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November 12th, 2004

The Best Credit Card Rewards

(Paul is fixing potholes on the streets of Chicago, so I’m covering for him today.)

There are so many credit cards that offer rewards these days that there’s no reason to have a “plain” credit card that only gives you a line of credit. Frequent flyer cards seem to be popular, as are “rewards points” programs offered by companies like Sony. But often, these cards have a level of complexity to them that one might not expect. Points and miles expire or have limitations, for instance. I’ve decided (and therefore it is law) that the best type of rewards card is the simplest: cash back.

Discover Card was the first to offer cash back. The problem is that they are still not accepted everywhere, plus their cash back is “up to 1%,” except during special promotions where you can get higher amounts for certain types of purchases. My Citibank Platinum card, though, offers a full 1% back on all purchases, plus even more on other types (5% back on groceries and gas, for instance). You get a check periodically, you deposit it, and you’re done. Easy. And you’re not getting any less—generally, the rewards offered on credit cards, no matter the type, come out to be equal to about a 1% return.

While there is a limit on the amount you can get back (I think it’s $300 a year), it’s still one of the easiest and most rewarding cards out there.

(Note that I didn’t discuss cards which donate your rewards to charity. Those are cool, too, and generally come out to about a 1% as well.)

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Posted in Consumer Commentary

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