You still end up at or, but at the end you get a small payout."

Know the other benefits of your card

Rewards and cash back aren't the only benefits of reward cards. If you travel frequently, consider looking for a card that offers travel insurance, which comes in many forms and can cover everything from trip cancellation to lost or damaged luggage.

Many cards offer other valuable benefits, such as free checked baggage on a flight, discounts on streaming entertainment or food delivery services, or rental car insurance. HeCiti Premier® Card, for example, offers cardholders free access to their FICO credit score and early access to tickets to concerts and sporting events.

Take advantage of registration bonuses

To compete for new customers, many cards offer valuable sign-up bonuses when you open a new card. Now, for example, theCiti Rewards+® Cardoffers the opportunity to earn up to 25,000 ThankYou® Bonus Points after spending $1,500 within the first three months of account opening.

These bonuses can be a great way to boost your rewards balance, but it's important to understand the terms. If you don't spend the required minimum, for example, you won't get the rewards.

Cover what you can responsibly and pay your bill in full

No matter how valuable your rewards are, they are worth no more than the amount you would have to pay in interest if you didn't pay off your credit card balance every month. This is particularly important at this time, at a time wheninterest rates are rising.

“Your credit card and associated rewards are an asset, so you need to take care of it and treat it like an asset,” says Dvorkin. "If you don't pay the bill, the points accumulated over time will disappear."

In short

Credit card rewards are a great way to get more for your money, whether you're at the grocery store or just paying a utility bill. There are so many different types of rewards credit cards that it's worth researching the best option for you, and then making sure you fully understand how to maximize your rewards.

Editorial Disclosure:All articles are prepared by the editorial team and contributors. Opinions expressed are solely those of the editorial team and have not been reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser. The information, including fees and charges, presented in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. Check the lender's website for the most up-to-date information.

This article was originally published inSFGate.comand reviewed by Lauren Williamson, who serves as home and financial services editor for Hearst's eCommerce team. Email her at

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