10 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Reward Points

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Consumers are down to the wire when it comes to holiday shopping.

From gifts to travel plans, the holiday season is prime time for using credit card reward points, but it pays to put some strategy toward the reward points process.

Our personal finance experts shared 10 ways to make the most out of credit card reward points, just in time for the holiday season.

1. Fees

The goal of reward points is to help you score some “freebies,” or at least cut your shopping bill. It doesn’t make sense to have fees associated with these points.

And while fees to redeem credit card reward points are becoming less common, be wary of annual fees on credit cards that boast robust reward points. “You need to weigh the fee with how many points you're likely to build up and use,” says Carmen Wong Ulrich, president and co-founder of Alta Wealth Management.

“I was offered a rewards card upgrade on the 'gold' one I have now, but the annual fee would have increased from $79 to $450! Granted, I do ring up more than $450 worth of points annually, but in case I don't, I stuck with the $79 card to keep costs down. That way, I get the points anyway, no matter which card, and don't pay extra for other perks I won't use, such as airport lounges,” she adds.

2. It’s all about balance

You may have wondered if it’s best to save your reward points for a few years or redeem them as you earn them.

“Folks who 'hoard' tend to do it simply because they have no purpose assigned to the points. Unfortunately, those also tend to be folks who lose all those points that translate into 'free' money. Have a system where you have an expense that occurs once a year or several times over the year that you can use your points for specifically,” Wong Ulrich says.