How to Use a Digital Wallet to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

Digital Wallets Can Make Managing Multiple Rewards Cards Easier

A woman passes her smartphone over an electronic payment device.
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Digital wallets, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, can make spending easier and more 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 another connected mobile device, such as a tablet. 

When it comes to earning rewards with a linked credit card inside a digital payment app, there are a few important things to know. These tips can help you manage—and maximize—credit card rewards when you are spending on the go with a mobile wallet app

Learn How Your Digital Wallet Works

The first step in using digital payments is downloading a mobile wallet app and creating an account. Again, you can add a mobile payment app to a smartphone or any other mobile-compatible device. Once your account is set up through the app, you'll need to decide which credit and debit cards you want to link, and then load their information into the app. 

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

Once your cards are loaded, 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. Top of wallet means the card that's 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

When a card is selected for payment, all you have to do next is tap or wave your mobile device near the payment terminal. Technology called Near-Field Communication transmits your card details from your digital wallet to the payment terminal to process the transaction. 

Maximizing Rewards With Your Wallet-Linked Credit Card

Understanding the top of wallet concept is 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.

These tips can help you manage your cards wisely when earning rewards:

1. Review the Rewards Structure of Each Linked Card

First, 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, then 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. And some cards may combine a flat percentage with a quarterly cash back bonus for certain purchase categories. 

2. Review Typical Spending Patterns

Next, 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 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 is 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. 

Just keep in mind that 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. And you'll need to opt in or active bonus categories each quarter to earn the higher rewards rate. 

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

Consider Keeping a Catch-All Card as a Backup

Digital wallets can be convenient but if you lose your phone, you might be without a way to pay. You may want to keep one card with you physically to pick up the tab if your phone is lost or stolen, or you're making a purchase with a merchant that doesn't accept mobile payments. In that scenario, choose a rewards card that offers the highest rewards rate on all purchases so you cover all your spending bases.