Everyone likes the odd perk in life and when it comes to choosing a credit card, you’d do well to consider the kind of rewards that would best suit you before taking the plunge and put in your application.  Savvy spenders will put a keen interest rate at the top of their credit card wish list but if, when you’ve taken your time to shop around, you’ve narrowed your preferred providers to three or four options, it’s worth considering what perks are on offer in each case.

Are you one of life’s travellers?

If you travel a lot on business or for pleasure, a card that gives you travel perks – either frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points - could be a good investment.  Some cards, including Chase Sapphire and Barclaycard Arrival Plus offer rewards programs that allocate a percentage of your total spending (usually around 2%-2.5%) in the form of dining and travel awards. Look closely at the terms of use as some insist you take a big discount when using the points for cash back rewards and there may also be restrictions on earning rewards: you might only get them if you spend on specific categories or redeem them at a named airline or hotel group.  These rewards are generally more generous the more you spend on travel – ideal if you’re on the road (or in the air) a lot but less compelling if you’re an occasional holidaymaker.

Is cash back a bigger draw?

If cash is king in your philosophy, it may be worth considering the benefits of a cash back card. In general, these types of card allow you to earn cash on any and all of your everyday spending – including groceries, utilities and holidays.  You should be able to find a cash back card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. Capital One’s Quicksilver® Cash Rewards card and the new Citi Double Cash card certainly bear closer inspection. The Quicksilver card offers 1.5% cash back on all spending and if you’re a new card member, you’ll qualify for a one-off $100 bonus, providing you spend $500 dollars on your card in the first three months. The Citi Double Cash offers 2% cash back on purchases – half when you make a purchase and the other 1% when you pay off your bill.  If you look around, you might dig out cash back cards with higher percentages but do be sure to read the small print as you may have to make purchases in qualifying categories that may swap and change a few times a year.

Prefer to keep your options open?

If you can’t decide which type of rewards would best suit you, it may be best to go for a flexible rewards card that gives you the freedom to spend your points on anything you like, with no commitment required till you’re ready to redeem them. In which case, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card would make a sensible choice.

Enjoy being entertained?

Some credit cards lead with special benefits on popular entertainment options. If you love live music, theatre or a regular trip to the movies, these perks can be well worth having. Fancy getting early bird access to presale tickets to events or concerts or want to make sure you book the best seats in the house? Look out for cards that provide these perks to interested card members.  Citi credit cards come with a Citi Private Pass that gives cardholders notification of presales opportunities for major events, while American Express pre-books seats at global events for the benefit of its Gold and Platinum cardholders, which makes easy work of securing tickets when you’re vacationing abroad.  Some cards also include free and discounted tickets to popular attractions which can amount to big savings if you’re travelling with your family. For instance, Bank of America’s Museums on Us scheme offers cardholders free weekend access to a variety of museums and cultural institutions across the US.

Love to shop?

OK, so all the big guns - Visa, MasterCard, and American Express - negotiate retail discounts for cardholders, and some give bonus points or free shipping for making credit card purchases via retail partners.  The main advantage of shopping with your credit card, though, is for the reassurance of the additional warranty and dispute protection. Many credit card providers will extend your original warranty free of charge – for instance, American Express cards add up to one year on warranties of five years or less. Most will also provide dispute resolution services if you feel you’ve been overcharged or if a bogus payment has been charged to your account as a result of fraudulent activity on your lost or stolen card.  You will have to try to resolve the problem with the merchant first. But your provider will step in if you fail to get satisfaction.

Regular perks you may have missed

Make sure you familiarise yourself with all the benefits of your credit card – they may add up to more than you think. Visa cards offer car rental insurance coverage, as do most MasterCard and AmEx cardholders, as long as you’re the primary renter and pay with that card – this alone could save you hundreds of dollars a week in extra charges.  Credit cards also offer coverage for lost and delayed airline luggage, trip cancellation expenditure and basic roadside assistance for vehicle breakdowns – all valuable perks if you travel a little or a lot. You might even be able to claim for items stolen from your hotel room, if you paid for your accommodation using an eligible card.

Make your card work for you

Before you choose a new credit card or make a purchase on an existing one, it pays to consider which perks offer you the best return. While no rewards will make up for rolling your balance across to the next month, they can be valuable if used responsibly.



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