If youâre looking for ways to put some extra cash in your pocket, make sure to take advantage of credit card rewards programs.
Credit card companies and banks make some of their money from the merchant interchange fees that are charged when you use your card.
As an incentive for you to use their cards, many credit card issuers pass some of those funds on to the consumer in the form of credit card rewards.
If you have good credit and the ability and discipline to pay off your credit cards in full each month, you should try to maximize your credit card rewards. Otherwise you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.
But it can be challenging to navigate the world of credit card rewards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different credit cards exist, and the type and amount of rewards vary with each card.
There are three main kinds of rewards card offers available:
You have three different ways to maximize any credit card rewards program:
Usually, the rewards for signing up are much higher than the rewards you get from ongoing spending, so you may want to pursue sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards as a way of racking up rewards.
Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first three months of having the card. That means that while youâre meeting that minimum spending requirement, youâre earning 15 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Compare that to the one or two points youâll earn with each dollar of spending after meeting the minimum spending. You can see the difference.
Other than getting the welcome bonus offers for signing up for new credit cards, another great way to maximize your rewards is by paying attention to bonus categories on your cards. Some cards offer a flat 1 or 2 points for every dollar you spend.
Itâs important to be aware of how applying for new credit cards affects your credit score.
Your credit score consists of five factors, and one of the largest factors is your credit utilization.
Credit utilization is the percentage of your total available credit that youâre currently using. If you have one credit card with a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 to that card, then your utilization percentage is 20%. But if you have 10 different cards, each with $10,000 credit limits, then that your credit utilization percentage is only 2%.
Since a lower credit utilization is better, having multiple credit cards can actually help this part of your credit score.
New credit â how recently youâve applied for new credit cards â accounts for about 10% of your credit score. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit score usually will dip 3-5 points. However, if youâre conscientious with your credit card usage, your score will come back up in a few months.
While itâs true that careful use of credit cards can be a boon, you should watch out for pitfalls.
The first thing is to make sure that you have the financial ability, discipline and organization to manage all of your credit cards. Missing payments and paying credit card interest and fees will quickly sap up any rewards you might earn.
Another thing to be aware of is the psychology of credit card rewards. It can be easy to justify additional spending because youâre getting rewards or cash back, but remember that buying something that you donât need in order to get 2% cash back is a waste of 98% of your money.
Credit card rewards are alluring, but what do they really cost? Hereâs what you should know about the dark side of credit card rewards.
Before signing up for a new credit card, itâs best to pay off your existing cards first â otherwise the fees and interest will quickly outweigh any rewards you earn.
If youâre ready to start shopping rewards offers, here are five credit cards to consider. Note that these introductory offers are subject to change:
The best credit card is the one that gets you the rewards that help you do what is most important to you.
If youâre looking to maximize travel credit, then pick an upcoming trip and figure out what airline miles and hotel chain points youâll need. Then pick the credit cards that give those miles and points. If you want to maximize your cash back, look for a card with a good signup bonus that either offers cash back or bank points that can be converted into cash.
Dan Miller is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.