Credit cards are not only useful for getting us through those tricky times when we are short on cash but they also offer some fantastic rewards – if you use them carefully, of course.

Paying high interest on credit card purchases is something consumers have been doing for a very long time. But modern credit card holders are much savvier. As well as avoiding paying interest by clearing their balance each month, they are also taking advantage of the numerous benefits that now come with their plastic.

And the more we sign up to, the more providers will clamber over each other to come up with a bigger, better and more rewarding product.

Find out your options

The first thing you should do when you sign up for any credit card is to shop around and find the best rate on the market. The second is to find out what rewards come with the selection of cards you are looking at.

From loyalty points to air miles to free entry to airport lounges, health and golf clubs and more, modern credit cards come with a host of privileges and you would be a fool to ignore them.

So rather than sign up for the first card that comes your way or, worse, just asking your bank for a credit card to go with your account, shop around for a card that suits your lifestyle.

[View all credit cards in the UAE | View all credit cards in Saudi Arabia]

Pick the right card

This is the fun bit – you need to decide what you want from your card. If travel is particularly important to you, then sign up for a card that rewards your spending with air miles. They could also offer VIP lounge access and airline ticket discounts.

[Compare air miles credit cards in the UAE Compare air miles credit cards in Saudi Arabia]

[Compare golf credit cards in the UAE | Compare golf credit cards in Saudi Arabia]

If shopping or eating out is your big thing, some credit cards come with dining, shopping and entertainment vouchers.

On the other hand, some financial institutions offer their own reward points, which can then be used to buy products from companies they have a partnership with. This includes anything from airline tickets to shopping at certain stores in the malls or online.

What is key when looking at any credit card is that you read through all the offers carefully. While each card has a main selling point, it also has a few extra offers that are thrown in, so it’s worth making sure the entire package suits you.

For example, a card in the UAE might offer air miles but also 50 percent off tickets at your favorite cinema. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that partnerships between banks and retailers can come to an end, so a favorite reward might suddenly disappear.

Don’t get carried away

There’s no point accruing lots of air miles or lots of reward points if you are also building up lots of debt. Like all credit cards, the best way to get the most from your rewards is to regularly spend on them – but also ensure you don’t get hit by high interest fees, by paying off the balance every month.

If you don’t pay it off, some cards will charge you interest on that outstanding balance and others will charge you a monthly fee that can be pretty hefty.

So don’t just get dazzled by all the rewards, make sure you are also aware what interest rates and fees come with the card you are signing up for.