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Updated: Here are 15 Credit Cards With the Best Rewards.
This month’s issue of Money Magazine contains an article with credit card recommendations for a variety of spending types. Here’s the run-down.
For big spenders: Blue Cash from American Express.
This card offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases for six months, but the best feature is the cash back reward program. The program offers 5% cash back on purchases made at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations and 1.5% on everything else if you spend $6,500 within twelve months. That’s what makes this card good for people who can put a significant portion of their expenses on the credit card. Without spending $6,500, the cash back terms are only 1% and 0.5% respectively. One other good point is that there is no limit to the amount of cash back you can receive.
If you carry a balance: Discover More Card.
I don’t know. If you’re carrying a balance, you’re paying interest. The interest you pay would offset any rewards you could earn. That’s why Money Magazine suggests a card with an introductory APR of 0% for an entire year. The good thing about this card is while you’re taking time to pay off your purchases with what is in effect a free loan, you’re also earning 5% cash back. Here are five more cards offering 0% APR on purchases. Warning: use of leverage should be reserved for those who do not have problems managing their money.
If you are an active driver: Citi Driver’s Edge Platinum Select MasterCard. This card is no longer available; try the
This card offers 3% cash back on purchases at supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations and 1% back on all other purchases. You also earn $1 for every 100 miles you drive, but the total rebate is capped at $1,000 a year. To make the most of rebates, this card can be used in conjunction with another cash back card.
If you are an active driver: Discover Open Road Card.
Here’s another option for drivers. After passing a $3,000 threshold, all purchases earn 1% cash back, except for gas and auto maintenance, which earn 5%. You also receive 5% cash back on purchases through Discover’s merchant network. I’m not a fan of having to pass a minimum spending amount first, but depending on your spending patterns, this card could pay off well.
If you are a traveler: Discover Miles Card.
This is not a cash back card. The Discover Miles Card rewards the credit card holder with one mile for every dollar you spend. Miles can be redeemed as gift card for merchant’s in Discover’s network in addition to the traditional airline tickets. The miles are accepted with any airline and there are no black-out dates. By the way, they’ll give you 12,000 bonus miles the first year.
The article also mentions Capital One No Hassle Mile Rewards Card, which earns you 1.25 miles for each dollar, but has a complicated redemption system. One might even say it’s a hassle to redeem the awards.
If you’re a “skinflint:” Chase Freedom Visa Card (no longer available).
This card doesn’t seem as impressive as some of the other cash back rewards cards. It does offer a 0% introductory APR for 6 months and 3% cash back on supermarkets, gas stations, and fast-food restaurants. I suppose therein lies the strength of this card. However, after you spend $600 during any monthly billing cycle, the reward drops back to the default for all purchases, 1%.
All in all, Money Magazine made some good recommendations. It’s getting more difficult to lock in great cash back rewards as credit card companies continue to cut back. But free money is still free money. These are companies that will pay you to use their money for free. Why do they do this? It’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. Companies offer these benefits for two very specific reasons. One: they think you will slip up and start paying interest fees. Two: the merchants pay the credit card company a small percentage of each transaction.
This translates to big bucks for the credit card companies. The least they can do is throw you some money as you help them make their annual profits goals.
Updated October 10, 2014 and originally published May 25, 2007.
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