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Years ago, I heard of a company that had hidden a secret contest in the depths of its Terms of Service documentation. They wanted to gauge how many people actually read the pages and pages of “legalese” and found that only a few people in many thousands actually do. After learning about that, I vowed to be an ardent reader of these documents in the event of another company pulling the same stunt.
Alas, after trying to plow through the first few paragraphs of most Terms of Service (or other similar) documents, I usually give up. Honestly, I rarely make it more than a few sentences in, and it is why I find credit card rewards such a struggle. After all, the brochures or PDF downloads that show you how to get the most from credit card rewards can be mind-numbing and difficult to understand. This might not matter if you don’t use the card much, but it is huge if you are trying to choose the right cards to apply for or you just want to reap the benefits of a card with rewards.
Interestingly enough, a 2011 study showed that around 33% of credit card rewards are wasted. Back then, it added up to more than $16 billion (yes, that word began with a “B”!), and that proves that I am not the only one unable to wade through the fine print and legalese in most credit card documentation. That’s where the benefits of credit card rewards apps come into play.
In the past, I have taken a look at credit card rewards from a few angles, and even noted a few websites that can be helpful in tracking your credit card rewards. In particular, AwardWallet and Points are two sites I suggest anyone looking to get the most from credit card rewards use. With them, you enroll for accounts, add your rewards and loyalty program membership details and let the site track your rewards and options.
I like them because they will often alert you to the fact that points are expiring or balances changing, preventing you from losing out. They can also let you redeem them through the site’s portals or use some creative swapping to really get the most from credit card rewards.
However, there is much more to the story than tracking things like points, miles or cash back options. And that is where the benefits of credit card rewards apps come into play. They can do everything from helping you decide which card to use for a specific purchase to getting you cash back on price changes post-purchase. I’d like to share my favorites with you in the hopes that you too want to reap the many benefits of credit card rewards apps and start to get the most from credit card rewards.
Available for iOS devices only, it is an app that tracks spending and tells you which card to use to get the most from credit card rewards options available. The app actually builds a personalized bonus points plan that shows you the cards with the best sign up bonuses. They manage all cards, track spending and help you get bonuses as often as possible. A lot of the magic of rewards programs is knowing when to use specific accounts, and this app is designed to help you make your day to day spending the most rewarding.
As one expert has said, “The AwardMe home tab shows you a tidy wallet with all your credit cards, along with an overall tally of your potential points available and the amount you need to spend to unlock them…You can also find out which card to use for your particular purchase with the card selector menu, which breaks down how many points you’ll receive for using your card at a gas station, restaurant, grocery store, or any of the other various stores.”
If you were ever curious if there are benefits of credit card rewards apps, this app answers that with a resounding yes.
This app specializes in price protection. In other words, if your credit card company offers pricing adjustments for purchases within 90 days of buying something, you get the difference refunded. Yet, that comes with a caveat, which is that you (as the consumer) are tasked with following through on pricing changes and requesting the refund from the credit provider.
Enter the Earny app, which specializes in combing through all of your purchases throughout a constantly updated 90 day window. If it sees that there is a pricing change, and you are owed a refund, it pursues it automatically for you. According to an ABC News report, one account holder had earned $84 in refunds in just a short period of time after installing it. Yet the creator of the app says that the average users realizes around $300 per year.
Similar to the Earny app, this allows you to get the most from credit card rewards through price adjustments. Once you download it to a mobile device, it uses your email account to sort purchase receipts and begins tracking any pricing changes. It can also submit a request to your credit card providers. One thing this app does that demonstrates the many benefits of credit card rewards apps is to track shipping times. If you paid for specific shipping and it arrives later than guaranteed, the app automatically request a refund on your behalf.
Use it as a website or an app, it tracks all of your credit card rewards programs, but you don’t even have to allow it to review the actual accounts you hold. Instead, just let the app know which cards you have and it can start to tell you which offer you the best options. You can enter your account information for even better results. The app or site allows you to see factors including cash back, best card based on location, and more. It has a handy reports feature that also allows you to see how you are doing in terms of getting the most from credit card rewards and even has a handy “cheat sheet” that shows you if other cards (which you can apply for) might be more rewarding.
Something that I love about it is that it “converts points into a dollar value so you can quantify the rewards you’re getting from a specific credit card”
What are the benefits you enjoy by using the credit cards in your wallet? Most of us, as already noted, are fairly unaware of more than cash back percentages on specific purchases or rewards and/or miles options. Yet, many credit card providers make a long list of equally appealing benefits available. This is what the Sift app taps into. As one of its designers and founders said about benefits and rewards, “This space is like an iceberg…Cash-back, frequent flyer miles and purchase points are the benefits that most customers are aware of, because that’s the part of the iceberg that’s visible. But there’s so much more, that’s where we come in. Everyone is focused on pre-purchase benefits, we found our market in the post-purchase space.”
What that means is that you can rely on this app to provide:
This is another of the apps that does not demand access to your personal financial data if you are uncomfortable handing it over. Instead, you let it know which cards you have and it uses GPS in your mobile device to tell you which reward card works best for you. You can also personalize your account settings and it will tell you about introductory offers and any special opportunities for rewards.
Because this is an area of the app world that is still developing and changing, it is likely that there will be a constant supply of new and enhanced apps that are meant to help you get the most from credit card rewards. For now, I strongly urge you to begin using a few of those listed above. Yes, they do ask that you submit credit card information, which makes many nervous, but most have encrypted systems and high end security that should eliminate any worries.
The benefits of credit card rewards apps are too substantial to be ignored, and most of us are totally unaware of the different, unique, rewards our credit card companies might offer. For example, the whole price adjustment issue was one I was unaware of until I began researching the world of credit cards and rewards. Because it takes too much leg work to track and pursue those refunds, though, I had been skipping them. With just one of the price protection apps, though, the job is done and I don’t have to lift a finger.
A few words about this, though: You will have to get your receipts sent to your registered email account and give the app access to your credit cards and email. If you use just one email address and always ask for the email receipt, though, you can start to see the returns piling up. Will it be the $300 that one app designer indicated? That all depends on your spending habits and the sites or stores used.
If you are eager to make the very most when shopping online using a desktop or laptop, I also suggest you use the site known as ev’reward. In previous articles, I have recommended it as an easy way to make the very most of airline miles, cash back and points options.
For example, if you visit the site, you tell the engine where you are shopping. For this example, let’s say it is Target. It is going to tell you if there are currently any special offers from loyalty programs or credit cards. It also shows the loyalty program rewards you can earn by making a purchase through an airline’s shopping portal or using another site. In this example (and at the time this was written), it indicated that using Visa or Discover at the store or online netted me $5 off the sale. I might also get 2% through Mr. Rebates, 1% via Ebates and the same from Citi. I could earn one or two points per dollar through various airlines, too.
If I also used my phone to input details of the sale, I could count on the different apps reviewed in this article to help me make the right choices. Then, I’d want to be sure the receipt for the purchase ended up in one of the apps for further review. It was just two steps outlined above, and well worth the effort as it could net a lot of savings and the many benefits of the lesser known credit card rewards and protections.
You don’t have to spend hours trying to translate a credit card provider’s terms of service or rewards program brochures. Instead, use these handy (and free) apps to begin enjoying their many benefits. With billions of dollars being tossed away each year by unknowing consumers, it is time to step up and start getting the funds that are rightfully yours.
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