Key takeaways

  • To earn more credit card rewards, consider putting recurring bills (like utilities) on a credit card, utilizing your card’s partner programs and buying gift cards at retailers that earn boosted rewards rates.
  • In addition to earning a credit card sign-up bonus, earning referral bonuses or adding or adding an authorized user to your card can help you easily earn more rewards.
  • If you’re thinking of closing a credit card account, consider asking your issuer for a retention offer first.

Earning rewards is one of the great things about using rewards credit cards. Usually, you’ll earn these rewards by spending on popular items like flights, gas, food and more.

While there are plenty of traditional ways to earn credit card rewards, there are a few unconventional but easy ways to earn them as well. These underrated yet simple ways to earn credit card rewards won’t always be the first thing advertised on your card’s issuer reward program website, but they can still be lucrative.

If you’re looking for easy ways to make your rewards card worth it, use the following tips to start racking up rewards points or extra cash back.

1. Pay utility bills with a credit card

Utility bills are recurring charges you have to pay anyway. Why not put those charges on your credit card to earn rewards?

Paying your utilities with your credit card can help build a positive credit history. It’s also an easy way to earn more credit card rewards. Additionally, tools like UltraFICO and Experian Boost use and record bill payments as a contributing factor to your credit history, creating new avenues to build up credit beyond just responsible credit card use.

One downside is that some utility services may charge processing fees when you pay bills with a credit card, so make sure you check with your utility providers for any hidden fees before doing so.

2. Utilize partner programs to earn more rewards

Many credit card issuers offer co-branded cards or have partner programs that offer rewards when you spend. Partner programs span many categories — including dining, airlines, retail shopping and more.

Erolling in a credit card partner program, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program or the American Airlines AAdvantage program, is a simple way to earn extra rewards. Read up on your card’s program partners so you know all the places where you can maximize your earnings.

3. Ask your issuer for a retention offer

A retention offer could be on the table for people who already have good credit to excellent credit. Card issuers want to retain cardholders in good standing, so you may have some leverage to negotiate a retention offer or an incentive to keep your account open. These incentives may be in the form of a refunded annual fee or credit card rewards that will be added to your account.

You can often negotiate incentives when you call an issuer to cancel a card. If you have a complaint about your experience with the card or with the brand associated with the card, you may also be able to negotiate for some incentives. For example, if you experience flight delays with your co-branded airline card, asking for compensation is often an easy way to get extra rewards added to your account for the inconvenience.

4. Buy gift cards for your favorite retailers

Another easy way to earn more credit card rewards is to purchase gift cards using your card. Simply use your credit card to purchase the gift cards, and you’ll get to enjoy the rewards earned for the purchase plus the cash that is on the gift card you purchased.

For example, if your card only earns elevated rewards and cash back at grocery stores, buy gift cards there for restaurants, Amazon, rideshares, streaming services or other places you normally spend at anyway. Technically, you could even purchase a Visa gift card. However, you’ll need to be careful as some issuers may find this kind of activity to be a red flag. Using this technique too often could cause your account to be canceled and issuers may revoke any rewards you’ve already earned.

5. Earn bonus rewards in traditional and creative ways

A simple way to earn a lot of rewards at once is to earn your credit card’s welcome bonus by meeting the spending requirement. You could probably do this easily by making one big purchase on your credit card, such as a new laptop. Just be sure to pay off this purchase at the close of your next billing cycle to avoid any interest charges.

However, there are other ways to earn a large rewards bonus. For instance, you can earn referral bonuses when you refer a friend to apply for your credit card and their application is approved.

Another easy way to earn bonus rewards is by adding an authorized user to your account. This user has the ability to spend on your card’s credit line, and your account will earn rewards for their purchases. You should only add someone who’s responsible and trustworthy as an authorized user on your card, however, as you will be responsible for covering the purchases they make.

How to maximize your rewards value

If you want to get the most out of the rewards you’re already earning, consider doing the following:

  • Leverage issuer portals: If your card has a travel or shopping portal, like Capital One Travel or Chase Ultimate Rewards, use them to maximize your earnings. These portals often offer boosted rewards rates when you book travel or make purchases through them.
  • Watch which redemption options you utilize: Not all redemption options are created equal, and you could be unintentionally diluting your rewards value. For example, cards that offer travel rewards will often have their highest redemption rate when you redeem rewards for travel-related purchases. Redeeming travel rewards for other things, like a statement credit or gift card purchase, could cut your rewards value in half.
  • Stack cards in the same rewards program: Using multiple cards from the same issuer will help maximize your rewards earnings and boost their overall value. A good example of this is the Chase trifecta, a strategy that combines several Chase cards for optimum rewards earning, pooling and redemption opportunities. The overarching goal is to strategize your spending by using multiple cards and pool your reward earnings into one account for maximum value.
  • Transfer rewards to airline partners: Travel cards that have airline partners usually allow cardholders to transfer rewards to these airline loyalty programs. In some cases, transferring your points or miles to an airline partner can boost the points or miles values significantly.
  • Look out for spending limits: Be cognizant of the fact that some cards with lucrative bonus categories have spending caps. Once you reach these spending limits, the bonus category value typically resets to the lowest rewards rate. Keep in mind that these limits vary by card.

The bottom line

By using all the options available, you can easily maximize your credit card’s earning potential and receive a windfall of rewards to enjoy. Read the fine print about your card, enroll in partner programs and think critically about how you want to redeem your earnings. As always, be responsible with your credit card usage, and you’ll open up even more earning possibilities — including the potential for new or upgraded rewards credit cards — over time.