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There are dozens of large loyalty programs out there, from credit card rewards, to airline miles and hotel points, there's a lot to keep track of. Understanding the differences between all these programs can be complicated and confusing.
On average, Americans have four credit cards and while most are not avid credit card enthusiasts, knowing how to maximize one's credit card spending can be an easy way to earn travel rewards and cash back.
Technology has made it much easier for people to understand their various rewards programs — you don't have to manage a complicated spreadsheet to keep tabs on your different rewards' balances. Now, you can use an app on your smartphone to quickly understand which credit card is better for a specific merchant or when your hotel points are expiring.
CNBC Select found two apps (one also has a web version) that make it easier for people to understand how to maximize rewards and track their balances in loyalty programs: AwardWallet and MaxRewards. Below, Select explores some of the pros and cons of each app and how you can use them to earn more money, rewards, miles and points.
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When you're looking for an app or website to look at all of your rewards, you'll probably come across AwardWallet. AwardWallet is the OG app for tracking credit card, airline and hotel rewards: It was founded in 2004 and has grown to more than 700,000 users. And for good reason, AwardWallet offers users the ability to integrate rewards loyalty programs from around 670 partners, from big players like Chase (Ultimate Rewards) to store-specific ones like Sephora (Beauty Insider) and travel partners like American Airlines (AAdvantage).
There are two versions of AwardWallet: a free version and AwardWallet Plus.
AwardWallet Plus will cost users $30 a year and is best for those who religiously track their rewards. It has features like the ability to export rewards balances into Excel and PDF formats and data about when points in various programs will expire. The free version is a good choice for people who just want to know their rewards balances, their recent transactions and how much they've earned on their purchases.
AwardWallet is available on desktop and as an app on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. At the time of writing, AwardWallet had a 4.8/5 average rating based on 2,400 reviews in the Apple Store.
Since you'll be using AwardWallet to consolidate information from various rewards programs, you'll need to use the platform to log into and connect your loyalty accounts — meaning you'll have to provide your log-in details for every program for AwardWallet to store. AwardWallet keeps your data secure by using industry-standard encryption technologies and offers users the option of two-factor authentication on their account.
AwardWallet offers a number of key features that make calculating your rewards easy and simple. They display each program's point balance, all of your transactions, the amount of rewards you earned on each transaction and other credits available on your card (like travel or dining credits). For example, you'll be able to see how much of the monthly dining credits you have used on the American Express® Gold Card. Terms Apply.
They also have features like a merchant lookup tool, data on transfer and purchase times and credit card spend analysis.
The merchant lookup tool allows users to search for a specific merchant and find which credit cards offer bonus points on that transaction. While this is useful because it helps users figure out what card is best to use at a local bakery, or even at a Target, the merchant lookup tool doesn't tell users specifically which of their own cards will earn them the most on that transaction.
Another key feature of AwardWallet is credit card spend analysis. This tool shows you where you're spending money and whether you're maximizing rewards on every purchase. If you're not getting the best bang for you buck AwardWallet will show you what other cards you should be using to earn more points or miles.
AwardWallet does have some drawbacks. As noted above, the merchant lookup tool doesn't provide information that's specific to you and AwardWallet doesn't allow you to directly connect your United, Delta and Southwest accounts. For these airlines, you may have to forward emails that you receive from these partners to an AwardWallet address, which will then update your balances in those respective programs.
MaxRewards was first launched in 2019 and has since then emerged as a competitor to AwardWallet. With MaxRewards, you'll get features like automatic activation of rewards categories, the tool 'best card for use' and information about your rewards.
While AwardWallet has nearly 700 integrated loyalty programs, MaxRewards is exclusively integrated with banks and credit card issuers. They support top credit card issuers and banks like Capital One, Chase, Wells Fargo and Discover so if you're using a credit card from a major bank, you'll be able to use this app. However, with MaxRewards you won't be able to track any hotel or airline loyalty programs, so AwardWallet is a better bet if you want to information about your rewards outside of credit cards.
MaxRewards is only available as an app and can be found on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. At the time of writing, MaxRewards had a 4.7/5 average rating based on 1,600 reviews in the App Store.
Like AwardWallet, there are two versions of MaxRewards: MaxRewards Gold and MaxRewards. MaxRewards Gold comes with extra features like automatic activation of quarterly bonus categories and of Amex, Citi and Chase deals. The major perk of MaxRewards Gold is that users are able to determine how much they value the service and set their own monthly price: You'll just have to spend at least $3 per month.
MaxRewards keeps users' data secure by using bank-level encryption. It also won't sell any of your data so you don't have to worry about your credit card information being shared with a third-party.
Some of the most notable features that MaxRewards offers are its 'best card for use' tool and a tracker for your welcome bonuses. It has provides info on your rewards balance, credit card balance, credit utilization ratio and your available credit.
With 'best card for use' tool, users can see which of their cards provides the most rewards at a specific merchant. This feature appears to be more useful than AwardWallet's 'merchant lookup' tool. For example, if you go to Trader Joe's, you can use MaxRewards to figure out which of your cards will give you the most points on grocery purchases. MaxRewards also provides users with a breakdown of which of their cards are the best for bonus spending categories like gas, groceries and travel.
Another unique feature of MaxRewards is the credit card welcome bonus tracker. It shows how much you've spent and how much more you need to spend in order to collect the welcome bonus. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering a 60,000-point welcome bonus after new cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. The tracker would help ensure that you complete the required spending to ensure you get your rewards, which are worth $750 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® .
$50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 3X points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
21.49% - 28.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.
Furthermore, MaxRewards tracks important information like your overall credit card balance, credit utilization ratio and available credit.
AwardWallet and MaxRewards are useful tools that gather information from various credit cards and rewards programs into one interface.
For people who are members of many rewards programs and want detailed information about how they can better maximize their earnings, AwardWallet is a good choice.
And for people who consider themselves novices to the credit card game, MaxRewards may be a better option because of its custom card recommendations.