Best Credit Card Offers: Rewards

June 28, 2012 by  Filed under: Credit 

A rewards program is one of the attractions that distinguish one credit card from another. Many of the best credit card offers include cash back bonuses, airline mileage credits, hotel awards, gasoline rewards, targeted retail discounts and a variety of other incentives. But not all rewards programs are created equal. Here are some things to consider when choosing a rewards card:

1. Pay Attention to the Fees and Interest Rates
An annual fee or a relatively high interest rate may eat up most or all of any benefits achieved through a rewards program, depending on your spending and payment habits. For instance, a card with a 1% cash back option and a $50 annual fee would require purchases in excess of $5000 per year before any benefit is realized, and that’s assuming no interest or late fees are incurred by the user. Additionally, interest rates for credit cards with awards programs are usually higher than those without. If you pay off your bill each month that’s not a disincentive, but if you carry a balance even occasionally it’s something to consider.

2. Airline Miles
Historically, one of the most attractive rewards attached to credit cards has been airline frequent flier miles. But accruing substantial miles via credit card spending is very difficult. It ordinarily requires a bare minimum of 25,000 miles to gain a free roundtrip ticket, but that number is subject to extremely limited seat availability and significant blackout restrictions. To really benefit from a card’s airline mile awards program it may be necessary to be a true frequent flier.

3. Matching Your Spending to the Awards Program
The best credit card offers are the ones that offer benefits that fit with your spending. If you regularly use public transportation, a gas rewards card is probably of little value to you, for example. If you don’t do much out-of-town traveling, you stand to benefit very little from a hotel or rental car awards incentive. A card with a specified retail discount program is of little use if it doesn’t include the outlets that you frequent. A uniform cash back benefit is the most flexible plan.

4. Look For Card Programs with Reachable Goals
There are a number of credit card awards programs that produce relatively modest, but attractive, benefits and require the cardholder to jump low hurdles to reach them. Some credit card companies offer music and video downloads, DVDs or small sum gift cards for as little as $100 in spending, which is a level that most cardholders reach in a given month without having to do any extra spending at all.

5. Keep Prices In Mind for Big Ticket Items
For those rewards programs that feature relatively expensive goods and services, it’s worth keeping the award price in mind. It may be cheaper, in the end, to simply purchase something outright than to apply award points that require additional spending to achieve.

The best credit card offers are the ones that provide awards that will actually present you with real world benefits. A card that comes with a lot of fees and high interest rates or that pays rewards for purchases you rarely make may mean that you’re actually losing money for what is supposed to be an advantage to you. Consider your own spending and payment habits as well as the various awards plans’ details and choose the one best suited to you before sending in your application.

Debra Lee Dragon is a freelance writer providing content for a site that helps consumers find the best rewards credit cards and balance transfer offers. Find and apply for a credit card that best meets your needs, today!

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