Q: I’ve seen the ads on television for “build-your-own” credit cards. I have to admit, it sounds tempting, but I’m worried about the fine print and what damage I might be doing by doing it myself. Any words of wisdom? — T. O’Lear, Atlantic City, N.J.
A: Here at BankingMyWay, we believe anything you do to further your education on how credit cards work, and how they can work against you, is all good. Building your own credit card, like building your own deck will teach you about home construction projects, will surely teach you something you didn’t know about credit cards.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump right in. Certainly, Capital One (Stock Quote: COF) has a hit on its hands with the “Card Lab” program that enables customers to create their own credit card. But should American consumers even be in the business of building their own credit cards? It’s a tough call, so here are some pros and cons.
You’ll become a savvier card user with a do-it-yourself model. Like we said above; building your own card does have its own rewards, at least as far as making you a smarter card user. By taking the time to study what you want and don’t want in a card, you’ll gain more transparency and see for yourself what works and what doesn’t — for your particular needs.
You’ll pick only what you want. Credit card firms are becoming more upfront about giving you the features you want, on an à la carte basis. JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) allows you to choose a card that breaks down your spending by category or set your own monthly payments. Building your own card is usually all about flexibility, and choosing what features you want really fits the bill there.
You’ll be more interactive with your card provider. Membership really does have its privileges. With American Express’s (Stock Quote: AXP) Zync do-it-yourself program, you’re automatically enrolled in the “forum” program in which you can chat with Amex customer service reps online and trade ideas on how to make your card better.