Imagine this – It’s the middle of winter, but you’re at the beach. While your friends are home shoveling snow, you’re thousands of miles away in a tropical paradise. You’re able to enjoy this mid-winter vacation because of all the points you earned on your new travel rewards credit card. Sure, you had to use the credit card for just about every recent purchase to save up enough points and are now behind on your payments. And you weren’t able to travel on the dates you originally planned because of blackout days. And you didn’t realize the credit card came with a hefty annual fee. Those are all just minor details, right? It was totally worth it… right?
Think again. If you’re convinced that getting a rewards credit card, such as one that can be redeemed for travel points, is always worth it because of what you can earn, you’re sorely mistaken. Before you apply for such a card, it is crucial that you fully consider if it is truly worth it in the end.
Rewards cards may advertise a low APR (Annual Percentage Rate) interest rate, but you must follow the asterisks and read the small print. The APR may only be valid for an introductory period, and the rate afterward might surprise you. A 0% introductory APR is very tempting; however, that offer may lose its appeal when the regular APR varies in the high teens or low twenties. A low balance transfer interest rate may also be enticing, except it could come with a high balance transfer fee that negates all savings in the end.
Rewards cards may boast big sign-on bonuses, which also may have strings attached. You may have to make a certain number of purchases or charge a certain amount of money to the card before receiving your bonus. While this may not seem like a bad idea initially, it oftentimes ends up being a terrible one. Getting in the habit of charging multiple or large purchases on a credit card can get you into a sticky situation if you begin charging more than you are able to pay off right away. You will pay even more when your interest rate spikes after the introductory period.
Rewards credit cards may also have limitations on how and when you can use your rewards. You may have to book or purchase through a certain website, have a limited choice of airlines or hotels, or be faced with blackout days. Additionally, while it is sometimes waived the first year, you may have to pay an annual fee just for having the account open.
So, considering all this, “is it really worth it?” That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself, but you should do some significant research before signing up for a card that may cost you more than you earn in rewards.