Rewards Card Users Face Two Big Problems

Rachel Morey
May 19, 2017
Wrong Credit Card

Rewards card users open their credit card accounts with the best intentions. They look forward to cashing in on points, gift cards, miles, and even cash back offers. While it’s a lofty goal, many users fall short of their goal to get the most out of their rewards card account.

Credit card companies have been trying to get their rewards programs right for ages. Many studies show that consumers look for a credit card with a great rewards program. The good news is that the days of jumping through hoops with cash back rewards as a moving target may soon be over.

Credit card companies are responding to consumer demand by offering cards with more straightforward rewards programs. Tracking quarterly categories and deciphering complicated “points” programs don’t appeal to the type of customer that banks and credit card issuers want to reach, now. This is great news for people who are making mistakes when it comes to using their rewards cards.

Over 20% of customers are using a credit card that isn’t aligned with their spending habits, according to the 2016 J.D. Power Ratings. Between 30% and 50% of credit card users could find a card that more effectively meets their needs.

Customers choose a card primarily based on the rewards program, but 20% of those that participated in the survey would benefit more from a different rewards card.

Finding a rewards card with a program that’s easy to use is important for most people. Many of the new cash back programs offer a “set it and forget it” method of redemption where the user indicates that they want their rewards automatically applied to the balance on the credit card when it reaches a certain level.

Credit card users who have access to a rewards program either redeem their rewards frequently, or not all, according to a new Bankrate.com report.

Rewards don’t usually gain value if card owners don’t redeem them right away, so there’s no point in waiting. Yet, 31% of credit card holders with a rewards program have never redeemed their cash, gift cards, miles, and points.

Cash back rewards programs without rotating categories used to hover between 1% and a maximum of 1.5%, but new rewards programs with some banks and credit card issuers now reach 2.5% and higher. Since 2013, the different types of offers for cash back rewards cards have risen by 1/3. Credit cards offering points-based rewards systems have fallen by 1/3.

A recent CreditCards.com poll revealed that nearly 40% of credit card holders hadn’t changed cards in more than a decade. This probably means they aren’t looking for new offers.

People who are happy with their rewards card but don’t redeem the rewards they earn should make doing so a priority. It’s important to pay attention to the barriers when redeeming rewards. If complicated points systems or hard-to-redeem miles create redemption headaches, it’s time to look around for a new card, right away.

With so many new offers available, consumers are smart to shop around. While many prospective card holders may get drawn in by bonus offers of points and miles, a simple cashback card may be the smartest option. When weighing the benefits of a new rewards card, it’s important to consider the true cost of the card, including the annual fee. In many cases, the card issuer will waive the fee upon the customer’s request.

Choosing a card based on real-world spending habits as opposed to hopes and dreams will help consumers get the most out of their rewards cards.

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