How to Choose the Best Credit Card Rewards Program for You

Credit card rewards programs offer you the chance to earn cash back, travel, and discounts.

Your program, though, could end up costing you if you aren’t careful.  At the very least, you might not use rewards, and they could sit useless on your account.

Before you sign up for a credit card with a rewards program, make sure that it is a program that will work for you.  Consider your options, and choose a credit card rewards program that fits your lifestyle and your financial needs.

Will You Use those Credit Card Rewards?

The most important question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you will use the rewards offered by the program.

If you don’t fly very much, an airline rewards credit card that focuses on miles isn’t going to be much benefit to you.

However, if you like receiving cash back, a rewards program that offers rebates when you spend money is a better choice.  If you are trying to get a head start on saving up for college, a rewards program that gives you money for college, and helps you invest it in a 529 Plan, might be a smart choice.

Think carefully about how valuable the rewards are to you.

Think about your lifestyle, and your financial needs.  Consider the usage you will get from the credit rewards, and pick only a program that will benefit you the most.

Other Considerations

Of course, there are other considerations as well.  Anymore, you can find a number of credit cards offering similar rewards. There are countless airline rewards cards, cash back cards, and other rewards cards. As you begin to narrow your choice down to a specific card, here are a few other items to keep in mind:

  • Card fees: Some rewards cards come with annual fees.  If you don’t want to pay an annual fee, you will need to look for a credit card that doesn’t charge one.  There are plenty of rewards credit cards without annual fees.  However, some rewards cards that charge fees come with more generous programs.  In some cases, it is easy to earn more than enough rewards to offset the cost of the annual fee.  Consider your usage, and how the program works, to figure out whether it might be worth it to pay an annual fee after all.
  • Flexibility: Look at the flexibility offered during redemption.  Some airline rewards come with blackout dates, or require you to sit in certain seats.  Also, there are programs that allow you to choose which rewards you want to redeem your points for.  Consider how flexible the program is, and how many limitations you’ll end up with.
  • Expiration and redemption fees: Read the terms; some credit card rewards programs come with expiration dates.  Additionally, you might have to pay a redemption fee when you exchange your points for rewards.  Be aware of these issues, as well as the possibility of paying taxes on some of your rewards.  Also, watch out for cards that wipe out your rewards points due to inactivity.
  • Your Credit: There are some great rewards programs out there.  But if you don’t have great credit then you may not be able to get the most out of the programs, or even get the card.  Make sure you keep your credit score high so you can take the best advantage of your credit cards.

Finally

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After considering the options, and considering the pros and cons of different rewards credit cards, you will be able to make a better choice that helps you reach your financial goals.  Look at how you will actually spend and use the card and you will find a credit card rewards program that’s best for you.

What is your favorite credit card rewards program?

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Published or updated June 29, 2012.

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