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Credit card rewards offer a great way to save money on travel and other expenses. You can earn credit card points fast by choosing cards that offer high introductory bonuses when you sign up, and earn bonus points in categories where you spend a lot of money, such as groceries or dining. Beyond that, you should try to earn as many points as possible on everyday purchases while still spending responsibly. Finally, have a plan in place for how you want to use your credit card points to save you the most money.
Find the Right Rewards Card
The key to earning credit card points quickly is to choose a rewards card that earns you the most rewards on the types of purchases you regularly make. But you'll also need to consider what kind of rewards you value most. There are three main types of rewards credit cards.
Airline and Hotel Credit Cards
These cards allow you to rack up frequent-flier miles with a specific airline or hotel points with a particular chain that you can then redeem toward award travel. Also called co-branded cards, these products tend to earn the most points or miles when you use them to make purchases with the partner airline or hotel company. However, a lot of them also offer points on other things like car rentals, restaurant charges, or purchases at gas stations or grocery stores.
Transferable Points Cards
Certain travel rewards credit cards earn points that you can transfer to airline and hotel partners. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, earns Ultimate Rewards points, which you can convert into miles with 10 airline partners including JetBlue, Southwest and United, as well as three hotel partners including Hyatt, IHG and Marriott. These cards offer a great way to rack up points in a central account and then use them for travel without being limited to one specific airline or hotel group. Not only that, the cards that earn transferable points tend to have some great bonus categories, such as dining and travel, so you can really rake in the points fast.
Cash Back Cards
The final major family of rewards cards are known as cash back cards. The points or miles you earn with this type of card are usually redeemable for travel or other purchases at a set rate of about 1 cent per point (sometimes less). For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase. Those miles can be redeemed for statement credits toward travel purchases at one cent apiece, and for most other purchases at lower rates that can vary.
Applying for a New Card
Before applying for a rewards credit card, think about your financial picture, which cards you might be eligible for and which ones offer earnings bonuses at the places you shop. Rewards cards tend to require good to excellent credit, so it's a good idea to check your credit score, which you can do for free through Experian, to determine whether your score is within the average range for any card you are thinking about. Here are a few to consider right now.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: This card, from our partner, lets you earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after making $2,500 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. The card earns 2 miles per dollar at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases, then 1 mile per dollar everywhere else, giving you several ways to quickly earn points. Its annual fee of $99 is waived the first 12 months.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. You'll earn 12 bonus points per dollar on eligible charges directly from a hotel in the Hilton portfolio; 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3 points per dollar on other eligible purchases. The annual fee is $95. Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Limited-time offers allow you to earn 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 2 points per dollar on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month through April 2021 (includes eligible pickup and delivery services). The annual fee is $95.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: You'll earn an unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase with this card. You can also receive a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee statement credit for up to $100 once every four years. The card's annual fee is $95.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn 1.5% cash back on all non bonus category purchases. New cardholders are also eligible for a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, after which you'll be charged a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%, depending on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee.
Hit Your Intro Bonus
One of the best ways to earn a lot of credit card points fast is to score an introductory bonus, also known as a sign-up bonus. An intro bonus can be anything from tens of thousands of points or miles for award travel to hundreds of dollars in cash back.
To earn an introductory bonus, you usually have to meet certain spending requirements. That might be as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases within a set period of time, like three to six months.
Introductory bonuses can also vary widely, even for the same card, depending on when you apply. Be sure to read the fine print carefully and make sure you can meet any conditions while still spending responsibly and paying off your balances on time each month. Otherwise, you might be on the hook for interest charges and late fees that will wipe out the value of any points you earn.
Spend Your Money Strategically
To earn rewards points quickly, think about the kinds of purchases you make each month so you can use the credit cards that will earn you most points or miles for them.
Pay Attention to Bonus Categories
While many rewards credit cards earn 1 point or mile per dollar on most purchases, some earn bonus points when you use them to buy things at specific categories of merchants, such as gas stations or grocery stores. By using these cards at the right places, you can double, triple or multiply your earning even faster.
Use a Combination of Cards
Combining a few different rewards credit cards with bonus categories that do not overlap can help you earn bonus points or miles on nearly every single purchase you make.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on a wide range of travel purchases (after earning your annual $300 travel credit), such as airline tickets, hotels, taxis and cruises, as well as on dining at restaurants and eligible delivery services like DoorDash. It earns 1 point per dollar on almost everything else. By contrast, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card earns 12 bonus points per dollar on purchases directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio. It earns 6 bonus points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3 points per dollar on everything else. So by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card for airfare, general travel and dining, and the Hilton card for Hilton stays, groceries and gas, you could have a winning combo to rake in both Ultimate Rewards points (which are transferable to several airline and hotel loyalty programs) and Hilton Honors points at a pretty good clip.
Use Your Cards for Everyday Purchases
Aside from maximizing bonus categories, you can earn rewards points even faster simply by using your cards for most of your everyday purchases rather than just occasional buys or large items. A point or mile per dollar here and there adds up quicker than you think.
Using a credit card rather than cash or a debit card is not only a great way to accrue rewards faster, but some credit cards offer protections for purchases you make in case something is lost or stolen. Using a card responsibly is also a great way to build your credit history and improve your credit score.
How to Use Your Card Responsibly
Before you whip out your card for every purchase, no matter the price, keep in mind that the rewards you earn will only be worthwhile if you use your card responsibly and are able to make payments on time and in full every month. Not doing could result in late fees and interest charges that will cost much more than the value of any rewards points you earn. Not only that, but over-utilizing your card and amassing a balance that's near your credit limit will be a red flag for lenders. Carrying a high balance can lower your credit score and prevent you from taking advantage of other lucrative credit card offers in the future.
The key to earning credit card points fast is to find a card that fits your financial habits and racks up bonus points or miles on the kinds of purchases you make the most, and by spending responsibly on day-to-day expenses. By finding a card that offers bonus-earning opportunities and other benefits you can take advantage of, you can start accruing rewards points faster than you think. You can find personalized credit card options through Experian CreditMatchTM to help you maximize your earning.