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Make Your Credit Card Work For You

[Saturday, May 14th, 2016]

You work hard, and you expect the people in your life to work hard, too. So if you’ve got a rewards credit card in your wallet, don’t let it off the hook. Put it to work too. Here’s how to maximize your cash back, points, and other credit card rewards.

First of all, you need to know the rules of the game. Take a close look at the terms and conditions of your credit card agreement, and any special programs that it offers. Does your card offer a sign-up bonus for spending a certain amount of money in the first three months? Don’t miss it. Do you get triple points for dining out? Take the night off from cooking and go to your favorite restaurant.

Take advantage

When you take advantage of every offer your credit card issuer has available, you’ll get the most from your money. Every credit card has its own rules for rewards. Some give double points for gas purchases, and some give 5% cash back in certain categories that change with the seasons. The key is knowing what your card offers.

If you find that you’re not taking advantage of all your card offers, it could be that your card isn’t quite the right one for you. Look around for a new one that offers cash back or reward points in the categories you’ll actually use. This might be travel-related charges, or dining, or gas, or groceries. There are specific cards out there for each of those categories, pus more. So keep shopping around until you find the one that works best for you.

Charge everything

Another way to maximize your rewards is to use your credit card for purchases you might normally pay for with cash. Be sure to put away the cash you’d have spent, though, so you can make sure it’s available when you need to pay your credit card.

It’s really fine to use your credit card for more purchases, and minimize the amount of cash you use, as long as you’re not forgetting that the bill will come due at the end of your statement cycle. It even helps you keep better track of your spending, since you can go back and look at your credit card statement or online account center and easily see exactly where your money is going.

Redeem your rewards

This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to redeem their points or cash back once they’ve earned them. Be sure you know how the redemption process works for your card, and use those points before you lose them.

Of course, many cards offer points that never expire—but even then, if you’re not using them, what’s the point? (Pun intended.) Figure out how you want your rewards: hotel points, frequent flyer miles, gift cards, statement credits—and then use them.

Don’t forget other perks
Your card may also offer extras like concierge service, priority boarding on a certain airline, purchase protection, price guarantees, or car rental insurance. Be sure you know about all the perks your card offers—and take advantage of them.

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