How To Pick The Best Credit Card Rewards Program

January 29, 2013, Written By Justin Hefner

There are over 1,000 credit cards available for consumers and businesses, and a majority often come with an incentive program to use the card.

These incentive or rewards programs sound great when you apply for the card, but some of them may not be as lucrative as expected. From blackout dates on travel to restrictions to point expiration, it’s important to keep a close eye on the details of your rewards program. It is equally important to pick the rewards program that is right for you before you ever apply for the card. Here are four tips to make the best choice for your needs. 

What Do You Want In Rewards?

Step one is to determine what you want from a rewards program. There is a rewards card for just about any interest or hobby. Do you fly often? If so, you may want a card that offers airline points on your favorite airline. Do you regularly shop at a certain merchant? It may make sense to apply for a card that offers points that are redeemable at that merchant.  Or if you don’t want any specific type of points, a cash back card may be the best option. Pick the rewards card that is best for your needs and desires. 

Compare Cards In Your Rewards Category

Once you have decided the type of rewards card you want, compare all the cards in that category to make sure you get the very best card. Perhaps you are using a card from one airline to fly to a different city. By doing the research, you may find a card that offers twice as many miles. Or you may want to accumulate as much cash as possible. You may not be aware that some cards have higher payouts for certain types of purchases. Make sure you do the due diligence in researching the many cards in that rewards category. 

Check The Additional Pros and Cons

Every credit card will have advantages and disadvantages. Some cards have great rewards programs at the expense of high interest rates. Others may have an average rewards program with 0% introductory offers. Some may have phenomenal rewards programs but charge very steep annual fees. One card may be more attractive that another for your personal needs, and that can depend on your personal spending habits, how much you charge on your card, and whether you plan to carry a balance. Be sure to assess the pros and cons of each card to make sure that card really will help save you money in the long run.

Check The Fine Print Of The Rewards Program

So you’ve decided on a specific airline card in January to accumulate points for your family vacation next Christmas, only to find out six months later that the card has blackout dates druing the holidays. Make sure to read all the fine print and restrictions of your rewards program before applying for the card. Many cards have blackout dates and restrictions tied to their rewards programs, and it is extremely important to check those before you apply for the card. 

These four tips will go a long way in helping you find the best rewards card for your personal needs, and help you earn points, cash or miles every time you swipe your credit card.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of January 29, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.