Reward cards are a staple for consumers in the United States, Canada, and worldwide. Tacking on cash back and other bonuses on eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and travel sites is a great incentive for using a cash back or reward credit card on many of the typical purchases you make. However, making the most of your Citi, American Express, or Capital One reward card takes a plan and the flawless execution of your strategy over the long term.
With these five features of great card usage, enjoying the full benefit of the rewards you earn on everyday purchases can become the norm rather than an exception.
1. Understand your minimum payment obligations.
Credit cards all require a minimum payment each month. Cardholders must maintain at least these minimum payments to keep up their credit score and the ongoing ability to use current and future rewards opportunities. Credit card issuers don’t like it when you miss a payment—and it’s easy to understand why.
Make sure you are current with your minimum payments, at an absolute minimum.
2. Overpay to reduce your debt burden each month.
The best way to take full advantage of your cash back card is by overpaying the minimum payment. The best cash back credit card options on the market will provide you with a kickback with each purchase—and some even give you an extra percent or two as you pay down the debt as well. However, if you’re carrying balances over from month to month and incurring interest charges on the principal during each statement period, enjoying the benefits of those rewards can be minimal at best as the finance charges eliminate the bonuses you are receiving.
3. Take advantage of revolving offers.
Credit card companies are constantly extending offers to new and existing clients to entice them to utilize their line of credit over their competitors. This means that you can tack on a balance transfer credit card or zero interest rate for an elongated introductory period simply by signing up for a new card that offers the same base statement credit opportunities. As a cardholder who is simply hunting for perks, loyalty to a single brand of credit provider will only see you paying more out of pocket. Make changes throughout your life to get the best rates on the market at all times.
4. Only spend what you can afford.
One of the most important lessons that a cash back cardholder must learn is that everyday purchases can quickly rack up on a Citi or Chase Freedom card. Spending with a credit line as if you are drawing directly from your debit card is the best way to ensure that you don’t dig yourself into a hole. Keeping up this spending discipline can be hard when that additional purchasing power sits idle, but the willpower now will make for a huge benefit later from your card issuer.
5. Understand the fees that come along with your card.
Card issuers charge all sorts of fees. Many of these are often waived in the first year, but a variable APR, annual fees, and shifting bonus categories can become hard to keep track of for the casual consumer. Ensure you are always on top of the fee structure you are signing up for with any new card issuer. This way, you’ll always be prepared for what’s waiting around the corner.
Utilizing a credit card for purchases and the perks and bonus categories available can offer a great way to earn a boost to your finances, but leveraging a credit card the right way is crucial to maintaining fiscal discipline.