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If you have a rewards credit card — whether you’re getting cash back, travel perks or something else — you’re likely enjoying the returns you get for spending money. And that’s great. But, in order to make these cards truly worth it, there are some things to keep in mind. And, one of the most important is this: Pay your statement in full each month.

Now, why is this so important, you ask? Well, rewards credit cards often have high interest rates, and carrying a balance that causes you to have to pay these fees can potentially nullify any rewards you earn.

Paying off your credit card balance each month can maximize your returns, getting you cash in your pocket or helping you fund your next travel adventure, as you aren’t forking over extra money for interest. Carry a balance, however, and you’ll see your benefits quickly whittled away.

We understand that sometimes there are certain situations where it may not be possible to pay your statement off in full, but this should be the rare exception, not the standard practice. And, if you do have to carry a balance one month, it’s important to make sure you pay what you can on time so you don’t get hit with late fees or harm your payment history (which could lower your credit scores).

Thinking of Getting a Rewards Credit Card?

Rewards cards are great, but they aren’t for everyone. As we mentioned, rewards cards typically have higher APRs than regular credit cards and often have annual fees, too.

If you haven’t signed up for one of these cards yet, but are considering doing so, it’s time to do some math. Think about your spending habits and make sure you’ll earn more in rewards than you’ll pay for any annual fee that may come with the card you choose. And if we haven’t driven the point home yet, we’ll say it again — you’ll also want to make sure that you’ll be able to pay off the card in full every time the statement arrives, otherwise it probably won’t be worthwhile to have a rewards card, and you’ll want to consider a different card, like a low interest credit card or credit card with no annual fee.

And remember, rewards credit cards typically require a good credit score to qualify. Because of this, it’s a good idea to find out where your credit currently stands before applying, which you can do by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. If you discover your scores aren’t in tip-top shape, there are steps you can take to improve them, like paying down your debts and limiting the number of inquiries you make until your score rebounds.

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Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

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