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Three ways to maximise your credit card rewards post-COVID

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed many things, including how Aussies use their credit card rewards.

Recent research from Citi Australia reveals one-third of people think they are getting less value from their card today than they did pre-pandemic.

So what can cardholders do to make sure they are getting the most out of their credit card rewards program in our new normal?

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1. Pick a rewards card that suits your lifestyle

One thing that isn't lacking in today's credit card market is choice. There are low-fee cards, low-interest cards, travel cards, supermarket-linked cards and cards with every bell and whistle you could hope for.

Savvy consumers should be looking at credit cards that suit their lifestyle. For example, if as a result of the pandemic you are spending more online than before, you could consider a card that offers more rewards points for online spend, including essentials like groceries.

Other consumers may only want to use reward points for travel. Interestingly, despite the pandemic-induced travel restrictions, our research found one third of consumers were saving their points until they could travel again.

These consumers should choose a rewards card with a compelling travel program, tied to their preferred airline. Points aren't the be-all and end-all here though. Some cards will also include travel-related perks like travel insurance, complimentary lounge access and the ability to earn Qantas points when you spend.

You can be clever about how your rewards work together as well. For example, if your card gives you extra benefits for booking online and extra benefits when booking flights (something typically done online), this is a great example of choosing a card that rewards you for how you like to spend.

Take advantage of the myriad of card comparison sites that exist to make sure you are accessing the rewards you are most likely to use.

2. Be disciplined about using your benefits

Rewards credit cards can have benefits that expire annually, like travel vouchers or airport lounge visits. Often these benefits are the reasons consumers justify a larger annual fee for their card, so it's important to remember the expiry date and use their benefits accordingly. Many card providers are being flexible with the expiry of benefits due to COVID associated lockdowns, so get in touch with your provider if you think you have missed out.

Your credit card may also have rewards offerings that you haven't taken advantage of, simply because you are not aware of them. Did you know that in addition to the benefits provided by your credit card, your scheme partner (Mastercard, Visa), may also have rewards programs you can access? This could include discounts for cardholders across travel, culinary, sports, shopping and entertainment.

While most consumers prefer to access their credit card via their banking app, it is worth visiting the website of your provider to remind yourself of all the benefits you signed up for when you first applied for your card.

3. Learn about all the ways to redeem points

In our pandemic environment, consumers rightly want to do everything they can to squeeze the value out of their card, and help make everyday spending that little bit easier.

While in years past, credit card rewards would be restricted to flight-related benefits or purchases made via your provider's rewards hub, today consumers have many more options to redeem. This is in line with changing consumer expectations, with our research showing 81% of Australians think there should be no limits on how they spend their points.

Some providers will offer functionality like Pay with Points. This allows you to select an eligible purchase and redeem your points for a credit onto your statement of the same value. This means through a couple of clicks customers can use their point to cover anything from a takeaway dinner to an online fashion haul to a quick cup of coffee in the morning.

Staying informed about all the ways to redeem points can help maximise the value you get out of your card.

Want to maximise your rewards? Learn more about Citi's range of credit cards.

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Choong Yu Lum is head of cards and loans at Citi Australia. He was appointed to the role in 2018. Mr Lum has worked across four markets with Citi, joining Australia from Hong Kong where he was the head of cards and loans at Citi Hong Kong from 2015-2018. He has an MSC in Marketing from the University of Manchester and a BA in Business Studies from the University of Sheffield.