A rewards credit card gives users something extra for spending money they would have spent anyway. Competition among banks means there are many such cards to choose from. Of course, for something extra, the banks also expect something in return.
The types of rewards include points per dollar spent that can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, merchandise, gift cards and cash back. The cards vary in what they offer, and you should consider your habits when deciding on the right one. If you don’t travel often, for example, there is little point in getting a card that awards points toward miles on a particular airline. In addition, the value of award points can be deceiving: even if you do get 2 points per $1 spent on a certain credit card, you may need three times as many points for, say, a flight, than on a card that only awards one-for-one. The best way to understand what you get is through maths: calculate the worth of each point in dollar terms. And keep in mind that plenty of reward programs, particularly the ones that sound too good to be true, are actually betting that consumers will not redeem the rewards at all because of cumbersome restrictions they impose on redemption. Then there’s the fine print – on some cards, points will expire due to inactivity, for example.
Banks do consider rewards programs an added feature, so the annual fee and the purchase rate on a rewards card could both be higher than on a standard card. But with the variety of rewards programs and constant competition, there is probably a card that will suit you. Many cards listed in this table also offer sign-up bonus points, some offer programs that can be redeemed on any airline, and a few have added benefits for travellers, such as complimentary travel insurance. If there is something you are looking for in particular, the Smart Search tool can help you winnow your choices down.