Managing Credit

4 Ways to Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

Exploring the (potential) win-win of credit card reward programs

Couple walking down the street in foreign country
 

Cash back, airline miles, points for gasoline. These days there are so many credits cards that offer a little something extra. No wonder, then, that 86 percent of consumers who use credit cards as their primary method of payment are in a rewards program of some kind.1

While these points and cashback offers can be tantalizing, the variety of options can also be overwhelming as you decide which card and rewards program is right for you. Here’s a helpful list of things to consider when choosing a credit card with incentives.

1. Pick the program that fits your spending.

“The most important way to take advantage of credit card rewards is to make sure you have a card that matches up with how you spend,” says Kimberly Palmer, credit cards expert at NerdWallet. For example, a card that racks up airline miles doesn’t make much sense if you’re a road tripper at heart. But for an airline warrior, miles might be the perfect fit.

Matchmaking doesn’t only matter on the perks side; you also want a card that will give you the most points for what you tend to buy. If you’re spending a lot of money feeding your family, you’ll want to pick a card that gives you high rewards for grocery shopping or dining out. Or perhaps your spending is all over the map, or you aren’t sure what kind of rewards you want. Palmer says a general flat-rate cash-back card is generally your best bet in that situation.

2. Always pay your balance in full (or what's the point!)

There’s no two-ways about it—paying off your credit card balance in full each month is the best way to go. But not very many Americans do this.

In fact, only 35 percent of credit card holders pay off their credit card bills monthly.2 The rest are “revolvers”—those who carry debt and are subject to interest payments. The best way to maximize your rewards program is to pay off your card every month. This way, you get all the rewards but with none of the interest. That’s a win-win.

3. If shopping for a new card, comparison shop for new cardmember bonuses.

Credit card bonuses offer a great way to earn hundreds of dollars in rewards right out of the gate. This is especially true if you use your card regularly once you apply. But some of the best deals don’t always last, so it’s important to compare the details of different bonuses side-by-side.

4. Learn how to redeem your hard-earned rewards.

A recent study found that 31 percent of credit card holders have never redeemed their credit card rewards.3 Crazy talk, right? This could be partially due to the difficulty involved in actually redeeming those rewards.

“Some cards have more complicated redemption systems than others, and if you end up letting your points just sit in your account, you aren't getting all of the benefits from your card,” Palmer says.

So whether it’s a cash-back option, a credit on your account balance, or banking your points to travel the world, make sure that it's easy to redeem your points and that you know how to do so, Palmer adds. 

Reward yourself

Are you an active jet-setter, or does cash back fit your lifestyle?
Find out which SunTrust credit card may work best for you.

1Credit card rewards and cardholder satisfaction statistics,” April 4, 2016, Nasdaq

2 “The Average American Is in Credit Card Debt, No Matter the Economy,” Feb. 9, 2016, Money

3 “3 in 10 Have Never Redeemed Credit Card Rewards,” April 12, 2017, Bankrate.com

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Related

Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at www.suntrust.com/investmentinfo.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.