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How to Use Credit Card Rewards

Maximize the Perks of Your Credit Card

Like many people, you’re probably always on the hunt for great deals, but did you know your credit card—and previous purchases—might be able to help you get more bang for your buck? If you have a credit card that offers rewards points or cash back, you’ll want to make sure the perks you’ve earned don’t go to waste.

What Are Credit Card Rewards Points?

Many banks and credit unions offer Visa® rewards on either credit or debit cards. Specifics about how to earn rewards points are different for each financial institution, but the basics are that you earn points for your swipe/sign or online purchases.

United Federal Credit Union, for example, offers Members both a rewards-based credit card (U Rewards)—which gives you 2% Cash Rewards with everyday purchases for all other purchases—and a rewards-based checking account (Rewards Checking). The real benefit to these types of accounts is they allow you to trade in points for cash back, gift cards, or merchandise, and discounts at some national retailers.

What Types of Benefits Are Out There?

A good rule of thumb: if you can think it up—there’s probably a good chance it’s offered as a perk on your rewards program.

Visa rewards on Signature cards, like United’s U Rewards card, offer everything from luxury hotel discounts to golf and fine dining specials.

But it’s not just high-end rewards that can help you have fun during the summer or make the holiday season even brighter. Many programs also let you redeem points for gas cards, or gift cards to your favorite restaurants and clothing stores.

You might even consider a gift card to Best Buy or Amazon to get a new camera to capture all of the memories you’ll make on your next adventure, or to give as a gift to someone special.

But if you simply aren’t able to choose a specific reward, nothing beats a little cash in your pocket. The Cash Back option on many rewards cards lets you use your points to create a cash credit to Checking or Credit Card statements. Think of it as a rebate for purchases made with your card. Depending on the card you select, you could earn 1% to 2% on all your purchases. Make sure you research the details of a card before signing up to ensure it matches how you plan to use it (or cash in on the perks)!

When to Use Your Rewards Points

The best time to use your credit card rewards points or checking rewards points depends on a few factors: how much your points are worth, what you’re using them for (e.g. travel, merchandise, etc.), and how you can make the most of what you’ve earned.

Using your credit card rewards points or debit card rewards points can be a great way to get yourself some extra goodies throughout the year, extend vacation fun at a cheaper cost, or make holiday shopping easy.

Get familiar with how your rewards program works, and login to your account to determine if you’re ready to redeem your points for certain perks, or if you’d rather hold out for bigger rewards. Points will typically expire after a period of time, so keep up-to-date on those details so you don’t miss out on what you’ve earned.

The Bottom Line

There are many options when it comes to selecting a rewards credit card that’s right for you. Do your research and find one that fits your needs. But don’t forget to use the points or rewards you’ve earned to your advantage. There are a number of great redemptions offers to choose from—so make a plan and cash in on your perks when the time is right.