I recently did the math and discovered that I earned over $2,000 in credit card rewards in the last two years!

That’s pretty impressive – especially when you consider that my wife and I don’t often spend more than $1,000/month (after housing and other direct withdrawal expenses). This means we’re essentially making an 8% annual return on our spending.

How have we been able to maximize our credit card rewards? Through timing and creativity. By signing up for new cards at the right time, and using the right card for the right purchase, you can rack up credit card points very fast.

Feel free to explore these great credit card sign up bonuses and read on to know when it may be the right time to acquire your next card.

8 Times You May Want to Pick Up a New Credit Card

While you can receive great rewards from any credit card purchase, when you sign up for a new credit card and spend a minimum amount (often $500-5000 within three months) you can receive as much as $625 in extra points!

Failing to get those sign up bonuses is as bad as flushing money down the toilet. So, never sign up for a new credit card unless you’ll be able to meet the minimum spend within the allotted time frame. However, if you can meet that minimum spending limit, you may land your next vacation completely free!

If you get as excited about points as I do, here are eight times when you can easily meet the spending requirements needed for a new credit card.

1. Taking a trip

Maximizing credit card bonuses is a great idea anytime you’re planning a vacation or business trip. Because many of the major airlines and hotel chains have their own branded credit cards, you can earn extra points by booking with their credit card – and have your next vacation paid for in no time at all.

2. Paying tuition

I had a friend in college who paid tuition every year with his credit card right before his loans came through. He would then withdraw the loan money to pay off the credit card balance! Although you want to be very careful with this shenanigan (as you never want to have a balance on your credit card), it can be a great way to grow your points balance. This friend of mine paid for most of his college trips with points from these tuition payments.

3. Making a large charitable contribution

Whether you’re paying tithe at church or making a large contribution to the local theater, this contribution could result in significant rewards if placed on your credit card. Just remember that the organization will have to pay a 3% fee on what you donate – so keep that in mind when giving with a card.

4. Starting a business

Setting up a business credit card not only gives you rewards on all of your business expenses (and rewards that aren’t currently taxed), it also makes it easy to keep your personal and business spending separate – a tremendous benefit when tax efile season comes around! 

5. Making purchases for your employer

If your employer often reimburses you for business expenses or trips that you pay for directly, then by all means make sure that you have a credit card that can make the most of that spending! If you’re able to get 2% back (or a $500 sign up bonus) on $3,000 you spend for your employer, you’ve just become a bank – using money to make money!

6. Moving

The next time you find yourself making a large move – especially if you’re hiring movers – consider picking up a new credit card. Between paying for the movers, gas to get yourself across the country, and any additional expenses that may add up, it won’t take long to put a few thousand on a new credit card.

7. Paying taxes

Hopefully you get money back during tax season. However, if you’re self-employed or bad at math, you may find yourself owing Uncle Sam. If this is the case, that may be an opportunity to rack up some serious points! But remember, if you pay your taxes with a credit card you are charged 2-4% extra. In most cases, this means that it’s not worth it as your points are only worth 1-2%. However, if you need to reach a minimum spending requirement, this is an option.

8. Making a large purchase

Anytime you find yourself making a large purchase – such as a new computer, TV, or furniture – think about whether or not you could end up with a free flight, free week in a hotel, or substantial amount of cashback. You may be able to pay for your next large purchase with the rewards from this one!

Make smart credit card decisions and earn rewards

Although credit cards can offer amazing benefits, it’s important to understand how they work – or they’ll cost you more than their worth. Never carry a balance; never spend more than you’ve already budgeted; and always keep track of your financial situation and credit score (consider using a free tool like Credit Sesame to monitor your credit score).

If you’re confident in your ability to manage your credit spending appropriately, find a credit card that offers the best bonuses and rewards for you. Then start earning points for your next adventure!

For the comments: What are your thoughts towards credit cards? Are you able to master them for rewards, or do they negatively impact your financial situation?