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How to manage my credit card rewards

Should you spend or save your rewards?

Updated

Managing your credit card rewards may seem complicated, especially if you have multiple credit cards. Still, it’s an exciting issue to tackle because it means you potentially have a lot of rewards to gain. Here are some ways to simplify your rewards management.

Should you save up rewards?

If you can earn enough points to redeem for a reward while keeping your credit card active, there’s no doubt you should save up your rewards.

But if you have a credit card you rarely use — say only for traveling abroad — saving up for rewards may be a poor choice. That’s because if unused, your card issuer may close your account for inactivity and you will lose all your points.

How to manage my rewards

If you find yourself hoarding credit card rewards, here’s how to manage them better:

  • Don’t miss out on deals. If you happen to find a deal you like, use your points. Waiting on better deals can result in hoarding even more rewards that may eventually expire.
  • Save up your rewards. As mentioned before, saving up your rewards for that one trip to Europe or Hawaii can be worth it if you can manage to earn enough before your rewards expire.
  • Invest your rewards. Cashback credit cards are ideal to get new investment cash. Instead of spending your cash rewards, consider investing it in a savings account.
  • Opt-in for automatic redemption. Some card providers allow you to automatically redeem your rewards as soon as you reach a certain threshold. This can keep your mind off your rewards.

Compare rewards credit cards

If you already own a rewards credit card, you may want to consider pairing it with another to get the most of your spending. For example, if you now earn flat rewards on all purchases, you can get a credit card with accelerated rewards on gas or dining. Another example of an optimal combination of cards is the Chase trifecta, which is pairing three Chase cards that each serve distinct purposes.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$250 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$95
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $250. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
20% at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months, plus $100 after spending $1,000 in the same timeframe
20% at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months, 2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$0
This everyday cashback card is ideal for Black Friday and holiday shopping with 20% back at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Double Cash Card
N/A
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
$0
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases
$0
This solid 1.5% cashback card gets even better with the addition of up to 5% back in categories like travel, drug stores and dining.
Citi Premier® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, flights and hotels and 1x points on everything else
$95
Earn 60,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases. Starting January 1, 2021, your 5x points on flights will be capped on up to $500,000 annually (then 1x points).
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Rates & fees
American Express Cash Magnet® Card
$150 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.5% cash back on all purchases
$0
With 1.5% back on everything and a 15 months intro APR on purchases, this no-annual-fee rewards card makes it simple to earn more rewards. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
80,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
With a massive welcome offer for a no-annual-fee card and up to 7x points at Hilton, this is a solid pick for Hilton fans and occasional travelers. Rates & fees
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $600, up to 2x miles on select purchases, and assorted Delta perks, this is a strong choice for Delta fans. Rates & fees
TD Cash Credit Card
$150 after spending $500 in the first 90 days
3% on dining, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other eligible purchases
$0
3% on dining and 2% on groceries make this a valuable card for food purchases. Available in: CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 30,000 after spending $10,000 in the first 9 months
5x points on Southwest between 12/1/2020 and 3/31/2021 on up to $2,000 spent per month, then 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals and 1x points on all other purchases
$149
Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, plus 30,000 after spending $10,000 in the first 9 months.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
N/A
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
$0
An impressive cashback card that offers up to 4% back on everyday purchases like gas, travel and dining all for the cost of a Costco membership.
Grand Reserve™ World Mastercard®
50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
5x points at Grand Reserve Partners, 3x points at any winery, wine club, wine shop, restaurant or bar and 2x everywhere else. Plus an additional 2x points at the wine merchant you spend the most each month.
$149
Earn 5x points at Grand Reserve Partners, 3x points at any winery, wine club, or wine shop, and 2x everywhere else.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 or more within your first 3 months. Rates & fees
Petal® 2
N/A
1% cashback, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments, plus 2% - 10% back from select merchants
$0
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score of 600 or higher. See if you prequalify with no impact to your score.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and dining with this simple, entry-level Delta card, and pay no annual fee. Rates & fees
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
130,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
12x points on Hilton Portfolio spending, 6x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$95
With a big welcome offer worth up to $650, up to 12x points on spending, and free Gold status, this is an upgrade from the entry Hilton card. Rates & fees
Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Access
N/A
1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion
$0 to $99
Get 1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards
N/A
1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion
$0 to $99
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion.
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit
N/A
1% cash back on all purchases on eligible purchases
$0 to $99
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion.
Official NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®
N/A
Up to 1% cash back on eligible purchases determined by Credit One and double cash back at the NASCAR Shop
$0 to $99
Get up to 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases determined by Credit One and double cash back rewards at the NASCAR Shop.
United℠ Explorer Card
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
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Bottom line

Managing your rewards may feel like a hassle, but there are some strategies, such as automatic redemption when you reach a certain amount, investing your rewards in a savings account or using your rewards as soon as you spot a deal. Other events like the coronavirus pandemic can also throw a wrench in your redemption plans, so plan out how you’ll use your rewards in an emergency as well.

If you already own a rewards credit card, you may want to consider applying for a second card to complement your first.

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