Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are a million different ways to earn rewards.
With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. We’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program.
Is a rewards card right for you?
That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to run through to help you decide whether or not a rewards card is a good fit for you:
- You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll have access to.
- You aren’t carrying a credit card balance. If you’re already working on paying off a credit card balance, you might want to avoid opening a rewards card. Look for a balance transfer to a low rate card like this one, and get that balance paid off before you look at rewards.
- You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards card usually have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
- You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.
- You have control of your spending. For some people, a credit card encourage impulse-buying. If you think a rewards card will have you spending more money than you can pay back, then consider starting with a low-interest or pre-paid card to build good credit habits.
Now that you’ve determined you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.
Choosing the right card
There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences and credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.
Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense.
Use your cards for everything… But be smart
The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll rack up. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in the place of cash or your debit card on the things you already buy – gas, groceries, restaurants, pre-planned vacations.
Pay it off
Always make sure you’ll be able to pay the card off before the end of the month. Rewards card usually have high interest rates, and you can end up owing more money than you earn in rewards! Plus, late payments will hurt your credit score and limit your future loan options.
What if a rewards card isn’t for you?
Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re looking for a credit card for emergencies only, or trying to pay down existing debt.
If that’s the case, Sierra’s low-rate credit cards might be a good option for you. With some of the lowest interest rates in the country, no balance transfer fees, and low balance transfer rates, our credit cards are built to help you out.