Use This Simple Trick To Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

Written by |

One way to unlock perks with your purchases is to use a reward credit card.

Money expert Clark Howard learned a simple trick that will help you get the maximum benefits from your credit card rewards.

Try This Simple Trick To Get the Most Out of Your Credit Card Rewards

Clark says he was picking up a few things at his local Costco when he struck up a conversation with a fellow shopper.

The man explained that he had a labeling method that organized his rewards credit cards and showed Clark his system.

“This man laid out all his credit cards,” Clark says. “And he had stickers on the cards and he said, ‘I use this one here, this one here, this one here,” referring to places like supermarkets, restaurants and gas stations.

Labeling your credit cards is a good idea because it’s easy to forget which card offers the most rewards in each spending category.

“It’s hard to commit to memory, ‘Hey when I’m here, use this one; when I’m there, use that one,’” Clark says.

For example, Clark uses the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® at the pump (whenever he’s not driving his electric vehicle) because the card offers 5% cash back on most gas purchases of up to $6,000 per year, then 1%. And that’s more than the 4% cash back that the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi offers on gas and EV charging purchases of up to $7,000 per year, then 1%.

Read about the credit cards in Clark’s wallet.

By labeling your credit cards, you can easily swipe the right card to get the maximum return for every purchase.


Remember: Update Your Labels

Clark says if you choose to label your credit card with stickers, make sure you update them periodically because some credit card companies rotate rewards categories or switch promotions every three months or so.

“It’s hard to remember what those rotations are,” Clark says. “So if you just put a sticker on your card every 90 days, you’ll know, ‘OK, they’re paying 6% in the supermarkets right now, or they’re paying 5% at the drug stores or whatever.’ So if you have a sticker you’re going to remember those things.”

More Tips From Readers

Clark’s Community readers listed even more ways to take advantage of your credit card perks.

User clydwolf says, “I generally use the highest-paying cash rewards card for purchases. My credit union wants me to use their card three times a month for a ‘preferred’ interest rate on my accounts there. I do that at a self check out for three items ringing each item separately.

“When the reward earned is about $50 I request the reward. I do this because these folks sometimes change the rules with little notice.”

User Rick says, “I’m a bit obsessive about this. I think Clark would be proud. I have a hierarchy of six cards that I use to maximize my credit card rewards … For the cards I carry, I have a label-maker sticker on the top to remind me (picture below). They are in my wallet in order of preferred use, so I use the first one that applies. I don’t carry the Amazon Visa since it’s mostly used on the Amazon website (stored there) and I just remember to use it via my Apple Watch when I’m at Whole Foods. I only use the Costco card for gas since the Fidelity card is just as good for everything else. I do have to periodically check if I’m close to the $1,500 limit on the Chase Freedom, which I have a calendar reminder for. When I get there, I take the card out of my wallet.”

Maximize credit cards.

Screenshot via Rick

User ratbert2k says, “Me too, but not the exact same cards. I have two with rotating categories, so at the end of each quarter, I swap cards in my wallet and my wife’s wallet, and make a card-sized ‘credit card cheat sheet’ to remind us which ones to use where. My wife likes to laugh about that.”

Final Thoughts

Labeling your credit cards is a great way to help you get the most out of your reward offers. But if the idea of keeping up with several cards is too much for you, follow one of Clark’s tips by sticking with a simple cash back credit card.

“My recommendation is to switch to a 2% cash back card. … Two percent is very hard to beat.”

Searching for other credit cards to add to your wallet? Read about the best 2% cash back credit cards.

How many credit cards should I have? How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? - Are you worried that the number of credit cards you have could have a negative impact on your financial life? Is there a “right” number of credit cards for one person to have in 2024? The answer is a little…
Welcome bonuses can be a great way to boost the value of a credit card. Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses for 2024 - Team Clark spent hours reviewing the market for credit card sign-up bonuses and evaluated them according to the guidelines for usage set by money expert Clark Howard. Clark believes credit cards with exorbitant annual fees are a bad idea for most…