4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Chase Freedom card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Brand Loyalty Programs That Are Actually Worth Joining

These brand loyalty programs are worth the extra emails.

There are probably a lot of things that draw you to your favorite stores. The products, obviously, the sales and the friendly salespeople all might be part of it, but a seriously rocking loyalty or rewards program is probably not far behind. Whether a loyalty program is free or has a small fee, if the benefits are plenty, it can be worth all the extra mail and email you’ll likely receive — or even a small yearly charge. (If you tend to pay balances off in full and want to maximize your earning potential, you may want to consider a rewards credit card as well.)

Here are some of the best loyalty programs we’ve seen around.

1. CVS

If not all pharmacies are created equal, then not all pharmacy rewards programs are created equal either. CVS’ ExtraCare Rewards stands out, for starters, because it’s free. Customers earn 2% back in ExtraBuck Rewards every single time they use their ExtraCare card, and additional savings are easy to find through ExtraCare emails, the CVS Pharmacy app and the weekly ad or throughout the store. You can save paper by using the “send to card” option to send selected offers from online directly to your ExtraCare card rather than printing them off to bring to the store.

2. Barnes & Noble

Becoming a B&N member isn’t free — it’ll cost you $25 a year — but if you’re an avid reader, the fee will likely be worth it. For starters, new members receive $50 in bonus coupons for joining. (Use ‘em all and you’ve already made up your initiation fee!) Members also receive member-exclusive savings options, free express shipping online with no minimum purchase, plus 40% off the list prices of current hardcover bestsellers and 10% off the price of other eligible items.

3. PetSmart

Animal owners can join the PetSmart PetPerks rewards program to start saving more on their pet purchases. Membership is free, and members receive discounts on in-store purchases, as well as special coupons sent directly to them in the mail. For more ways to save on your furbabies, sign up for the brand’s auto-ship plan, which provides 20% off and free shipping on the first auto ship order, plus 5% off and free shipping every time after. (Some exclusions apply.)

4. Sephora

For product lovers, the Sephora Beauty Insider Program is a dream come true. Sign up for free on the Sephora site and every dollar you spend earns a point that can be put towards free beauty products. (The points you need to purchase certain products can be found online.) Members also get a birthday gift, access to free beauty classes, and for an extra $10/year members get access to flash two-day shipping on all online orders.

5. Bed Bath & Beyond

Home goods superstore BB&B doesn’t have a specific rewards program, per se, but creating a free account online and providing your home address at the store will supply you with endless coupon offers. The best part? The store usually accepts coupons even after they’ve expired — though you probably won’t need to bother since you’ll likely have a new one waiting for you in your mailbox or inbox by your next purchase, anyway.

6. Starbucks

Pricey as their drinks may be, Starbucks does have a smashing (and free) rewards program. Starbucks Rewards members earn two “stars” for every $1 spent with your registered card to put towards future drinks. There are four ways to enroll in the program (online, through the mobile app, directly from a retailer or through a business affiliate), and you can earn also stars by entering star codes found inside specially marked packaged of Starbucks products as well. Starbucks fans can find more ways to save on their daily cup of coffee (or two) here.

Remember, you don’t want the lure of rewards to lead you to overspend. High levels of debt can affect your bank account and credit score. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

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Credit Card Rewards More Than Doubled Since the Recession, New Study Shows

Credit card rewards have become increasingly lucrative, as credit card issuers battle for customers. From 100,000 point sign-on bonuses to 6% cash back offers, it has never been a better time to be a credit card customer.

These rewards come at a steep price for banks. To find out just how much the top banks are spending on lucrative credit card rewards, MagnifyMoney reviewed data from the six largest credit card issuers representing 67.6% of the market.

The rapid growth in credit card rewards are dramatic:

Rewards spending doubles

  • Since 2010, credit card rewards spending has more than doubled, from $10.6 billion to $22.6 billion.
    • In 2016, the largest credit card issuers spent $22.6 billion on rewards, compared to $10.6 billion in 2010.
    • In Q1 2017, credit card issuers spent $6.2 billion on rewards, compared to $5.1 billion in Q1 2016 — a 22% year-over-year growth rate.

The New King of Rewards Spend: Chase

  • Chase leads the pack. Beginning in 2016, Chase has led the pack in total rewards spending. Spending on credit card rewards at Chase grew 123% since 2010, and Chase now spends more money on rewards than longtime American Express. Although the headlines have focused on the success of the Chase Sapphire Reserve launch in mid-2016, Chase has been enhancing its entire rewards perks section since the Great Recession.
  • American Express fades. American Express, long the leader in rewards, had the smallest increase in rewards spending with a 36% growth during the period of 2010-2017. With the loss of their deal with wholesale retailer Costco, American Express is offering more lucrative rewards on all its other cards.
  • Citibank triples rewards spending. Citibank has the highest percentage increase in spending since 2010 (333%). Citi won the Costco deal and has also been busy launching its own rewards products, including Citi Double Cash (which can pay up to 2% cash back) and its suite of Thank You products.

Great News for Consumers — But What About Credit Card Issuers?

The best rewards credit cards have lucrative sign-on bonuses and rich ongoing rewards structures. But is this sustainable? And can the credit card companies make money?

MagnifyMoney conducted a national survey of people who opened credit cards in the last year. The results demonstrate that there is a method to the strategies being deployed by the largest issuers: it is a great way to create a loyal customer base.

  • 44.5% of the people surveyed said they opened their accounts because of a sign-on bonus.
  • But 85.4% of the people surveyed said that the ongoing features and benefits of the product were most important in their decision.
  • Only 6.7% of the people surveyed said that they planned to cancel or close a card that they opened in the last year.
  • Only 3.7% of people go from credit card offer to credit card offer for sign-up bonuses.

The results might seem counterintuitive.

However, former credit card executive and MagnifyMoney co-founder Nick Clements explains:

The purpose of a sign-on bonus is to encourage people to act. Most people do not wake up in the morning wanting to open a credit card — and a sign-on bonus is a way for a credit card company to encourage people to reconsider their options. It is no different from a sale in a traditional department store. But what really matters to consumers, as these results reveal, is the ongoing value proposition. People don’t particularly enjoy shopping for credit cards, and they tend to stay put once they do shift. The smartest credit card issuers are luring consumers with a big incentive (the sign-on bonus), and they are keeping them with strong ongoing value propositions.

Chase Sapphire Reserve was probably the most successful product launch in credit card history. And it worked because it hit every button. The massive sign-on bonus gave people a reason to apply for a card. But the ongoing reward proposition was perfectly designed for its target audience. Those customers are going to stick around and become long-term customers.

As our survey found, there are people who like to go from credit card offer to credit card offer. However, this is a small group (only 3.7%, according to the survey). And credit card companies are becoming much better at identifying and rejecting these consumers.

Methodology

Cost of Rewards

Cost of rewards is publicly disclosed by American Express, Discover, and Capital One. For the remaining issuers, MagnifyMoney estimated the cost of rewards. For the estimate:

  • Credit purchase volume is disclosed by the credit card companies. A simplifying 1.75% credit interchange rate was assumed to determine gross credit interchange.
  • Debit purchase volume was provided by the Nilson Report. Actual debit interchange rates were pulled from the Federal Reserve.
  • FDIC Call Reports for each institution were used to determine the net interchange rate across debit and credit.
  • The difference between gross interchange and net interchange was assumed to be the rewards spend.

Credit Card Usage Survey

MagnifyMoney hired Survata to perform a national online survey of 1,000 adults who opened a credit card in the last year (the screening question).

The post Credit Card Rewards More Than Doubled Since the Recession, New Study Shows appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Are Merging: What Their Credit Cardholders Need to Know

Bass-Pro-Shops-&-Cabela's

Whether your choice of outdoor activities involves a fishing pole and waders or sporting clays and shotgun shells, you may want to take note of this outdoor retailer news — Bass Pro Shops is set to acquire Cabela’s, according to a press release issued Monday.

This approximately $5.5 billion deal will merge Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine Group, a boating company that is part of Bass Pro Shops.

But don’t rush out to use your rewards or certificates just yet. For the most part, this buyout isn’t expected to affect how you shop or the rewards you get for doing so.

According to the merger announcement, “All Cabela’s CLUB points and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards points will be unaffected by the transactions and customers can continue to use their credit cards as they were prior to the transaction.” The press release also noted that the loyalty programs at both stores will remain the same, but said there is “potential over time to expand the program in the combined company.”

Part of the announcement included news that Bass Pro Shops is launching a credit card partnership with Capital One. An email from a Capital One spokesperson said “the Capital One transaction isn’t expected to close until the first half of 2017 and is subject to the concurrent closing of Bass Pro Shops’ acquisition of Cabela’s,” however.

The spokesperson also noted that “it’s business as usual for Cabela’s customers.” So, whether you’re looking to add some lures to your tackle box or get a new camo duck blind, you should have the experiences at both Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops that you’re accustomed to.

Getting a Store Credit Card

No matter what gear you need for your next outdoor adventure, it’s important to remember that applying for a store credit card is an important financial decision and shouldn’t be made lightly. If you are a frequent shopper at either (or both) of these stores, it’s a good idea to look at their reward offerings that accompany the card and see if it’s worth signing up for one, or if you could get better perks with a standard rewards credit card.

Either way, it’s a good idea to review your credit before applying for new plastic (you can see a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com) so you have an idea of the terms and conditions you’re eligible for.

At publishing time, Capital One products are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: Susan Washinski

The post Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Are Merging: What Their Credit Cardholders Need to Know appeared first on Credit.com.

Which Credit Card Is Dead Weight in Your Wallet?

Do you have too many credit cards? Perhaps you are having trouble managing all of your open accounts, or are unable to pay the annual fees for all the cards that you have. If you’ve decided that you don’t need some of your credit card accounts, then you should carefully consider which are the best ones to close.

Here are a few factors to consider.

1. Which Cards Have the Highest Annual Fees?

If annual fees are one of the reasons that you’ve decided to close some credit card accounts, then it only makes sense to start with the ones that have the highest. But instead of just closing the most expensive cards, consider how much value the card offers to you compared to its annual fee. For example, an airline frequent flyer card with a $95 annual fee might offer you benefits such as free checked bags that are worth much more to you than another card with a $49 annual fee that has very little additional value. In that case, you might be better off canceling the card with the $49 fee and paying the $95 fee.

2. Which Cards Do You Use the Least?

Another thing to consider is the rarely used cards, but keep in mind all of the ways you might use the card, not just how often you make charges. Some cards might offer valuable benefits, like car rental insurance or roadside assistance, that you use on occasion, even though you rarely make charges.

3. Which Cards Have Rewards That Are Forfeited When the Account is Closed?

With some credit cards, your rewards can only be redeemed if your account is open and in good standing, so the last thing you would want to do is to close one of those cards before redeeming your points. However, if you gain points and miles through loyalty programs offered by airlines, hotels or other partners, you can usually keep them. 

4. Which Cards Offer the Best Customer Service?

Beyond the terms and conditions of a credit card, many customers value the relationship and customer service they have with their card issuers. If you’ve had trouble with your card issuer’s customer service, then you might not wish to keep the account. But likewise, if you’ve been impressed with your interactions with the card issuer, you may reconsider before deciding to close an account.

Alternatives to Closing an Account

Before you close a credit card account or consolidate your debt, there are some alternatives to keep in mind. First, if the card has no annual fee, you might wish to keep your account open and just place the card in a proverbial, or actual sock drawer. Doing so could help keep your debt-to-credit utilization ratio lower. This ratio is the total amount of credit you have been extended, divided by the sum of all of your balances. For best credit scoring results, experts generally recommend keeping the amount of debt you owe below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your total available credit limits. So, if you’re carrying high balances on your other credit cards, closing one with a high credit limit could wind up hurting your credit. (You can see where you currently stand in this category by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.) 

You can also give the card issuer an opportunity to retain your business before closing your card. For example, many card issuers will offer to waive the annual fee or to give you a one-time credit for additional rewards in order to keep you as a customer. Finally, many card issuers will offer you a no-fee version of a card before closing your account. A no-fee version will have fewer rewards and benefits than the similar card with with an annual fee, but it may be a better alternative for some cardholders.

Having a credit card account is not a lifelong commitment and it’s inevitable that customers will close their accounts one day. But take some time to consider all of these factors to help make the right decision.

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Starbucks Is Raising Its Prices Today

starbucks_price_increase

You could pay more for your morning latte starting today. Or you could not. Thing is, if you get your morning caffeine fix at Starbucks, you won’t actually know if you’re paying more until you buy it.

The coffee purveyor is “planning a small price increase on select beverages” starting July 12, but the company isn’t saying exactly which beverages will cost more. A statement issued by the company on July 1 said some drinks will increase by 30 cents per beverage.

Some customers got an early taste of the price increase, according to a statement on the corporate website: “The price adjustment was prematurely entered into the point of sale systems in our U.S. company-operated stores. As a result, some customers were charged incorrectly. The maximum any customer could have been overcharged is 30 cents per beverage.”

(The company encouraged customers who believe they were overcharged to contact customer service at 1-800-782-7282.)

Of course, you can skip the price increase altogether by making your coffee at home. But, if you’re a member of the Starbucks rewards program, the price increase can mean more rewards. Earlier this year, Starbucks overhauled its popular rewards program so customers receive two reward stars per dollar spent in lieu of one star per transaction. The coffee company also started offering a prepaid rewards card along with Chase Bank. (You can check out our roundup of the best rewards credit cards here.)

While rewards programs can offer great perks for being a loyal customer, they can also entice people to overspend, consciously or not. Just remember, overspending and getting yourself into debt can have a significant impact on your credit scores. You can see how your debt is impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com. You can also use this tool to calculate your lifetime cost of debt.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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Can I Use My Company Credit Card to Earn Rewards?

use-company-card-for-rewards

Ever wonder if you can use your company or business credit card to rack up rewards? You may be able to, depending on the card you’re carrying and/or your company’s policy.

There are two types of business credit cards. The most common are small business credit cards issued by most major card issuers. The owner of the company is the primary cardholder and is responsible for the repayment of all charges. The other type is corporate cards, which are issued in the name of medium and large businesses, as well as government and nonprofit organizations.

Business Credit Cards

With small business credit cards, any rewards earned are retained by the business owner who is the primary account holder. Thankfully, many small business credit cards earn bonus rewards for common business purchases such as office supplies, telecommunications services and travel expenses.

Keep in mind, you will want to examine the rates and fees that a card has to ensure that you are not overspending to receive these rewards or other benefits. This is important any time you’re considering some new plastic, but even more so when shopping for a business credit card since they’re exempt from many CARD Act provisions. (Some do comply anyway.) You can find more information on the best business credit cards in America here.

Corporate Cards

A handful of major banks issue corporate credit and charge cards designed for medium and large organizations, and these rarely offer rewards. American Express does offer corporate charge cards that allow authorized cardholders to earn rewards, however. In particular, American Express Corporate Green and Gold Cards allow cardholders to earn points by paying a one-time $90 fee, while there is no fee for its Corporate Platinum and Centurion cards.

American Express points are generally worth about one cent each toward gift cards, merchandise and travel reservations. And these points can be transferred to 17 different airline programs. When miles are redeemed for expensive flights in business, first class or flights with little advance notice, it’s possible to realize several cents in value per mile.

American Express notes on its website that individual corporate cardholders can enroll in the rewards program, though companies do have the option of blocking enrollment — in which case you wouldn’t be able to sign up and earn rewards.

In fact, it’s a good idea generally to check with your employer before you try to cash any points you may have earned with a corporate card in. Some companies may have policies regarding whether or not employee cardholders can use these rewards.

Other Ways to Earn Rewards 

If you don’t have corporate card, you may still be able to earn rewards from company purchases. Many businesses give employees the option of charging expenses to their personal credit cards, which can work well when employees are able to pay each month’s statement balance in full and avoid interest charges. (Again, check with your employer about their specific policies around rewards earned on business expenses, so you don’t unwittingly violate any.)

Remember, business credit cards and even charge cards aren’t always totally separate from your personal credit. Their impact on your consumer credit rating depends on the card agreement. You can see how your credit card use, for business or personal expenses, is affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

At publishing time, American Express cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

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The post Can I Use My Company Credit Card to Earn Rewards? appeared first on Credit.com.

Can I Use My Company Credit Card to Earn Rewards?

use-company-card-for-rewards

Ever wonder if you can use your company or business credit card to rack up rewards? You may be able to, depending on the card you’re carrying and/or your company’s policy.

There are two types of business credit cards. The most common are small business credit cards issued by most major card issuers. The owner of the company is the primary cardholder and is responsible for the repayment of all charges. The other type is corporate cards, which are issued in the name of medium and large businesses, as well as government and nonprofit organizations.

Business Credit Cards

With small business credit cards, any rewards earned are retained by the business owner who is the primary account holder. Thankfully, many small business credit cards earn bonus rewards for common business purchases such as office supplies, telecommunications services and travel expenses.

Keep in mind, you will want to examine the rates and fees that a card has to ensure that you are not overspending to receive these rewards or other benefits. This is important any time you’re considering some new plastic, but even more so when shopping for a business credit card since they’re exempt from many CARD Act provisions. (Some do comply anyway.) You can find more information on the best business credit cards in America here.

Corporate Cards

A handful of major banks issue corporate credit and charge cards designed for medium and large organizations, and these rarely offer rewards. American Express does offer corporate charge cards that allow authorized cardholders to earn rewards, however. In particular, American Express Corporate Green and Gold Cards allow cardholders to earn points by paying a one-time $90 fee, while there is no fee for its Corporate Platinum and Centurion cards.

American Express points are generally worth about one cent each toward gift cards, merchandise and travel reservations. And these points can be transferred to 17 different airline programs. When miles are redeemed for expensive flights in business, first class or flights with little advance notice, it’s possible to realize several cents in value per mile.

American Express notes on its website that individual corporate cardholders can enroll in the rewards program, though companies do have the option of blocking enrollment — in which case you wouldn’t be able to sign up and earn rewards.

In fact, it’s a good idea generally to check with your employer before you try to cash any points you may have earned with a corporate card in. Some companies may have policies regarding whether or not employee cardholders can use these rewards.

Other Ways to Earn Rewards 

If you don’t have corporate card, you may still be able to earn rewards from company purchases. Many businesses give employees the option of charging expenses to their personal credit cards, which can work well when employees are able to pay each month’s statement balance in full and avoid interest charges. (Again, check with your employer about their specific policies around rewards earned on business expenses, so you don’t unwittingly violate any.)

Remember, business credit cards and even charge cards aren’t always totally separate from your personal credit. Their impact on your consumer credit rating depends on the card agreement. You can see how your credit card use, for business or personal expenses, is affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

At publishing time, American Express cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

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What Do Americans Hate Most About Their Credit Cards?

credit-card-annual-fee

Credit cardholders may love their rewards, but they aren’t enough to keep them switching to a new provider. That’s according to marketing firm Bug Insights, which recently surveyed 1,031 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older about their credit card habits to see what would drive them to switch.

Seventy-seven percent said they’re content with their primary card and 63% like the perks it provides. However, 64.36% rate their card’s annual fee as the factor that would push them to change their plastic. This was followed by rewards program at 13.15% and annual percentage rate, or APR, at 8.16%; only 1.55% said brand is important.

A large majority of customers (87%) would prefer a card stripped of all its rewards so long as its annual fee was nixed, the survey found. However, opinions tended to vary by age group and gender. For instance, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers said they were more concerned with rewards and the brand of their card, whereas women were more attuned to monthly costs and cared less about rewards.

Assessing an Annual Fee

Consumers may not like annual fees, but there are some instances where one could prove worthwhile. Frequent fliers, for instance, may be able to pocket enough miles or save via other perks (like a free checked bag) on travel to recoup, or even surpass, the charge. (You can learn more about the best airline miles credit cards in America here.)

For those whose spending habits don’t justify paying an annual fee, there are rewards card with no annual fee whatsoever.

And, if you do have an annual-fee credit card that’s no longer paying off, you could contact your issuer about having the charge waived or downgrading to one of their annual-fee-free products. (Remember, closing a credit card outright could wind up hurting your credit score, though there are times, too, when that step may be the best course of action.)

If you’re thinking of switching your card, it’s a good idea to know where your credit stands so you have some kind of idea what card you might qualify for. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

More on Credit Cards:

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My Credit Score Dropped 24 Points After Planning a Bachelorette Party

I’ve planned four bachelorette parties in the past five years (and attended five, including my own). I have the planning part down to a science. But this time around I had a little surprise — my credit score dropped 24 points when I checked it on my way home Sunday night.

Now, I should preface this with saying that the damage is temporary. It’s not fair to say the bachelorette party “wrecked my credit” since I’ve already remedied the cause of the credit score drop — my high credit utilization this month (more on how I fixed my credit later).

In my experience, planning bachelorette parties takes a lot of coordination, a lot of ridiculous party store supplies and a lot of PayPal/Venmo/Chase QuickPay account transfers. Most of the parties have been short weekend trips for groups ranging from six to 11 people, so it boils down to a few major expenses: house rental, transportation, an activity and a dinner out. The other things you end up buying— wine tastings, drinks at bars, lunches and breakfasts — tend to get paid for individually, without a joint tab.

The major expenses often require a point person, though — one credit card to rule them all. Even when you find a great house that can accommodate everyone at a very reasonable price, someone has to pull the trigger and put it on their credit card to reserve the space and, when you’re the one (or two) planning the trip, it tends to be you. Then, you collect the money from the other attendees and pay off your credit card immediately.

I’ve never minded doing this. After all, I write for a credit website, I’m very mindful of my credit, monitor my accounts daily, check my credit scores every month, and am constantly thinking about managing my money. For some people, this would be an understandable burden. After all, a house that can accommodate 11 women for a weekend isn’t cheap. If you’re already struggling to pay your balance in full every month with just your normal spending, it may not be the best move. After all, you could be short and then face interest charges.

The Hidden Benefit of Bachelorette Party Planning

There is a notable upside to putting all that spending on your credit cards and then immediately paying them off, though— the rewards. I made $500 off my credit cards last year and paid no interest charges or annual fees. This year, I’ve already made roughly $150, so I’m on pace to beat last year’s total. If you’re using the right credit card, you can really rake in the rewards on the group expenses of a bachelorette party. For example, I used my Chase Sapphire card (read a full review here) and got double points on our group’s lunch bill this weekend.

At the end of the weekend, I simply tallied up all the group expenses and gave everyone a per-person total they owed me. Everyone transferred me the money that day, easy breezy.

Why My Score Dropped 24 Points

So why did my credit score drop so much, exactly?

I had charged enough on my credit cards that I had a 20% credit utilization this month. That means I had enough charges on my credit cards that I had spent 20% of my combined credit card limits. One thing you should know about my spending habits is that I charge nearly everything to my credit cards and then pay them off in full every month— it’s how I make so much money from my credit card rewards. So the bachelorette expenses aren’t that whole 20%. But I normally spend around 10% of my limits, sometimes 12%, and this month the extra charges bumped me up to 20% for the first time in a very long time.

How I Fixed It

This is the easy part. I used the money the bachelorette party attendees paid me and immediately paid off two of my credit cards in full. That’s brought my total utilization down to about 7% right now. (You can see how your utilization is impacting your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.) I don’t plan to apply for any new credit this month, so a temporary credit score drop is something I can weather without issue. A healthy utilization rate is under 30%, but as you can see from my story, it’s even better to keep it under 10%. I have a good credit score, and still do after the slight ding, and I want to keep it that way.

At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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