If you have a rewards credit card, it’s a great feeling to know you’re earning rewards every time you use it. But did you know that with a little bit of planning, you can use your card to earn even more? Consider these ideas to maximize what you earn.

Make it your preferred payment method. When you use your rewards credit card as your go-to way to pay bills and everyday expenses, you can earn rewards on nearly all your spending.

Filling up the gas tank or buying groceries? Grab your rewards card. Paying phone, TV and utility bills? Earn rewards!

Make sure you compare the benefits of the rewards you can earn to the cost of the interest you’d pay. (It doesn’t make financial sense to pay a lot of interest to collect rewards points, but you can avoid paying any interest by paying off your balance each month. Or, you can pay less interest by making more than the minimum payment.)

Check into bonus categories. Many rewards cards offer additional points on specific types of everyday purchases. These may include gas, travel, restaurants or groceries, for instance. Find out which purchases qualify for bonus points, because it’s not always obvious. For instance, if a card offers bonus points for travel, that may include not just airfare, but also ordinary expenses like parking fees.

If you have multiple rewards cards, use the card that pays the most points for the specific purchase you’re making. For example, if you can earn 2 points on gas with 1 card and only 1 point with another, use the card that pays 2 points when you purchase gas. And, pay attention to limited-time offers. Some cards will offer you extra points for purchases from specific merchants or in specific categories during certain times.

Pay attention to the details. Some cards set dollar limits for the bonuses you can earn in certain spending categories, or your rewards may have expiration dates. Make sure you understand the limits so you can manage your rewards and avoid losing points. And, check out how you can use your rewards and how easy they are to redeem. (Can you apply them toward vacation expenses or get them in cash?)

Check exclusive shopping portals. Many rewards credit cards are associated with online shopping portals (websites), like Navy Federal’s Member Deals (think an online shopping mall for cardholders only). The credit card issuer partners with a number of retailers like well-known clothing, electronics or department stores to offer cardholders discounts, additional points or other bonuses when they purchase through the portal.

If your credit card issuer offers an online shopping portal, check to see if they partner with your favorite retailers and how much more you can earn when using their site.

Find the right card for you. Your credit card should fit your lifestyle and spending patterns. To get the most rewards from your spending, make sure your card has features like:

  • bonus rewards on everyday items
  • a long time to redeem points or a “rewards never expire” policy 
  • online shopping portals  

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a variety of credit card options that can help you maximize your rewards earnings.

Tally Up Your Rewards

The example below shows how rewards points can really add up quickly. 

Spending category Points per dollar Monthly spending Points earned/year
Gas stations/supermarkets 3X $700 25,200
Restaurants 2X $200 4,800
Everywhere else 1X $1,000 12,000
Total     42,000