8 Ways to Save Money on Magazine Subscriptions

Even in the digital age, magazines have something to offer. They provide a weekly or monthly deep dive into a topic that interests us — something we can’t get from a quick skim of our Facebook feeds.

And we have thousands of magazines to choose from. From science to sports to celebrity gossip, there are choices in every category and for every demographic, including magazines for kids.

The biggest downside of magazines is their cost. The cost per issue is significantly lower with a subscription than it is when you simply grab a magazine off the newsstand, but it still isn’t trivial.

At Discount Magazines, subscription prices for popular magazines range from around $1.50 to $5 per issue. Some weekly magazines cost as much as $190 per year.

Ways to Spend Less on Magazine Subscriptions

If you’re trying to save money on a tight budget, your first impulse might be to slash out all unnecessary “extras,” including magazine subscriptions. But cutting your budget to the bone this way can actually backfire by causing frugal fatigue.

A much better idea is to find ways to enjoy your favorite magazines for less.

1. Ask the Publisher

The first place to look for a better deal on your favorite magazine is with the publisher. For instance, many magazine publishers charge you significantly less per issue if you subscribe for more than one year.

This is a good way to save on a favorite magazine you know you’ll want to keep reading for at least a couple of years. Check your renewal notice or the little subscription cards tucked inside the magazine for offers.

Another way to save is to call up the subscription office and negotiate the price. If you’ve been subscribing to the same magazine for several years, you’re probably paying quite a bit more now for your subscription than you did when you first signed up.

Magazine publishers tend to offer their best rates to new subscribers in the hope they’ll get hooked on their content. They pay less attention to long-term subscribers because they assume they’re committed already.

However, you don’t always have to be a new reader to get the introductory rate. In many cases, all you have to do is call and ask to have your old rate reinstated.

This strategy tends to work best if your subscription is up for renewal, since you can threaten to cancel if you don’t get the cheaper rate. There’s a good chance the publisher will give it to you rather than risk losing your business.

To give yourself this leverage, make sure not to sign up for the “auto-renew” option when you first subscribe to a magazine. If you do, your automatic renewal will likely come with the highest possible rate.

2. Seek Daily Deals

From time to time, daily deal websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer magazine subscriptions at extraordinarily low rates. You can save as much as 90% off the regular price for a one-year subscription.

Typically, you can find deals on only a few magazines at any given time. You probably won’t be able to snag discounts on your particular favorites the first time you look.

However, if you check these sites regularly, you can spot deals on the magazines you love as soon as they pop up and snap them up before they disappear.

3. Use Your Rewards

If you use rewards programs and apps such as Swagbucks or Ibotta, you can often cash in rewards for magazine subscriptions. You can earn rewards points from these programs in a variety of ways, including shopping online, searching the Web, taking surveys, or even playing games.

Since many of these are things you’d do anyway, you might as well earn your way to a free magazine subscription at the same time.

You can cash in rewards from other sorts of programs for magazines as well. For instance, some credit card rewards programs allow you to redeem your points for a magazine subscription.

And if you’ve earned a bunch of frequent flyer miles you haven’t had a chance to use, you can visit MagsForMiles to exchange them for a magazine subscription. The site accepts unused miles from multiple major airlines: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, and United.

4. Check Magazine Discounters

The subscription price listed on the little cards inside the magazine or on the magazine’s website isn’t necessarily the best price you can get. There are various outlets that sell magazine subscriptions at discounted rates.

Sites to check include Magazines.com, Discount Magazines, DiscountMags.com, and Magazine Values.

If you don’t want to check all those sites individually, you can save some time by going to Magazine Price Search. This site doesn’t sell magazines directly. Instead, it compares subscription prices from a dozen magazine sellers and tells you where you find the lowest rate.

It’s also sometimes possible to find magazine deals on Amazon and eBay. However, some users warn to use caution when ordering from eBay or smaller online sellers, which can take six to eight weeks to process a magazine order.

If your magazine doesn’t arrive as promised when that time period is up, it’s usually too late to cancel the charges on your credit card. Still, if the price is low enough, it can be worth the risk.

5. Look for Free Offers

Discounted subscriptions are great, but free ones are even better.

The discount site ValueMags has a whole page devoted to the most special deal of all: subscriptions of up to a year long for absolutely no cost. Most of these free offers are for digital versions of a magazine, but occasionally you’ll find one for a print subscription.

Of course, like many things that are “free,” these subscriptions come with a catch. To get them, you have to sign up for promotional emails from the website.

If you actually want to receive emails offering discounts on magazines and various other products, that’s not a downside. But if you don’t, it’s up to you to decide whether the free subscription is worth its cost in spam email.

Another site that offers free subscriptions is FreeBizMag. All the magazines here are specialty publications focused on specific professions, from education to beverage manufacturing. These can be useful for business owners, but they’re not of much interest to the general public.

The site also provides access to free research reports and e-books. Along with reports on specific businesses, there’s some general-interest material here, such as shopping guides.

6. Go Digital

Part of what makes magazines expensive is the cost of printing and mailing them. Publishers can avoid these costs by releasing their magazines in digital form, and they pass on these savings to customers.

So, if there’s a magazine you love but don’t love the price of, check to see if there’s a digital version of it you can view on your phone or tablet. If there is, you can probably save a nice chunk of change by switching your subscription from pages to pixels.

Digital magazines have other perks besides their lower price. For instance, because they don’t have to go through the mail, they’re likely to be delivered sooner than a paper copy. They can also include extra features, such as links to videos, that a printed magazine doesn’t have.

Another nice feature of digital files is they’re easier to search. You can just type in a keyword to look for specific topics or terms that interest you. It’s also easier to bookmark a digital article for future reference than it is to tear some pages out of a printed magazine and try to find a place to store them where they won’t get lost.

As a final perk, subscribing to a magazine in digital form saves paper. This makes it a way for you to save money while going green.

7. Swap With Friends

Do you have a friend or neighbor who subscribes to all the same magazines as you? Do you love getting together and discussing the articles from the latest issue? If so, you can do more than just chat about your favorite magazines — you can share your actual subscriptions.

For instance, suppose you both read two magazines every month: Better Homes & Gardens and Family Handyman. In that case, you could decide to drop your subscription to Better Homes & Gardens and keep Family Handyman, while your neighbor does the opposite.

When you get your copy of Family Handyman each month, you read it first and then pass it on to your neighbor, who gives you the latest issue of Better Homes & Gardens in exchange. Each of you gets to read your two favorite magazines while only paying for one of them.

Another way to share your magazine subscriptions is to start a magazine swap at your workplace.

Choose a central location, such as the break room, to drop off copies of your magazines when you’re done reading them. Then encourage all your coworkers to do the same. You’ll get access to your own magazines and all the ones your coworkers read as well, at no extra cost.

If you commute to work by bus or train, you can even set up a magazine swapping station at the local bus or train station.

Just put out a small box or rack labeled “Take one, leave one” and use it to drop off the magazines you’re done with instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. Other passengers will get to enjoy your old magazines during their commute, and you can hopefully pick up the ones they leave behind.

8. Visit a Library or Bookstore

If you only tend to read through a magazine once before discarding it, maybe you don’t need your own subscription at all. If your local library subscribes to your favorite magazines, you can simply read them there.

Usually, there are comfy chairs and couches to sit in, so you can stop in and curl up with a magazine whenever you have a free hour.

Many bookstores also allow you to peruse their magazine offerings to your heart’s content without paying. Here, too, there are often cozy chairs to sit in as you read. Some bookstores even have cafes, so you can enjoy a snack or a drink to go with your reading material.

The one catch with this strategy is that you can’t take the magazines home. You can only stop in to browse through them when the store or library is open. This isn’t much help if you like to spend a few minutes paging through a magazine to decompress before bed.

However, there are ways around this problem too. For instance, libraries typically keep only the two or three most recent issues of a magazine on their racks and discard the older issues. If you ask, there’s a good chance the library will let you take these back issues home rather than simply tossing them in the bin.

Some libraries also provide digital access to the magazines they subscribe to, so you can download them to read on your tablet or e-reader.


Final Word

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, even a few extra dollars a month for a magazine is sometimes more than your budget can handle. If you’re in that situation, you may have no choice but to let your magazine subscriptions lapse for a while.

Painful as it can be to give up your celebrity gossip or sports coverage, giving up on being debt-free would hurt even more.

Fortunately, dropping your subscriptions doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite reads entirely.

You can browse through them at the library or borrow them from friends and neighbors. You can also get some content for free on the magazines’ websites. These freebies can tide you over until your budget loosens up and you’re able to subscribe again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

This offer is no longer available.

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card from Chase is a hotel rewards credit card with a $89 annual fee. It’s ideal for frequent travelers who regularly stay with InterContinental Hotel Group brands, which includes thousands of Holiday Inn, Staybridge Inn, and Candlewood Suites properties in the U.S. and around the world.

Every purchase with this card earns points that can be redeemed for hotel stays at thousands of IHG properties worldwide, usually at rates ranging from $0.005 to $0.01 per point. Cardholders in good standing also get a host of useful perks at IHG hotels, including 1 reward night per year and automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, which accelerates point earnings and entitles members to complimentary room upgrades.

If you’re interested in alternatives to IHG Rewards Club Premier, look to hotel-specific rewards cards such as Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase. It may also be worth considering airline-specific credit cards such as United MileagePlus Explorer and general-purpose travel cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Key Features

Sign-up Bonus

Earn 140,000 bonus points when you spend at least $3,000 in eligible purchases during your first 3 months of cardmembership. That’s worth more than 10 free nights at participating IHG properties.

Earning IHG Rewards Club Points

This card earns rewards at these rates:

  • Every $1 spent at IHG properties earns an unlimited 10 points, for up to 25 points total on every $1 spent at IHG properties.
  • Purchases made at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores earn an unlimited 2 points per $1.
  • All other purchases, including hotel stays at non-IHG hotels, earn an unlimited 1 point per $1.

Redeeming IHG Rewards Club Points

Points can be redeemed for free hotel stays at IHG properties, starting at a minimum of 10,000 points for lower-tier properties and 70,000 points for the highest-tier properties. If you don’t have enough points to pay for a full night’s stay, you can purchase up to 10,000 additional points at $0.007 apiece ($70 maximum) through IHG’s Points & Cash option. Redemption thresholds are subject to change at any time.

At redemption, point values usually range from $0.005 to $0.01, sometimes more or less. Points don’t expire as long as you redeem any or earn more – through card purchases or hotel stays – within any 12-month period.

Fourth Reward Night Free

When you book a reward stay of four nights or longer (paid entirely with points), you automatically get the fourth night free.

Annual Spend Bonus

When you spend at least $20,000 in purchases and make one additional purchase within the same calendar year, you get an additional 10,000 bonus points.

Point Purchase Subsidy

Enjoy a 20% discount on the purchase of IHG points with your IHG Rewards Club Premier card.

Anniversary Reward Night

Every year, you get 1 reward night good for use at thousands of properties worldwide. Redeeming your reward night doesn’t cost any points, but you don’t earn any additional points for the stay.

Platinum Elite Status Upgrade

As long as you remain a cardmember in good standing, you enjoy IHG Platinum Elite status. You do have to formally apply for this status after you receive your card, but it doesn’t cost anything to do so.

Platinum Elite status confers numerous benefits:

  • Priority check-in
  • Complimentary room upgrades whenever available
  • Guaranteed room availability with at least 72 hours’ advance notification
  • 50% point-earning bonus for all IHG hotel stays – for instance, a stay that would have earned 2,000 points earns 3,000 with Platinum Elite status

Important Fees

The annual fee is $89. There are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5% and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.

Credit Required

This card requires good or excellent credit.

Advantages

  1. Generous Sign-up Bonus. This card has one of the most generous sign-up bonuses in the hotel rewards category – particularly at this relatively modest price point.
  2. Automatic Platinum Elite Status Upgrade. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card comes with an automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, IHG’s second-highest frequent traveler status. Platinum Elite entitles you to 50% faster point earnings when you stay at IHG hotels, complimentary room upgrades whenever available, 72-hour guaranteed availability, and other perks. This benefit doesn’t cost anything extra, and its value is potentially huge for frequent travelers. By contrast, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless cardholders only earn Silver Elite status, a lower frequent traveler level that doesn’t include complimentary room upgrades, guaranteed room availability, or 50% faster point earnings.
  3. Save 20% on Purchases When You Buy Points With Your Card. If you need to buy additional IHG points with your card, you’ll save 20% on face value – not a bad subsidy for your award travel.
  4. 2x Points Categories Are Broad. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card’s categories that reward 2 points per $1 spent cover broad, everyday expenses: gas, groceries, and restaurants. This is a big advantage for frequent travelers seeking a boost on everyday spending.
  5. No Foreign Transaction Fee. IHG Rewards Club Premier cardholders don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. That’s great news for cardholders who regularly travel abroad. By contrast, Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Disadvantages

  1. Has an $89 Annual Fee. This card’s $89 annual fee applies as soon as you open your account.
  2. Inflexible Redemption Options. While you can redeem your IHG Rewards Club points at more than 5,000 properties worldwide, there’s not much else you can do with them. You can’t redeem them for merchandise, statement credits, gift cards, or even incidental purchases at participating hotels. Citi Hilton Honors Reserve allows you to redeem for hotel incidentals, while U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards allows you to redeem for general merchandise and cash equivalents, such as gift cards and statement credits, in addition to travel purchases.
  3. Limited Travel and Experience Benefits. Although it does come with an automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card offers few travel and experience benefits not directly related to IHG hotels or the rewards system. For instance, it doesn’t have a concierge service, travel protection insurance, or exclusive/VIP event access (these things aren’t included in Platinum Elite status). By contrast, Citi Hilton Honors Reserve comes with 24/7 travel booking assistance and exclusive access to a raft of special events, such as concerts and sports contests.
  4. Potentially Low Point Values at Redemption. Although the value of IHG Rewards Club points varies based on the monetary cost of the hotel stay for which they’re redeemed, the range generally works out to $0.005 to $0.01, and IHG charges $0.007 per point when purchased through Points & Cash. U.S. Bank FlexPerks points are reliably worth $0.02 apiece, and points accumulated with Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth up to $0.0125 when redeemed for travel at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

Final Word

InterContinental Hotel Group isn’t a well-known name, but some of its hotel brands certainly are. If you’ve ever stayed at a Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, or any other related property, you’ve stayed at an IHG hotel. Depending on how often you travel and how frequently you encounter IHG-branded properties along the way, this could be a powerful rewards card to keep in your wallet – even if you use another product, such as an airline rewards or cash back rewards card, as your primary card.

On the other hand, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card isn’t great for infrequent travelers, cardholders who prefer not to deal with annual fees, cardholders who prefer more flexible rewards programs with a wider variety of redemption options, and travelers looking for value-added perks such as concierge service and VIP access. Of course, if you prefer another hospitality family – say, Hilton or Marriott – there’s sure to be a suitable card for you as well, as many other hotel rewards credit cards are available.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Charity-Focused Credit Cards That Help You Donate

If you’re still cutting checks to your favorite causes, you might be missing out. Some credit cards focus on charitable giving, helping you earn rewards or fundraise for your favorite nonprofit organization as you spend.

Here are five charity-focused credit cards that can help support a great cause.

1. Charity Charge Mastercard

Rewards: 1% cash back on every purchase for your organization of choice.
Sign-Up Bonus:
None

Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR):
1.99% APR for six months on purchases and balance transfers, then the prime rate (a variable amount determined by the Federal Reserve) plus 6.99% to the prime rate plus 16.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: Cardholders can donate tax-deductible cash rewards to multiple nonprofits.
For Your Charitable Donations: Every purchase earns 1% cash back, which is donated on a quarterly basis to as many as three nonprofits of your choosing. Recipients won’t have to pay credit card processing fees, which means all your rewards go directly to the organization(s) of your choice.

Drawbacks: Many competing cards earn stronger cash back rates.

2. U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: Three points per dollar donated to charity through 2017 (two points thereafter); two points per dollar spent at airlines, gas stations, grocery stores, and select cellular providers; one point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus:
20,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 in net purchases in the first four months.

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $49.
APR:
Variable 14.99% to 24.99% APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: This card awards points specifically for charitable donations.
For Your Charitable Donations:
Through the end of this year, charitable donations earn triple points on the dollar (beyond 2017, donations will earn two points per dollar). Points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more.

Drawbacks: There isn’t much time left to take advantage of triple points for charitable donations. 

3. World Wildlife Fund Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus:
$150 online cash rewards bonus if you spend $500 in the first 90 days.

Annual Fee: $0
APR:
0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 13.99% to 23.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: If you value nature and wildlife conservation, this card helps you earn cash back as you support the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
For Your Charitable Donations:
All purchases earn cash back, with special rates reserved for gas, grocery store, and wholesale club purchases. You can donate your redeemed cash back if you wish, but the WWF will benefit either way. The WWF will receive a minimum $3 donation when you open the card and an additional $3 annually. Plus, the WWF receives .08% of all retail purchases made on the card.

Drawbacks: This card is locked into the WWF, so keep looking if you prefer another charity.

4. HaloCard Visa

Rewards: 1% of purchases for your nonprofit of choice.
Sign-Up Bonus:
None

Annual Fee: $0
APR:
9.9% APR for six months on purchases, then variable 13.9% APR; 7.9% APR for 12 months on balance transfers, then variable 13.9% APR.

Why We Picked It: This card makes automatic donations to your favorite nonprofit.
For Your Charitable Donations:
All purchases earn 1% back, which is donated to the nonprofit of your choosing. You can change which nonprofit to donate to at any time, and all donations are tax deductible. The nonprofit will not incur any processing fees.

Drawbacks: The 1% earning rate isn’t very impressive compared to other cards.

5. Pink Ribbon BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus:
$150 online cash rewards bonus if you spend $500 in the first 90 days.

Annual Fee: $0
APR:
0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 13.99% to 23.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: You can help Susan G. Komen fight breast cancer with this card.
For Your Charitable Donations:
Bank of America customers get an extra 10% bonus cash when they redeem their cash back as an electronic deposit into their Bank of America account. Susan G. Komen gets $3 when you open the card and an additional $3 every year you renew. Plus, Susan G. Komen receives .08% of all retail purchases made on the card.

Drawbacks: The best cash back value is reserved for Bank of America customers.

How to Choose a Card for Charitable Donations

If you have one favorite nonprofit that gets the lion’s share of your donations, it’s worth checking if they offer a branded credit card. That way, you can easily support your favorite cause as you use your card.

If you plan to donate your cash back earnings to charity, be sure to compare charity-focused cards with their traditional competitors. With traditional cards, you can simply redeem your cash back or rewards and donate them directly to your charity of choice. It’s extra work, but it might be worth it for a more lucrative rewards program.

Make sure to check redemption and donation options for rewards. Some credit cards let you redeem your rewards for charitable donations, with no extra steps necessary. Certain rewards programs even let you donate miles or points to charity.

What Credit Is Required for a Card for Charitable Giving?  

Rewards cards, charity-focused or otherwise, usually require good to excellent credit. Before you apply, ensure you have a good shot at approval, as a hard credit inquiry can lower your score. You can check your credit report absolutely free at Credit.com.

Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

Source: credit.com

Credit Card Rewards & Benefits for the COVID-19 Era

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted society and the economy on a global scale like few other events in living memory. Financial companies large and small recognize the pandemic’s magnitude. While their chief focus in the near term is blunting the fiscal impact of the crush of loan delinquencies caused by spiking unemployment and falling incomes, they’re reacting in less visible ways as well.

One such response is a reasonably widespread adjustment to popular credit card rewards programs and fringe benefits packages. Well over a dozen credit cards — mostly premium travel rewards cards and business credit cards — have temporarily added new rewards categories (or increased existing rewards rates) and potentially valuable fringe benefits to reflect their newly homebound users’ changing spending habits.

New cardholders can take advantage of many (though not all) of these new rewards and benefits, so there’s still time to get off the fence and apply if you’ve been considering a new card. Here’s a detailed look at the best new credit card features and benefits for the COVID-19 era.

New Credit Card Perks & Benefits for the Coronavirus Pandemic

In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple credit cards from American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, and Citibank added temporary perks and benefits to their most popular rewards credit cards. Some remain in effect.

American Express

These American Express cards added new perks, benefits, and credit opportunities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bear in mind that many have since expired:

The Platinum Card From American Express (Consumer & Business)

The Platinum Card® from American Express and its business-friendly cousin, the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, introduced some potentially valuable limited-time benefits.

The consumer Platinum Card’s included:

  • Up to $20 per month in statement credits against purchases made with select U.S. streaming services through December 2020
  • Up to $20 per month in statement credits against purchases made directly with select U.S. wireless telephone service providers through December 2020
  • For cardholders who renew their accounts before Dec. 31, 2020, up to $200 in general-purpose statement credits against purchases made through the Amex Travel portal.

Be aware that these benefits may no longer be available after Jan. 1, 2021.

These benefits complement an existing consumer Platinum perk for those spending more time at home: $15 in Uber credits per month (plus a $20 bonus Uber credit in December) that apply against UberEats food delivery purchases.

Meanwhile, the Business Platinum Card’s temporary benefits included:

  • Up to $20 per month in statement credits against direct purchases with select U.S. wireless telephone service providers through December 2020
  • Up to $20 per month in statement credits against U.S. shipping purchases through December 2020
  • A $200 appreciation credit for longtime cardholders who renew their accounts (though not all will qualify)
  • Up to $200 in bonus statement credits against U.S. purchases made with Dell Technologies each year ($100 between January and June and $100 between July and December, for a total cumulative bonus credit of $200)

The Dell credit effectively doubled an existing Dell credit opportunity in place before the pandemic.

Note that these benefits may no longer be available after Jan. 1, 2021.

For more details on these cards’ rewards programs and benefits, see our Platinum Card from American Express review and our Business Platinum Card from American Express review. And mind their relatively high annual fees.

American Express Gold Card

The American Express® Gold card offers up to $120 per year ($10 per month) in Uber Cash to offset Uber Eats and Uber rideshare purchases when you add your Gold card as a payment method in the app.

Plus, earn 4 points per $1 spent on eligible Uber Eats purchases after reaching your monthly Uber Cash maximum.

American Express Green Card

The American Express Green Card offered up to $10 in statement credits per month against eligible U.S. wireless telephone service purchases through December 2020.

Note that these benefits may no longer be available after Jan. 1, 2021. And mind Amex Gold’s high annual fee.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express card introduced two useful (and potentially valuable) perks for temporarily grounded cardholders:

  • A Dec. 31, 2020, expiration date for any companion certificates scheduled to expire before June 30, 2020, regardless of issue date
  • A six-month expiration date extension for any one-time guest passes to participating Delta Sky Club airport lounge locations set to expire before April 1, 2021.

Like Amex Platinum and Gold, Delta SkyMiles Reserve has a high annual fee. Carefully consider whether you’ll use the card enough (and travel often enough during and after the pandemic) to justify the carrying cost.

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

For a limited time, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express card has a nice little bonus for cardholders who’ve temporarily paused their travel plans during the pandemic: A $100 Delta flight credit that’s yours after spending $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year.

This promotion has no set end date, but it’s subject to change at Amex and Delta’s discretion.

Hilton Honors Amex Credit Cards (Consumer)

Hilton Honors points earned via spending on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card through December 2020 count toward elite status qualification (including lifetime Diamond status).

That’s a departure from the normal state of affairs, wherein only base points earned on eligible Hilton purchases — whether you make them with a Hilton Amex card or not — count toward elite status qualification. (Note that this benefit may not be available after Jan. 1, 2021.)

Meanwhile, free weekend night certificates issued through Dec. 31, 2021, stay valid for 212 months from the issue date and can be redeemed on weekdays as well.


Chase

These JPMorgan Chase credit cards have added new perks and benefits as well:

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has a very impressive lineup of temporary benefits:

  • The $300 annual statement credit, generally reserved for travel, also applies to supermarket and gas station purchases through June 2021
  • The Pay Yourself Back redemption option, which assigns a redemption value of $0.015 per point for statement credit redemptions made against purchases in select categories — initially restaurants, supermarkets, and home improvement stores, but subject to change — through April 2021. That’s a 50% boost to the usual redemption rate.
  • From Nov. 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021, earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible supermarket (grocery store) purchases, up to $1,000 in purchases per month. This temporary rewards category is available in modified form for Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders as well: 2 points per $1 spent on eligible supermarket purchases, up to $1,000 in purchases per month, during the same timeframe.

These temporary opportunities complement a raft of permanent Chase Sapphire Reserve perks and benefits rolled out in early 2020, including:

  • A complimentary subscription to DoorDash DashPass through at least 2021, depending on when your account is opened, with benefits like free delivery on eligible DoorDash takeout (delivery) orders
  • $60 in statement credits against eligible DoorDash purchases in 2021
  • Up to $120 back in statement credits on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through Dec. 31, 2021

Pay Yourself Back on Other Chase Credit Cards

For a limited time, several other Chase credit cards have added Pay Yourself Back, albeit at a slightly less generous redemption rate than Sapphire Reserve.

The following Chase consumer and business cards allow statement credit redemptions made against purchases at restaurants, supermarkets, and home improvement stores:

  • Chase Sapphire® Preferred Card, through April 30, 2021 (for a limited time, Sapphire Preferred also offers a $50 statement credit against eligible grocery store purchases). Sapphire Preferred also offers a limited-time deal for Peloton members: up to $60 off select Peloton memberships through December 2021, including full access to Peloton’s digital workout library with no fitness equipment required.
  • Chase Freedom® Credit Card, indefinitely (closed to new sign-ups)
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card, indefinitely
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card, indefinitely

Freedom Flex is also noted for its quarterly rotating 5% cash-back categories. Refer to our up-to-date Freedom 5% category list for more information.


Citi

These Citibank credit cards added limited-time new perks and benefits as well:

Citi Prestige Card

You can apply the Citi Prestige card’s 2020 travel credit — worth $250 — to restaurant and grocery store purchases in addition to airfare, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other types of eligible travel.

This offer is available only to current Citi Prestige cardholders and expired on Dec. 31, 2020, though Citi may choose to reinstate it at its discretion.

See our Citi Prestige card review for more details about this card’s rewards program and benefits.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Current Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard cardholders earn a $225 statement credit upon account renewal. This perk is only available to accounts open as of March 31, 2020.

See our Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review for more details on this card.


Final Word

As we all adjust to the new normal of the COVID-19 era, it’s fair to expect credit card issuers (and cardmembers) to do the same.

That could mean more temporary or permanent changes to existing cards’ rewards programs and benefits packages, such as new rewards categories, sign-up bonus opportunities, and fringe benefits.

Perhaps more exciting, it could also lead to entirely new cards that reflect long-term changes in consumer behavior and spending. The airline and hotel credit card spaces have been especially volatile during the pandemic, so perhaps new offerings from top brands like Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott are on the way.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

4 Credit Cards for Military Members Awaiting Deployment

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Credit Card Rewards – Are They Really Worth It?

These last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about our credit cards, and whether or not we should just close the rest of our credit accounts. My philosophy is becoming more and more anti-debt, and the idea of going credit card free is appealing, albeit a bit scary. It’s becoming less scary as we get closer to having a fully funded emergency fund.

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Other rewards cards may have good terms, but charge an annual fee. This makes it unlikely that the consumer will come out ahead if they don’t spend a large amount of money on their card.

Still other rewards cards may be generous with their rewards, but they have an annual cap or limit which means you can’t fully realize the benefit of having the card.

Another problem is that a good percentage of people who have rewards credit cards don’t even bother to use their rewards that they’ve earned. From CNNMoney:

More than 41 percent of reward cardholders either rarely or never even bother to use their rewards, said a 2006 survey by GMAC Mortgage and Harris Interactive.

That seems like an awfully large number of people who sign up to get rewards, but then never even bother to use them. What a waste! Could it be just another indicator that our culture just doesn’t value saving as much as it does spending?

Avoid The Pitfalls Of Rewards Cards

To avoid the pitfalls and get the most back from your card, Consumer Reports offers these tips:

  • Consider where you shop. Get rewards cards that fit your lifestyle and shopping patterns. In other words, if you don’t travel very often, don’t sign up for a travel rewards card. You might be better off using one that gives you cash back for gas, groceries and home purchases.
  • Project your spending. Figure out how much you think you’ll spend in a given year, and then find out how much you’ll gain for every dollar you spend. Subtract any annual fees or penalties and find out if the card is worth your time. If not, move on and find another one.
  • Favor cash back. Points vs. Cash back. Consumer reports found that cash back cards tend to offer better rewards. On top of that the cards that give points, often the points end up going un-used. Get a cash-back card to optimize your returns.
  • Skip credit if you carry a balance. If you don’t pay your bills of in full, you may want to pass on the rewards cards altogether. Because rewards cards often have higher interest rates, you may end up paying much more in interest than you reap in rewards. I know my wife and I only use the credit card when we know we can pay it off within a week or two.
  • Do the math on do-good programs. Some people are tempted to get a rewards card so that they can have the rewards sent directly to a charity of their choice. When doing this make sure you look into how much is being given because you’ll often find you can give more to the charity if you just get a cash back card and send the money to the charity yourself.
  • Use airline miles fast. If you use an airline miles card, make sure to use your points as soon as you can. Airlines will often change redemption rules, and sometimes you’ll even lose your points if you haven’t used them in time.
  • Avoid temptation. Don’t justify spending on your credit card just because you want to get that “reward” of a new Ipod or digital camera. You’ll usually find that you end up spending more than you would have in the first place – enough that you could have just gone out and bought your own reward.

Conclusion – Be Careful

When it comes down to it I think it is clear – if you already have credit card debt and you’re trying to find your way out, DON’T use your credit card. Period. Lock it up and throw away the key.

But if you are debt free and are able to pay off your card every month without any problem, go ahead and take advantage of the rewards programs. But be careful which one you choose. Find one that fits your needs and spending patterns. Also, be careful that you’re not getting caught in the “spend to earn” trap. Studies have shown that people will often spend more just because they’re getting rewards. Don’t be a sucker, buy only what you need and what you would have bought anyway.

Do you have a rewards card? Do YOU think it’s worth it? Let us know in the comments.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Jasper Mastercard® Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Jasper Mastercard® (Jasper Card) is an unsecured credit card designed for first-time credit card users and those looking to build credit.

Although it’s not technically a student credit card, the fact that it doesn’t require a credit history for approval — thanks to an innovative underwriting process — and its availability for foreign nationals in the United States on student or work visas make it appropriate for those pursuing higher degrees.

And it’s an excellent alternative to secured credit cards, which require what’s effectively a down payment as a condition of use.

Jasper isn’t perfect. It lacks an introductory APR promotion, for example. But it’s an above-average choice for anyone in the process of building or rebuilding credit.

Key Features

The Jasper Mastercard’s most important features include:

Referral Bonus

For each friend you successfully refer to Jasper, you’ll earn an extra 0.5% cash back for a full year, up to 6% total cash back (5% above the 1% cash-back baseline).

Underwriting Process

Jasper uses a nontraditional underwriting process that considers noncredit factors, including sufficient proof of income, to produce a more holistic gauge of applicant risk. Not having a credit score or having limited credit will not necessarily disqualify your application from consideration.

However, if you have good credit, your application will be considered using common credit factors.

Credit Limit

Jasper offers credit limits up to $5,000 with no security deposit required. Your actual credit limit will depend on your income, creditworthiness, and other factors.

Earning and Redeeming Rewards

All eligible Jasper purchases earn 1% cash back. Cash back doesn’t expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing and is automatically applied to your account balance at the end of each statement cycle.

Important Fees

This card has no annual fee. Other fees may apply, including a foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the United States or denominated in foreign currencies.

Card Benefits

The Jasper Mastercard has a number of perks and benefits underwritten by Mastercard, including:

  • Satisfaction Guarantee for Purchases. Select Jasper Mastercard purchases — those made in full with the card — qualify for Mastercard’s satisfaction guarantee protection for 60 days from the date of purchase.
  • Extended Warranty on Select Purchases. Eligible purchases also qualify for a one-year extended warranty, for total warranty coverage (including the original manufacturer’s warranty) of 24 months or less.
  • Price Protection on Select Purchases. Jasper is one of the few remaining credit cards offering price protection coverage on eligible items for 60 days from purchase. If you find a lower price on an identical item during the coverage period, this benefit may refund the difference. Note that this benefit is subject to change or revocation at any time.
  • Purchase Assurance. This benefit provides reimbursement for covered theft, loss, or damage on eligible items for up to 90 days from purchase, subject to policy limits and exclusions.
  • Mastercard Travel Benefits. Jasper’s comprehensive Mastercard-backed travel benefits include a car rental loss and damage waiver, lost or damaged luggage protection, travel accident insurance, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, and more.
  • Cellphone Protection. Enjoy reimbursement for covered damages to your eligible cellular telephone device, subject to limitations and deductibles.

Credit Required

Jasper is appropriate for applicants with fair to excellent credit. Applicants with limited or nonexistent credit may qualify for approval, depending on income and other underwriting factors.

Jasper reports account information, including payment history, to the three major credit bureaus, so your use of the card will be reflected on your future credit score.

Advantages

The Jasper Mastercard is an effective product for building and rebuilding credit. It has some other notable advantages as well.

  1. No Annual Fee. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee. That’s welcome news for frugal cardholders who can’t be bothered to pay a recurring levy.
  2. No Credit History Required for Approval. Jasper doesn’t require new credit applicants to demonstrate any particular length of credit history — or any credit history at all if their income and other underwriting factors qualify them for approval. This makes Jasper a fantastic first credit card option for younger cardholders.
  3. No Security Deposit Required. Unlike many other cards for people with limited or fair credit, this card doesn’t require a security deposit as a condition of account opening.
  4. 1% Cash Back on All Eligible Purchases. Jasper earns 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. That’s a nice rate of return for an entry-level card, as many direct competitors lack rewards programs at all.
  5. Nice Referral Bonus. Each successful referral earns 0.5% bonus cash back for a full year, up to 6% cash back (5% above the base rate).
  6. Impressive Mastercard Benefits, Including Price Protection. Jasper Mastercard has an impressive lineup of premium Mastercard benefits, including basic travel insurance and price protection. It’s one of the few remaining credit cards offering price protection to new account holders, in fact.
  7. Regular Credit Bureau Reporting. Jasper regularly reports account activity to all three major consumer credit reporting bureaus. This is good news for cardholders eager to build credit and improve their credit scores with a pattern of timely repayment and responsible credit use.
  8. Credit Limit Up to $5,000. Jasper offers credit limits as high as $5,000 to qualified cardholders. This is higher than many competing cards.

Disadvantages

Jasper isn’t perfect. Its drawbacks include a less-generous rewards program and no introductory APR promotion.

  1. Cash Back Capped at 1%. There’s no way to earn cash back on Jasper purchases at a rate greater than 1%. This is a drawback for cardholders who’d like to earn a high return on everyday spending (and who qualify for more generous cash back cards).
  2. No Introductory APR Promotion. Jasper has no introductory interest rates (APR) promotion, so it’s not appropriate for applicants looking to cheaply finance major purchases or pay down high-interest debt accrued elsewhere through balance transfers.

Final Word

The Jasper Mastercard® is one of the best credit cards for new-to-credit applicants and those with less-than-perfect credit, bar none. If you’re eager to begin using an unsecured credit card but concerned about the drawbacks of secured credit cards, Jasper could be just the answer you’ve been waiting for.

If you decide after careful consideration that Jasper isn’t right for you, don’t fret — plenty of high-quality unsecured credit cards appeal to first-timers.

Source: moneycrashers.com

New Legislation Will Bring Changes To The Credit Card Industry

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of credit cards.  As a Dave Ramsey fan and facilitator for his Financial Peace University class, you’d probably understand why.  In general I think that using debt and credit are just poor ways to get ahead.

I’ve also talked about how Credit Card companies often do things that are unethical, and how they won’t look out for your best interests.  Sometimes they’ll even do things that are downright illegal!  Needless to say, in many respects the credit card industry is in need of some increased regulation.  It looks like that may be happening.

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CARD Act

A Good Idea Or Not? Could There Be Unintended Consequences?

Not everyone is hot on the idea of this credit card legislation saying that it could hurt the industry, and have the unintended consequence of hurting those it is trying to help.  From the Washington Times:

“When you start restricting the price banks can charge to customers, they are going to start cutting back their lending,” said Erik Benrud, finance professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“If the banks know they can’t raise rates on existing balances, that too will restrict their desire to make loans to certain groups,” he said.

In essence he’s saying that the people who might be helped by the provisions in the bill would actually be harmed because they wouldn’t be able to get credit in the first place, or as another person mentioned, the cost of higher risk borrowers would be transferred to responsible borrowers through higher interest rates and fees for everyone.  It could also mean fewer rewards programs.

Consumer advocates disagree that the bill will hurt as some industry experts have mentioned.

“You mean, if they can’t rip us off they are going to give us less credit?” said Gail Hillebrand, financial services campaign manager at Consumers Union. “We’ve been hearing that argument for a long time.

“I don’t think they’re going to give us less credit, but if they can’t rip us off, that’s a good thing,” she said.

Others went on to say that the argument that all borrowers will pay higher interest rates is a moot point – as many responsible borrowers are already seeing rate increases or added fees for no reason other than the companies are trying to make up for losses in other areas.

Personally I can see the law having some unintended consequences, and I fully expect that the credit card companies could in fact restrict access to credit, raise interest rates for all borrowers and cut rewards programs significantly.  We shall see if that actually  happens.

Conclusion

The credit card legislation really isn’t a big issue for me as i don’t use credit very often, and when I do it gets paid off right away (with cash I already have saved).  For borrowers that are responsible and pay off balances quickly, the provisions in this bill will probably have limited effect.

For those that carry a balance from month to month this bill will most likely give some added stability and transparency to their credit card relationships, and keep the companies from completely taking advantage of them.

Personally the only reservations I have about this legislation is that once again it means the government is getting way too involved in another industry, and they’re on their way to controlling pretty much every aspect of our financial lives.  I’d much prefer the free markets take their course, and that the government instead stress personal financial responsibility for average Americans, and help to make credit card use a thing of the past! (yeah right)

What do you think of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD)?  do you think it’s a good idea?  Do you think it will have unintended consequences? Let us know what you think in the comments!

What Others Are Saying

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Headed for Debt Disaster? Here’s How to Tell

This is a Guest Post written by Tisha Tolar. Tisha is a freelance writer providing content for CreditCardAssist.com, where she regularly writes about credit cards, rewards programs and general consumer finance issues.

Busy, busy, busy. That is how so many people describe their lives today. There is not always time to truly focus on the important things like family, friends, and finances. Some days it seems near impossible to get it all done in just 24 hours. This is one of the main reasons people in financial trouble don’t often realize they are headed down a dangerous path, where the big bad wolf of debt is waiting to pounce.

DEBT FREE AT AGE 28!!
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Because so many people do not take the time to truly understand their finances or to track their spending, debt disaster can be overwhelming. So how do you know when things are going in the wrong direction? Here is a list of some red-flag warning signals you need to pay attention to or risk your financial well-being:

Do You:

  • Make minimum payments, or less than minimum, on most or all of your accounts?
  • Have no established budget to refer to for spending?
  • Have nothing left of your paycheck after paying your debts?
  • Miss payments just to survive from day to day?
  • Pay your bills more than 10 days late each month?
  • Use your credit cards to sustain basic living expenses?
  • Delete several messages from collection agencies each day?
  • Seek information about payday loans?
  • Apply for more credit cards for balance transfers or cash advances, having spent the limits on all of your other credit cards accounts?

While several of these warning signs may seem outright obvious to some people, the truth is not everyone understands what debt really means. Because some people will never hit rock bottom (ie: losing a home, a car, a job), they may not immediately realize that what they consider to be a normal way of life is in actuality  a train wreck waiting to happen.

There Is No Time for Waiting

In order to prevent further damage to your finances and your credit score, it is imperative you take action now, rather than procrastinate and allow the situation to worsen. Debt can spin quickly out of control and once your feel overwhelmed, your chances of repairing the damage get slimmer. If you have friends or family you can trust, they might be the best source of free advice you will find, provided pride does not get the best of you. If you find you need professional assistance, debt counseling services, provided they are legit and priced right, can be an added resource to help you pay down the debt you already have in a manner you can afford. If worse is really coming to worse, a part time job may be the solution you need to pay down debt faster. Allocate your entire pay from your second income strictly to debts you already have.

One of the most important things to remember when surviving a brush with debt is to not get yourself in the same situation in the future. Make a budget, manage your money, review your statements, and don’t be so quick to use your credit card outside of emergency situations.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

How to Choose a Credit Card That’s Right for You

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

Americans love credit cards.

According to data collected by Experian, the total number of active U.S. credit card accounts approached 500 million in 2020, growing roughly 2.5% from the year prior. This growth came in spite of an unusual (and heartening) 9% decline in credit card debt, the first drop of any size in eight years.

With approximately 1.5 credit cards for every person in the United States, and more like 2.5 for every American over age 18, it’s clear that many of us feel that we need more than one credit card. That means tackling the question of how best to choose the right credit card from multiple angles — because the right credit card for today might not be the right card for tomorrow, next month, or next year.

Choosing the right credit card for the moment is much easier once you know how you plan to use your new card. Specifically, do you plan to carry a balance from month to month or pay off your balance in full each statement cycle?

Factors to Consider If You Plan to Carry a Balance

To be clear, credit card interest gets expensive quickly, so it’s usually best to pay your balance in full each statement cycle. But there are limited circumstances in which it makes sense to carry an interest-bearing balance over time — albeit as little time as possible — and a much wider array of circumstances in which you’d want to carry an interest-free balance in the short- to medium-term.

If you do plan to carry a balance from one statement cycle to the next, the cost of doing so is paramount. You’ll need to consider each candidate card’s introductory interest promotion — its rate and length — plus the regular APR that applies once the introductory period ends, and the fees you could encounter in the course of paying down your balance.

Introductory APR Promotion

The low- or 0% APR introductory promotion is one of the most common enticements credit card issuers use to hook new cardholders. It’s also the most reliable way for new cardholders who plan to carry balances to reduce the cost of doing so.

The general rule for credit card applicants planning to carry balances on their new cards is: The longer the low- or no-interest period, the better. Look for credit cards with 0% APR periods lasting at least 15 months, and preferably even longer. The best low-interest credit cards and balance transfer credit cards have interest-free periods that stretch 18, 20, and even 24 months.

Regular APR

Carrying an interest-bearing credit card balance is rarely a good idea, but it’s not always possible to avoid. Costly medical emergencies, lengthy periods of unemployment, unexpected home or car repair costs not covered by insurance — these and other common situations often leave hefty credit card balances in their wake. This is especially true if you’ve already exhausted your options for finding financial assistance to help with your emergency.

If you’re currently dealing with the fallout from a balance-generating situation, you’re probably in the market for a balance transfer credit card. The ideal balance transfer card’s regular APR — the rate that kicks in after the low-or no-interest promotional period ends — is as low as possible. That way, if you’re not able to pay off the transfer in full before the promotion ends or you encounter future financial hardship that necessitates a new carried balance, the financial consequences aren’t as severe.

Likewise, if you’re worried that you’ll encounter balance-generating hardship in the future, keeping an “emergency” credit card in reserve isn’t a bad idea. This card’s regular APR should be as low as possible. Ideally, you shouldn’t use it at all unless an emergency arises.

Balance Transfer Fee

If you’re able to pay off your entire balance transfer period during the low- or no-interest promotion, the balance transfer fee is liable to be your new balance transfer card’s largest (and perhaps only) cost.

Balance transfer fees really add up. On a $3,000 transfer, the difference between a 3% fee ($90) and a 5% fee ($150) is $60 — not exactly pocket change. All else being equal, the ideal balance transfer card is the one with the lowest balance transfer fee.


Factors to Consider If You Plan to Pay Your Statements in Full

If you plan to pay your credit card balance in full each month, you’ll have the luxury of considering a wider range of factors, including some that could reduce the net cost of card spending: credit card rewards, new cardholder bonuses, travel and purchase credits, and intangible or difficult-to-value perks like airport lounge access and elite status with participating travel loyalty programs.

The catch: Credit cards with generous rewards programs, new cardholder bonuses, and travel perks tend to require applicants to have good or excellent credit and ample incomes.

Rewards Program

If you consistently pay off your rewards credit card’s balance on time and in full, the net cost of your spending on that card should wind up lower than the total value of your purchases. For example, if you spend $10,000 this year with a credit card that earns 2% cash back on all spending, you’ll earn $200 in rewards and cut your net spending on that card to $9,800.

Maximizing your credit card rewards means choosing the right card for your spending patterns. To do that, you need to understand the main types of credit card rewards programs and compare how much you’re likely to save with each. If your long commute has you filling up your gas tank twice per week, your ideal credit card is one that produces an excellent return on gas station spending.

To be clear, more than one “ideal” rewards credit card exists for many if not most consumers. It’s common for credit card users to use multiple credit cards to maximize rewards on different types of spending: groceries, transportation, vacations, and general-purpose spending that doesn’t fit into neat categories. But there’s often one ideal credit card for each type of spending.

Sign-Up Bonus (New Cardholder Bonus)

The sign-up bonus, sometimes known as the early spend bonus or welcome offer, is another powerful enticement for new cardholders. And credit cards with generous sign-up bonuses also tend to have attractive rewards programs, so they’re worth keeping around after the bonus period — typically three to six months — ends.

The trick to choosing the right sign-up bonus is making sure you can handle the initial spend requirement. Although this could well mean accepting a smaller bonus than you’d like, a smaller bonus is better than no bonus at all. For example, if you typically spend $500 per month on credit cards and you have no major purchases planned for the coming quarter, you probably shouldn’t apply for a new cardholder offer that asks you to spend $5,000 in three months — no matter how attractive the bonus.

Likewise, make sure the type of spending required to earn the bonus is appropriate. Some co-branded airline and hotel cards condition new cardholder bonuses on spending with partner brands. If you don’t plan to fly or stay in a hotel during the bonus period, you might miss out on the opportunity.

Travel and Purchase Credits

Some premium credit cards offer generous credits against specific types of purchases or purchases with specific partner brands.

The most common credits involve travel: general travel credits that offset eligible travel purchases up to an annual allowance, typically $200 or $300; credits against security preclearance application fees; credits against purchases with specific travel merchants, such as airlines; and companion airfare certificates that cover the cost of a traveling companion’s ticket less taxes and fees.

Some cards offer nontravel credits as well. For example, the Platinum Card from American Express offers up to $200 in annual credits against eligible Uber purchases, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offsets eligible DoorDash and Peloton purchases.

Other Intangible Perks

Make no mistake, “intangible” perks can be quite valuable for credit card users positioned to exploit them. Prime examples include:

  • Airport Lounge Access. Some premium travel rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum® Card from American Express offer complimentary membership in airport lounge loyalty programs, such as Priority Pass Select. These programs confer discounted or complimentary lounge access to the member and one or more ticketed companions. With full-freight airport lounge access typically running about $60 per person per entry, it doesn’t take long for this benefit to pay for itself.
  • Elite Status. Many premium hotel, airline, and general travel cards offer complimentary elite status with major travel partners. These statuses are immensely valuable for frequent travelers, with typical benefits like complimentary room or fare upgrades where available, accelerated loyalty point earnings on eligible purchases, and guaranteed reservations with adequate notice.
  • Travel Discounts and Perks. These benefits vary by card and card type but can include convenient perks like priority aircraft boarding and complimentary checked baggage, hotel discounts or freebies like resort credit and complimentary meals, and discounts or perks with third-party travel merchants like preferred rates or model upgrades on rental cars.
  • Shopper and Traveler Benefits. These benefits are typically backed by the card issuer itself — Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, for example. They vary by card but often include compensation for returned purchases when the original merchant refuses to refund the sale price, complimentary rental car insurance, and complimentary cellphone insurance (less a token deductible).

Factors That Affect All Credit Card Users

Some factors affect all would-be credit card users, regardless of how they plan to pay for card purchases. These factors include fees such as annual fees or foreign transaction fees, card characteristics like credit requirements and credit limits, and logistical considerations like how widely the card is accepted.

Annual Fee

Determining whether it’s worth it to pay an annual fee on a credit card comes down to one simple question: can you get more out of the card, financially speaking, than you put in?

The general rule of thumb is this: It’s worth paying an annual fee if you can reliably extract a greater total value from the sum of the credit card’s rewards program, any recurring bonuses or credits (such as travel credits), and any intangible benefits (such as airport lounge access).

It’s usually not worth paying an annual fee if you plan to carry an interest-bearing balance because the annual fee will only deepen the financial hole created by those interest charges. However, you might not have a choice in the matter if, say, the only balance transfer card you qualify for charges an annual fee.

Credit Requirements

In a temporary sense, your credit score really is your financial destiny. Every credit card subjects applicants to a battery of underwriting requirements and most include credit quality among them. If you don’t meet a particular card’s credit standards when you apply, you’re probably not going to be approved. Focus on building your credit and improving your credit score, and in the meantime, consider applying for a card designed for people with impaired or limited credit.

Security Deposit

Many credit cards for credit-impaired or -limited consumers are secured. They require a security deposit as a condition of first use, usually in an amount equal to the approved credit limit. If you can’t afford to put down a security deposit right now, you might not be ready for a credit card at all. If you can, understand that you’ll only recover that deposit when you pay off your balance in full and close your account or — if approved — graduate to unsecured status.

Credit Limit

Your approved credit limit is a function of your perceived ability to repay, which is in turn a function of your creditworthiness, income and debt-to-income ratio, and existing credit utilization ratio. However, two credit card issuers can and often do come to different conclusions about the same applicant, especially one with less-than-perfect credit. Some credit cards for applicants with limited or impaired credit cap limits at $1,500 or less, even for comparatively well-qualified candidates, while others keep the tap open until $5,000 or even $10,000.

Foreign Transaction Fee

Many credit cards tack surcharges onto transactions processed outside the United States. Known as foreign transaction fees, these charges apply not just to international in-person purchases — the sort you’d make on an international vacation — but also on purchases made with non-U.S. merchants that process payment outside the United States, regardless of where the transaction originates.

Yes, that includes some online shopping purchases.

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to rule out credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees. That way, you never have to wonder whether you’ll incur a surcharge on a purchase routed through a non-U.S. payment network.

Merchant Acceptance

Visa and Mastercard remain the most widely accepted credit card networks in North America and Europe. Although they’ve made considerable strides internationally since the 2000s, American Express and Discover remain laggards. This is an important consideration for frequent international travelers and may well serve as a tiebreaker for people choosing between otherwise comparable Visa or Mastercard and American Express or Discover products.


Final Word

Choosing a credit card that’s right for you means weighing any number of the factors on this list — perhaps all of them. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Fortunately, choosing a credit card isn’t a life-or-death decision, even if the mere act of applying for one can temporarily ding your credit score. If you choose a credit card that turns out not to be a great fit for your lifestyle or spending plans, you can always pay off its balance, let it gather dust in a secure location somewhere, and apply for another credit card that suits you better.

As long as you keep your overall credit utilization low — or work to reduce it if it’s temporarily elevated — and avoid carrying high-interest balances whenever possible, the benefits of responsible credit card use outweigh the drawbacks.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com