NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips, May 2015

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Managing your charge cards isn’t a once-and-done task?-?you’ll need to keep going with it to obtain the most from your plastic. Each month, the Nerds round up a new set of tips to help you maximize rewards and reduce costs with every swipe.

For May 2015:

1. Use bonus malls to earn extra rewards on Mother’s Day gifts

Chances are good that your credit card issuer operates a bonus mall that may help you earn extra points, miles or cash return on your online purchases. Unsure about yours? Log into your credit card account and poke around a bit; if you don’t see “bonus mall,” it might be called a “shopping portal.”

Then, stick to the links in the shopping platform towards the store of your liking. With some simple clicks, you will be pumping in the rewards you’re earning around the gift for mom you had been already thinking about buying.

For consumers with credit cards that don’t possess a bonus mall, the shopping platform operated with a preferred?frequent flyer program is a great alternative. Most major carriers offer it in an effort to earn extra miles, so carrying out a simple look for “[airline] shopping portal” should yield results -?and rewards.

? MORE:?7 credit card tips everyone should know

2. Finalize your summer travel plans

This may not sound like a credit card tip, but just hear us out: By deciding on your summer travel plans now, you will have a chance to obtain a credit card with a signup bonus that may offset a few of the price of your vacation.

Acting quickly is wise, because you’ll likely have to meet a minimum spending requirement to obtain a really juicy bonus. Try not to act too quickly -?exploring all of your options before you decide to pull the trigger with an application is sensible. The credit card you pick should depend on not just your upcoming destination, but additionally your ongoing needs.

Learn more about selecting a travel charge card, and visit our travel credit card tool.

3. Measure the cards in the bank to ensure all of them belong

Before the distractions of summer set in, take a moment to assess your charge card collection. It might be time to explore other options if you’re unhappy with your everyday card, or cancel an old card you’re no longer using. This may help simplify your finances and keep you from accumulating fees on cards you barely touch.

But don’t cancel credit cards without some serious thought. Generally, it’s good for the FICO score to keep an unused card open, particularly if it is a card that you’ve had for a long time. The only exception is unused charge cards that charge an annual fee.

Paying a yearly fee only is sensible when the rewards you’re earning outweigh what you are charged every year. The only method this will happen is that if you’re swiping the card regularly. So?it’s wasteful to hold onto a card that carries annual fee if you only use it occasionally, or not whatsoever.

If you do move forward with canceling a card, you may see a temporary dip in your credit rating. You shouldn’t be alarmed -?as long as you keep paying your bills on time and steer clear of credit card debt, it will rebound as time passes.

Learn much more about the pros and cons of canceling credit cards.

4. Set a?new automatic alert

Enrolling in automatic alerts is among the easiest ways to obtain a reminder for when your bill arrives. But issuers can send text or email alerts for many various kinds of account activity, for example:

  • Your current balance (some issuers will be sending this information daily, in the event that helpful)
  • A balance threshold that you’ve set (you can request to be notified when your balance hits, say, $1,000)
  • Authorized user purchases
  • Suspicious activity
  • Weekly activity summaries

This month, take a look at which alerts your issuer is providing and sign up for a replacement. The more you know about your account, the easier it is to use your card wisely.