How to earn credit card points and miles faster

Here’s the scoop on what it takes to maximize the points and miles from your credit card. (iStock)

Credit card reward points and miles are loyalty benefits that most credit card issuers give to their borrowers in exchange for spending money on their card.

Are credit card reward points worth it? The answer is yes — if you're maximizing your rewards. To get the biggest possible benefit from your spending, you’ll want to do some quick research. Here are seven ways to get the most bang for your buck.

How to maximize your credit card reward points and miles

1. Take advantage of the sign-up bonus

The first way to maximize your credit card reward points and miles is to take advantage of a sign-up bonus. A sign-up bonus occurs when the credit card issuer gives you points simply for filling out an application and opening a line of credit with them.

While you’ll ultimately only get the sign-up bonus if you’re approved for the new line of credit, you won’t have to do anything other than open up the card to receive this benefit. If you're interested in this bonus category, you should search Credible's free tools to compare multiple reward cards at once so you can enjoy more points on travel, cash rewards and more.

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2. Meet any spending requirements

Sometimes, when you open up a new credit card, lenders will offer you a certain amount of reward points or points on travel in exchange for spending a certain amount of money on the card within a specified time frame. For example, you might be given 50,000 miles in exchange for charging at least $3,000 within the first three months of owning the card.

Of course, you’ll only want to use this tip if you know that you can afford to pay off what you spend. However, if you know you need to make a big purchase, it might be a good time to open up a new card so that you can get added benefit from your spending. Again, Credible can help you find reward cards that make the most financial sense for you (don't rule out cards with annual fees — sometimes the best loyalty programs will outweigh the cost).

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3. Add authorized users

Adding an authorized user, or someone else who’s allowed to use your credit card account, is another way to earn points or miles. However, keep in mind that as the primary cardholder you’ll still be responsible for paying off any charges that your authorized user makes to your card, so make sure it is someone who you trust.

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4. Research where you’ll earn extra rewards

Some rewards programs offer extra perks for shopping at certain stores or buying from certain partner brands, like a particular hotel chain or airline. You’ll want to be sure to research where you have the potential to earn extra rewards before you open up a new card so that you can find one that matches your regular spending habits.

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5. Utilize the bonus category

Other cards offer the potential to earn extra rewards by naming certain bonus reward categories each quarter. For example, one quarter you may be able to earn extra rewards when making purchases at gas stations. Another quarter, it might be from spending on travel and dining.

In this case, you’ll want to do regular research into the bonus category structure that your card is currently offering, so that you’re aware of where your money will have the greatest impact.

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6. Use your card to cover most expenses

In general, when your goal is to earn points or miles, you should use your card to cover most of your expenses. However, the caveat here is that you should also make sure that you have enough money to pay off your balance in full. Otherwise, the debt, interest charges, and impact on your credit score from getting too close to your spending limit may outweigh the benefit of earning reward points.

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7. Check your rewards often

Lastly, you’ll want to check your billing statement often to keep an eye on any rewards that you’ve earned. Some rewards programs, especially frequent flyer programs and hotel programs, have a tendency to let rewards expire and you’ll want to make sure to use them before they do.

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The bottom line

With a little planning and forethought, it is possible to earn more credit card points and miles. However, at the end of the day, when you’re in the market for a new card — whether it's a reward credit card, cashback card, travel card or beyond — one of the best things that you can do is to find a type of credit card with a rewards structure that matches up to your typical spending habits. It's all in the card details.

If you aren’t sure where to start your search for the perfect card, use Credible’s free online tool to compare card rates and fees and find the reward credit card that’s the best fit for you.