While many consumers end up giving hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to credit card companies each year in interest, late fees and other charges, a few savvy consumers actually make a few hundred dollars a year off of those same companies. Read on to learn more about how to turn the tables and get your credit cards to pay you.

Cash Back

One way smart shoppers can get credit card companies to pay them is by signing up for a card that provides a generous cash back percentage, or a good point system for earning merchandise, gift cards and other freebies. By using the card for everyday purchases and paying it off faithfully at the end of every month, consumers can potentially rack up hundreds of dollars in free merchandise each and every year.

Shoppers can make these cards even more rewarding by looking for bonus offers and increased percentages on certain types of purchases. For instance, some cards offer as much as 5% back on gas, groceries and other staples. Using the right card for the right purchases can really boost your earnings. If you have trouble remembering which card to use for which purchases, simply affix a small piece of masking tape to each card and write ”gas” or ”groceries” on the tape.

Cash in Your Wallet

But even though those cash back offers are very enticing, they are nothing compared to another type of credit card freebie. Some banks and credit card issuers are so anxious to gain market share and lure new customers that they are willing to literally give money away. By watching the banner ads at the top of financial websites and shopping sites, you can spot these freebies and take advantage of them.

A typical ad might offer a $50, or even a $100, statement credit after qualifying purchases with your new card. The qualifications vary, so it is important to make sure you can meet them before signing up. For the most part, however, it is relatively easy to meet the guidelines. I recent offer promised a $100 statement credit after spending $300 on the card in the first three months, something that few consumers would have a problem with.

The Gotcha

Of course all this only works if you are diligent about paying off your credit card bill, in full and on time, month after month. Credit card issuers are not stupid, and they are not in the business of giving money away. They know that these kinds of offers, from free restaurant gift cards and cash back on gasoline purchases to free money on the monthly statement, will entice lots of new customers to sign up.

The credit card issuers also know that a good percentage of those customers will proceed to run up balances they cannot afford to pay off. That, of course, means more money in the pockets of the credit card companies, and less money in the pockets of consumers. The only way to beat those credit card companies at their own game and get your hands on that free money is to be a smart and savvy credit card customer.