When it comes to earning points with a rewards credit card, finding smart ways to charge monthly expenses can be a boon. After all, credit cards offer points, miles, or cash back based on how much you spend.
The more you spend, the more rewards you earn. However, always spend within your means and remember that cash back can never outperform credit card interest rates.
Pay your credit card bill in full to avoid interest charges, which would soon wipe out all your rewards.
If your goal is earning more rewards (and it should be!), you need to cover as many purchases and bills with a credit card as you can.
Your daily, weekly, and monthly charges will lead to more points, miles, or money in your favorite rewards account. The average household has plenty of expenses you can normally cover with plastic—however, not all work out to your advantage. See which of the following common expenses are a good fit for you.
The average family with two children under the age of five spends $898 per month on food according to “moderate food plan” 2020 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So covering groceries with a credit card is one of the fastest ways to rack up more rewards. This is especially true if you pick up a top rewards credit card for groceries. One lets you earn up to 6% back on U.S. grocery store purchases until you reach $6,000 (the year’s spending cap) for $1,020 back in rewards that can be used as statement credits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also reports that around one-third of all food spending in the United States in 2019 went toward “services provided by food service establishments” or dining out at last count. With this mind, dining is another huge opportunity when it comes to earning rewards, and that’s even truer when you pick up a rewards card or travel credit card that offers bonus points on dining.
Gas and Transit
Based on recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average individual spends approximately $2,109 on gas and motor oil within a year, which works out a little under $176 per month. This is yet another opportunity to earn more points and miles, particularly with a credit card that offers bonus rewards on gas station spending.
If you don’t drive, you can look for a rewards credit card that offers more points on ridesharing, transit, or train travel.
Find out if you can pay monthly utility bills—like your electric, gas, water, and sewer bills—with a credit card. If so, you could be earning rewards on these payments.
Some billing services, utilities, insurers, schools, and other common payees charge “convenience” fees, which may be small or significant. Ensure that the fee doesn’t outweigh the value of your miles or cash back.
Homeowners and Car Insurance
According to a 2019 survey from AAA, drivers paid an average $1,328 per year to fully insure a small sedan, which means this is yet another expense you could pay with plastic. Homeowners or renters insurance is another pricey bill you may be able to pay with credit each year without paying an added fee.
Make sure your homeowners insurance isn’t paid through an escrow account. After all, you’ll only earn rewards on your homeowners insurance premiums if you’re paying them separately from your mortgage with your credit card.
Medical, Dental, and Vision Expenses
The ongoing expense of health insurance premiums could easily help you rack up considerably more rewards over time. Medical co-pays and annual out-of-pocket medical expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars per year, and most medical providers will happily accept credit as payment.
Orthodontists often offer financing or payment plans, but compare the plan’s interest rates to what you’d get back with a credit card—if you can pay the amount charged in full.
Kids' Sports and Activities
Whether your daughter needs a new trumpet for the school band or your kids are in gymnastics, soccer, or football, paying for your children’s sports and activities is another smart way to rack up more rewards over time.
Many people sign up for at least one subscription service, whether that includes a Hulu or Netflix membership or a family-wide addiction to Disney+. Some cards even offer extra points or cash back for charging your streaming services. A quarterly subscription to FabFitFun or Wine of the Month Club could be helping you earn more rewards.
College Tuition or Adult Classes
If you need to take an inexpensive class or want to earn a quick certificate, those costs might be a good fit for your credit card. It’s also often possible to pay college tuition with a credit card. But if you need to borrow for a multi-year degree, federal student loans are a better deal with competitive interest rates and government protections like income-driven repayment plans, deferment, and forbearance.
Phone and Cable Bills
Consider paying your internet, cable, or phone bill with a rewards credit card, particularly with a card that offers more rewards in these categories. Some business cards offer bonus points or miles for spending on telecommunications services if you work from home. Or just pay your cable bill or your home phone bill (if you have one) with a rewards credit card to rack up more points.
American individuals gave about $292 billion in charitable donations in 2018. Setting up a monthly payment via credit card to a favorite charity can help you sustain your favorite nonprofit and also earn you points or miles. Or consider a card that gives cash back to charity every time you spend.
According to recent data from Care.com, the average family pays $199 per week for infant care in a family care center, $211 per week for child care in a daycare center, and $244 per week for after-school care. This is yet another bill that could help you earn a ton of rewards if your childcare provider allows you to pay with a credit card.
If you pay to go to the gym, you might as well set up autopay with a credit card for that bill, too. You could earn rewards while you get fit in the process, and why not?
Finally, don’t forget that you could be earning rewards on all your business-related expenses, whether travel, inventory, or meals out with clients. A dedicated business credit card can keep your business spending separate, even as you accrue points and miles to be used on future personal trips.
The Bottom Line
These expenses can help you earn more rewards, but don’t forget to pay your credit card bill in full each month. If you carry a balance and amass long-term debt, then the rewards you earn won’t even be close to worthwhile.
The best way to use credit cards is with a plan. Only charge purchases you can afford to pay off each month, and don’t let the convenience of plastic cause your spending to get out of hand.