Whether you're after statement credits or gift cards, the strategy for earning as many points or cashback as you can is the same. The first thing you'll want to do is make the most out of your card's bonus categories -- which will obviously depend on which card you sign up for. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom Flex card, you'll want to go after your rotating 5% cash back categories with fervor when they align with your regular spending. Having the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, on the other hand, means you'll want to use that card exclusively each time you visit U.S. supermarkets.
Here are some additional tips that can help:
Use your card for everyday expenses and bills
Since the number of rewards you earn is tied directly to how much you spend, putting as much on your card each month as you can get away with is the smartest way to beef up your point balances quickly. Aside from groceries at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, see if you can pay other bills like your cell phone or Internet, utilities, kid's activities, and even insurance payments with credit.
Always pay your bill in full right away
Credit cards are best used as a complement to your budget. In other words, you should only spend the money if you have the cash in the bank to back it up and pay your card off right away. That second part -- paying your bill off right away -- is especially crucial as you build good credit habits. It can even be smart to pay your bill off a few times each month if that helps you stay on track.
Don't use credit as an excuse to overspend
Using a credit card makes it easier to overspend, forget how much you have spent already, or knock your budget entirely off track. To avoid that trap, get in the habit of tracking your credit purchases as the month ticks on. If you keep a running total, you'll be in good shape to keep yourself out of trouble as you pursue rewards.