Not sure which credit card to use for your next purchase? Credit card rewards apps can track your rewards earning and help you identify the best card for each purchase.
Credit cards can come with rewards on travel, dining, streaming, groceries and a number of other spending categories. “The challenge is, while consumers want these rewards, they’re not necessarily getting them,” says Sameer Gupta, founder of credit card rewards app Uthrive and former director of product innovation for American Express.
[ Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards. ]
Why It Pays to Keep Track of Credit Card Rewards
With many ways to earn and redeem credit card rewards, there are also many ways to be confused about them, especially if you carry multiple credit cards.
“People can overlook the fine print and miss opportunities to maximize their rewards,” says David B. Shipper, strategic advisor of retail banking and payments with Aite-Novarica Group. “… It’s important to pay attention to the specifics to make sure you get the most rewards.”
Nearly half of respondents to an October U.S. News survey reported feeling worried that they could earn more rewards if they used a different credit card. Here are some reasons it can be difficult to maximize your rewards:
— Rewards categories change. Some cards have rewards categories that rotate each quarter. For example, a card might earn 5% cash back at Target for three months, and then 5% back on gas for three months after that. To access those rewards, you may have to activate the offer, and you’ll need to remember to direct your spending to the right card.
— Rewards may have restrictions. Your card might impose maximum earnings in a category, bonus rewards may only be available for a limited time or you may need to join a travel loyalty program to earn at the highest possible rate. You’ll need to keep track of any restrictions or limits on your rewards to make the best choices.
— Sign-up bonuses have spending requirements. When you get a new credit card, you might be able to earn bonus cash back, points or miles if you meet a spending requirement within a certain time. If you don’t meet that spending requirement on time, you could leave hundreds of dollars on the table.
If you’re juggling multiple cards and rewards accounts, it can be easy to forget what you have. Credit card rewards apps can give you a broad view of what’s stashed where so you can cash in.
Read on to learn about some of the credit card rewards apps that can help you stay on top of the rewards you have and make the most of future purchases.
[ Read: Best Cash Back Credit Cards. ]
AwardWallet can help you track credit card points and more — the service supports nearly 700 loyalty programs. You can register for a free account on your computer or in the mobile app. AwardWallet tracks your rewards balances when you give the service permission to log into sites such as Hilton.com and JetBlue.com. If you add credit card accounts, AwardWallet can analyze your spending to determine whether you’re using the best card for each purchase.
The free version of AwardWallet can track your rewards balances and up to three rewards expiration dates. When you redeem your rewards for travel, AwardWallet can track your reservations and notify you if flights are delayed or canceled. You can use AwardWallet’s merchant category lookup tool even if you don’t have an account: Enter a store name, and AwardWallet will provide a list of credit cards that earn more than one point per dollar for shopping there.
If you want access to extra features, including the ability to track expiration dates for more than three of your rewards accounts, you can subscribe to AwardWallet Plus for a $30 annual fee.
AwardWallet is available in both the Apple and Google app stores.
Using MaxRewards, you can see the value of your credit card rewards and identify the best card for different spending categories. While you’re out shopping, MaxRewards can tell you which of your cards will earn the most rewards with nearby merchants. You’ll also be able to keep track of your sign-up bonuses in the app to make sure you hit minimum spending requirements in time.
If you pay for MaxRewards Gold, you can get quarterly bonus categories and other offers automatically activated. Customers can choose their own monthly payment amount for MaxRewards Gold, which also lets users favorite deals and provides notifications about new and expiring offers.
MaxRewards is available in both the Apple and Google app stores.
Uthrive is newer than AwardWallet and MaxRewards, and its features include card recommendations to fit your spending and credit profiles. You can add your accounts to see a summary of rewards you’ve earned and missed, and you can keep track of sign-up bonuses.
Before you make a purchase, you can check Uthrive to decide which credit card to use. The app will also notify you when you don’t use the highest-earning card for a purchase. Uthrive is free and does not have a subscription option for consumers. You can use Uthrive’s app or access your account on desktop.
Uthrive is available in both the Apple and Google app stores.
[ Read: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards. ]
What Are Other Ways to Maximize Credit Card Rewards?
Rewards apps aren’t for everyone. You may have privacy concerns, an app might not support all of your credit cards or rewards programs, or you might prefer to use your own tools — especially if you’d have to pay a fee to unlock the features you want in an app. If you’d rather not use an app to track your credit card rewards, you have other options that can help you make the most of your cards.
— Use a well-rounded card: If you don’t want to get caught up in the minutiae of maximizing rewards, choosing your primary credit card wisely can pay off. A 2% cash back card or a card that earns the best rewards in categories you spend the most on could be a good fit. You can use this card for most spending and not sweat the small stuff.
— Rely on your memory: If you don’t have many cards, you could find it easy to remember which card is best for a few categories. You might have a store credit card for a store you frequently visit or a particular card that you always use for dining, gas or groceries.
— Create a spreadsheet: You can use a spreadsheet to analyze your spending, keep track of each of your cards’ rewards and monitor your progress toward any sign-up bonuses.
— Analyze rewards when you pay your monthly bill: When you pay your bill, don’t just look at your spending; check on your rewards, too. Confirm that you’re on track to reach any sign-up bonuses, make sure you’re earning in bonus categories, activate any offers, calculate how much your rewards are worth and decide whether it’s a good time to cash them in.
— Organize your wallet: If you’re working on a sign-up bonus, you could put cards in first, second or third position in your wallet so you remember to spend on the card with the available bonus. Or you can add sticky notes to cards to keep track of the highest-earning categories for each card.
The bottom line: Credit card rewards can be valuable, and apps are one way to take the guesswork out of earning as much as possible.
“Generally, people have busy lives,” says Gupta. “They don’t think of how to maximize credit card rewards each day.”
More from U.S. News