Credit card rewards programs offer all kinds of perks, from flights discounts to cash back and more. These attractive offerings give card users the ability to get something extra, simply for using their credit cards. However, getting the most out of rewards credit cards and credit card points requires certain strategies. Keep these tips in mind as you apply for, use and research new cards offering rewards programs.

Choose carefully

The credit card market is chock full of different cards, all with unique offerings. Choosing the right one can be complicated, but research is worth the time. Choose a general goal, whether it’s getting cash back on as many purchases as possible or setting aside points to help pay for flights as part of a yearly vacation. Then, start looking into the  cards that offer a reward similar to what you’re after.

You’ll want to look at how easy or difficult it is to earn points, the conversion rate between points and what you receive in exchange, along with any limits or  rules associated with earning them. Closely compare the basics of the cards you’re likely to qualify for as well. A slightly better rewards program won’t justify a lower spending limit, higher annual percentage rate or other drawbacks. The rewards program is like icing on the cake – you need the cake itself to provide a solid foundation for the icing.

Look for bonuses

As The New York Times pointed out, one of the best ways to accrue points is through sign-up bonuses. Many cards offer starting point balances when you apply during an active promotion, so look into any you’re interested in before you submit your application. If you wait a few months, you might start off with thousands of points or amass points once you spend – and pay off – a certain amount in the first few months after you open the card.

Many cards will also offer bonuses for current cardholders for a variety of actions, from referring a friend to sign up for the card to making purchases at specific types of businesses. These promotions are usually only offered for a limited time, or regularly change how and when they provide the additional points. Make regular visits to the card issuer’s website to keep up with the changes and make sure you get the most out of each deal.

Focus your spending

It may sound simple, but it’s important to remember you get the most points by funneling as much spending through one card as possible, as pointed out. You may need to adjust habits and change automatic payments in order to use your rewards card to optimize the rewards you can earn. These simple tips can help you get started on making the most of your rewards credit cards and credit card points.

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