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How to earn rewards with your credit card

Credit cards aren't just for spending money. If you use them wisely, they may help you earn rewards too. From perks and points to rewards and bonuses, you can use several credit card features to your advantage.

Welcome bonuses

Many credit cards offer welcome bonuses, also known as new cardmember bonuses, for signing up and spending a certain amount of money within an introductory period.

Now, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to open a bunch of credit cards just for welcome bonuses. You have to be considered a new cardmember, after all. So if you already have a credit card with a certain issuer, you might have to wait one to two years, or more, to enjoy a new sign-up bonus from that company. You also want to make sure that you can pay off your purchases on time so you don't accrue interest or possibly hurt your credit score once you do start using that new card.

Cash back

You may use a cash back credit card to earn cash rewards for every purchase you make. A credit card might offer 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, for example.

Some credit cards also offer different percentages of cash back for certain purchase categories, like grocery stores, travel or dining. Essentially, the more you use your credit card, the more money you'll earn back. Cash back rewards may be redeemed for statement credits, for purchases through participating online retailers at checkout, for discounts on services or travel or for gift cards.

Rewards

Like cash back credit cards, rewards cards give you benefits for spending in certain categories. You'll be able to redeem your points for rewards such as flights, hotel stays and gift cards.

Travel rewards cards are particularly known for offering these kinds of perks. A travel rewards credit card might offer three points for every dollar you spend with a certain airline, for example. Rack up enough points and you can make a new travel purchase or redeem them for a special discount.

Rewards cards might also offer anniversary points for each year your account is open. These points may help motivate you to keep using your card responsibly.

Zero percent introductory APRs

Some credit cards offer zero percent annual percentage rates (APRs) for an introductory period, such as the first 12-15 months of your account opening. With zero percent intro APR, you don't have to pay interest on your purchases — as long as you pay the minimum balance each month. This introductory period is temporary based on the offer and interest will apply on unpaid balances.

Credit card reward sites

Reward sites for credit cards may offer great cash back rates and bonus deals. That's because credit card companies partner with different merchants to give customers more value.

So before you make a purchase, don't forget to check if your credit card is offering any deals on your favorite brands and products.

Some credit cards offer extra points or cash back when you shop online through partner websites or special discount sites. So if your credit card offers one percent cash back on all purchases and a partner site offers one percent cash back for shopping online, you may double up on your earnings with just one purchase.

Crediting your cash back and rewards

Depending on the credit card, you might be able to redeem it in the form of a statement credit, which is applied toward your credit card balance.

Bottom line: Credit cards can have a variety of benefits

Credit cards may help you earn rewards if you spend wisely and use the right methods.

You just want to make sure you make payments on time and don't max out your credit limit. This way, you can enjoy all the benefits your credit card has to offer and earn rewards in the process.

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