Credit Card Rewards Programs basically reward you for your spending in points, which can be redeemed for such benefits as free hotel stays, merchandise, air travel, car rentals, gift certificates, cash back, and much more.
You CAN make your credit cards work FOR you! I have my own system – which I love to share with everyone! This is what works for me and my family – but you can easily adapt it to work for you and the cards and rewards programs you currently use. I stay with one credit card and one rewards program – because I prefer to keep it simple and I LOVE to see the points rack up quickly. But I encourage you to do some research on the cards and programs available to find one or two that can reap the most benefits for your family. Just make sure you USE your reward points. Many people sign up for more than twice as many rewards programs as they use. So, if necessary, consolidate into just one or two rewards programs. This will make it easier to keep track of your rewards balances and you will accumulate points faster! Creditcardguide.com can give you details on many credit card rewards programs.
Some things to remember:
1) I ALWAYS pay off the balance every month. It is the ONLY way to make money using a credit card and reward point system. Otherwise your money is going to interest and/or late fees – and that is NOT making the system work for you. Also, make sure you read the fine print and understand all the rules and guidelines involved in your specific program(s).
2) I use one credit card that gives me 5% cash back (up to $1,500.00) on some purchases (such as movie theaters, gas and groceries) and 3% back on all other purchases. On average, 1 point equals 1 cent, 100 points equals $1.00. Points can be redeemed as cash back or applied to my balance. They can also be used for merchandise or gift cards. Most rewards programs offer extra points for shopping through the card issuer’s website, especially during the holidays, so it pays to plan ahead. Also, many rewards programs partner with major retailers to give you greater value for your points. This means $20.00 in rewards earnings can be redeemed for a $25 gift card with leading retailers. That’s a 25% greater redemption value. Sometimes you can save 20% to 30% on gift cards as well!
3) I use one Online Rewards Mall Program. Online Rewards Malls are websites that give shoppers bonuses when they shop at major retailers. Some retailers include Kohl’s, Dicks Sporting Goods, Drugstore.com, Macys, DSW, Toys R Us, The Apple Store and Staples. These can be in the form of cash back, frequent flyer miles, or points to use towards statement credits or gift cards. This is a great alternative to clipping coupons because there are no pieces of paper or expiration dates to keep track of – you just SHOP. Usually you can also use the retailer’s coupon codes, discounts and sales incentives, so the savings can really stack up. Several companies offer Rewards Mall programs. Check out nerdwallet.com for more details on reward malls and a Rewards Mall Comparison Tool.
4) If you decide to use several rewards programs you should check out a rewards program management site like Points.com which helps you manage your rewards points, stay updated on all your rewards programs and even trade or buy points from other members.
How I work my Rewards Program:
1) I have a Speedy Rewards Card. (I like a BIG BANG for my Reward Buck. So I save ALL my Speedy Rewards Points for the $200 gas card.)
2) I log into the Speedway Mall (www.mall.speedway.com)
3) I choose my retailer – I can search by retailer name (drugstore.com), genre (vitamins), or item (vitamin C), alphabetically or even by special offers.
4) I can also choose the store I want to use based on the points per dollar I can earn with each individual retailer (between 10 and 80 points per dollar). Drugstore.com offers 40 Speedy Reward points per dollar. I do 90% of my shopping online. Most of the retailers I use are partnered with Speedy Rewards Mall. So, I am earning free gas on items I would be buying anyway! Like I stated earlier, I do not spend my points on things like a free beverage, I save my points for the big prize: 190,000 points for a $200 gas card. At anywhere from 10 to 90 points earned per dollar spent, depending on the retailer, these point rack up FAST. I usually redeem them for 3 to 4 $200 gar cards a year. That is $800 free gas!
5) I purchase all my drugstore items from drugstore.com, so I ALSO rack up drugstore.com points (5% per dollar) which are automatically redeemed in the form of store credit every 3 months.
6) Some other benefits of shopping online: saving time and gas by NOT driving to and from the store, and only buying what is on my list instead of browsing the aisles and picking up extra items.
BOTTOM LINE: When I make a $50 purchase at drugstore.com through Speedway Mall and pay with my credit card I earn: free shipping (over $35), $2.50 (5%) back in drugstore.com dollars, 2,000 Speedy Reward Points (which equals $2.10 in free gas based on the 190,000 points needed for a $200 gas card) and $1.50 (3%) cash back on my credit card! That’s $6.10 back on $50 – a savings of OVER 12%! Adding in free shipping and saving time, gas and mileage on my car makes me a very happy Rewards Program shopper! For me, that’s better than clipping coupons any day!
$50.00 purchase at drugstore.com through Speedy Rewards Mall
-$2.50 (5% back in drugstore.com dollars)
-$2.10 (40 Speedy Reward Points)
-$1.50 (3% back in credit card rewards)
=$43.90 total (over 12% savings!)