Credit Card Rewards: What Are They and How Can You Maximize Them?

Credit Card Rewards: What Are They and How Can You Maximize Them?

Not all credit cards are the same — and this is what first-time credit applicants should clearly know.

You may be familiar with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB — which are technically considered credit card processing networks, or simply card networks.

That means most of them simply process credit card transactions. American Express, for instance, is both a card issuer and a payment network.

Aside from these card networks, there are other more specific types of credit cards which include — rewards, cashback, travel rewards, business, starter or student, secured, co-branded, store, and even gas rewards credit cards.

The list even extends as banks and credit card issuers create more and more of these as the credit needs and preferences of the consumers evolve.

In the Philippines, it’s mostly the top banks that are considered credit card issuers, except for a few or maybe just the Home Credit Philippines, the first non-bank institution approved by BSP, that now issues its Home Credit Card.

In most cases, these credit cards differ in terms of reward systems, or simply saying, the rewards offered.

Although most offer at least one, not all credit cards are considered entirely rewards as still there are those that don’t give you any, normally in exchange for lower finance charges and zero annual membership fee such as the PNB Ze-Lo Mastercard which comes with zero annual fee for life, zero late payment fees, zero overlimit fees, and lower minimum amount due.

You might want to apply for a PNB Ze-Lo Mastercard. Read this article — PNB Ze-Lo Mastercard: How I Got My First Regular Credit Card.

If you have some interesting insights into these credit card rewards, feel free to share in the comments. Or, hit the social icons available on this page so to share this article to your friends and followers.

You might want to read these related articles as well:

In this short article, we’ll cover the following in particular:

  • General Types of Credit Card Rewards
  • Some Examples of Rewards Credit Cards
  • Ways to Redeem Credit Card Rewards
  • Ways to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Credit Card Rewards: What Are They and How Can You Maximize Them?

3 General Types of Credit Card Rewards

Rewards credit cards, in particular, incentivize cardholders loyalty upon regularly using the card. Thus, these offer a certain type or a combination of ‘rewards’ which are typically — cashbacks, points, and travel miles for every qualifying spend.

[1] Reward Points. Points cards reward borrowers with a fixed number of points per amount spent. These points are normally taken like a different currency where the value depends on how and what for these are redeemed.

Depending on the card issuer and the type of card, points may have the most flexible redemption options such as for physical stuff or merchandise, cash back, gift cards, travel purchases, concerts, and even for the credit card annual fee waivers.

[2] Travel Miles. Miles-earning cards allow redemptions for flights, airport lounge access, seat upgrades, and any other travel-related expenses.

These credit card miles work almost similar to points, however for travel purposes as just mentioned. As with points and cashbacks, the cardholder earns a fixed amount of miles for every certain amount spent on credit card although certain purchase categories may give even more travel miles.

[3] Cashbacks. Cashback cards earn a percentage of cash or rebates based on cardholders spending. It is perhaps the most straightforward way of getting rewarded for using the credit card. Most cashbacks are directly credited onto the statement, reducing the credit card bill.

Other cashback cards offer a flat rate on all purchases; others earn even higher rates on special types of purchases or what are normally called ‘bonus’ categories.

Apart from these reward points, cashbacks, and travel miles, less common yet equally interesting credit card rewards may include:

  • Welcome Gifts
  • Introductory Rates for Purchases and Transfer Balances
  • Hotel and Dining Discounts
  • Timeshare Credits
  • Travel Discounts and Rental Car Insurance
  • Other Discounts and Gift Cards
  • Referral Rewards
  • Cryptocurrency Rewards
  • VIP Customer Service

3 Examples of Rewards Credit Cards

While I have six credit cards, and a secured credit card (SCC) which I already cancelled, here are some card rewards and features that I should say make them worth it.

[1] RCBC Flex Visa. It’s a secured credit card which I availed after initially struggling to get approved for regular credit cards.

What’s interesting about it was that I used to earn 1 reward point for every PHP30 spend anywhere, online and offline, plus I got 2x of these reward points in two of the preferred categories — dining, clothing, travel, and transportation.

These reward points may also be converted to air miles and cash rebates subject to terms and conditions.

I got it cancelled though after a year and after getting finally approved for PNB Ze-Lo Mastercard and Citi Rewards Mastercard. Read about my RCBC Flex Visa secured credit card experience here.

[2] Citi Rewards Mastercard. It’s my second regular credit card after PNB Ze-Lo Mastercard. It comes with a PHP2,500 annual fee which is already waived for life after I spent an accumulated PHP20,000 spend within the first 60 days after card activation.

On top of all exclusive deals and discounts, its key reward features include earning 1 point per PHP30 spend on retail and 3x points per PHP30 on shopping and dining. Read about my application timeline for a Citi Rewards Mastercard here.

[3] UnionBank Classic Visa. It’s another decent rewards credit card I instantly got approved with UnionBank. It earns 1 reward point for every PHP35 spend.

Soon I accumulate a great deal of points, I can redeem them into shopping gift certificates, cash rebates, annual fee waivers, and other travel rewards.

Credit Card Rewards: What Are They and How Can You Maximize Them?

7 Ways to Redeem Your Credit Card Rewards

If you’ve just amassed a really great deal of credit card rewards, say tens of thousands or even more of either points or miles, the next thing that will come to mind is — redeeming these rewards.

It’s not going to be an easy decision though as there are various ways how to do that, and some of them just include:

[1] Statement Credits. Credit card issuers may offer cashbacks with statement credit as a means for the redemption. If you opt for this, credit card rewards will be converted into their monetary value which will be posted onto your recent billing statement, hence reducing your card balance and paying less.

[2] Cash Deposits to Your Bank Account. Aside from the statement credit, the corresponding monetary value of your accumulated rewards may also be deposited to your registered bank account as instant cash.

[3] Annual Membership Fee Waivers. If your credit card issuer just can’t waive your annual membership fee for certain reasons, they sometimes offer you to rather redeem your accumulated reward points for it or at least cover a portion. Some rewards portals have this option for an instant self-service redemption.

[4] Gift Cards and Store Vouchers. Credit card issuers may also offer gift card options in exchange for the accumulated reward points which can be used as purchase vouchers at various partner merchants and establishments such as for entertainment, groceries, and dining

[5] Flights and Other Travel Purchases. Especially with travel rewards cards, accumulated miles may be redeemed for flights and other travel purchases at card issuers’ partner airlines and travel booking portals.

If available, reward points may even be converted to air miles which can then be redeemed for payments for flight tickets and travel-related discounts.

[6] Merchandise. You may check your card issuers’ redemption portals for merchandise that can be readily availed with your qualifying number of reward points. These merchandise usually range from clothing items to latest technological gadgets and accessories.

[7] Charitable Donations. If you are generous enough, rewards such as points, and even travel miles, may also be converted to their monetary value which can then be donated to your chosen charitable funds and institutions. You can normally make the donation via the card issuers’ redemption portals and websites.

7 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

You don’t have to be afraid to use your credit cards if, in the first place, you know very well your spending behavior, and you have all the control. It might be tempting, but recognizing the responsibility that comes with these cards should keep that control even stronger.

To guide you through your credit card spending and earning of rewards, here are six (6) ways on how to maximize them without going overboard:

[1] Align rewards credit cards with your spending needs and habits. Rewards cards vary in many aspects and for many purposes. When applying for credit cards, try to make comparisons. You might want to take the simple tests available on the websites of the card-issuing banks as well.

If you own a car, you might want to consider credit cards that give you rewards and discounts upon refueling. There are also co-branded cards that offer more rewards when you use them at the stores and outlets of the tie-up brands and merchants. Or, you may just consider the rewards cards for general purchase purposes.

[2] Use specific cards for specific purchases. You might want to double-check the reward conditions that come with your credit cards which particularly include the minimum purchase amount to earn a point, a mile, or a cashback, and if ever, the purchase categories that will give you double or triple these rewards.

RCBC Flex Visa, for instance, gives 2x rewards points in two of these preferred categories — dining, clothing, travel, and transportation. As you go shopping or dining then, you might want to prioritize your use of this credit card over other cards to maximize your earning of these rewards.

[3] Pay your monthly bills with credit cards. You might be running a frugal approach to your personal finances, and thus avoiding less important and discretionary expenses. Paying your monthly bills such as for electricity, water, and internet connection, is clearly not part of these expenses.

Totally convenient in just a few clicks, paying these bills with your credit cards online also gives you the advantage of earning reward points. You just have to consider which card gives you the most given the minimum amount per point to earn. For example, a Security Bank Complete Cashback Platinum earns 3 percent cashback on utility bills.

[4] Use your cards for weekend groceries. Groceries, just like your monthly bills, are not discretionary expenses. You just need them, and you can take advantage of paying for these with your credit cards while earning some rewards. Be careful though not to go beyond your weekly budget just for the sake of such incentives.

For example, UnionBank cashback cards — UnionBank Platinum Card and UnionBank Gold Mastercard — give 1 percent cashback on everything from groceries to big purchases. Security Bank Complete Cashback Platinum is even more generous with its 5 percent guaranteed rebates on groceries.

[5] Check for limited-time offers, but avail only what’s necessary. Credit card issuers and banks incessantly send email and SMS notifications about their ongoing promos and discounts. You can check the same on their websites.

Subscribing to these notifications keeps you updated about offers worth the grabs; otherwise you’ll miss everything. But you don’t have to give in to many of these while spending a lot for some meager discounts. The same goes with limited-time reward offers which can be tempting.

[6] Track your rewards and set targets for your redemption. You might have been monitoring already the points you earn from every purchase on the apps. At the same time, you have been checking what merchandise or so are available for your current rewards, just in case you want to redeem them now.

There’s nothing wrong about it. Go on and redeem the rewards, but you might miss something bigger or more exciting that awaits you upon accumulating even more rewards.

[7] Pay with your points or get discounts on your purchases. If the previous tip doesn’t just work for you, then you’re all free to redeem your credit card rewards from time to time. You may consider paying for your purchases with your points, or possibly just enjoy discounts and freebies.

Some banks and credit card issuers also offer gift certificates which can be used for shopping, dining, and groceries, in exchange for the accumulated rewards. Just stay alert and be on the look out as most of them are limited-time offers.

In the end, what makes credit cards even more interesting is the — rewards. You enjoy the convenience. The fact that your finances breathe out for at least a month is also not a bad thing.

And then, you’re still earning reward points, cashbacks, and travel miles that can soon be redeemed.

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