For some time, we’ve known credit card companies have been in heated competition for your loyalty. Everything from lower APR, to waived annual fees to bonuses that are designed to impress, it’s all about bringing the American consumer back into the credit-fied world.
Unfortunately, the credit card industry has faced tough scrutiny when it comes to federal laws. These new laws and regulations have significantly limited the fees they can charge, which is good for Suzy Shopper, but in many ways, also ups the competition factor. It’s not realistic for the collective industry to keep dropping interest rates, so they’re devising clever ways to draw us in. It’s those perks that are the driving force these days and the sign on bonuses are the new focus.
Here’s where it gets slightly complicated for us – because the various credit card companies change their bonuses (read: one-up each other), providing current information for our readers can be challenging. One example has to do with an offer last week that spelled near-double rewards points; this week, that offer has changed slightly and the card company is now offering a nice cash back bonus for new customers. At any rate, the one thing that’s not changing is the commitment of all the card networks, even if each new bonus is better than one before.
Finding the Best Deals
One way we encourage our readers to stay on top of the ever-changing perks and benefits is to check our site often; the information is as current as what you’d find on the major credit card companies’ websites. We maintain a high alert level to ensure the information we give you is current. The cash back awards, airline mileage rewards bonuses and everything in between is what’s going to draw you in – your goal is to ensure the terms and conditions fit well with your needs and your own budgets.
How many times have you had lunch with your best friend and she’s gone on and on about her new colorist and why you have to make an appointment with her stylist? You may be one of those lucky souls who has the rare golden highlights year round, so naturally, the fact that she’s found the perfect hair colorist means nothing to you. If, however, she tells you that stylist gives the best cuts in town, that might be something you want to hear about. It’s the same thing with credit card offers: those bonus airline miles might sound great, but if you never fly or are afraid of flying, that offer isn’t the one best suited for your needs. Make sure, before you apply, the perks are worth it.
Do Your Homework
Sure, double cash back on your groceries is always impressive, but make sure you understand when that offer is good, when it expires and if it’s part of a rotating bonus category. If the double cash back is good for three months out of the year and you apply for that credit card in its final month, there’s a good chance you’re going to be waiting until next year to take advantage of that perk (not that there won’t be other cash back categories), but the primary reason for applying should be applicable by the time you’re approved and have activated your new card.
Same goes for intro APR rates. Most offer these intro rates for 12 months (or longer), but there are a few that offer the intro rates until a certain month and year, such as March, 2013. So, again, be sure the perk is still applicable.
No Annual Fee – This Year
One impressive perk that draws attention is a credit card that has no annual fee. Many have instituted a no annual fees ever dynamic, but it might be that it’s simply waived your first year. Make sure you’re OK with that and make sure the annual fee isn’t going to leave you feeling frustrated next year.
Check Your Credit
This is often the most over-looked tool by consumers. You can request and receive your credit report once a year from all three bureaus at no cost. It’s good to do a bit of housekeeping beforehand so that you’re not denied that great credit card offer because of an error on your history. And before you assume there are no errors on yours, you should know some estimate 12%, 15% or even 18% of American consumers have at least one error on their reports. Remember – that mistake, even if you’re approved for a credit card, could result in a higher APR.
Bottom line is the great competition between the credit cards for your loyalty sounds perfect, but make sure it fits your needs and your lifestyle.