The Bad News About Your Rewards Credit Card

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If you've noticed an increase in the number of promotional credit card offers arriving in your mailbox, there's a reason. Credit card companies are looking for new customers as the economy starts to improve and the credit crunch eases.

Around 80% of those offers were for reward credit cards. They promise you cash back incentives, airline miles and more. All you have to do is swipe a shiny new credit card.

However, it may be smart to reconsider using a rewards card when you pay.

Rewards credit cards typically have a much higher interest rate than credit cards without all the incentives to spend. When you find you cannot pay the balance every month, you'll soon notice that any rewards you're receiving are eliminated by interest payments.

You may feel like your rewards credit card helps you to earn money. But the truth is you're probably spending more. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago recently conducted a study concerning rewards credit cards. If you can't resist overspending, it would be wise to stick to cash.

The research revealed that a 1% cash rewards program gives the average user a $25 reward each month. However, swiping a rewards card also leads to an average monthly increase in spending of $68, and debt carried over on these cards averages an increase of $115 a month.

Researchers also say that those who use rewards cards are less likely to pay down existing debt since they are spending more money.

Realize that your points could expire before you can cash them in. Many people forget to use their points before they expire, or the expiration date arrives before they have enough to use on anything substantial. People with credit cards that reward users with airline miles often find there are many stipulations that make it impossible to fly on certain dates or to specific locations.

Credit card companies make most of their money when the consumer goes into debt. The study revealed that people with cash-back credit cards often spent more than average, which led to more debt.

People who use a rewards card should remember to read the fine print. There is most likely an annual fee and other charges connected to the card. If the rewards you are receiving are less than the fees you pay, you're only harming your personal finances.

There are some people who have found ways to take advantage of rewards credit cards. The key is making sure you are always able to pay the balance each month. If the temptation to spend is too much for you to resist, it might be smarter to stick to cash and personal checks.

Some rewards cards offer you the chance to invest the money you receive. Instead of getting money to spend, you're cash back incentives are directed to your brokerage account or IRA. These cards often offer higher returns as well.
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