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(StatePoint) When it comes to purchases, Americans overwhelmingly prefer credit cards to cash or debit cards, yet few review the rewards and benefits that come with their card. This means millions of Americans may be missing out on experiences, cash back or other benefits that credit cards offer.
If you are one of the 77 percent of Americans that prefer to use credit cards, here are a few tips to make sure you are getting the most when it comes to a rewards card.
• Do your research. “The credit card rewards program you choose should fully align with your spending habits, interests and goals,” says Russ MacKaron, general manager of Card Experiences at USAA Bank. “A one-size-fits-all card doesn’t exist, so do research upfront.”
For example, if you travel often, a card that offers airline or hotel rewards may be the best fit.
The key is to avoid a rewards program that you’re not likely to use or that requires you to meet a certain spending requirement within a set period. Instead, choose a rewards card that allows you to earn points for everyday purchases, such as dining, gas and groceries. For example, the USAA Rewards Credit Cards offer extra points on all these items with no limit on how many you can earn.
• Redeem rewards often. According to MarketWatch, over $16 billion worth of credit card rewards go unclaimed each year. One reason for this is the process for redeeming rewards can be confusing. What’s more, many credit cards have rewards that expire within a set timeframe. Read the fine print and redeem rewards multiple times per year to make sure you don’t lose out. There are several cards on the market that offer the option to earn unlimited points that never expire, such as the USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card.
Another simple way to guarantee you’re redeeming rewards regularly is to have your points automatically credited to your account each time you hit a set number. For example, changing your settings to redeem your rewards points each time you hit the 1,000-point mark will help you take full advantage of your rewards program, even if you forget an expiration date.
• Note interest rates and other fees. “Earning credit card rewards can be completely counterproductive if you end up paying hidden fees that outweigh the benefits,” warns MacKaron.
If you’re paying an annual fee that adds up to more than the rewards you redeem, you’re likely not making the most of your credit card rewards program. A card with a low interest rate may seem like the most attractive option at first glance. However, according to TheBalance.com, there are three other key fees in addition to the annual membership fee you should look out for: teaser rates, balance transfer fees and late fees.
To learn more about reward credit cards options, visit usaa.com/creditcards.
Finding the right credit card can take time and energy, but earning and redeeming rewards will make the effort worthwhile.
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