The perks that come with some credit cards can be very rewarding. From free hotel stays to free flights, cash back and other frills, reward programs can give you some nice benefits just for making regular purchases.
But, it’s no secret that points systems and cash back restrictions can be confusing. Luckily, a little homework can help you put a card (or two) in your wallet that’ll reward you for the way you spend and make you feel confident that you’re getting the most out of the program.
Understanding the Different Kind of Reward Cards
The most popular rewards cards give you one of the following:
- Cash back
- Gift cards and merchandise
- Discounts on services and products
We’ll go through each category so you can understand how they work.
Points cards assign you with a certain number of points for every dollar spent. Typically, it’s a one-to-one ratio. Certain spending categories can earn you extra points. You can typically redeem your points for rewards like dining, cash, and travel.
Take time to read, research and understand point systems and conversions, especially when you’re trying to compare different cards and programs. Be sure to look for opportunities to maximize your points and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
While each program has its own specifications, the main concept is to offer you a percentage (usually one to six percent) of cash back on the purchases you make throughout the year within a certain category, like groceries, gas, restaurants or retail. There are usually annual limits. Some cards have annual fees. And there can also be restrictions on spending categories. Again, make sure you read the fine print to understand how to earn the most cash back.
According to a recent survey, 63 percent of the people surveyed chose the cash back option, making these cards a popular choice.
Gift Cards and Merchandise
Many credit card companies partner up with retailers to offer gift cards or merchandise in exchange for points. This can give you flexibility with your points and, in the case of gift cards, a highly functional and convenient option.
This is your basic discount reward program where you can cash in your rewards to obtain discounts on different services and products.
How to Pick the Right Card for You
Before applying for a card, think about what you’re likely to use it for to decide which reward program fits best with how you spend. For instance, if you spend a lot on groceries, gas, or dining out, then a cash back card could put money back in your pocket. Or if you travel a lot, a points card might be a better fit, since they typically let you convert points into free stays or flights. A little research can help you find a program that fits your goals, lifestyle and brand preferences.
Whatever reward program you choose, follow these tips to maximize your benefits:
- Don’t spread your spending across a bunch of cards that might limit your reward
- Don’t allow your rewards to expire
- Don’t cash in your rewards too soon
- Pay for pricey perks using points
- Don't make late payments
Be sure to stay up-to-date on all the latest deals to maximize your perks. Credit card companies often launch new cards, change their bonuses and remove old programs on a continual basis.
Being Responsible and Wise with Credit
Like any credit card, you should always pay your balance off every month to avoid interest and late fees. Also, stay in budget and comparison shop for cards. Applying for a couple of good reward cards and using them wisely will help you roll in the perks. Make sure to stay on top of the best deals and pay your balance each month to maximize the rewards you get from your credit cards.
Looking for a new credit card? Liberty Bank has a variety of cash back and travel rewards cards—take a look at the great benefits today.