Ready for the holidays? They’re on us, you know. Consumers are getting ready for Black Friday, golden turkey and red hot savings. But there’s more than a few great cards that will raise the ante in your shopping brilliance – if you know where to look, of course.
First up, though are a few truths. Identity thieves are coming out in droves. It’s the holidays for them, too. They are looking for any vulnerability that would allow them to take advantage of, steal your identity and enjoy holidays and gifts that didn’t cost them a dime. And odds are, they’re going to be successful more often than not. A few precautions will serve you and your shopping efforts well. But more on that a bit later into the piece.
The use of credit cards allows for more financial flexibility. They’re convenient and we are able to shop safer these days knowing we have fraud protection on most of our accounts. We’re also better able to take advantage of great savings if we’re a week away from receiving our Christmas club check. Indeed, the benefits are many. The trick is finding the best ones with the best APR, the better perks and benefits and fewer restrictions. Ideally, the absence of an annual fee is always a bonus, too.
First thing you should do before applying for any kind of credit is to request a copy of your credit report. Be sure it’s accurate, otherwise, you may find a disapproval awaiting you after submitting your application. If there are errors, you’ll want to get those cleared up first. That might mean holding off on seeking out new offers. Here’s why: if you do spot an error on your credit report, but are approved for a new credit card anyway, you’ll be paying higher interest. Even if you’re able to get the mistake corrected right away and see an improvement in your credit scores, you’re not going to be able to call the credit card company and say,
Hey – I had a mistake on my credit report when you checked my credit. I took care of it. Can you lower my APR now?
It doesn’t work that way. They’re not going to revisit the account, especially if it’s new. If you’re hoping for a lower APR, you need to get the mistakes cleaned up first.
Also, be sure you choose the right credit card for your needs. If you select a credit card that requires excellent credit and your score is less than 700, you’re defeating your purpose and all but guaranteeing a drop in your scores after it’s pulled. By the same token, choosing a credit card with rewards miles when you don’t fly also defeats your purpose. Cash back credit cards are always a sure thing – who doesn’t love cash, right? Review the terms and conditions – we stress this every time we review a credit card and it’s so important, especially now that new regulations have gone into effect.
We receive emails from consumers who have had their credit cards less than three months and who have just discovered a late payment results in a loss from of their intro APR. Most credit cards have specifications that any intro benefits will expire if a single payment is late. And there’s no way to back out of it if you’ve already used your credit card – and in some instances, once you activate the credit card, your only recourse is to not use the credit card. Again, that defeats the purpose though – why own a credit card if you’re not at least going to use it to keep your credit scores high?
So now that we’re right here with the holidays and we can almost smell the pumpkin pie, how do you know which credit cards are best for that holiday shopping? First, understand your shopping habits. It also helps to know what kind of gifts you’re wanting to buy this year. If they’re big ticket items, a charge card might not be your best choice since you’ll need to pay the balance in full by the time your next statement is generated.
Trends in Rewards
So just what are credit card companies offering these days? Here’s what we discovered –
In the past 14 months, the most sought after rewards cards are those that offer cash back, those that offer gift cards as an option and those that save consumers big money on airline tickets. 40% of consumers who own rewards cards say the simpler the rewards program, the better. They also want easy to understand terms and conditions, too. No frustrating guidelines for cashing in their rewards and no expiration dates are big bonuses. Here’s another reason why understanding your terms and conditions are important: 40% of rewards cards users say they are unaware of whether or not it costs anything to use them by way of fees.
Two of the most popular cards on the Credit Cards Lab site happen to be cash back bonus cards. One, Blue Cash Everyday from American Express allows users to earn rewards dollars and includes 1,000 bonus rewards dollars if you spend $1,000 during the first ninety days of card membership. Our second choice is the Chase Freedom credit card and it earns you $100 in cash back after spending just $500 in the first three months.
Blue Cash Everyday card allows you to earn 3% cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, 2% cash back on gasoline and select major department stores with 1% cash back on all other purchases. Not only that, but the first $6,000 of purchases at at your favorite grocery stores in a calendar year qualifies for 3% cash back followed up by 1% on anything over the $6,000 threshold. Your cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars, which are easily redeemed as a statement credits. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card is simple, easy to understand and no hoops to jump through. No worries about how much you’re earning in bonus categories since there are none – it’s across the board savings.
The Chase Freedom MasterCard offers a 0% intro APR for the first fifteen months on both your purchases and balance transfers, 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 spent at hotels and new 5% categories every 3 months – such as gas stations, restaurants and more. It’s free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter. Finally, you’ll enjoy unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases and an additional 10% cash back when you shop online at select merchants through the Chase website. No annual fee and no expiration on your rewards round out this find credit card offer.
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