How to Maximize Your Credit Card Loyalty Points and Rewards

If you’re new to the game of collecting loyalty points, there are a few basics you need to know to set yourself on the path to loyalty wealth.

Identify your expenses

The more effort you put into these programs, the more rewards you will earn. But be sure to follow some key rules so that your efforts are truly rewarded.

First, identify your spending habits. Do you spend on groceries, movies, restaurants or hotels and what stores do you frequent? Estimate how much you spend on each category. Once you’ve done that, sign up for any loyalty programs at those stores that you think you’ll be interested in to start earning points. For travel, for example, that would be airlines, hotels, and car rental programs. The best news? These programs are usually free.

Justin Thouin, co-founder and CEO of LowestRates, agrees. “Any time you get the chance to double your points, that’s good,” says Thouin. For example, Aeroplan is great if you like taking Air Canada (of course there is an expiration date on this arrangement since the airline has said it will launch its own plan and drop Aeroplan altogether. PC Optimum works well, but only if you shop at Loblaws, No Frills, or Real Canadian SuperStore, and the Optimum Points Card is worth having if you shop for drugstore products at Shoppers Drug Mart. Plus, it’s a no-cost card, so even more for your buck.

Track your loyalty points

Once you’ve signed up for a few loyalty programs, use an online points manager such as AwardWallet, which allows you to track the loyalty programs you participate in, such as frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and credit card. You’ll even receive reminders when your points expire. Another option is to simply keep a spreadsheet that you update yourself once a month.

Pay off your balance every month

Avoid paying interest on your outstanding credit card balance. It just negates the benefits you get from the credit card points you accumulate. “Only apply for a credit card if you can afford to pay the balance on time,” says Thouin. “That’s the most important rule to follow.”

But if you can do it, use your credit card all the time, even for small purchases that may seem too small to worry about, like a $2 packet of gum, a $4 latte at Starbucks, or 3 $ at Timbits. Pull out your credit card for everything and those small credit card purchases will rack up points fast.

Shop online for extra points

Never go directly to a retailer’s website. Instead, shop at one of the online mileage malls to earn even more points. RBC, Aeroplan and Airline miles are just three examples of programs that operate online shopping portals that operate like electronic shopping malls with access to hundreds of retailers. You’ll also earn extra points at retailers that you might not associate with a given loyalty program.

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