Don't Sleep On Credit Card Rewards Programs

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

In this clip from the Industry Focus podcast, Motley Fool analysts Dylan Lewis and Michael Douglass talk about finding the best credit card for you -- how long it takes to research, what some of the best rewards programs offer, how to take advantage of introductory bonuses, and more.

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A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Jan. 13, 2017.

Dylan Lewis: One of the other ones that we share is spending a little bit more time thinking about credit cards. I know that I charge probably about 90%-95% of my purchases. Are you similar? Or do you just have a lot of expenses that I put on credit cards?

Michael Douglass: The only thing I don't put on credit cards is rent, because we can't.

Lewis: If only.

Douglass: That's the dream, right there. But my place requires checks. But that's pretty much the only time we pull out the checkbook.

Lewis: Are you very conscious of the rewards you get with your credit cards? Or is it something you've given a lot of thought to before?

Douglass: It's something that I've thought about a little bit on and off. But this year, I committed to actually doing the math and figuring it out, and figuring out what I was getting. One of the nice things about it is that this is really a relatively low time cost thing. It's not the sort of thing that's an hour or three a month. It's really like two or three hours of focused research, and then just doing the math. In looking at it, it looks like my credit card is, if not the best one for me, very close to it. So, particularly given the benefits of keeping that card long term for showing credit history, it's the card I want to stick with for now.

Lewis: I briefly investigated this, and that was what caused me to prioritize it for 2017. I charge most of my stuff, and I have a no annual fee rewards card. That's fairly basic, fairly bare bones. I get about 1.8% back, which isn't bad, it's nothing to sneeze at. Because it's no annual fee, and because it's with a bank that I've used for such a long time, I really haven't thought about it much. I did a little hunting, and saw that really, there are a lot of cards out there that offer similar, if not better, rewards rates, and have pretty nice intro bonuses if you hit certain spending thresholds within the first three months. Those bonuses are generally to the tune of $400-$650 in travel credits. Some of them are directly usable as cash, some of them are bookable, it depends on the card and the terms, which is a whole other conversation.

Douglass: Your mileage may vary.

Lewis: What I basically realized was, with my current spending habits, it wouldn't be very difficult for me to hit those spending thresholds and enjoy a nice $400-$650 toward whatever vacation I want to take in the summer, and throughout the year, enjoy a higher rewards rate. Second year, of course, annual fees will kick in on some of those cards, and that plays into the calculation. But one of my priorities for this year is to look at that field of slightly more rewarding cards and see what makes the most sense for me.

Douglass: Totally. Those intro bonuses are exactly to entice you to move cards, so there is a serious benefit to it, particularly if they waive the annual fee for the first couple years.

Lewis: Which they are always happy to do for new customer acquisition.

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