Credit Card Points Reward Catalogs Reviews

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Comparing the best reward credit cards is easy. You review the percentage-back rewards on each category, compare it to your own spending, and decide based on which one will give you the greatest rewards. It’s a little harder to find out if the rewards you get are worth it, as fewer cards offer cash.

Over the next few days I’ll take a look at some of the catalogs of the most popular credit card companies. I’ll give you the lowdown on their products, where you can get the maximum value out of your points, and a closer look at how each system works so that you can decide on which card to use.

How to Review Reward Catalogs

Credit card rewards, or points systems, always favor the credit card issuer because they control the value of each “point.” It’s a lot like the Federal Reserve in the United States, they wield of lot of power because they can control how much money is in the money supply. Whereas the Federal Reserve does it by putting money into or taking money out of the supply, to affect interest rates, credit card companies can simply change the price of rewards in the catalog without you even knowing.

That’s not to say issuers are sneakily raising the prices and not telling you. With the Internet, if they were doing that then it would come out very quickly and it would be a PR nightmare. However, they can introduce new products at higher point prices and no one would have reason to complain.

The Poker Chip Syndrome

The real benefit of a rewards system over straight cashback is in what I call the poker chip syndrome. When you buy something with cash, you know exactly how much it is. When you buy something with points, it’s a little less clear. You tend to spend more because the price isn’t in hard currency.

Converting Rewards into Dollars

When you signed up for a rewards credit card, you probably did it because they offered a favorable rewards schedule right? Let’s take the Citi mtvU Platinum Select card, a card that I use. The Citi mtvU card offers me 5 rewards points for every dollar I spend on books, movies, music, and at restaurants.

In my mind, that’s a 5% reward. It’s not technically cashback but it’s still a 5% rewards card. It’s a 5% rewards card because I believe each Citi ThankYou Network point is worth a penny. When I go to look at the things I can get with points, I have to keep that in mind and buy things that are favorable to me on that conversion rate.

As we look at some of these networks, you’ll find that there are some networks where you can never get a penny per point value in any of their products. That’s the purpose behind these network reviews, to help you maximize the rewards and provide you with enough information, before you get a card, so that you don’t end up with reward points in a horrible system.

(Photo: Andres Rueda)

{ 9 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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9 Responses to “Credit Card Points Reward Catalogs Reviews”

  1. Julio says:

    I personally like the cash back cards, because it’s like getting an instant discount on all of your purchases. Points give you a reason to shop for things that you may otherwise not purchase and therefore not a true discount. Just ask yourself, if you did not have the points, would you go out of your way to purchase the items in that catalogue?

  2. zapeta says:

    I stick with cash back rewards cards that do actually pay me a set percentage, but I’m definitely interested to see what else is out there. If there are rewards networks that have things I’d use that I can get at a favorable rate then it might be worth exploring.

  3. PlanetG says:

    If you are like me you pay off your cc balance each month and having a cash back rewards card makes a lot of sense. I try to put everything on my card even my monthly utility bills. I set it up all on auto pay. No hassle, No interest charges,No annual fees. If you don’t pay off your balance each month then the credit card company is just giving you a very nominal chunk of change back compared to the double digit interest rate you are paying and… its your money they are giving you back. The CC company is making you a slave to a vicious consumer spending cycle and only YOU can end the cycle. The other side of this is the exchange or transfer rate the retailer is paying the CC company, 2% to 6% on each purchase. Retailers are complaining loudly to their Congressmen about regulating these charges and most likely, if they are successful, the consumer will end up making up the difference if these fees are regulated. Do yourself a favor. End the Cycle NOW! If you can’t afford it…. don’t buy it.

  4. Diasdiem says:

    I also prefer cash back programs. I can see where air miles programs can be useful if you travel a lot, which I don’t. But the thing about points programs is, as you say, the issuers control the value of the points. 5 points can can have any number of values, depending on what you trade it in for, but 5% of a dollar is still 5 cents, no matter what you spend it on.

  5. I’m so over cash back cards that start out great then change their policies so they aren’t worth much (ie Chase Freedom Card) and am trying to figure out if, between all the “points” cards, there’s much of a difference. I got a $50 gas card a few months ago and even tho it might not have been worth as much as my old cash back card in terms of percentage of what I spent, it was just as good as cash to me. I’d like to find a good “gas back” card, since I always need gas. Any suggestions?

    • Julio says:

      The cash back card that I started using after chase freedom took a dive was the PenFed Visa. 5% for gas, 2% for groceries (including Wal*Mart) and 1.25% on everything else. No caps, and the cash is credited each statement, so you don’t have to build up to a certain amount or request a check that may be lost in the mail. In addition they offer 5% on certain categories throughout the year. 5% for airline and 5% for back to school were the last two that I enjoyed. BTW: 5% for school included just about any purchase on Amazon, so I got 5% on my LCD TV. Can you say pay day!!

  6. @Julio & Others: Do you think the cash back PenFed Visa is really better than points cards? If I can convert points to gas money, ultimately it’s just how many dollars equals how many points? I miss the old chase freedom, it’s a shame they killed it.

  7. SavingEverything says:

    And, dont forget FIA (Bank of America) credit cards’ WorldPoints Program rewards.

  8. saveall says:

    I am not sure about points that I can earn by using cash back credit card. Does cash back credit cards do not give point? or i can get points amount I spend except amount of cash back I get?
    How can I check my credit points?

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