Always pay off credit card? Pick a perk

Dollars & Sense

March 02, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

If you're the type of consumer who pays off your credit-card bill each month, are you also earning a perk from that credit card? You should be.

Some experts estimate that more than 700 credit cards offer perks - such as cash back, free gas or saving on a new car. Many do so without charging an annual fee.

Other cards reward your loyalty to an airline, a retailer or even a hotel chain. Newer perk cards even deposit rebate rewards into college savings plans.

It's mind-boggling to wade through all the cards and their perks, but a number of Web sites can help. Among the most helpful are www.bankrate.com and www.cardratings.com.

Bankrate.com's site lists about 80 reward or cash-back cards. Links to the issuing banks' sites are rare, if you want to see all the terms and conditions. Bankrate.com lists most of the important terms and conditions in a comment section, and a toll-free number is provided.

Cardratings.com has some advertising, but the sponsored cards are clearly marked. Beyond that, the site has more than 11,000 staff-written credit-card reviews, which are very helpful in pointing out the pros and cons of a card. To go directly to a search function, which will allow you to enter the type of card you're seeking and whether you are willing to accept any type of annual fee, go to www.cardratings.com/reviews.html.

There are some other sites. Some list only advertisers, but they could be helpful in gathering more information about a specific card. Other sites include www.cardweb.com, www.cardoffers.com, www.creditcardgoodies.com, www.creditcardcatalog.com, www.credit-land.com, www.expertcredit.com and www.creditcardmall.com.

If you're a frequent traveler or you frequent a certain retail merchant, it might make sense for you to get a card that gives you a rebate for merchandise, said Curtis Arnold, founder of www.cardratings.com.

"But if you're just doing everyday spending in a variety of places and you're looking for a rebate that's flexible, then for most consumers, the cash-back cards make the most sense," he said.

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