Credit cards today provide a slew of enticing benefits, from building your credit history to offering zero percent interest on balance transfers. For me, though, it’s all about the rewards. I enjoy receiving that small portion of cash back for every purchase I make — it’s like getting free money with everything I buy. If you are like me, you want to do everything possible to maximize those rewards. In addition to using your credit for everyday expenses and large purchases, there are some lesser-known things you can do to get more credit card rewards. Here are five examples:
- Use Your Bank’s Online Shopping Portal
A good rule of thumb is to never go directly to a retailer’s website when shopping online. There are plenty of cash back websites that give you an incentive to shop at certain stores. Among those cash back sites are the ones offered through your bank or credit card company, and most banks and credit card companies have an online shopping portal to facilitate your savings. Two popular ones include Wells Fargo Earn More Mall (for those that carry a Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Credit Card) and Citi Bonus Cash Center (for those that carry a Citi card such as the Citi Double Cash Card).
Simply log in to the online shopping portal and click on the retailer’s website of your choice. You may notice that your bank or credit card company offers extra cash back rewards for shopping at certain stores. Do your shopping as normal and then use the associated credit card at checkout. The transaction will register with your bank or credit card company, so you will get your cash back rewards and bonus rewards where applicable.
You will likely find that many retailers you normally shop with are participants in these online shopping portals. You are essentially getting extra cash back for things you would buy anyway.
- Use Other Cashback Sites
Banks and credit card companies are not the only game in town when it comes to cash back shopping. Other free shopping portals also offer cash back on virtually every online purchase you’ll ever make. Two of my favorite options are Ebates and Mr. Rebates.
- Separate Your Spending On Rewards-Specific Credit Cards
Some credit cards give you extra cash back when you spend money on gas (3%-Amex Blue Cash Preferred); others give you extra cash back for spending money in certain categories like groceries (6%-Amex Blue Cash Preferred) or dining out (3%-AARP Credit Card). Make sure you are making conscious decisions about which credit card you use for each purchase. Try to align your spending with the rewards for each card. At restaurants, use the credit card that gives you extra cash back for dining out. If you are paying for travel, use the card that gives you bonus rewards for every mile you fly.
One way to remember which credit cards offer which rewards is to tape Post-it notes to each credit card. On each Post-it note, simply write the categories for which the card offers bonus rewards. Now when you pull the cards out of your wallet, you will easily know which one to use.
- Pay For Medical Expenses And Get Reimbursed From Your FSA Account
If you have a Flexible Spending Account, you likely received a debit card that connects with that account. You can use this card to pay for qualifying medical expenses, but you shouldn’t. Instead, use your cash back rewards credit card for those expenses and then file for reimbursement. It may be a little more time consuming, but the cash back rewards will add up quickly.
Remember to follow the guidelines associated with your FSA Account when charging medical expenses to your credit card and reimbursing yourself. The medical expense must be accrued while the FSA Account is open. You cannot reimburse yourself for expenses incurred before you opened the account or after it is closed.
- Purchase Gift Cards
You can use your credit card to purchase gift cards for multiple purposes. If you have people doing work for you – whether that be babysitting or plumbing – ask them if they would mind receiving gift cards as payment. This way, you can put that purchase on your credit card instead of paying the person in cash. As a result, you reap those cash back rewards.
You can also use your credit card to buy discounted gift cards online. These gift cards, available on websites like Gift Card Granny and Cardpool, were likely gifted to people who have no use for them. In turn, you get the full value of the card at a discounted price as well as the additional cash back from your credit card.
- Lend Money to An Entrepreneur In Need Overseas
If you plan on giving anyway, consider lending money to an entrepreneur in need overseas. It’s a lofty way to use your credit card and get more cash back rewards. Kiva.org connects lenders in 60 select countries with borrowers in need of microloans. You get to choose whom to offer a microloan from a pool of screened applicants who need the money for their businesses. Borrowers are in countries like Kenya and Guatemala and typically have agriculture-based businesses.
You can lend money in increments of $25, hence the term microloan. Kiva.org accepts PayPal as a payment method. So if your PayPal account is connected to your credit card, you can use it to fund your Kiva microloan and get those cash back rewards.
If you want to maximize how much cash back rewards you receive from your credit card, these tricks are worth a try. The tactics above may not come naturally at first but, with practice, you can turn them into money-making habits.
One more thing: always remember to pay your credit card bill in full each month. If you do not pay it off in full and accrue interest, you are essentially negating the cash back rewards.
What do you do to get more credit card cash back rewards?