Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dad tip #53: Ask yourself if your credit card rewards are really that good


My wife and I were talking about switching to a different credit card. Why? Because our current credit cards don't particularly have great rewards. Call us narrow-minded, but because we don't travel that much and because "points" in non-travel programs are frequently mysterious, we only really care about cash back.

We've got a baby, we're rockin' BJ's on a regular basis, gas is like $8 billion a gallon, and we're buying tons of groceries. Cash back could be relatively worthwhile. BUT, what I discovered is that there are cards that have yearly limits on how much cash back you can claim. There are also cards that don't give rewards for purchases at discount warehouse stores like BJ's. And there are cards that don't give you higher rewards (2%+ versus the usual 1%) on everyday purchases like groceries and gas.

With gas clearing $4/gallon, you could really be making a killing. With a 5% cash back reward, that makes it seem like only $3.80/gallon. Hey, that adds up if you figure you could save up to $0.20/gallon. For a car with a ten gallon tank, that's $2.00 each time you fill it up. And if you're doing that weekly, that could be $104 in yearly savings!

But that's neither here nor there, because we still haven't made a final decision. Bankrate does a killer job of breaking down all the similar cash back credit cards. It's worth thinking about with a baby because that could be $104 into a 529 account ... but that's a topic for another day.

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