How To Earn More Rewards With Your Credit Card

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I remember years ago when I first got into blogging, I had no idea what rewards credit cards were. As I would read, I saw more and more “finance professionals”, well professional bloggers talking about the free vacation they took using a rewards credit card, or the money they saved through rewards programs. I was always intrigued by these posts; the only problem was that I couldn’t qualify for the offers that provided rewards. Eventually I started working on my credit and built it to the point where a rewards credit card wasn’t an unreasonable request.

I applied for 3 cards, and surprisingly enough, I was approved for all of them. I was incredibly happy because I had strategically picked the cards because they each offered different rewards I would enjoy. Over the years, I’ve made my fair share of credit card mistakes, but I’m thankful for them. If I didn’t make the mistakes, I wouldn’t be the credit card churner I am today! Another thing that happened over time was that I learned great ways to earn more and more rewards. Over time, I’ve dialed the earning more rewards process into a simple step by step checklist. So, today I decided I’d share it!

Earning More Credit Card Rewards – A Step By Step Guide

Step #1: Diversify Your Portfolio.

OK, I know we’re not talking about investment services, but we might as well be. With rewards credit cards, you’re investing time in planning and spending on your card to earn the highest return possible. When it comes to investments, it’s not best to put all of your eggs in one basket. The same goes for earning credit card rewards. Instead of choosing just one rewards credit card and focusing on earning one type of rewards, diversify. Maybe it’s best for you to have a travel rewards credit card, gas rewards card, and cash back rewards card. Simply think of different rewards programs that would best fit your needs!

Step #2: Clean Up Your Budget.

Your budget is going to play A HUGE role in your ability to maximize on the amount of rewards you earn using your credit card. We’ll get into how that works in the next step. First, it’s time to pull up your budget. Go through it and make sure everything is updated. If you don’t have a budget spreadsheet, click here to learn how to make one for free!

Step #3: Come Up With A Credit Card Spending Budget.

Dig through your budget and make a list of the monthly expenses that you pay using a debit card, or cash, but you know would accept credit card payments. These expenses generally include groceries, utilities, gas, entertainment, etc… Once you’ve figured out which of your monthly expenses fall in this category, add up the total you spend in those areas each month. This will become your monthly credit card spending limit. Don’t worry; I’m not giving you a play to dig you into debt…read further and you’ll understand!

Step #4: Set Up A Separate Savings Account With The Bank You Already Having A Checking And Savings Account with.

A special savings account is incredibly important to this process. Obviously, you’re not going to earn tons of interest on a savings account, but you’ll earn some interest. In the next steps, you’ll learn why this is relevant to maximizing the rewards you earn with your credit card.

Step #5: Start Using Your Credit Cards.

If you never use your credit cards, you’ll never earn rewards. It’s time to start swiping those things until you start a friction fire. OK, well maybe you shouldn’t be swiping that much, but you will need to use your cards. Stick to your credit card spending budget and start spending!

Step #6: Cover Your Butt!

When I first started using credit cards, I came to the quick realization that I had to pay back the debt once I got my first bill. I didn’t prepare to pay it off, to be honest, I didn’t prepare for anything. I ended up paying for three months on that balance which means I paid interest. Because I paid interest, I didn’t earn rewards, I paid for them. Here’s how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you…and why it’s important to have a savings account dedicated to this process.

At the end of every day, when you’re done spending money for the day, get online and transfer the total amount of money that you’ve spent on your credit card from your checking to your savings account. Doing so will do two things for you…

  1. Make Sure You Never Pay Interest – Credit cards have grace periods. Because of this, if you pay your balance off entirely within a specified period of time (Usually 21 Days), you won’t be charged interest on your purchases. By putting the money to pay your debts off in savings every night, you’ll be more than prepared to pay within the grace period and avoid interest.
  2. Earn More – Savings accounts pay you interest. Granted, you’re not going to make much more than pennies on the average savings account, but remember, pennies add up to dollars! By storing the money you plan to use to pay off your credit card debt in a savings account, you’ll earn interest as the money sits! That’s what I call double earning!

Step #7: Get In The Habit Of Making Bi-Weekly Payments

As I mentioned above, credit cards have grace periods, which I think are beautiful things. Grace periods allow you to avoid 100% of the interest you would generally be charged on credit card debt. The only catch to the grace period is…well, you’ve gotta catch it! Because most grace periods are 21 days, it’s best to get into the habit of paying your balance off in full every two weeks. This shouldn’t be hard because you’ve already got the money waiting in your savings account…where it’s earning interest!

So There You Have It

These seven steps are all it takes to earn free vacations, free gas, cash back and more. They’ve worked for me for quite some time now, now it’s time for them to work for you!

Reader Question

Do you churn rewards credit cards? If so, is there anything you would add to this process? If not, why?

19 COMMENTS

  1. “Set Up A Separate Savings Account With The Bank You Already Having A Checking And Savings Account with”

    You could just open an entirely new account, one that comes with a sign up bonus. That way you’re double dipping (earning credit card bonuses AND bank account bonuses).

    Also you can look into more advanced tactics like manufactured spending which will increase your credit card spend (and rewards points) without you spending more money.

    • Hey William, thanks for swinging by. That’s a great idea to open the account in a new bank for double dipping bonuses. I’ve never heard of manufactured spending. I’ll have to look into that, thanks!

  2. Great post, Joshua! I hadn’t heard about credit card churning until I started blogging, too. I signed up for my first card whose sole purpose was to churn in December. Since then my wife signed up for the same card (the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard) and we now have $880 worth of money to spend on travel. We went to Des Moines for my cousin’s first communion and other relatives were already taking up the extra bedrooms at my aunt and uncles so we got a hotel. It was a great feeling being able to just credit our account and not worry about the extra expense of a hotel. We’ll probably use the rest of our rewards to go to a friend’s wedding in California – maybe we’ll even have some money left over!

    • Hey DC, the Barclays Arrival World MasterCard is an awesome choice. I’m glad to hear credit card churning is working well for you, enjoy your friend’s wedding, and thanks for swinging by!

  3. I’m not a fan of credit card and I don’t own one because I think I’m still a newbie when it comes to credit card. But thankfully, I read a lot of reviews and tips about credit card churning and I really learned a lot from it.

    • Hey Marie, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to not have credit cards. I’ve actually told tons of people that they weren’t ready for the financial responsibility and to not get one. It’s a good thing that you can see that you’re a newbie and a credit card isn’t best for you, thanks for swinging by!

  4. I LOOOOOVE credit card rewards! I don’t churn, necessarily, but I do use credit cards whenever possible for the purpose of earning points. Besides earning points, there’s SO many other benefits of using credit cards: fraud protection, insurance, warranties, price protection, etc. The points/rewards are the cherry on top!

    • Hey Katie, thanks for swinging by. I have to agree, there are tons of great reasons to use credit cards. Rewards are a big one for me, but the protection is awesome too. Thanks again!

  5. Awesome post, Joshua!! We have one card and one card only, simply because we don’t want to fall into the trap of getting further into debt. The rewards are smaller, but at least we’re getting something, and learning how to use the card and pay it off immediately.

    • Hey Laurie, I completely understand why you have just one card. Overwhelming debt sucks and by reading your story, I know where you’ve been. Looks like your making he most financially sound decision there while still getting the opportunity to take advantage of rewards. Thanks for swinging by!

  6. These are some good starting tips for newbies. I’ve been earning membership reward points with my Amex for a while and some miles with my Chase United Card but I was not being too strategic about it until recently. I see so many opportunities out there to earn rewards and I’ve learned a lot from other bloggers as well. I like to pay my balance off at the end of each month and I track everything on an excel sheet. Most of the cards I have close around the same time so it works out well for me. Another tip I read about is you should apply for new credit cards every 91 days but sometimes people break that rule if there is an excellent credit card offer that comes along.

    • Hey Raquel, thanks for swinging by. I haven’t heard the 91 day rule. Why would you need to apply for a new card every 91 days?

      • I got this tip from the Frugal Travel Guy. It’s to avoid denial because of too many recent inquiries on your credit. The second reason is because most offers require you to achieve the spend in 3 months or 90 days. So on day 91 you should be ready for the next credit card spending cycle.

    • Hey Kara, you should try it if you’ve got the ability, it’s a great way to travel and get other things free!

  7. I haven’t churned credit cards myself but have learned ways to maximize rewards. From buying items online that earn points, using credit cards that earn points as well and adding the loyalty card.

  8. Great info! I love the rewards, but I am mostly getting plain cash back. I am starting to think I should look into cards that give miles. We travel often and it’s starting to make more sense.

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