Get the most from your credit card benefits
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Credit card rewards programs are popular with many consumers. They help credit card issuers to attract new customers and keep existing ones. Rewards may be in the form of miles that you can use to purchase airline tickets, points that count toward the purchase of other merchandise or cashback payments.
While their benefits seem attractive, rewards cards have drawbacks. Generally, these accounts carry higher interest rates. This is not a problem if you pay your bill in full each month. But if you carry a balance on your credit card, higher interest rates will wipe out the value of the rewards.
Cards affiliated with retail stores and merchandise brands may only be of benefit if a lot of your spending is with that store or brand. Rewards also can be a challenge to redeem. Airline miles often come with restrictions on ticket purchases. If you are not a frequent traveler, you may come out ahead using a card that offers rewards for everyday purchases.
Annual card fees are higher for rewards cards with more generous benefits, so be sure that the value of the rewards you will earn based on your spending level is greater than the annual fee.
While some companies offer a waiver of the initial annual fee and bonuses to new cardholders, they usually require a certain level of spending in the first three to six months to qualify for those perks. Be sure your spending patterns are in that range.
Consumer Reports’ Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool allows you to use your spending patterns to compare cash- back rewards programs. This online tool is at https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/credit-cards/credit-card- comparison-tool/index.htm.