Smart credit card users will have done some digging to find the card or cards right for them. For example, if the sad fact of it is that you're carrying credit card debt, you'll want to have a card with as low a rate as possible. If you travel far and wide frequently, you may want a card that rewards you with miles. And if you simply use your card for lots of purchases, while paying it off regularly, you should perhaps focus on finding a card that offers you compelling rewards -- in the form of cash, even.

Take me as an example. Until recently, one card I use gave me 5% back on some purchases, such as those at stand-alone gas stations, supermarkets, and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. Over the months, these little rewards add up. Last year I cashed a check the card sent me for $263, and I've got another check coming to me soon, for $222. That's nearly $500 cash back! Not only do I get the convenience of paying for most things with plastic, but I even make money on the deal.

(That card has recently changed its rules, though, no longer offering 5% back. But it has added 2% back on utilities such as cable and energy bills, so that's something.)

Learn much more about the surprisingly interesting credit card industry in our Credit Center, which also features tips on getting out of debt, along with guidance on how to manage your credit effectively. I mean it -- there's some great stuff in our Credit Center, and it's all free reading. (We even offer spiffy Motley Fool credit cards, some of which offer cash back or rewards -- I've got $92 coming back to me on my Fool card.)

The following articles can help you:

You can also read about all things credit-related on our Consumer Credit/Credit Cards discussion board.

Meanwhile, consider making money off credit card issuers, by investing in them. Many big bank stocks, such as Citigroup, are trading at attractive prices while offering hefty dividend yields. MasterCard (NYSE:MA), a newly public company, is proving popular among many investors, including mutual funds. The Federated Kaufmann K Fund (FUND:KAUFX), for example, recently had nearly 2% of its assets in Mastercard. Other top holdings included MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), Allergan (NYSE:AGN), Nuveen Investments (NYSE:JNC), PetSmart, Cytyc (NASDAQ:CYTC), and Loews. A free trial of our Champion Funds newsletter will introduce you to dozens of top-notch funds, if you're interested.

MasterCard is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.