Got the rewards points but no longer want the car? A new auto rebate program lets customers cash in — car or no car.

After five years of charging up their Driver’s Edge Options Cards, customers who decide they’d rather go to Paris than get new wheels can simply cash in their expiring rebates.

Cash it in

Driver’s Edge Options, the second auto rebate card launched by Citibank this year, allows customers to earn points toward the purchase or lease of any new vehicle for as many as five years. One percent of a cardholder’s purchases can be applied toward a rebate on a car from any manufacturer, up to a $500 rebate a year. The maximum rebate on the purchase or lease of a vehicle is $2,500.

Unlike other rebate programs, cardholders who decide against a car can simply cash in rebates. But not until they are ready to expire.

“As far as auto programs go, it’s the most flexible around,” said James Accomando, president of Fairfield, Conn.-based, Accomando Consulting.



Consider

the whole offer





But, when choosing an auto rebate card, consider what type of car will be bought or leased, when the purchase is likely to be made, and how much needs to be charged on the card to earn a substantial rewards points.

“A consumer needs to look at their purchasing behavior to decide which one they want,” said W. Christopher Staab, an associate at Westbury, N.Y.-based Auriemma Consulting.

People who do not pay off their credit card bills each month should also take note of the annual percentage rates on the cards. A sampling: The

Citibank Driver’s Edge cards and the GM Card come with an 18.9 annual percentage rate. The Mobalist Rewards Visa has a 9.99 APR. None of the cards carry annual fees.



The

GM card











The GM card, issued by

Household Credit Services is the richest. It boasts a 5 percent rebate, and cardholders can earn up to $500 a year in rebates for seven years toward the purchase or lease of new GM car or truck.

Rebate points pile up five times faster with the GM Card than with Citibank’s Driver’s Edge Options.

To earn a $500 rebate with the GM card, a cardholder needs to make $10,000 in purchases. With the Citibank Driver’s Edge Options card, a $500 rebate requires a whopping $50,000 in charges.

“If you know you want to get a GM car, get the GM card because the rewards are so much richer,” Staab said.



Mobalist





Rewards and autobytel.com







Online auto shoppers may want to check out the rebate program offered by

autobytel.com inc., which sells and leases new and used cars over the Internet through a network of more than 2,700 dealerships.

The Mobalist Rewards program allows customers to rack up as many rewards points as they can for as long as five years toward the purchase of a new or used car.

Rewards points can be earned in a couple of ways. Customers earn points when they shop at online merchants such as

barnesandnoble.com,

Uniglobe Travel, Everything Wireless,

1-800-FLOWERS,

Virtual Vineyards and

Transmedia Network Inc., which offers discounts at more than 7,000 restaurants.

Customers may also earn points with a Mobalist Rewards Visa. The card, which offers a 1 percent rebate, is issued by

First USA. Cardholders get the most bang for their bucks when they use their Mobalist Rewards Visa at the Mobalist Rewards merchants.

There is no cap on the rebate. But borrowers had better be ready to charge, especially if they don’t plan to shop at Mobalist Rewards merchants. Like Citibank’s Driver’s Edge Options card, the Mobalist Visa has a mere1 percent rebate and earning a $500 rebate means $50,000 in charges.



The Driver’s





Edge Charter Member card







A second credit card from Citibank, the Driver’s Edge Charter Member card, replaced the defunct Citibank Ford card in January, which was available only to former Citibank Ford cardholders. It is now open to everyone.

The Driver’s Edge Charter Member card allows cardholders to earn up to a $500 rebate a year, with a maximum rebate of $1,500 over three years from Citibank following the lease or purchase of any new vehicle. The card boasts a 2 percent rebate. To earn a $500 rebate, $25,000 worth of purchases would have to be charged to the card.

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