7 Little-Known Ways to Maximize Your Credit Cards


As the prices of goods and services soar, every value extracted from credit cards is useful.

Maybe paying an annual fee has become less appetizing. Maybe you’ve cut back on certain categories of a once rewarded credit card, or are looking for opportunities to save with your credit cards.

When you’re not focused on your debt and looking to get the most out of your cards, consider these seven tips for freeing up money for other goals.

1. Request a product change

Ask your issuer if you can upgrade or downgrade your credit card when it no longer matches your spending habits. Downgrading to another credit card is great for avoiding an annual fee, while upgrading can provide more valuable perks or rewards.

For rewards credit cards, ask if existing points, miles, or cash back will be affected before making the change.

Also see: Walmart vs Kroger: How their prices compare on milk, bread, eggs and other grocery essentials

2. Reallocate your credit limit

Some issuers allow you to reassign a credit limit from one credit card to another within their product portfolio. Reasons you might explore this option include:

  • Avoid maxing out a frequently used credit card.

  • Earn more rewards.

  • Preservation of credit before an account closure.

  • Qualify for a new credit card with less risk for the issuer.

Cindy Greenstein, points and miles consultant and creator of The Points Mom blog, has leveraged this option to increase her likelihood of being approved for a new card with the same issuer, but she says it doesn’t work with all banks.

“Call a special reallocation line and tell them you only want the card and the bonus,” the New York resident explains. “It usually makes them feel better knowing they don’t have to give you more credit.”

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3. Look for a retention bonus

When you’re about to hold on to a once-valuable credit card, ask the sender if he can offer any incentive to help you decide. As a loyal customer with a good track record, you could earn a retention bonus that grants rewards in exchange for meeting a minimum spend requirement. Offers may vary by issuer, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get one, but it’s worth a try.

Greenstein and her husband recently accepted two retention offers totaling about 70,000 points on credit cards with high annual fees. She estimates that the offers total a minimum value of $700.

“You have to figure out if it’s worth it, based on what they’re offering, for you to keep it,” Greenstein says.

4. Meet bonus requirements with gift cards

When looking for a credit card bonus, don’t spend too much to earn it. If your budgeted purchases aren’t enough to meet the bonus spending requirements within the allotted time, consider using the credit card to purchase gift cards that you can use later.

You can buy a gift card from a grocery store, restaurant delivery app, or a high-traffic retailer. Don’t overdo it, as some issuers have rules against abuse.

See: With travel prices and currencies rising and falling this year, how much are your points and miles worth?

5. Trade a lower APR

If your account is in good standing, try negotiate a lower annual percentage rate with your credit card issuer. Your creditworthiness is factored into the interest rate, but an issuer may be willing to drop.

Delia Fernandez, a certified financial planner and owner of California-based Fernandez Financial Advisory LLC, suggests researching competing offers at another bank or credit union and presenting them to your credit card issuer for a lower interest rate.

“You always want to negotiate from a position of strength, if you can,” Fernandez says. “So if you pay your bills on time and are doing well but every once in a while you like to keep a balance on your credit card, it’s worth calling them and finding out if they’re negotiating.”

This option may also be ideal if you’re planning to finance a large purchase and don’t want to open a credit card with an introductory APR of 0%.

Check: 4 Ways U.S. Shoppers Plan to Cheat Inflation This Holiday Season — And You Can Too

6. Take advantage of cardholder discounts

Log in to your credit card account frequently to check your benefits and merchant-specific offers. Some cards offer discounts on subscriptions to delivery services, meal kits, streaming services, or other options.

Depending on the issuer, you may also have access to additional rewards or discounts by activating offers on your card and using it to make purchases from specific merchants. If the offers match the budgeted purchases, the savings can add up.

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7. Maximize Rewards

Consider having more than one rewards credit card to maximize your rewards potential. As long as you can track spending across multiple cards to avoid debt, a dynamic rewards credit card duo can provide healthy incentives.

For example, a cashback credit card that earns 5% on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating bonus categories can earn you $75 per quarter if you meet the conditions instead of the $30 you would earn with a lump sum payment of 2% in cash. – file taking into account the same expenses and the same period. But use them together – the 5% card for these bonus categories and the 2% card for everything else – and you’ll optimize your spending.

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Melissa Lambarena writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @LissaLambarena.


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