If you don’t have a rewards credit card that provides you with points towards travel, gift certificates and/or other items, you may really be missing out on some great value. Rewards credit cards, when used responsibly, can offer some truly great perks to members. Rewards may differ from card to card and can include everything from cash back to gas cards, gift cards, hotel stays and even bigger-ticket items, such as airline and concert tickets!
The American Banking Association reported that there were 364 million open credit card accounts in the US at the end of 2017, meaning most Americans have at least one credit card. If you’re using your credit card anyway, you might as well look for a way to maximize the rewards you’ll get when you charge with your card. Ya know, make your card work for you!
The overwhelming number of credit cards out there can make it difficult to choose the best card for you. So, allow us to make it easier…
At Choice One Community Credit Union in Wilkes-Barre, we offer our members two, wonderful VISA credit card options: Platinum or Classic. Since it’s backed by VISA, they’re accepted virtually everywhere! Plus, both credit cards, as well as our debit cards, feature UChoose, a reward system where points earned from purchases can be used for thousands of products, travel options, gift cards, event tickets and more, at a large list of national, regional, local and online retailers. The possibilities are endless!
You may also have the option of cash back and can combine points earned on both credit and debit cards for even faster rewards. UChoose is based on giving cardholders a choice of where to shop and what to get for all the points they earn. UChoose offers so many options for redeeming points, that it’s sure to satisfy just about any credit card holder out there. It also makes it simple to redeem earned points. Once you’ve registered your cards and earned your points, you can look through an extensive online catalog to redeem points as well. Unlike some other cards, and because of the wide variety of offerings, you don’t have to wait forever to cash in those points. There are choices at all different point/cost levels, etc. The choice really is yours!
What’s Your Reward?
First of all, be sure the credit card you apply for has a competitive interest rate. It’s not worth the points if the interest rate is sky high, as in the end, it’s a losing deal #justsayin.
Best for your budget, pay off the credit card balance in full each month, then you won’t have to worry about any interest at all. The trick to selecting the best credit card offer for you is to find one with rewards that best fit your needs. For instance, you don’t want a rewards credit card that only gives you air miles if you don’t like to fly. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Most importantly, if you get a rewards credit card, be sure you actually use those rewards! Did you realize that a large percentage of credit card holders never redeem their rewards? Ya we know, crazy right?! But, believe it or not, it happens all the time! Whether it’s a complicated redemption process or just procrastination on the part of the cardholder and the points expire, it’s a waste of hard-earned rewards. Why have a rewards card in the first place if you’re not going to cash in the points? You know the old saying, “use it or lose it!”
Too Much of a Good Thing:
We all get inundated with credit card offers every day, via social media, phone and by mail. Many have offers of big rewards up front, but they never tell you the pitfalls of having too many credit cards. Fortunately, we aren’t like them. We’re here to enlighten…
Five Reasons to Limit the Number of Credit Cards You Have:
- Applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time can lower your credit score significantly. It shortens your length of credit history and also adds too many hard inquiries to your credit report. When it comes to credit cards, age does matter! The age of your credit history, that is. Creditors like to see a long stable history, and too many new cards take away from that. While, many of us do have a variety of credit cards that we’ve accumulated over our adult lifetime; if you’re using several cards responsibly and paying off the monthly balance each month, you can actually be helping your credit. That’s different than going out this weekend and applying for five different credit cards all at once. Spot the difference? Opening and closing accounts quickly, just to take advantage of sign up point offers will generally hurt your credit, as will too many hard inquiries, so if you have a lot of cards already, use them wisely; otherwise, stick to the one!
- The temptation to overspend. This is a biggie! If you have a wallet full of credit cards, it means you have lots of open credit. The temptation may be too great and you may quickly find yourself with a pile of credit card debt that you just can’t pay off in a reasonable amount of time. Large debt WILL NOT help your credit score, like, at all! A good rule of thumb here is to try to keep your credit utilization (aka the percentage of how much you’ve charged to how much available credit you have) to under 30%. Anything over that is way too much and seriously no bueno!
- Too many cards can easily lead to missed payments. The majority of your FICO score is determined by payment history and credit utilization. Paying on time is a huge factor in keeping a good credit score. When you are trying to juggle 5 or 10 credit cards, and you aren’t carefully organized (as most of us aren’t, amirite?!), you might start to miss payments. This will definitely lower your credit score! And usually, not by a mere few points, either. You need to pay on time all the time! Better yet, pay off those balances in full each month, and see that score soar higher and higher! If you take one thing from this, heed this…seriously, we can’t stress it enough!
- Fees, fees, and fees! Many points credit cards charge annual fees. BOO! Exactly how much are those fees impacting the value of having all those cards? Are you really getting the benefit of the rewards of any one card in particular when spreading your spending so thin? Yeah, we didn’t think so either. And, worse yet, the annual fees are on top of that! Sad truth is, you may actually be losing money carrying all those cards…so, what’s a girl to do? Well, this isn’t a sales pitch, but rather friendly advice: get ye a card with no annual fee! Like, let’s say, a Choice One Credit Union Classic or Platinum VISA card, which not only has great rewards, but yup, you guessed it, no annual fee! #winwin
- The risk of credit card fraud. The more cards you have, the more at risk you likely are. Not to scare anyone but applying for many credit cards puts your sensitive data on many different databases, and sadly, as we saw not that long ago with Equifax, they aren’t always the most secure. Be smart when deciding on what and to whom you wish to give your personal information to, as the last thing you want is a giant well for hackers and identity thieves to pull from.
To get the biggest bang for your buck, you’re better off sticking to just one reward card. If you already have a reward credit card, then be sure the rewards on it are right for you. And, don’t forget to cash in on them either. Don’t let them sit dormant and expire, otherwise, what’s the point? If you’re not sure how to redeem them, simply call your credit card company and ask. You can also read the fine print in your cardholder agreement regarding your rewards and look for point conversion rate, point expiration information and other important rules regarding rewards, as well. Lastly, keep track of changes in terms, such as getting fewer points for spending, etc. to avoid any nasty shocks down the line.
If you’re in the market for one, shop around before you apply for a credit card to see what’s best for you! We love our Classic and Platinum VISAs with UChoose rewards, but it’s really your choice!
Either way, you choose, you can’t go wrong with maximizing your spending with a rewards credit card! Get in the habit of using your card for your everyday expenses and more, so you can build up those rewards and cash in them for some sweet rewards sooner rather than later!
Do you live, work, worship, attend school or have a business entity in Luzerne, Lackawanna or Wyoming Counties? Then you are eligible for membership at Choice One Community Credit Union! The best part, once you’re a member, your immediate family can also join as well, regardless if they meet the above criteria or not. Interested? Click here to download a membership application today!
Well, friends, that’s all for now. We’ll see you next Wednesday for the latest piece from Choice Words. In the interim, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for even more!