10647 - Is Your Rewards Credit Card Still Working for You?

A few months ago, I wrote about how to choose the loyalty rewards credit card that’s right for you. But loyalty rewards credit cards are a lot like relationships. Every once in awhile, you need to take a step back and ask, “Is this working for me?”

I do this from time to time with all of my cards because circumstances in life often shift, whether it’s your household priorities, employment status, housing situation, financial well-being or lifestyle. We sign up for these cards with hopes of racking up points and getting closer to redeeming them for flights, hotels, rental cars and merchandise, but is that how things are playing out in real life?

Your card needs to be in step with where you are now. Ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re getting the benefits most suited to you.

Has My Spending Strategy Changed?

One of the first things you’ll need to look at is your spending habits and whether you’re actually using the card to rack up loyalty points. If you’re not, you won’t be getting closer to reaping the rewards you’re hoping for.

You can boost your ability to rack up points or miles by channeling some of your recurring bills and expenses through the card. Whether it’s your water bill or gas for your vehicle, those expenses will speed up your collection rate. Make sure you’re aware of any partners associated with your card. These are the ones that often offer bonuses and reward you for usage beyond the usual one-point-for-one-dollar spend ratio. For example, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card gives you three times the points for airfare.

Am I Enjoying All My Perks?

Your travel rewards card likely came with a slew of benefits. Are you familiar with them all? Make sure you get to know what’s offered and take advantage of what you’re entitled to. That could mean a suite of insurance protection for things like travel delay, lost baggage, rental cars, medical emergencies, extended warranties and merchandise replacement.

When you travel, your card should be your constant companion. Many companies offer better rates on foreign transactions than banks. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred is one card that helps you dodge those foreign transaction fees.

It’s also important to keep up with any policy changes. Companies are constantly fine-tuning their offerings, creating bonuses, changing redemption levels, blackout dates, fees, expiration dates and rules of usage. If those shifts aren’t in your favor or make redeeming your points prohibitive, it may be time to break up with your card.

Fortunately for consumers, the loyalty rewards card business is very competitive, and companies are always coming up with better sign-up bonuses to snag new customers. Watch for deals where the annual fee is waived for the first year – a good way to try out a card risk-free.

What’s My End Game?

When you first signed up for your credit card, you likely did so with a goal in mind. Maybe it was racking up enough miles to take a family vacation to Hawaii, or perhaps accumulating with hopes of using them to fund a destination wedding.

Are flights still your main goal for collecting? If your priorities have changed and you’d rather have cash back or hotel stays with programs like Marriott Rewards, you may want to consider applying for a card that better suits your current needs.

Is There an Annual Fee?

When you’re paying an annual fee for carrying a travel rewards card, you don’t want to be too hasty in jumping ship. You’ll want to contact the issuer to find out whether you’re stuck paying the whole fee if you choose to cancel. Some issuers may give you a prorated refund based on how long you’ve used the card. It’s something to consider.

Your annual fee is one key factor in deciding whether your loyalty rewards card is working for you. If it never comes out of your wallet, you aren’t getting your money’s worth. Plus, the points in inactive accounts are at risk of expiring, rendering them worthless. Be sure to check your card issuer’s policies. A well-used card (within your means, of course) is always your best option to getting the rewards you covet most.