Bad Credit Card Rewards Programs
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) It's the twenty-first century, and just about everyone has a credit card that offers some kind of rewards program. Yet not all rewards plans are created equally. In fact, some cards have plans that might seem great on the surface, but just aren't worth it when you get down to it. We spoke to two of our credit card experts to help you decide which credit card rewards programs just aren't worth it -- and how to find the one that is.
One Credit Expert's Story
Erik Larson, CEO of NextAdvisor.com actually decided that one of his cards wasn't worth it when he was thinking about it before our interview. "I have this Bank of America card that I've had for ages," he explains, "But I haven't used it recently, and I realized that a lot of my points were expiring."
Larson believes that a lot of people might be in this situation with an old rewards card. However, it presents a conundrum: closing a credit card account causes your credit history to take a hit, because more established accounts create a longer credit history, which is attractive to potential lenders and other credit sources.
So what did he do? "I called them up," he says. After talking to the people at Bank of America, he was able to keep his current account while shifting the credit to a different card -- one that offered a much more robust rewards program. "From the perspective of a credit report, it looks exactly the same," he says. "The only thing that changed is the card in my wallet. They even let me transfer my points over and now they're worth twice as much as they were."
Same Company, Different Card, Big Rewards Gap
Eric Adamowsky of Credit Card Insider wasn't moved to rearrange his personal finances on the basis of our interview. He was far more straightforward about cards that just don't offer rewards worth having. He identified a branded card from a large big-box retailer as having pitiful rewards (1% cash back) when compared to its non-branded counterpart (5% cash back on rolling categories). "It doesn't even offer any branded perks," he says. "There are no incentives to even use it at that store."
Similarly, a popular travel rewards card offers big differences between standard membership and gold or platinum -- with a difference in annual fee of just $25. "The basic card only has 5,000 miles when you make your first purchase." Spend just $25 more on an annual fee, however, and you get twice as many miles after completing your first purchase. What's more, with the basic card, you're only getting barebones features: miles, yes, but no priority seating, free bags or access to the airport lounge.