Published in: Credit Cards | Jan. 6, 2020

7 Strategies to Earn More Credit Card Rewards in 2020

By:  Lyle Daly

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Let's make 2020 your most rewarding year yet.

When you've been using a rewards credit card for a while, you eventually reach the point where you want to take your earnings to the next level. Maybe you earned $700 in cash back last year, but you want to raise that to $1,200 or even $1,500. Or you want to go from 50,000 travel points per year to 100,000.

With the right strategies, it's possible to increase the total rewards you earn by 50%, 100%, or even more. Whether you prefer cash back or travel rewards, here are the changes you can make to get these kinds of results in 2020.

Young woman holding a calculator and a credit card and grinning with satisfaction at the credit card.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Apply for at least one new card to earn a sign-up bonus

The consumers who earn the most rewards are always on the lookout for the biggest credit card sign-up bonuses. With bonuses, you can earn a big chunk of cash back or travel points, and it usually takes just a few months.

Considering how quickly you can earn rewards this way, it's smart to apply for at least one card with a sign-up bonus each year. If you think you can manage more cards, then you may want to start looking for a new one each time you complete the requirements for a bonus.

2. Combine a flat-rate rewards card and a card with bonus categories

There are two types of rewards credit cards:

  • Flat-rate cards -- These earn one rate, such as 1.5% back on all your spending.
  • Bonus category cards -- These earn higher bonus rates in certain spending categories, such as 3% back at grocery stores. On regular spending, they typically earn 1% back.

To get the best of both worlds, you should carry each type of card. You'd use your bonus category card in any of the categories where it will earn you extra points and your flat-rate card for everything else. 

3. Review your spending to choose the right bonus category card

It's important to choose a bonus category card that you'll be able to use often. For that reason, you should review your spending to find the categories where you spend the most money.

There are a few ways you can do this. You could review all your expenses for the past month. If you want to go back further, you could use an entire year. Another option is to look at your monthly budget.

This will give you a good idea of whether you'll benefit most from a card that earns more back at grocery stores, restaurants, or another spending category.

4. Check the special offers your credit card company sends you

Credit card companies occasionally send out special offers that give you the opportunity to earn extra points. For example, I've seen offers of 500 to 1,000 points for either making at least three contactless card payments or for using a card at least three times through a payment app.

Offers like these aren't difficult to complete, so make sure you check any emails from your card issuer.

5. Use the shopping portals for your rewards cards

Most credit card companies have shopping portals. A shopping portal is a site you visit through your online credit card account, and it contains an assortment of merchant sites where you can shop to earn extra points. Under each merchant, the portal will list the number of additional points you earn per $1 spent.

Click the link from your card issuer's shopping portal to visit the store you'd like to shop in. You'll then earn extra points on any purchase you make.

6. See if you can get retention offers for the cards you already have

The last thing a credit card company wants is to lose a cardholder. To avoid that, it may offer you something extra if you want to cancel your card. This is known as a retention offer, and it could be an annual fee waiver, bonus rewards, or anything else the card issuer can provide to retain clients.

You can take advantage of this by calling your card issuer and telling them that you're thinking about canceling your card. The worst-case scenario is that they don't offer you anything, in which case you can always say that you've changed your mind and you want to keep the card. But there's also a good chance that you'll get a retention offer.

7. Consider carrying more than one bonus category card

Although a flat-rate card and a bonus category card are a great combination, you can earn even more by carrying multiple cards with different bonus categories.

It's obviously better from a rewards perspective to have more bonus categories where you can earn extra. The downside is that you'll have more credit cards to manage. That means more bills you need to pay on time, and you'll also need to remember which card to use for each purchase. If you can handle that, then it's worth expanding the number of bonus category cards you use.

Maxing out your rewards

It's never a good idea to spend more money in the pursuit of credit card rewards. That's why you need to find ways to earn as much back as possible on your normal expenses. By adopting some or all of the strategies above, you'll be able to wring a lot more rewards out of your typical spending.

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