As someone who’s obsessed with points, it really bothers me when I’m shopping and the person in front of me isn’t using a loyalty card or credit card that earns them points. I certainly understand if they don’t shop there on a regular basis and they’re just making a quick purchase or they have a cash only budget, but giving up points is like tossing away free money.
Earning rewards on your everyday spending has never been easier since just about everyone has a loyalty program and even basic credit cards earn you rewards. However, if you do some basic planning and charge your purchases to one of the best travel credit cards or one of the best cash back credit cards, then you can really reap those rewards.
Take a look at what you’re spending money on
To earn rewards quickly, you need to charge your expenses to your credit card. Many people say they don’t care about collecting points because they don’t spend a lot of money, but let’s take a look at some typical expenses.
- Eating out (including food delivery)
- Insurance (home and car)
- Cell phone
- Cable internet
- Streaming services
- Online purchases
- Classes for your kids
What was that about not spending much money? Most of the things I’ve listed above allow you to pay with your credit card. Anytime you pay with cash or debit, you’re essentially giving up free points.
What you want to pay extra attention to are the purchases that don’t come up often but are often large such as insurance. For example, my car insurance is roughly $1,600 each year. Since that amount exceeds the typical $1,500 minimum spend requirement to get the welcome bonus when applying for a new credit card, it’s an easy way to earn more rewards points with spending you were going to make anyway.
Always use the credit card that earns you the most points
Some people prefer to use a single credit card to earn points, but I personally prefer to use whichever credit card earns me the most points. For example, the American Express Cobalt card is the best for eats since you’ll earn 5 points for every dollar spent. That said, since Loblaws doesn’t accept Amex, I use my PC Financial World Elite Mastercard which earns me 30 points per dollar spent. Since I always stay at Marriott Hotels, I use my Marriott Bonvoy American Express card where I earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on eligible hotel spending.
Co-branded loyalty cards tend to be the most lucrative, but don’t ignore cards that give you extra points for specific categories. The Tangerine Money-Back card gives you 2% back in up to three categories of your choice and 0.5% on all other purchases. There’s also the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card that gives you 4% cash back on recurring bills which includes streaming subscriptions.
Always join store loyalty programs
When it comes to rewards, often people focus on credit cards, but store loyalty programs can also be incredibly valuable. PC Optimum points can be earned at Loblaws owned grocery stores, Shoppers Drug Mart and Esso Gas stations. If you combine that with PC Insiders, you can rack up points quickly.
Aeroplan and Air Miles are not necessarily store loyalty programs, but you can earn points at many participating merchants. When checking out, scan your Aeroplan or Air Miles card and then pay with your Aeroplan or Air Miles credit card to double-dip. Canadian Tire is another merchant where you can earn double the points when scanning your loyalty card and then paying with your co-branded card.
I should note that not all store loyalty programs are good. For example, Winners and Uniqlo have an app, but all it does is track your purchases, you don’t get any points or discounts. Although GAP gives you GAP dollars, there are so many conditions to use them that it’s often better to just buy things on sale there.
Don’t be afraid to change your auto-pay bills
Instead of setting your bills to automatically withdraw from your bank account, make sure you have it set to your credit card. As mentioned, some credit cards allow you to earn extra rewards for recurring bills, but these payments are also great if you’re trying to reach the minimum spend requirement of any new credit cards.
It’s not just recurring payments, think about any online merchants where you have a credit card saved for purchases. Like just about everyone else in the world, I use Amazon for a fair amount of my purchases, I just make sure I swap credit cards whenever I’m trying to meet my minimum spend.
Make sure you have a system in place
If you have multiple credit cards with different earn rates, keeping track of them can be tricky. Right away, you want to ensure you know which cards earn you the most points at certain merchants. This is relatively easy since you’ll likely shop at the same places on a regular basis.
Things get tricky when you’re applying for credit cards just to get the welcome bonus. Every card has different requirements e.g. spend $1,000, $3,000, $5,000 etc. to get your bonus so you need to know how much you’ve spent. The good thing is that your spending can be tracked online or via an app and most of the time your points are awarded as soon as you hit that minimum spend.
Many of the best travel credit cards and best cash back credit cards have annual fees so if you have no intention of keeping the card beyond the first year, make sure you cancel those cards. The easiest way is to set up an email reminder in your calendar as soon as you get the card so you don’t forget to cancel your card.
If you’re applying for multiple credit cards, don’t forget to always pay your bills in full and on time every month. The points you earn is never worth the interest you’ll pay.
Earning rewards on your everyday spending has never been easier, but it does have a bit of a learning curve. Staying on top of your spending and having the right credit cards can take a bit of time, but when you can get cash back or free travel out of it, it’s probably worth your time.