Eight Ways to Get the Most out of Your Credit Card

Learn how to maximize the credit card offers that you deserve (and probably already have). Make sure you’re not leaving credit card perks, benefits, and rewards on the table.

If you're a credit card user, you should be getting more out of your card experience than simply swiping and paying the bill. While there are perks that most people already know about, that’s not what this post is about. This post is for revealing hidden perks you may not be making the most out of.

Consumers Miss Out On Reward Points by Using Credit Cards in 2017

Lucky for you, we're listing all the potential perks, benefits and rewards you can explore within your current credit card programs. If you missed the opportunity to enjoy some of these sweet deals in the past, remember it's never too late to start one or two cards at a time.

Here are eight ways to maximize the value of your credit card shopping experience:

1. Demand More Value

If the only thing you ever do on your credit card website is pay the bill, I suggest you take a few extra minutes to explore and look around. Most sites have a section that outlines benefits and offers, as well as a rewards area to see what you've earned. Scroll through and have a read—you might be surprised at what you've been missing. If you can’t find it there, call customer service and ask someone. You’re likely missing out on benefits.

2. Revamp Your Wallet

If you're not happy with the cards in your wallet and you've managed to keep your credit up, you should apply for a new card program that has perks you'll actually use. Follow this step-by-step guide to find the best rewards card:

Identify your spending style. If this is the first time you're exploring new credit card options, start by figuring out the types of purchases you tend to make the most. Choose a specialty card. Choose between travel rewards and cashback. Monitor your needs. Evaluate what's in your wallet and make upgrades to better credit cards as your needs change.

3. Avoid Debt

To really cash in on the best credit card perks, you'll have to be diligent to never carry a balance. Once you start paying interest on your outstanding balances, you're essentially negating most (if not all) of the discounts or rewards that you've earned.

Don't spend more than you can afford. If you fall into the habit of overspending just to qualify for perks, you're defeating the purpose. Be honest with yourself. If you need help managing the credit cards you have, then focus first on learning to use credit responsibly, or you'll end up in over your head. Keep tabs on your credit score.

4. Develop a Spending Plan

Once you have the right combination of cards and healthy credit habits, it's time to spend! Earn those sign-up bonuses. The biggest points or cash boosts you'll get in one shot will be when you first sign up for a card. Use credit for purchases that earn extra rewards. Many cards offer perks or percentages off for certain types of purchases. Juggle cards so each one gives you top value.

5. Research, Research, Research!

You might think you're already getting a great deal, but using your credit cards wisely could make it even better. Here are some card perks to review before you checkout with your cart. Does the card offer retail discounts? Some credit issuers offer additional bonus points or discounts if you click through to a merchant from their rewards mall or portal site. Can you stack rewards? Once you learn to avoid impulse shopping and get into the habit of comparing prices, checking portals and looking for credit offers, you'll never pay full price again.

6. Get the Timing Right

You've heard the phrase "Use it or lose it." That's definitely the case when it comes to credit card perks, which often have expiration dates and other limitations. Get schooled on how to redeem your perks.

Understand what you have to opt into and what's automatic. Some perks are activated if you use your card for a certain type of purchase, while others require you to manually sign up for them. Keep track of expiration dates and bonus periods. Setting up a calendar notification to remind you when a program is expiring can be helpful.

7. Consumer Protections and Discounts

Besides cash back and miles, credit cards offer many perks that translate into savings for you.et extended warranties at no cost to you. If you've plunked down extra cash for extended warranty coverage, you probably didn't have to. Many cards offer an extra year or more of warranty protection automatically, as long as you make the purchase with that card. Check the terms and conditions so you know how much is covered for repair or replacement, and if there's a maximum annual limit. Never miss out on a price drop. Did you ever make a purchase only to see the price reduced a couple of weeks later? Some card programs keep tabs on qualifying purchases and notify you if a price drops, making it seamless for you to submit a claim for the difference.

8. Get Travel Perks and Savings

There are so many credit card travel perks beyond just having no foreign transaction fees that help travelers have a worry-free trip and even a VIP experience. Turn to your card for emergency assistance or concierge help when traveling. From lost luggage to a stolen wallet, it can be hard to deal with such unexpected situations when you're away from your home base. Chances are your credit issuer can help. VIP upgrades could be yours. Some credit perks not only take the hassle out of travel but make it a pleasurable experience—so don't travel without them.

Be Proactive

Here's the bottom line: No matter which type of credit card you have, chances are there are benefits you aren't using or rewards you could be earning. With a little research, or a phone call or two, you can begin leveraging credit card perks and cashing in on great benefits you've always been entitled to. Don’t wait, unlock your card’s full potential today.

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Editorial Note:

Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.