"The most important thing with rewards programs is not to let them distract you," says Brian Riley, research director for Bank Cards at TowerGroup, a financial services consulting firm.
With banks charging overdraft fees at an average of $29.58, according to Bankrate's 2009 Checking Study, just one slip up with your checking account could more than offset any of the rewards that you've accumulated with a rewards debit card.
So monitor your checking account spending, including checks, debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals, carefully.
Store card rewardsIn tough economic times, consumers are looking to save more and cut back on discretionary spending. And stores and merchants are doing everything they possibly can to encourage spending by rolling out some enticing rewards, perks and discounts on store credit cards.
With store cards, you often get an immediate 10 percent to 15 percent discount on the first purchase you make with the card.
The J. Crew store card offers a 10 percent discount on the first purchase you make with the card, and a $25 rewards card for every $500 in purchases that you make at J. Crew.
Card members also receive invitations to private sales, early access to select items and complimentary standard alterations. And like so many store cards, the J. Crew card has no annual fee.
With the Banana Republic card, you receive a 15 percent discount when you apply for the card, a 10 percent-off welcome card offer on your next purchase, a $15-off birthday offer, plus 500 rewards points for sharing your e-mail address with Banana Republic and free shipping on online orders of $100 or more.
You earn five rewards points for every dollar you spend on your Banana Republic store card. Spend $200 on your Banana Republic card and you'll earn 1,000 rewards points, enough for a $10 reward to be redeemed at Banana Republic.
What's not so rewarding about the Banana Republic card is the 21.9 annual percentage rate on purchases. To make this card a truly rewarding experience, you'll need to pay your balance in full every month.
You'll want to follow this pay-in-full rule on any rewards store card that you choose. Sky-high interest rates are the norm.
"They're probably the most dangerous cards out there if you're not good with credit," says Adam Jusko, founder of IndexCreditCards.com. "You really get up to some high numbers, 18, 19, 20, 24, 26 percent and that's the base rate."
So enjoy the perks and discounts of a store rewards card from your favorite store all you want -- just be sure to pay off that balance each month.
RevolutionCardLooking for a different kind of rewards program and a different kind of credit card? Consider the RevolutionCard.
The RevolutionCard credit card is the first PIN-based credit card in the U.S. The customer's name and account number do not appear on the card. When making a purchase with a RevolutionCard, you select the debit option at the point-of-sale and enter your PIN.
The RevolutionCard is accepted by thousands of merchants nationwide including Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Marshalls, Kohl's, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Walgreens, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, Publix and online retailers such as Buy.com and Shoebuy.com.
With a RevolutionCard, you receive discounts on your purchases at the time of the sale. Discounts vary from retailer to retailer.
How good are some of the rewards? Use your RevolutionCard to shop at Shoebuy.com, and you'll receive 15 percent off your purchase, plus free shipping.
Paying with a RevolutionCard also can save you a bit of money at the gas pump. When you pay with a RevolutionCard, you save 10 cents per gallon at the gas pump at Tom's stores, 9 cents per gallon at the gas pump at Buc-ees and 3 cents per gallon at the gas pump at Murphy USA and Murphy Express locations.
All discounts with a RevolutionCard are immediate at the time of purchase so there are no rewards points to collect or tally, making it one of the simplest rewards cards around.
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