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A rewards credit card is a great way to get back a bit in cash or rewards for buying things you already need, but charging them to a credit card instead of using cash or your debit card. All of the perks and benefits you get with these cards are in addition to benefits you reap from building good credit. The key to getting the most out of your rewards credit cards is simpler than you may think. There are several ways you can ensure you're maximizing your benefits, and here's how:

  1. Choose the right card, or cards, for you. One of the biggest mistakes some people make when choosing a credit card is getting one they won't use often. If you do most of your everyday shopping at Target, a Wal-Mart credit card isn't going to do you much good. In the same vein, if you drive an electric or hybrid car, you aren't going to earn a lot of cash back on a card that rewards you for gas-station stops. Several cards exist that let you earn upwards of 6 percent cash back on groceries, gas and travel expenses. Only get the cards you'll use.
  2. Be aware of any limitations or caps. Some rewards cards offer you unlimited rewards, but usually they have caps on what you can earn. Say you can earn 5 percent cash back on grocery and gas purchases, but your credit card only lets you earn that amount on $2,500. After which, you only earn 1 percent cash back on those same purchases. You can collect a couple of cards that offer these rewards so that when you hit the cap, you can switch off to another card to continue earning rewards.
  3. Meet the credit card's requirements. Many credit cards with rewards require that you spend a certain dollar amount in a certain amount of time for you to earn bonus rewards. Be sure you meet these requirements in order to get the most back. If the card requires you to spend, for example, $3,000 in three months' time, and you won't be able to make those purchases in time on actual products, you may be able to purchase gift cards in those amounts and use the gift cards at a later time. You earn the rewards and waste no money.
  4. Read the terms and conditions – often. All credit cards have a list of terms, conditions and fees included with your statement and when you sign up for a card. Be sure to read these terms before you apply and every month when you make a payment. Credit card companies can change those terms at any time, which affect how much you pay in interest, fees and your reward-earning potential.
  5. Never, ever make a late payment. Late payments almost always come with a fee. These fees can be quite hefty, which can significantly cut into the rewards you're earning. Additionally, you may end up having to pay a higher interest rate if you make late payments. Also, they can affect your credit score, which ultimately affects your chances at getting even better rewards credit cards for even more cash back or rewards.
  6. Always pay off your balance in full every single month. The single most important action you can take to maximize your credit card benefits is to pay off your balance every billing cycle in full. You can avoid interest charges and increase your credit score. Furthermore, if you manage your credit cards responsibly, you can get credit cards with higher limits and better rewards.

Whatever card you choose, your reward-earning potential is always higher if you manage your credit responsibly. Use your rewards and cash back on more everyday items or vacations, and it will be like you're getting freebies all year long. 

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