How to Maximize Cash-Back Rewards on Mobile Wallet Purchases

A woman passes her smartphone over an electronic payment device.
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Digital wallet apps, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, can make spending more accessible and convenient. Rather than carrying a wallet full of credit and debit cards, you can link those cards to your wallet app. When you're shopping in-store or dining out, you can pay using your smartphone, smartwatch, or other connected mobile device at any business that offers a mobile-pay terminal. 

Learn How Your Digital Wallet Works

To begin using digital payments, download a mobile wallet app to your smartphone or mobile-compatible device and create an account. Once your account is set up, decide which credit and debit cards you want to keep in your digital wallet and load their information into the app. 

Along with credit and debit cards, you can also load loyalty rewards cards and gift cards into a digital wallet. 

Once your cards are loaded into your mobile wallet, you can start making purchases. If you're trying to maximize credit card rewards, it's important to know which card is set as your "top of wallet" payment option. In other words, which card will be automatically used for purchases? Depending on which digital wallet you're using, the top of wallet card could be:

  • The last card you used to make a purchase through the app.
  • A card you choose from the app at checkout.
  • A card you've set up as a default payment method.

To pay with your digital wallet, select a card for payment and tap or wave your mobile device near the payment terminal. Your card details are sent from your digital wallet to the payment terminal to process the transaction. 

Samsung users can download both Samsung Pay and Google Pay to the same device and link multiple cards. You'll need to designate one payment app as your default digital wallet. 

Maximizing Rewards With Your Wallet-Linked Credit Card

Understanding the top of wallet concept is the key to juggling multiple rewards credit cards inside your mobile payment app. The goal is to choose the appropriate card to pay with to earn the most rewards possible based on the nature of the purchase.

Consider keeping a physical card with you to have access to money if your phone is lost, stolen, or out of power or if you're making a purchase with a merchant that doesn't accept mobile payments.

These tips can help you manage and maximize credit card rewards when you are spending on the go with a mobile wallet app

1. Review the Rewards Structure of Each Linked Card

Take stock of which cards are in your digital wallet. Note whether each card earns points, miles, or cash back. Then, take a closer look at each card's rewards structure. 

For example, if you have a cash-back card, you need to know how cash back is earned. Some cards offer a flat percentage of purchases back while others offer tiered rewards that pay more in certain categories of purchases. Other cards may combine a flat percentage with a quarterly cash back bonus for certain purchase categories. 

2. Analyze Typical Spending Patterns

Check your normal monthly spending habits to see where you spend the most and least. If you regularly shop at the same store on the same day each week for groceries, for instance, that can make it easier to get in the habit of choosing your grocery rewards card as the top of wallet payment option on those days. 

3. Check for Rewards Bonuses for New Cards

If you have a brand-new rewards card you're adding to your wallet, take a look at the introductory sign-up rewards bonus if one is offered. Specifically, look at the minimum spending requirement needed to earn the bonus. If you need to charge $3,000 in the first three months, for instance, you might want to set this card as the default payment for every purchase to hit that threshold. 

4. Compare Quarterly Bonus Categories 

A quarterly bonus offers an opportunity to earn a higher rewards rate on one or more specific purchase categories. Mobile payments can sometimes be included in the quarterly bonus category, meaning that if you pay through an eligible digital wallet app you could earn a higher rewards rate. 

Quarterly bonuses typically have a spending cap. For example, you may be limited to earning the bonus on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Also, you'll need to opt in to active bonus categories each quarter to earn the higher rewards rate.