A year after the COVID crisis caused credit card issuers to cut deals, sweet introductory offers are back on the table. If you’re looking for cash rewards or want to burn a balance, there’s no need to stick with your old cards
You can maximize the rewards by using multiple cards and devoting each to their best causes. How many cards? Three or four at most. You don’t want so many that you lose sight of the bills; Forgetting just one payment can trigger enough penalties and interest to wipe out a year’s worth of rewards
And don’t even think about playing the rewards card game when you’re carrying a month-to-month balance. Chasing 2 percent cashback is a losing proposition when you’re paying 16 percent interest on past purchases. Instead, focus on getting your bankroll to zero. To get that out of the way, here are some appealing maps for different types of users. (Note that offers such as sign-up bonuses and balance transfers are subject to change.)
If you’re paying off your cards every month, use one that deserves rewards, says Sara Rathner, credit card specialist at personal finance site NerdWallet: “Otherwise you’re leaving money on the table.” One of her current favorites? The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6 percent cash rewards on groceries (up to $6,000 in annual spend), 3 percent on gas or transit, 6 percent on streaming services, and 1 percent on everything else. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. Receive a $350 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first six months.
For a unified approach, Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, recommends the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card, which has no annual fee, 2 percent refunds on all purchases, and offers a $200 bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
I’m not a big fan of travel award cards as their point systems can be confusing and awards can shift as the terms of the underlying airline or hotel programs change. “A cash-back card is often the better choice,” admits Schulz. But he does carry award cards for the hotels and airlines he uses most, in part to get priority boarding. A good travel rewards card will also offer fee-free currency conversions when shopping abroad.