If you use rewards credit cards wisely, you can double, and in some cases, even triple your rewards quickly and without spending anything extra. Here are five ways to make your rewards work for you:
1. Follow which categories offer bonus rewards
The best credit cards offer bonuses on purchases in rotating categories throughout the year, and many offer an ongoing rate, usually 1%, on non-bonus category spend.
For example, Chase Freedom Flex℠ gives you the chance to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in rotating categories each quarter that you activate. In addition to this, cardholders can earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can really maximize the amount of rewards you earn by making necessary purchases in the rotating bonus categories when the time is right, but because there are also other ongoing bonus categories, you can maximize your rewards even when you've maxed out in the bonus categories, or if there's a bonus category that doesn't really suit your needs at that moment.
Remember, you must activate the categories to earn these bonuses. Pay attention to the alerts telling you about the upcoming categories and how to sign up. You can save a reminder to your Microsoft Outlook or Google calendar so you don't forget. If you use multiple cards, make yourself a cheat sheet so that you can keep track of which card to use in which categories when you're shopping.
2. Sign up for alerts from your issuer
This is another option so you won't miss the special bonus categories or the special deals that your credit card issuer might offer. You can set alerts so you receive emails and text reminders when new deals become available and when your current cash-back deals are set to expire.
3. Buy gift cards at grocery stores or other retailers where your credit card earns rewards
Say you have a credit card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express which offers 6% back on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%). If your favorite U.S. supermarket sells gift cards to other places you frequent, you could use your Blue Cash Preferred® card to buy gift cards to those establishments, and earn bonus rewards on that purchase. You won't actually earn any bonus rewards when using the gift cards, but, because you purchased them at a U.S. supermarket, you'll earn rewards when purchasing the gift cards themselves. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser; terms apply.
4. Add authorized users
Having an authorized user on your account allows you to rack up rewards more quickly because there's more than one person charging purchases to the account. Say you have a credit card such as the Citi Premier® Card which offers three points on gas station purchases. If you fill up your car once a week, spending $40 each time, you'll earn 120 points each week on gas purchases alone. Now say your spouse is an authorized user on your account, and uses their card to fill up their tank each week as well, spending $50 each time. In this scenario, you could up the amount of points you earn to 270 instead of 120. That's roughly 12,960 points earned on gas each year, instead of 5,760 points. And that's only gas purchases. The card also earns three points per dollar spent at restaurants and supermarkets, and one point on all other purchases. Think of all the points that could be earned if you both regularly spend in these categories. Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.
This approach only works though if your authorized user is a trusted one. It likely wouldn't be a good idea if you added, say, a dead-beat uncle who does nothing but irresponsibly spend with the card, yet never intends to pay you back for those purchases. Adding a responsible partner, child, or employee makes much more sense.
5. Take advantage of partner deals
You can get more out of your Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for example if you have a checking or savings account at Bank of America. That's because Bank of America Premier Rewards members can earn up to 25%-75% more on purchases. That's in addition to the bonus rewards already offered by the card.
Not all cards offer perks like these, but it's definitely worth paying attention to your card's details in case there's ever an easy way you could be earning extra rewards.