Credit cards offer a range of rewards in the form of miles, points, and cashback.
With so many offers to choose from and different conditions for earning rewards, you may be wondering if credit card rewards are worth your while.
As a physician, you’re in an excellent position to make the most of credit card rewards due to your income level. Here are some strategies to help you maximize the benefits of credit card rewards.
Types of Credit Card Rewards
There are several types of reward cards to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular options:
- Travel rewards cards: These cards can be offered by specific airlines or by big banks like Chase, American Express, and Citi. They offer airline miles or other travel credits you can use to enhance your trips.
- Cashback cards: Cashback credit cards give you back a percentage of money you spend on eligible purchases. The percentage often ranges from 1%-6%, with some cards capping rewards in some spending categories and offering higher rewards in bonus categories.
- Points cards: These cards let you earn rewards for various purchases at retailers, gas stations, grocery stores, or hotel bookings. In addition to cash, some credit card issuers let you redeem credit card points for event tickets, gift cards, or charitable donations.
- Premium credit cards: These gold or platinum cards offer high credit limits, 24-hour concierge services, or even a personal assistant. They give cardholders access to exclusive airline lounges and tend to have worldwide travel benefits.
Pros and Cons of Credit Card Rewards
Here are a few of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of rewards credit cards to consider:
- Credit card bonuses: Credit card companies offer bonuses like extra rewards points, miles, or cash back when a new cardholder meets specific spending requirements within a set timeframe. Welcome bonuses can vary widely among different credit cards, with some offering high-value bonuses that can be redeemed for travel, statement credits, or merchandise.
- Cashback: The biggest benefit of rewards cards is the potential to earn cashback, which can help offset personal or professional expenses.
- Travel rewards: Credit card rewards often include travel perks such as airline miles, hotel discounts, and airport lounge access, which can be beneficial for doctors who frequently attend conferences or need to travel for work.
- Business expenses: Many credit card rewards programs offer bonus points or cashback for business-related expenses, such as office supplies, equipment, or continuing education costs.
- Flexible redemption options: Rewards can often be redeemed in a variety of ways, including statement credits or gift cards, providing flexibility to choose the rewards that best suit your needs.
- High annual fees: Some credit cards with lucrative rewards programs may come with high annual fees, which can offset the value of the rewards if you don’t fully utilize the benefits.
- Impact on credit score: Opening multiple credit cards to take advantage of rewards can lead to a temporary dip in your credit score due to the hard inquiries lenders run and the fact that it reduces your average account age.
- Potential debt accumulation: Without disciplined use, credit card rewards can encourage overspending and lead to high-interest debt, which can be detrimental to your financial well-being.
- Terms and conditions: Some rewards programs have complicated redemption processes, blackout dates for travel rewards, or changing point values, making it challenging to fully maximize the benefits without investing time and effort.
Should You Get a Rewards Credit Card?
Rewards credit cards can be incredibly worthwhile for doctors. Because of your high income and ability to put a significant amount of monthly expenses on a credit card, you can earn a lot of cashback and other rewards on everything from your everyday spending to major purchases.
By maximizing spending on credit cards, doctors can accumulate significant rewards that can be redeemed for travel, cash back, or other benefits.
Just remember that it’s crucial to pay off your card balance in full each month to avoid accruing high-interest charges that could outweigh the value of the rewards.
With responsible use, credit card rewards can provide doctors with valuable perks and benefits that can be well worth the fees and effort.
Who Shouldn’t Use Rewards Credit Cards?
Credit card rewards aren’t worth it for everyone. For example, people with existing credit card debt or those who struggle to manage their personal finances responsibly should avoid using rewards credit cards.
If you’re prone to overspending and impulsive purchases or you’re undisciplined when it comes to making timely payments, you can easily get in over your head chasing credit card rewards. You could also find yourself accumulating more debt than rewards.
And in some cases, a different type of credit card can be a better fit. For instance, if you’re already carrying a high amount of credit card debt, it might make more sense to open a zero-balance transfer card first to consolidate your debt and reduce your credit card interest.
It’s essential to prioritize financial stability and responsible spending habits over the allure of rewards when considering whether a rewards credit card is the best choice for your circumstances.
How I Maximize Credit Card Rewards
The best credit cards come with rewarding signup bonuses. As a physician with a fair amount of disposable income, you should be able to meet the spending minimums needed to earn some impressive signup bonuses.
Here’s a personal example of the power of a great sign-up bonus. My most recent card signup was the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, with a $450 annual fee.
After I spent my first $4,000, I received 100,000 Chase points (redeemed at 1.5 pts through the Chase portal) and a $300 travel back credit on anything in the travel category, effectively making the annual fee $150.
I used the 100,000 credit card points to book three tickets for our annual family vacation on Hawaiian Airlines through the Chase travel portal. The 3 round-trip tickets took all 100,000 points and roughly $325. I spent the $325, of which $300 was redeemed on the card.
That means I paid $25 plus the $150 for the reduced annual fee to fly my family round trip to Maui.
Not all cards offer perks that are as rewarding as that one, and rewards rates and credit card offers are subject to change at any time. That’s why it’s key to compare reward offers, understand the fine print, and choose a card that’ll be worthwhile over time.
It’s important to choose a rewards card that aligns with your spending habits and offers benefits that you’ll actually use.
If you want to maximize travel perks, apply for a well-reviewed travel card and put all your spending on it. If you want to maximize cash back, do the same with a cashback card.
Additionally, be mindful of the terms and conditions, such as expiration dates and restrictions, to maximize the value of the rewards.
If you can responsibly leverage credit card rewards to your advantage, they can be a major perk. To do that, focus on understanding your limits, sticking to your established budget, and not spending more than you need to just to earn rewards.