Rewards cards have become the latest rage in the credit card industry. In the past, consumers shopped for credit cards that offered the lowest interest rate. Next came cards with low interest rates and no annual fees. Today, consumers can shop for cards based on what type of "reward" they can earn for using a specific issuer’s card.
How does a reward program work? Typically, the program awards points, “dollars” or a cash value based on the amount you charge. The rate at which you collect points varies depending on what you charge or where you charge it. Some programs offer extra points for using their card at a specific place such as a supermarket or fast food restaurant or for certain items.
Some programs offer a variety of rewards. Consumers can earn meals, tickets to sporting events, airline tickets, electronics, or even create their own reward program.
The goal is to get you the consumer to use your credit card as much as possible. Why? FEES! The credit card issuer makes money from two sources each time you use their card. First, from the merchant who pays the issuer a merchant transaction fee and secondly, from you through finance charges and late fees.
A recent survey found that nearly half of U.S. cardholders enrolled in a credit card rewards program have never redeemed their points. However, 60% of consumers said rewards program influences their decision when deciding which credit card to use for a purchase.
When considering an offer for a card that offers rewards, be sure to read the fine print. Find out what you have to do to earn points. Look carefully for any restrictions as to when you can redeem them. Also check to see if your points carry over from one year to the next.
Reward programs most benefit those who pay off their balances monthly. For those who carry a balance or even pay late, the resulting higher balances and fees aren’t really much of a reward, are they?