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Sunday, January 24th
Using a credit card with a rewards program is an excellent way to make your money work even harder for you - getting free gift cards, airline miles, or even cash for the purchases you would make anyway. Some credit card rewards programs up the ante with generous sign-on bonuses or with spending categories like travel or gasoline that offer even higher rewards.
While credit cards with rewards programs may not be an ideal fit for people with low credit scores or those who carry a balance from month to month, most consumers can find a credit card rewards program that fits their lifestyle. The perks definitely make it worth considering.
After all, who doesn't want to get free money? If you aren't currently using a credit card with a rewards program, you could be missing out on gift cards, airline tickets, and even good old-fashioned cash.
So, how do credit card reward programs work? Typically, the card issuer - a credit card company, bank, or other provider - establishes a certain percentage of each purchase that you'll get back in either money, airline miles, or points that can be redeemed for gift cards and more. Some cards offer a flat reward amount regardless of what you buy (1% back on all purchases), while others have categories with higher rewards values (4% back on gasoline or 3% on restaurants). These categories can be fixed, but some credit card rewards programs have rotating categories that change during the year or that offer limited-time bonuses of higher rewards if you opt in. For example, you might get 5% back on groceries from January to March or 3% back at department stores during the holiday shopping season.
Another savvy way to use credit card reward programs to get even more is by shopping around for a great sign-on bonus. Credit card companies make money when you use their cards, so they often offer extra incentives to get you to sign up. Sometimes these sign-on bonuses have minimum spend requirements - spend a total of $500 in the first 3 months and get a bonus equal to $150, for instance - so it's important to have an idea of your spending habits and whether or not you'll be able to meet those minimum amounts.
Credit card reward programs have different requirements for redeeming your points, miles, or cash. Some make it extremely convenient, allowing you to cash them out whenever you wish and even allowing you to "shop with points" by linking your card at well-known retailers like Amazon. However, other rewards programs have minimum redemption amounts or only give you cash back once a year.
Are you asking yourself, "What's the catch?" Here are some factors that might impact whether or not a credit card rewards program is a good fit for you:
TopConsumerReviews.com has partnered with LendingTree to help you find the best credit card rewards programs available today. We hope this information helps you choose the right rewards card for your purchase habits - and to be rewarded for spending money!
For consumers that use a credit card for a lot of purchases, choosing the right credit card rewards program is very important.
Typically, credit card reward programs fall into one of three categories:
The first thing you should consider is what is your reward goal? Would cash back be the best? Are you planning on using a rewards program to travel? Knowing what you want out of a card is a good place to start.
It is important to continually evaluate your current credit card and your current spending habits. As your life circumstances fluctuate and credit card offers change, you may find there is different credit card rewards program that fits your lifestyle better than your current card. Though it is not advisable to switch credit cards frequently, taking a good look every few years at your spending habits and comparing your credit card rewards program to others is recommended. For example, a frequent flyer rewards program would benefit a traveler, but if their life circumstances change and they are not traveling frequently, they may find a card better suited for them. Another example would be if your income changes and you need a card with a lower interest rate or a card with a different type of rewards program. A general rewards card (cash back, gift cards etc.) is best for someone that does not travel often. If you like to travel, taking advantage with a card that offers airline miles can be a great option.
It's also advisable to limit yourself on the amount of credit rewards cards you use. Once you find a card that suits you best, fully take advantage of the rewards it offers. Most research shows that credit cards with reward programs increase spending. If you have too many cards you may be tempted to spend more than you can afford, making your rewards less than the interest you are spending. Interest rates are usually higher with credit cards that feature rewards program. Do not be scared off by higher interest rates or annual fees, as these can often come with better rewards. However, take the time to read the fine print and compare the reward programs of these cards. For those that are disciplined and pay the credit card off in full each month, they do not need to worry about the interest rates and there is little to no extra cost to receive their rewards.
Research how your rewards are redeemed before signing up for a credit card rewards program. No one should have to go to great lengths to redeem their rewards nor find out that rewards earned have expired. A best credit card rewards program should cost you the least amount of money, while offering the largest amount of benefits.