Their commercials are often funnier than other products on late-night sports programming, but it’s an honest question to wonder whether or not all the rewards credit cards you see advertised are actually rewarding.
The answer is simple—some are, and some aren’t.
For those with little experience in the credit card arena, telling the difference between a valuable rewards card and one that’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing isn’t easy.
With that in mind, here are some tips to consider if you’re looking for a new rewards credit card:
- Instant-Approval Cards are Bad: If you see an offer for a rewards card that requires no credit check or says you’ll be approved instantly, go look elsewhere. As NerdWallet noted, “With these kinds of cards, you tend to end up with a bunch of hidden fees . . or a card that doesn’t report your activity to the national credit bureaus.”
- Low Credit Limit: We’re not advocating excessive spending—that’s financially irresponsible—but if you see an offer for a card with a credit limit lower than $1,000, chances are any rewards associated with it aren’t very good. A low credit limit harms your purchasing flexibility, and a higher limit improves your credit score.
- High Fees: Believe it or not, but some credit card companies charge you for online payments. If you see a card with great rewards, but a lot of fees tacked on afterwards, look elsewhere.
Now that you have an idea of what warning signs to avoid when looking at rewards cards, let’s look at some of the best current offers right now.
APR: Variable, 13.99% – 23.99%
Annual Fee: $0 first year, $59/year after that
The Capital One Venture is a pretty popular card due to its low annual membership fee, great introductory offers, and lack of hidden fees.
You’ll earn double miles on everything you purchase—for every $1 you spend, you earn 2 miles—and you really can redeem the miles for flights on any airline, at any time. There’s also the option of redeeming miles for gift cards and account balance credits. You also won’t be charged any foreign transaction fees.
APR: Variable, 9.99% – 18.00%
Annual Fee: None
This is one of the most impressive rewards cards on the market. It is offered from Mountain America Credit Union, though, which requires membership for an application.
However, you get unlimited rewards to use toward travel, gift cards, event tickets, cash back, and more. Throw in free ID theft protection, no balance transfer fees, annual fees, over-limit fees, and $0 liability if your card is lost or stolen, and it’s hard to beat the perks offered by this card.
APR: 0% for 18 months, variable from 14.49% – 24.49% after
Annual Fee: None
If you’re not into traveling and just want a simple cash-back rewards system, it’s hard to beat what Citibank offers here. You’ll get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back once you pay that off.
This card doesn’t offer the highest amount of cash back per purchase, but with no annual fee and the ability to handle balance transfers, it’s a solid option.
The bottom line when choosing a rewards credit card is to find one that works for you. If you like traveling, a travel-rewards based card is the answer. You’ll also want to remember to avoid instant approval cards, ones with high fees, and a low credit limit to make sure you’re getting the best value possible from your card.