Choosing the Best Rewards Credit Cards

March 14, 2011

Rewards credit cards were the subject of several reader emails recently after I discussed choosing the best credit cards for one of my newsletter readers.

Most of the questions were about cash back cards and gas cards – In general cash back cards seem to be the most popular overall but gas cards definitely grow in popularity every time gas prices start to go back up.

Gas Rewards Cards

Unfortunately, the amount of money you can earn with a gas credit card doesn’t do much to offset the high cost of gas.  Of course, every little bit helps so I took a look at gas cards and how much you can expect to earn from them.  The rewards can range from 2–5% depending on which ones you’re eligible for and how you use the card.

As mentioned in our recent article about saving money on gas, earning cash back won’t do you any good if you’re paying interest on those purchases, so certainly avoid that.  If you’re going to use a rewards card you want to make sure you get the most out of it, which means getting the highest % rate of rewards. Some of the cards that earn the highest cash back rates require specific memberships so you’ll have to think about whether it’s worth it to you to join in order to earn rewards.

Other cards have varying bonus categories or certain levels of spending you have to reach, if you don’t want to hassle with those then you can get a simpler card – you probably just won’t earn as much cash back.  You can see more of the detail behind those decisions in my post about the best gas rewards credit cards.

Cash Rewards Cards

Going back to my post on choosing the best card for you I took a look at what questions you can ask when you’re trying to pick a cash back card.  You’re looking for one that fits your spending habits and rewards earning potential.  It does require some research because you’ll want to look back and determine what your spending history look like.

You’ll have to decide whether you want to change how you spend and if you’re going to continue the same patterns you’ve had in the past.  Once you figure that out you can match up your past, or desired, purchasing behavior against which card fits you best.  You can go through the questions in the post on the best cash rewards cards.

Comparing Cards

I recently had a co-worker ask me about the difference between the Blue Cash and Chase Freedom card.  As you probably know we use the Blue Cash and I’ve brought it up at work before.  He and his wife don’t have a rewards card and were thinking of applying for applying the Chase Freedom card, so he asked my opinion on the two and how they compared. 

I gave him a high level overview but told him I’d do a more detailed comparison and get back with him.  So I wrote up a look at the two cards and how they compare in different areas, if you want to see some things to look for when comparing cards the Blue Cash vs Chase Freedom match up is an example.

Travel Rewards Card

If you’re not a big traveler then a cash back or gas rewards card probably makes the most sense. But if you already travel a lot for work or you have a big trip you’d like to go on someday then it may be worth taking a look at travel cards.

The thing about this category of cards is that there’s a pretty wide range of options ranging from airline cards, to hotel cards, to rental car rewards, and more general travel cards.  Once again, which card you pick should depend on what type of type of travelling you’re planning and how you’re going to earn the rewards.

The good news is, it’s just a credit card. It’s not like you’re planning your retirement or trying to decide which house to buy. So even though there are a lot of choices, don’t get too hung up on it.  If you choose one that’s not exactly perfect for you it’s not the end of the world and down the road you can switch to another card.

That being said, you do want to get the most out of the card, mine as well take advantage of the opportunity. If these types of cards are something you might be interested in, I go over the different types of cards and what questions you should ask in this look at the best travel rewards cards.

Maximizing Cash Back

Speaking of getting the most out of your card, there’s one more thing I want to mention. During all this digging I’ve been doing into rewards cards over the last few weeks, I came across some frequently asked questions and misconceptions about cash back cards.  So I decided it would be good to put together a report on things you should know to earn the most you can from your cash back card.

I’m sending it out to members of my email newsletter, if you’d like a copy, just enter your email address below and you’ll get the report, “10 Secrets to Maximizing Your CashBack Rewards”, in your inbox.




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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to Choosing the Best Rewards Credit Cards

  • The Fire Finder

    I think that the gas card would be the most beneficial for me. Man I have been spending a lot of money on gas. Anyways, nice post.


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