Reward Credit Cards
There are many different reasons why people choose particular credit cards. Some may offer low standard rates or 0% introductory rates on balance transfers or purchases. Some are designed specifically for customers with low credit ratings and still others offer points-based rewards schemes that give customers different types of reward. The value of these rewards are based on the amount that the customer spends on their card during a given period of time.
What are reward credit cards?
Reward credit cards work in the same way as other credit cards. They can be used to make purchases in person or at a distance â€“ online, over the phone or by mail order. Most can also be used to obtain cash from cash machines in the form of cash advances or to make balance transfers. This is when you transfer the money that you owe on one credit card account to another, usually at a better rate of interest.
In addition, reward cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for rewards of various kinds. There are various different reward schemes available but most allow you to build up points depending on how much you spend on your card. These can then be redeemed for different rewards depending on your credit card and award scheme.
How do reward cards work?
Most rewards cards award you points for every Â£1 you spend. Some schemes will, however, award more points depending on where you use your card. Cards issued by the major supermarket chains, for example, may offer more points when you spend in their stores. When you have enough points, you can redeem them for vouchers that can be spent at participating retailers or used as discount vouchers at participating entertainment and retail outlets. Some may be put towards the cost of flights instead, in the form of Avios (formerly known as Air Miles) or schemes such as Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club. Points earned for existing loyalty schemes such as Nectar Points can usually be added to the customer's account and thereby pooled with points earned from other sources.
Multiple rewards card holders can choose to spread their spending across different cards, giving them access to different schemes, or they may choose to concentrate on a single scheme, allowing them to save for the more valuable rewards on offer.
Cash back cards are a special type of rewards card that give you a straight cash reward instead of points that can be redeemed for various rewards. The amount of cash you earn is usually a straight percentage of the amount you spend on the card in a given period of time. If you spend Â£100 on a card with a cash back rate of 2%, for example, you would earn Â£2 of cash back. This is usually paid into your credit card account, paid directly into a nominated bank account or paid by cheque on an annual basis.
Reward cards of all kinds usually only award points (or cash back or air miles) for purchases made on that credit card. Cash advances and balance transfers do not usually count towards points.
What are the benefits?
Using any kind of credit card can have certain benefits. These include:
Access to credit
A debit card draws from funds that you already have in your account. A credit card gives you access to a line of credit and so you can still use it even if you do not have funds in the bank. Most credit cards also have an interest-free period. As long as you pay your balance in full each month by the date shown on your statement, you will not have to pay any interest.
Paying by credit card is quick and easy and, with contactless payments becoming more popular, it looks set to become even more convenient.
Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act gives you certain protections if you make a purchase between Â£100 and Â£30,000 on a credit card. This allows you to claim money back from your credit card provider if, for example, goods you have ordered are faulty or do not turn up because the supplying company goes bust. Credit cards also have fraud protection so that as long as you take reasonable precautions (such as protecting your PIN) you will not usually be liable if your card is used fraudulently.
By using a rewards card you get all the same general benefits that you get from using any other type of credit card but you also get to earn rewards for making the same payments and purchases that you would usually make.
Are there any drawbacks?
Some rewards cards have comparatively higher interest rates than other credit cards. If you pay your balance in full every month this should not be too much of an issue but if you have an outstanding balance that incurs interest, the extra interest charged could outweigh the value of any rewards you earn. The value of cash back rewards are relatively simple to work out but the exact equivalent value of other types of reward can be trickier to work out.
Some rewards schemes may also be withdrawn if you fail to make at least your minimum payment for a given month. If this is the case you may lose any points that you had already built up. Even if you do not pay off your balance in full you should always ensure you make the minimum payment as this can also trigger fees and affect your credit rating. Setting up a Direct Debit to cover at least your minimum amount is a good way to make sure you never accidentally miss a payment.