With the economy in a tailspin, credit card companies are pulling back on their rewards programs. Think of it as rewards inflation. In many cases, it now takes more points to get the same level of reward. For example, an airplane ticket that once cost 30,000 rewards points with one rewards program might now cost 60,000 rewards points.
Still, if you choose the right rewards program, there is value to be had. You have to balance out the bonus you’re getting from the reward with the actual terms of the card, however.
Here are some of the best rewards credit cards, and a few of the worst.
Some of the Best:
- Citi CashReturns. This card offers cash-back rewards of 1% for every purchase. There are also attractive introductory terms including 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months and 20% bonus on cash back rewards. Your cash-back bonus check is automatically sent when you reach the $50 mark. It couldn’t be easier.
- Chase Freedom. This rewards card offers a variety of rewards options including points, miles, cash back, gas rebates and gift cards. Chase automatically chooses which program will get you the most savings based on your spending. Additionally, there is 1% cash back on purchases (and 3% where you shop the most). The 14.99% interest rate is steep, but this card is great for those who don’t carry a balance.
- American Express Blue. For the first 15 months this card has no annual fee and a 0% APR on purchases. Almost all purchases earn you travel and retail rewards, and the rewards program is free. Points can also be converted into frequent flyer miles. You can also opt into the Blue Cash program to have cash sent directly to a savings account.
Some of the Worst:
- HSBC American DreamCard. This card combines two bad habits, debt and gambling. The main rewards for this card are entries into a sweepstakes to win prizes. For that, you are charged a steep interest of 15% to 22%. These unlikely rewards don’t compare to the guaranteed rewards programs with high interest rates.
- BP Chase Visa. The terms of this card look attractive, a reasonable 12% interest rate, 1 to 2% rebate on some purchases and 5% rebates on BP gas (and 10% for first 60 days), but after the six-month introductory period your interest rate goes up to 20%. Redeeming rewards could also be made easier.
- Marathon Platinum MasterCard. Is getting a 5% rebate on Marathon gas worth a 16 to 21% interest rate? Plus, that rebate is limited to $270. And don’t make a late payment, or the interest rate balloons to 30%!
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