Admit it: Your favorite thing about your new credit card is the awesome rewards it’s going to earn you. And you want to do whatever you can to maximize those rewards. The Nerds are here to help with six tips to earn more miles, points or cash back on your new credit card.
1. Hit the required spending to get your sign-up bonus
A sign-up bonus is an additional influx of points, miles or cash you receive after spending a certain amount of money on your credit card within a specific period of time. Not every credit card has a sign-up bonus, but many of the competitive rewards cards do. Of course, it doesn’t matter how large the potential sign-up bonus is if you don’t spend the required amount to receive it.
It’s a good idea to apply for a credit card with a sign-up bonus with a required spend you can hit without going into debt. In other words, if you need to spend $3,000 in three months, but you only have the means to charge and pay off $500 per month, the sign-up bonus will be at least partially negated by finance charges. Avoid carrying credit card debt unless absolutely necessary and get a credit card with a required spend that suits your budget.
2. Add an authorized user if your card offers an additional bonus
Some credit cards offer an additional sign-up bonus for adding an authorized user within a certain time period and having him or her make a purchase. If your new card offers this, and you have someone you’re comfortable adding as an authorized user—like a partner or a college-aged child—this is a great way to get some extra points.
But before you do this, you need to understand what an authorized user is. This person will be able to use the credit account, but isn’t legally obligated to make payments and can’t make changes. An authorized user can be removed at any time, but you’ll need to ask your issuer if this removal will affect your bonus.
3. Use bonus mall when shopping online
A bonus mall is a shopping portal that allows you to get discounts or rewards on your online purchases. To use it, go to your issuer’s bonus mall website and click on the retailer of your choice before you make a purchase. Then pay with your credit card to reap the extra rewards. Most issuers have bonus malls, but some of the most popular are Discover Deals, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Bonus Cash Center.
4. Opt into bonus rewards categories, if applicable
If your credit card has bonus rewards categories—like Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer’s and Chase Freedom®’s 5% bonuses—you have to opt in quarterly to take advantage of them. Otherwise, you’ll only receive the standard rewards, which are typically 1%.
5. Use your credit card for everything that doesn’t charge a fee
Many of your expenses can be put onto a credit card and paid off before the due date to earn rewards. Put things like gas, groceries, travel expenses, entertainment spending, subscriptions, and utilities on your credit card. Just make sure to pay it off each month.
Other expenses, like your rent or quarterly tax payments, may trigger a fee if you charge them to your credit card. Pay these with a check or bank draft to avoid incurring fees, which may be significantly more than any rewards you’ll earn.
6. Couple up cards
Some credit cards work well together for maximizing your rewards. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cards, you can use the combination of the 5% bonus categories and the Chase Ultimate Rewards site for redeeming rewards to maximize your points. Use your Chase Freedom® on purchases with 5% rewards and transfer those points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to redeem at a rate of 1.25 cents per point for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. Or if you’re skilled at travel hacking, you can transfer those points to frequent flier programs to get better deals.
» MORE: Credit card 101
The takeaway: If you want to earn major rewards, you should meet the required spend to get your credit card’s signup bonus and add an authorized user if there’s an additional bonus for doing so. You should also use the issuer’s bonus mall when shopping online, opt into bonus categories, and use your credit card whenever you can without a fee. Finally, advanced credit card users may want to get complementing cards to maximize rewards earning and redemption.
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