Used smartly, credit cards can provide a lot of benefits. Besides being one of the easiest ways to build your credit score, credit cards can offer purchase rewards, low interest rates for large purchases and safer shopping. But to get the most out of your credit cards, it helps to have a spending strategy.

Where to Start

When creating your credit card strategy, it’s best to know what your ultimate goal is. Is it to pay zero or minimal interest on your purchases? Is it to get frequent flier miles to boost your travel? Is it to get cash back or other rewards? Knowing your goal for your credit card use is the first step in picking a rewards card that’s right for you. Some cards offer low interest rates, travel rewards or rewards points.

Pick the Best Rewards

You can get started on smart credit card use by applying for a card that provides rewards on your major spending categories, such as gas, groceries, travel or restaurants. If you spend much more in one category than another, it may help to look for a card that gives extra rewards for that particular spending category. Then be sure to use this card at every opportunity to boost your rewards points on these purchases. As your credit savviness grows, you might find it makes sense to use different cards for different rewards categories to get the most rewards bang for your buck. For instance, you might use one card for gas purchases and another for travel-related spending to rack up the most points.

Bump Up Your Rewards

Another way you can boost rewards points on purchases you would have made anyway is to buy through the rewards portal that some credit cards offer, such as Navy Federal’s Member Deals. These portals not only multiply your rewards over purchases made directly on the retailer’s website, but you can also score exclusive special offers and other perks. Similarly, before making major purchases, pay attention to special promotion periods, during which you can score extra points for certain types of purchases and time your buys accordingly. Once you’ve gotten enough rewards points, they can be redeemed for cash back, travel miles, gift cards, free items and more.

Avoid High Interest

If you’re considering a larger purchase that you can’t pay in full right now, a credit card may be a good option—provided it has a low interest rate. By using a low interest rate card, you can pay off your purchase over time and enjoy it now rather than later.

Find Your Perfect Card

Once you know how you want to take advantage of your credit cards, it’s easy to find the card that’s right for you. Navy Federal Credit Union offers our members credit cards with low interest rates and rewards programs suited to your needs.