Make Points Add Up

If Used Strategically, Rewards Points Programs From Your Favorite Credit Cards Can Lead To Substantial Savings On Airline Tickets, Hotels, And Fine Dining

Communications Management in Atlanta, says that in addition to using her card for all household purchases, she has used it to put a $5,000 down payment on a car and even to pay taxes. “I use the card the same way I’d use cash, but this is better,” she says. “If you use cash, you’re not getting anything back other than the merchandise.”

Have more than one card. “Savvy consumers don’t limit themselves when it comes to rebate cards,” says Arnold. For example, Melvin Carrington Smith Sr., a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Alabama, uses his AAA Platinum Plus Visa card to earn 5% cash back when buying gas, and uses a Citibank Platinum Visa card that earns him 2% cash back on electronics and other household items. He also has a Discover card that he puts into play when he reaches the rebate limit on his other cards. But to get the most out of having more than one card, pay the balance off monthly so as not to incur finance charges.

Combine points from partner programs. Knight, the frequent flier, enrolled in Delta SkyMiles as well as Marriott Rewards as both companies are American Express Membership Rewards program partners. This allowed him to combine points from his various programs to collect more rewards and points.

Get bonus points. These are a great way to add up the rewards. Many cards offer rewards linked to particular vendors. With Discover, for example, you can receive up to double the amount of points if you redeem certificates at vendors like Borders, Blockbuster, and Staples. You can also look for add-ons like Upromise.com or Babymint.com. Simply register your credit cards on their Websites and both will deposit a percentage of your spending into an account that you can link to a Section 529 College Tuition Savings Plan. Also, you can increase the amount of a rebate by taking gift certificates rather than cash.

Programs can be cancelled or altered at any time, so Arnold suggests selecting a program with a proven track record. Also, frequent flier miles and other points sometimes expire, so make sure that you can realistically accumulate enough within the given time period to receive your reward. Simply put: “Points are a form of currency,” says Park. If you play your cards right, the options truly are limitless.

Airline Rewards Credit Cards

Card Name

Consumer
Rating

Phone Number

Comments

Southwest Airlines Platinum Visa Card 4.75 888-215-3049 Earn one credit for every $1,200 in purchases
Delta SkyMiles Credit Card 4.31 800-528-4800 Get 5,000 Bonus SkyMiles with first purchase
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Credit Card 4.09 800-528-4800 Earn Always Double Miles on gas and your wireless phone
Elite Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard 4.00 800-932-2775 Redeem points on any major airline. No annual fee.
TravelPlus Platinum Visa Card 3.77 888-215-3049 Earn 1 mile for every $1 in card purchases

Hotel/Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Card Name

Consumer
Rating

Phone Number

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