6 Practices of Savvy Rewards Cardholders

Here’s how to rack up points or miles—without racking up debt.

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If you work for a company that processes expense reports in a timely fashion, you could also charge business expenses and file for reimbursement. "That's going to depend on the employer," says Ulzheimer. "Some process reimbursements quickly, some don't, but you don't want to give your employer an interest-free loan."

[See 5 Simple Ways to Save on Summer Travel.]

5. Set automated payment to your rewards credit card. Making reoccurring payments like insurance premiums or gym memberships on a rewards card lets you earn points on purchases you'd make anyway. Ulzheimer does this himself, but urges consumers not to set and forget auto payments. "Be diligent to make sure there are no errors," he says. "Sometimes with auto bill, consumers tend to get lazy and they don't check for duplicate charges or incorrect amounts."

If your county accepts property taxes via credit card, that payment could help you earn points, but some places charge a convenience fee for credit card payments, so Ulzheimer suggests doing a quick assessment to make sure that the payoff offsets any fees.

6. Understand how to redeem points or miles. Earning rewards does you no good if you never actually use them. "A lot of times, people don't watch their expiration dates and end up losing points," says Stubbs. If your card has a deadline attached to rewards (for instance, some airline miles expire after five years), make note of the deadline and redeem your miles before then. Also make note of any redemption fees or blackout dates. You can trade points or miles on sites like Points.com, but you'll generally lose some of the value in the process.