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Maximize your credit card rewards program

By Ben Woolsey

Rewards credit card programs are a great deal for most consumers, particularly those who pay off their credit card balance every month. Many find that earning rewards can help justify putting large purchases on a credit card rather than using some other form of payment. But even smaller, more mundane purchases really add up so it is important to have a strategy for leveraging your household spending to ensure that you are getting the most value from your rewards credit card as possible.

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Listed below are some tips for harnessing your household spending habits to get the most reward points possible out of the credit card rewards program:

  • If you or your spouse has a rewards credit card, request a companion card from their bank so that you can team up to earn more rewards.

  • Pay for groceries with your rewards credit card -- most people pay for groceries either by check, cash or with a bank debit card. If you examine your monthly grocery bills you will quickly notice that this is a great source of necessary spending that can be harnessed for increased rewards.

  • Pay your household bills online with a rewards credit card -- Many companies, even stodgy public utility companies, have begun accepting credit cards for immediate bill payment or scheduled recurring payments. Some, however, may impose a "convenience" fee for credit card payments. It's probably best to continue paying those bills by check. But, if you look at all the checks you write per month there is a lot of opportunity for earning points back for paying your cable, internet service provider, dentist, doctor, etc.

  • Put your monthly rent or mortgage payment on the credit card -- Several of the nation's largest apartment property management companies along with many mortgage companies have recently begun accepting credit cards for monthly payments. This can be a great source of large and recurring rewards earning, but make sure you stay disciplined and pay that outstanding balance off at the end of the month. Even one month of finance charges on such a large purchase could wipe out the value of the rewards earned.

The ultimate goal is to shift as much of your monthly discretionary and nondiscretionary spending as possible onto your rewards credit card. On top of the extra rewards that you can earn there is the added benefit of getting a monthly statement reporting all of your spending for better record keeping.

Published: October 22, 2005


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