The Right Ways to Use a Rewards Credit Card

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When it comes to using prepaid or even standard debit cards, a cardholder’s focus should be on avoiding fees. But those who prefer another type of plastic – specifically a cash-back credit card – should have a different goal in mind: leveraging the card’s rewards program. MainStreet rounds up the best ways to do just that. 

Don’t carry a balance.
Rewards cards tend to have higher interest rates than no-frills cards, since someone’s got to foot the bill for the points the issuers are paying out. The goal, essentially, is to not be that someone by paying off your balance in full every month. Not doing so would simply negate any dollars, frequent-flier miles or experiential rewards you managed to earn off of your purchases.

Use the card for purchases you were going to make anyway.
That being said, you’ll need to use the card to earn the rewards, so it’s a good idea to charge purchases that you may have otherwise been putting on your debit card. (It’s also worth noting that credit cards are subject to fraud protections than most debit cards.) Consumers concerned with racking up a bill they ultimately won’t be able to pay off can utilize this trick: Link your credit card to your checking or savings accounts and pay off purchases at the end of each day to make sure you’re not overspending.

Follow your credit card issuer on Twitter.
Credit card companies are increasingly using social media as a product enhancer, and while several Facebook applications exist in the marketplace, Twitter is the best place to find additional savings. American Express recently launched a service that actually lets you link your card to your Twitter account to get deals in exchange for tweeting out hashtags, and MasterCard and Discover are both also good about advertising extra perks on their Twitter handles, though perhaps more informally.

Shop in your credit card’s bonus mall.
Online cash-back bonus malls actually earn credit card companies a percentage of their sales, which tends to lead to some pretty stellar discounts for customers. What’s more, the extra earnings aren’t typically subject to the caps that may exist in your card’s general rewards program. As such, savvy cardholders should consistently check their card’s bonus centers to see what extra discounts and high cash-back percentages are being offered.

Which shopping categories tend to feature the highest discounts in a credit card bonus center? Find out in MainStreet’s roundup of 8 Things You Should Always Buy in Your Credit Card Bonus Mall!

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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