The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

8 Ways to Maximize Credit Card Points

Ways To Maximize Credit Card Points

credit card advice

Erica Sandberg

Written by: Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a consumer finance expert and journalist whose articles and insights are featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MarketWatch, Forbes, and MSN Money. An experienced media host, she's led many financial programs, including her podcast, "Adventures With Money." She's appeared on Fox, CNN, "EconTalk" and "The Dr. Drew Podcast," and has been the resident money and credit authority for KRON-4 News in San Francisco for more than 10 years. Her book "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families" was first released in 2008, and the 2017 edition is out now.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Advertiser Disclosure

A huge number of credit cards come with amazing rewards programs. Each time you charge a purchase to one, you’ll rack up valuable perks in the form of cash, miles, or points.

Of course, you won’t get any of those rewards without using the card, so it’s time to spend. Here are eight great ways to maximize credit card points and other perks you get from credit card companies.

1. Focus on High-Value Categories

Many credit cards offer higher point values for spending in certain categories or during different quarters of the year. If your card does, modify your charging activity to match it.

For example, if you like to get away from home and travel, you may want to use your Chase Sapphire Reserve® card and purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® when booking hotels and renting cars since it offers 10X points after the first $300 spent on travel purchases annually.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.24% - 26.24% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

You’ll also receive 3X points on travel purchases, but only after you earn your $300 annual travel credit. Pay attention to those high reward offerings.

2. Charge Every (Affordable) Expense

Review your budget to determine exactly what you need and want to spend money on each month without going over your income threshold. Make a point of charging as many of those expenses as you can.

FICO Credit Score Factors

Then, use the money in your checking account to pay off the bill.

You’ll give your rewards credit card a massive workout, and your repeated on-time credit card payments will be reflected nicely in your credit score. On-time payments are the single most important factor in determining your credit score.

It’s easy to overspend if you’re not keeping track of what you charge, so be sure to keep an eye on your spending to avoid high-interest credit card debt.

3. Put Group Costs on the Card

Let’s say you go out for dinner with a bunch of friends. At the end of the meal, you find that the entire bill is $400, and everyone’s portion is $50.

Take hold of the check and say, “Anyone mind if I get this? You can give me the cash or send your portion to me with an app!” Examples of money transfer apps include Venmo, the Square Cash App, and Zelle.

Assuming they’re in agreement, you get to claim a big pool of points, miles, or cash without going over budget. Just be sure to forward the money they send you to your credit card company without delay.

4. Get the Highest Signup Bonus Possible

Many credit cards offer generous signup bonuses just for opening the account. As long as you spend the required amount within a few months of getting the card, you’ll attain a large sum of bonus miles, points, or cash back.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred®, for instance, currently offers a large sum of points worth a pretty penny when redeemed for travel for meeting the minimum required spending amount within the first three months from account opening.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

If you’ve decided to invest in new furniture or purchase some other costly item (and have the available funds to pay for it all at your disposal), using the card to score that big bonus is smart.

5. Transfer Points to Partner Programs

Nearly all the major credit card issuers will let you transfer the rewards you’ve earned to their travel company partners. The value of those rewards may increase by doing so.

For example, one point may be worth 0.7 cents when redeemed for various travel accommodations on the issuer’s website or travel portal, but if you transfer your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program, you could earn upward of 1 to 2.5 cents per point, sometimes more.

So, if you plan to use your points or miles to cover the price of hotel rooms or flights, consider moving the rewards to the issuer’s partner loyalty programs first. Then, when you cash them in, you’ll get the best deal for your rewards.

6. Automate Your Payments

To make your reward-accumulating life simple without the worry of credit card debt, have your recurring bills, such as insurance, utilities, a cellphone, and gym membership, automatically paid for with a rewards credit card on file.

Then, have your credit card account(s) automatically paid off each month from the cash in your checking account.

The points will add up fast with virtually no effort. Imagine you have a Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card and charge about $1,200 on a monthly basis. That’s roughly $14,400 a year.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

This card is currently not available.

Bank of America® Rating

★★★★★

N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Since this card gives an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent, you’ll earn about $217. That’s not a bad deal just for paying your regular monthly bills!

7. Add an Authorized User

Almost all credit card issuers allow primary account holders to add authorized users. If you do add an authorized user, they will have a credit card with their name on it and your permission to use it.

Minimum Age for Authorized Users by IssuerMultiple people paying for all kinds of things with your account will help accumulate more rewards faster. Some cards will even give you bonus points for adding an authorized user when you first get the card.

The United Explorer Card from Chase, for example, will give you 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user, as long as they make a purchase within the first three months of you opening the account.

Yet, while these piggybackers can help you collect a lot of points, you’ll be responsible for paying the credit card company for all that stuff. Be sure to explain the rules first: no charging unless they can and will give you the money unless otherwise agreed to.

8. Charge Your Rent — Carefully

Chances are strong that your rent is the largest expense you have, so it would be nice to build rewards each time you pay for it. Some landlords or property managers will accept credit cards; however, this is an “only under special circumstances” method of point accumulation.

Merchants are charged an interchange fee of approximately 1.8% per transaction. Your landlord will most likely pass that fee on to you, which will result in the value of your points being significantly eroded.

So, only take advantage of this option when your card offers higher rewards than the added fee you may be charged. When it does, you’ll come out ahead.

Only Charge What You Can Afford to Repay

Remember, the only way to turn a profit with credit card rewards is to keep your balance at zero. Track your spending activity on a daily or weekly basis, and stop charging when you know you’ll have trouble paying the entire amount due.

If you don’t, you’ll roll over debt and interest will be added to the amount you owe. When you’re concentrating on maximizing credit card rewards, it’s easy to get excited and spend more than your checking account can realistically handle.

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