How to Get the Most From Credit Cards With Rewards Programs

Travel cards can be a highly-contested topic, and they are not right for everyone. But, if you find a rewards program that meets your needs, you can use the purchase of everyday necessities to help fund your next vacation. However, travel rewards are not the only type of rewards program you can participate in.

Cash back credit cards are also a great way to earn rewards whenever you charge a purchase on your credit card. There are also gas rewards programs and student credit cards that may offer rewards that are more attractive to you. It all depends on your financial situation, needs and habits.

For more information about these types of rewards programs, read the sections below.

How to Explore More With a Travel Rewards Card

Travel credit cards are cards that reward you with points or airline miles each time you charge a purchase. When you accumulate enough rewards, you can redeem them for free or reduced-price airline tickets, hotel stays and other travel expenses.

Cards may be branded or linked to a specific airline or hotel chain or they may be generic, in which case you are able to redeem your rewards with any participating travel services provider. Your personal usage patterns and preferences will determine which of these types is the best travel credit card for you.

About the Best Travel Rewards Cards

As with all other credit cards, travel card eligibility is based on a combination of factors including your credit score and credit history. Your personal preferences or priorities related to annual fees, interest rates and other card features will also influence your decision. Here a few suggestions of highly-rated cards to explore if you are interested in travel rewards programs:

  • Capital One Venture RewardsConsidered possibly the best hotel credit card of 2018 for consumers looking for generic hotel rewards they can use anywhere, this card has no annual fee the first year you hold it and a competitive APR interest rate.
  • Chase Sapphire PreferredThis top-rated credit card offers cardholders use-anywhere airline miles and generous reward bonuses.

Is a travel rewards card right for me?

A travel card can help make your travel and vacation dreams come true. These cards can:

  • Reduce the cost of your travel plans by giving you free or reduced-cost airline tickets or hotel stays.
  • Make everyday purchases rewarding.
  • Make trips you would otherwise not be able to afford within reach.

However, even the best travel credit cards are not for everyone. Factors to keep in mind include the following:

  • Rewards programs may have restrictions, such as blackout dates during which you cannot redeem points or expiration dates by which you must use your points before they expire.
  • You may not always be able to find participating airlines or hotels serving the areas you wish to visit, making your points nonredeemable for your target destinations.
  • Travel cards can be expensive to hold, as they typically carry annual fees, interest rates at or above market average, and other such costs.

If you do decide to get a card that offers a travel rewards program, remember to inspect the program rules carefully to find the one right for your needs. For instance, the best credit cards for international travel will not be the same as the best credit card for travel miles you intend to spend on domestic flights, so it is important to choose cards that reward you with points that align with your personal travel goals.

How Cash Back Credit Cards Can Earn You Money

If you are not sure what type of credit card is best for you, you will likely find that it is hard to go wrong with cash back credit cards.

How do cash back credit cards work?

Cash back cards are cards that award you points you can redeem just like regular money every time you charge purchases to your card. Unlike a travel card, a cash back card gives you rewards you can almost always use immediately on whatever is most valuable to you.

Are all cash back credit cards the same?

There are three primary types of cash back credit card programs.

  • Flat-rate rewards cards, such as the Citi Double Cash Card, give you same amount back no matter what you buy. The current industry standard is 1.5 percent. Most flat-rate cards have no annual fees and no limits on the amount of cashback you can earn.  
  • Tiered rewards cards, like the Blue Cash Everyday American Express card, award different percentages of cash back depending on what you charge. Certain categories of expenses, such as groceries, are assigned higher award rates. These cash back cards are best for consumers who spend large amounts of money in the prioritized categories. It is important to check the terms, however, as maximum reward limits may apply.
  • Bonus category rewards, such as the Chase Freedom card, are more work than the other types of cards, but they can also be the highest cash back credit card option. Like tiered rewards cards, category rewards cards offer higher rewards in certain categories. Unlike tiered cards, category cards rotate through prioritized categories, typically on a quarterly basis. Cardholders must “activate” these new categories to receive the higher rewards, as well.

Is a cash back credit card right for me?

Credit card cash back offers are abundant, and these cards can be a much better fit for some consumers’ needs than a hotel or airline miles credit card. Consumers can also leverage the best of each category of these cards by looking at the top offers they receive, selecting one card of each type and using different cards for different purchases to maximize their rewards throughout the year.

If that is more work than you want or feel able to put in, simply select the best credit card for which you are eligible. It is nearly impossible to go wrong with a cashback card.

On the downside, cash back credit cards can make it easier to excuse overspending. While this can be a problem for any type of credit card, it can be particularly easy to charge a rewards credit card when knowing that you will receive a percentage of your purchase back. However, these credit cards only really offer savings when you are using them to make purchases that you would already make, such as on groceries or fuel costs. 

When reviewing a cash back credit card offer, it is essential that you review the types of purchases that will yield rewards. It is common for credit cards to only provide cash back on specific types of purchases, such as gas, grocery or hotel related expenses.

Furthermore, some credit cards will provide a higher percentage of cash back on purchases made through specific vendors. By reviewing multiple credit card offers, you will increase the likelihood of finding a credit card that fits your spending habits. 

Learn About Gas Credit Cards to Help Get You Where You Need to Go

Gas credit cards reward you with up to three percent cashback or points for every dollar you spend on gasoline. Typically, you can use those rewards toward your credit card bills and, thus, effectively get valuable discounts every time you fill up your tank.

In some cases, your gas rewards credit card may also provide cash back for other types of purchases. In cases such as these, the credit card agency will generally provide a cash back percentage that is less than the amount of cash back that you can earn on gas-related purchases.

How does a gas credit card work?

Surprisingly, some of the best gas credit card options are not branded cards, like the Shell Fuel Rewards card, but are general rewards cards that award high percentage returns on gas purchases. A popular example is the Wells Fargo Propel American Express credit card.

About Gas Credit Cards That Offer the Most Rewards

A gas credit card may be branded or unbranded. Branded cards include the:

Alternatively, they may not be gas station credit cards but unbranded cards which provide high rewards for gas purchases, such as the:

Should I get a gas credit card?

Drivers who cover a lot of miles every year may be most likely to benefit from a credit card for gas stations. Some drivers may also find that cards from Shell and other providers provide competitive rewards on non-gas purchases, as well.

Not all such cards will offer the same rewards, however, and some cards come with many hoops to jump through before rewards can be redeemed. Carefully review all of the program guidelines before signing up for any card to ensure you will be able to easily access and redeem your rewards when you wish to.

How to Start Building Your Credit With a Student Credit Card

Student credit cards are available to students enrolled in higher education programs, such as colleges, universities or graduate schools.

What are student credit cards and how do they work?

The best use of a student credit card is to establish a strong credit record as early as possible. By using credit cards for students responsibly, young adults can create a clean history of borrowing within their means and regularly paying their debts.

Under no circumstances should students their new MasterCard or Visa accounts irresponsibly, as this can severely hamper their ability to build and access good credit after graduation. Likewise, students should not opt for using a credit card instead of getting a student loan, as cards typically have higher interest rates than loans.

How can I get a student credit card?

To get a credit card for students, you may need more than simply proof of enrollment in higher education. Companies may require that you show proof of income or have a cosigner on your account.

Applicants seeking student credit cards with no credit or bad credit may need to apply for a secured credit card, in which they pay a certain amount in advance, reducing credit card companies’ risk. You can apply for almost any student card quickly and easily online.

Learn About the Best Student Credit Cards

Learn About Business Credit Cards to Streamline Your Finances

Business credit cards are cards that entrepreneurs and small business owners use solely for business expenses.

How can a business credit card help me?

A business credit card can help entrepreneurs and small businesses in a variety of ways.

  • They allow business owners to keep their business finances distinct from their personal finances, which can be crucial for legal and tax purposes.
  • They may carry higher rewards rates or bonuses for business-oriented expenses such as supplies or travel.
  • They offer a flexible line of credit that business owners can use as needed to keep their businesses running and expanding when cash flow is delayed.
  • Business cards enable businesses to develop credit scores separate from that of the owner, which can make it easier to secure business loans and other forms of credit in the future.

You may be able to obtain a business credit cards for bad credit and access these benefits by using your personal credit score or that of a cosigner in your application.

Which companies offer business credit cards?