NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Being an accountable credit card holder can pay off when a credit card company offers rewards to customers who responsibly manage their debt, according to a new study.

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"There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a credit card, so companies have to come up with new ways to incentivize customers and stay competitive," said Clare K. Levison, a CPA and author of Frugal Isn't Cheap (New Page Books, August 2013).

A Bank of America report found that rewards programs for responsible card holders are more popular among consumers, ranking third after cash back and merchandise.

For credit card companies, such as Bank of America, responsible behavior includes:

  • Paying at least the minimum
  • Making monthly payments on time
  • Not exceeding your credit limit

"In addition to paying on time and not exceeding your credit limit, being responsible to me means paying off the entire balance every month," Levison told MainStreet.

Self-control is crucial when aspiring to be a responsible card user.

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"If a consumer has a history of delinquency, it indicates their budget is not in balance and that they're spending more than they're making," said Levison. "Once you spent the amount budgeted for the month, stop using the card."

About 28% of consumers carry four or more credit cards. Multiple credit cards can make obtaining reward points based on being a responsible card user more difficult.

"In order to manage credit responsibly, you should check your balance online every day. This will help you stay on top of how much you're spending," said Levison.

With so many credit card reward programs available, it can be challenging to decide which card is best for you," Levison said. "Avoid carrying too many cards by settling on one."

For example, Bank of America's new Better Balance Rewards card provides a $25 quarterly cash reward when more than the monthly minimum is paid on time. A qualifying account garners an extra $5 a quarter, which is a cash reward of up to $120 a year.

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"Pick a card with a rewards program that fits your lifestyle and how you manage your finances," said Farnoosh Torabi, consumer finance expert. "If you typically carry a balance, look for a card that has low interest and reinforces good payment practices."

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Cardholders earn 1% cash back on every purchase and earn 2% on groceries and 3% on gas for the first $1,500 in combined purchases every quarter when using the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card. "To get the most out of your credit card rewards program, make sure you choose a card that matches your spending habits," said Torabi.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet