I’m a big fan of using a rewards credit card for my everyday spending to collect points and earn cash back. Even better if I can pair up my purchase with a loyalty program to earn freebies and perks at the places where I shop the most.

With hundreds of credit cards and loyalty programs on the market today, it’s hard to figure out exactly which ones to focus on to maximize your rewards. The key is to find a loyalty program that best matches your spending habits and then determine how you want to cash in on your rewards.

Survey says:

According to a new survey by TD Bank, nearly three-quarters of Canadians say they’re loyal to loyalty rewards programs, carrying at least one credit card that offers a rewards program. And for most cardholders (82 percent), rewards are a priority when selecting a card.

Some credit cards allow you to earn more points in categories like groceries and gas, while 42 per cent of loyalty card holders redeem their points for travel.

But with the loyalty and rewards landscape becoming increasingly more competitive, savvy customers are expecting greater value from their cards, including more choice and flexibility in how they earn and redeem rewards.

To offer customers more redemption options, TD Travel Rewards program cardholders now can shop online at brand-name retailers and use some or all of their TD points at directly at online check-out.

Know someone headed to school? TD rewards points and Aeroplan Miles can be redeemed through HigherEdPoints and applied towards tuition, residence, meal plan fees – or even to pay back student loans!

The need for flexibility and choice extends to where we swipe our cards, where the TD survey found that half of Canadians often change where they shop to earn more points and get rewards faster.

With such a wide variety of loyalty rewards programs available and so many ways to collect and redeem points, make sure you understand how the earning and redemption mechanics of the card work in order to get the maximum benefit from it.

Tips to get the most from your loyalty rewards program

Patrick Sojka, loyalty points expert and founder of RewardsCanada.ca, offered the following tips to maximize your rewards:

1. Read the fine print

“Make sure you understand how the earning and redemption mechanics of your credit card work, including any expiration policies for loyalty rewards programs.”

It pays to examine the details of your rewards programs to make sure you’re getting top value when it comes to earning and redeeming points. Pay careful attention to your statement and to how certain purchases get categorized.

2. Double-dip:

“Look for ways to earn up to double the points from one transaction.

One of the best ways to earn extra points is to take advantage of promotions that offer to multiply the points you can earn on certain categories of purchases, or during promotional events offered by some retailers or card providers. 

For example, at participating retailers, use the TD Aeroplan Visa to make a purchase and then swipe your Aeroplan membership card to earn Miles twice in one transaction.”

3. Begin with the end in mind:

“It sounds simple, but a great way to get to your goals faster is to know where you’re headed. Setting or revisiting goals about how you want to use your reward points goes a long way to help pick the right card for you, and start racking up points towards your goal.

And Aeroplan’s online goal setter tool (www.goals.aeroplan.com) helps members set and track their progress, with suggestions to help members reach their goals faster.”

Planning will help you resist the urge to redeem for smaller rewards – particularly if there’s a more generous offer waiting down the road. Redeeming too early is  a sure-fire way to turn a potentially lucrative rewards program into just an okay rewards program.

4. Funnel your spending:

Once you’ve identified your goal and your card, consider putting all of your credit card purchases on the one card to accumulate points quicker.”

When you find the credit card that fits your spending patterns, funnel all of your spending onto that card. You’ll rack up the rewards when you charge everything from groceries, gas, dining, entertainment, and recurring bills, plus travel and other retail spending to your credit card. Just be sure to pay off your credit card balance in full and on time to avoid interest and get the most from your rewards program.

Final thoughts

While it’s great to learn new tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your credit card and loyalty rewards program, you need to be careful not to let the rewards tail wag the spending dog.

Academic research has shown that consumers spend more when using credit versus cash, and, as the TD survey confirmed, our spending patterns change when there’s a chance to earn rewards. Understand that this behavioural bias exists and remember to never chase a bad deal just for the chance to earn rewards.

Please note this post has been brought to you in partnership with TD, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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