Here's How To Maximise Your Credit Card Rewards Points

New research says almost half of Aussies don't research their rewards program.

12/10/2016 7:17 AM AEDT | Updated 12/10/2016 7:17 AM AEDT
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Smart shopping, this way.

Rewards programs can be confusing.

Between the interest rates, different cards to choose from and ever-changing rewards available it's enough to send even the most dedicated shopper into a cloud of confusion.

Some recent research from American Express confirms this with almost half (42 percent) of respondents admitting they didn't research the rewards on offer before choosing their current credit card.

The research, which surveyed 1000 Australian credit card holders across multiple financial institutions found over a quarter hadn't claimed anything in the last two years, the main reason being a lack of understanding.

According to Steve Hui, a self-proclaimed "Points Whisperer" and CEO of iFLYflat there are simple things we can be doing to capitalise on our spending and make the most of our chosen rewards program.

"First and foremost, pick the right card for you. We obviously don't want people spending more money than they were planning to spend but the whole idea is that if you're spending the money anyhow, why not pick a card that rewards you," Hui told The Huffington Post Australia.

Changes to RBA regulation

If you're not across your current rewards program, it's probably worth getting up to speed with it due to the impending changes to the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) regulation due in June next year.

Basically, the RBA will introduce interchange fee caps in an attempt to reduce surcharging (interchange is the mechanism which largely pays for rewards).

What does this mean for you? Well, you'll no doubt start seeing some cards earn less points, get less when they come to redeem, or have caps imposed.

Hui spends a lot of time coaxing people away from the humble debit card.

"A debit card isn't going to earn you any points whatsoever and nowadays there are lots of cards with low or no annual fee," Hui said.

Ahead, Hui outlines the best approach to choosing the right card for you, as well as how to maximise your credit card rewards.

Look for a flexible points program

Choose a card that earns you points in multiple programs. "This offers flexibility, for example it allows you to use your points across multiple airlines, rather than just one," Hui said.

Maximise your points

"Try to earn as many points as you can with your current spending. Whether it's restaurants, coffee or taxis, a savvy way to earn points quickly is by using your credit card on the things you'd otherwise pay for with cash," Hui said.

Important: don't be this person. It's about capitalising on your CURRENT spending.

Pay for group bills

Out for dinner with friends? Why not offer to pay the bill. You'll earn more points the higher the purchase and with apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay, simply ask your friends to transfer you their portion.

Get travelling

"Frequent flyer points are the most common rewards associated with credit card rewards and in my opinion, offer you the best bang for your buck," Hui said. According to Hui, upgrading from economy to business class is much cheaper if you pay with points. "This option is great for spontaneous travel and also offers a memorable in-flight experience."

Use points as payment

There are a whole bunch of ways you can put your points to use a form of payment, rather than redeeming goods or experiences. For example, you can pay off certain purchases with points, shop with points at selected retailers or redeem points for credit on your account.

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