How can I get the most value out of my credit card rewards?
From free airline tickets to using points to pay for a new TV, credit card rewards programs provide many ways to save money on everyday items. With so many ways to redeem points and bonus rewards, how do you decide what’s right for you? Here are some tips to help you make the most of your credit card rewards.
1. Pay with rewards or points
If you are searching for a discount on your next purchase, or simply trying to save cash during the holidays, look no further than your rewards card. As an added perk to cardmembers, some credit card issuers now offer the ability to shop online at select retailers and pay for your purchase with all or part of your reward points. For example, Discover cardmembers can pay with Cashback Bonus at a variety of online retailers.
2. Buy a gift card
Gift cards are one of the most popular ways to redeem credit card rewards because of their flexibility and point to dollar value. Some rewards cards even offer extra rewards when you purchase a gift card through a retail partner. For example, redeeming $20 worth of rewards or points could get you a $25 or $30 gift card.
Compared to several years ago, issuers now offer many options to redeem at lower price points such as $25 gift cards, so you don’t have to stockpile rewards to reap their benefits. Now you can instantly redeem rewards online or with the swipe of your finger on a mobile device. For example, Discover cardmembers have the ability to redeem Cashback Bonus instantly with eGiftcerticates at a variety of retailers ranging from major department stores to restaurants and travel sites.
3. Apply towards travel
Redeeming your credit card rewards for travel can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare or hotels. However, the need to accrue lots of miles or points, blackout dates and other travel restrictions often make travel redemption frustrating. Because mileage conversion rates change frequently, a good rule of thumb to avoid missing out on travel rewards is to redeem your miles or rewards points early and often. Check to see what travel sites partner with your issuer. Redeeming your rewards for a gift card at a travel or car rental company can stretch your travel budget. You can also earn additional cash back on your travel plans by booking through your credit card’s online shopping portal.
4. Donate to charity
Whether your points or miles are about to expire or you’re switching credit cards, consider donating your points instead of spending them on something you don’t need. During the holidays and in times of crises or natural disasters, using your rewards points to donate to charity is an extra way to help without having to spend more out of pocket. If you plan on making a charitable donation, check to see if your issuer requires a minimum number of rewards points to donate.
5. Redeem for cash or statement credit
Getting a direct deposit to your bank account or a statement credit is a practical and straightforward way to make your reward points work for you by paying your bills and improving your overall bottom line. You can use your rewards cash to pay down existing debt or transfer the money into an interest bearing savings account, retirement or college savings fund.
Tips to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
Pay off your balance
Avoid the temptation to spend more than you are able to back immediately simply to accumulate more rewards. The more you pay in interest each month the less valuable your rewards points become.
Focus your spending
It’s easy to become impulsive when it comes to redeeming rewards. However, with careful planning you can quickly double or triple your credit card points to earn your reward faster. The more credit cards you are using the fewer points you will be able to accumulate on each. Set a plan to save your rewards for a much needed or big ticket item and concentrate your spending on your card that offers the best point to cash value.
Look for bonus offers
If you are earning one point for every $1 spent you could be missing out on rewards. Many issuers offer an increased cash back rate every quarter in special categories, up to a specified dollar amount. Several credit card issuers offer bonus offers through their website like earning double or triple cash back by shopping through their online rewards mall.
Estimate Your Rewards Cash Value
One of the best ways to determine your rewards value is to calculate your rewards cash value so you can determine the best possible return. Focus on the rewards that you get for every dollar spent. A good way to calculate your rewards value is to divide the dollar value of the card by the number of points or cash rewards you need to redeem a specific reward. In this case, the fewer points required for a reward, the less you have to spend to earn it and the more valuable your rewards.
With any credit card program it’s important to always read the fine print. Check to see if your rewards program has a spending cap, redemption restrictions or an expiration date. With careful thought and some extra planning, your rewards can quickly add up to substantial savings.