Managing Credit

Have a Rewards Card? Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes

Nearly one-third of cardholders never cash in their credit card rewards. Don’t be one of them

Your credit card rewards can help you live your best life. But, believe it or not, many credit cardholders are not taking advantage of their rewards. In fact, according to a 2017 survey, 31 percent of credit card holders have never redeemed credit card rewards.1

The good news: By following some simple tips, you can make sure to get the most out of your credit card rewards. Take a look at these five common rewards cards mistakes to avoid.

Woman shopping for vegetables at farmers market

Using a card that doesn’t match how you spend

It may sound obvious, but a recent study found that 1 out of every 5 cardholders are using a card that has fees or rewards that don’t align to their spending habits.2 If the card you are using provides airline miles but you aren’t much of a traveler, there’s little incentive for you to take advantage of the points. Or, if your card accrues the bulk of its points from grocery store purchases, but you’re more likely to dine out, you may want to consider a different card.

44 percent of rewards cardholders didn't do any research before applying for their card.3

Man and woman traveling and taking a picture

Letting points expire

Many credit card rewards have expiration dates or require some kind of activity on the account to keep your rewards. Consumers often simply let points expire without cashing them in, whether due to forgetfulness or not knowing the expiration date. 

Woman is on the computer and holding a credit card

Not considering the interest

If you have a rewards card, carrying a balance from month to month means paying interest charges that could cancel out the rewards you’re building up. Paying off your balances in full each month can help you maximize the rewards you’re earning. 

26 percent of rewards cardholders carry a balance from month to month at least seven times a year.3

Father working on a tablet and playing with his toddler girl

Misunderstanding the conversion ratio

It’s important to understand the exchange rate when looking to redeem your rewards. This exchange rate might be different depending on what you are looking to redeem your points for, such as travel, cash back, merchandise or any other reward. These rates can differ by card and perk, so find out where you stand.

Man and woman in car laughing and driving across bridge on vacation

Not taking advantage of timely bonus earnings

Many cards offer a sign-up bonus if you spend a certain dollar amount on your card by a set date. Some cards even offer loyalty bonuses if you redeem your cash back rewards into a checking or savings account with the same provider.

25 percent of rewards cardholders did not spend enough to receive the sign-up bonus.3

Whether you are in the market for a new rewards card or simply want to make the most of your current card, consider these best practices.

  • Know which stores or items earn you the most points.
  • Consider timing your sign up to align with a big purchase in order to take advantage of sign-up bonuses or other introductory offers.
  • Set reminders to use your points and build your rewards into your financial plan.

Make the most of your rewards

Review your rewards and see if a  SunTrust credit card can help you reach your goals.

1 “3 in 10 Have Never Redeemed Credit Card Rewards,” 2017, Bankrate

2 “Many Customers Are Carrying Wrong Credit Card, J.D. Power Study Finds”, 2016, PR Newswire

3 “Rewards Credit Cards,” 2019, U.S. News & World Report

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