Credit card spending visualized - a person paying with a credit card for a purchase

Even the simplest cards come with rewards, which credit card spending experts always maximize. Rewards come in the form of cashback, points, or miles. Starter credit cards will usually come with cash back, which is the simplest form of reward. Cashback is an excellent introduction for first-time cardholders and those establishing credit for the first time. Cashback, like 1% on all purchases, is just super simple to understand. Nonetheless, the concepts described on this page can also apply to points and miles-earning credit cards. The goal is to focus your spending in places that will maximize your rewards, whatever those rewards are. That is how you can become a spending expert – even as a newbie.

How Your Card Earns Rewards

Image of credit card spending broken out into different category bubbles, such as mobile, restaurants, and clothing.

Understanding how your card earns rewards is essential to maximize your benefits. For example, most cards accrue 3x or 2x points in some categories while accruing 1x points in “everything else.” The everything else category is simply the spending that does not fall into the 3x or 2x categories. While understanding what the 3x or 2x categories are is essential, what’s arguably even more important is how your most frequent transactions show on your credit card statement. In fact, that is how a transaction becomes a 3x or 2x point reward. Instead of earning only 100 points for a $100 transaction, a 3x category earns 300 points for the same $100. Understanding these categories and the earning structure of your credit card spending is critical to maximizing your return on spend.

Some credit cards that are popular with newbies have rotating reward categories. The plus to this added complexity is that the category typically earns 5x cash back. Remembering to use that card for the particular 5x back category is what a credit card spending expert would do. Paying attention to the rotating category can yield great rewards. Chase Freedom cards were some of the first to do this. You can track those quarterly categories and activate your card for them at

Maximizing Your Rewards as a Credit Card Spending Expert

Maximizing your credit card spending is all about where you use your card. Think about where you spend money. For example, if you’re a student, does your campus dining hall count as a restaurant, grocery store, or neither? Both of those are common reward categories. The difference between your dining hall as one or the other could cost you hundreds of dollars in points. These days, it’s not uncommon to find a 3x spending rate on restaurants or dining, which is fantastic. The easiest way to check a merchant category is to go into your credit card account and click on an individual transaction. Usually, the individual transaction will show what category the spending falls into. Remember those categories when deciding how to pay or use your credit cards!

In conclusion, where you spend money on your credit card is just as important as understanding the card’s 3x or 2x points per dollar reward structure. If you’re a big traveler, perhaps rewards in the form of travel or airline points are the most intelligent reward to accrue. Spending the smartest and best way on your credit card is different for everyone. Figuring out the best way to do it is not hard, and you can become a credit card spending and rewards expert for doing so. Your wallet will thank you.

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