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reward credit card offers


  • pg 1
Do not settle for a standard card with standard benefits


December 28, 2008 thesundaytimes
retailer, say Ikea, it may be worth looking through different bank re­ wards catalogues and choosing a card that offers redemption VOUCh­ ers there. But I want to make special men­ tion of redeeming air miles. This is topical as a number of cards were launched earlier this year that of­ fered multiple points but restricted redemption.of these points only to air miles. Air miles, as a credit card reward, fell out of favour a few years ago with the advent of budget airlines. Cheaper flights meant that free flights redeemed with air miles be­ came less desirable. But higher fuel surcharges in re­ cent times have made the price dif­ ference between traditional and budget flights less stark. And peo­ ple have found they still prefer tra­ ditional flights for longer trips. I myself have found air miles par­ ticularly invaluable for booking flights at the last minute, when pric­ es are high in any case. Whatever your preferences, my point is SImply that you should spend some time looking at both the "input" and "output" sides of the equation. Don't just settle for the bog standard deaL Of course, there are many other principles to abide by to get the most out of your credit cards, It always pays to consolidate spending on one or two cards. With more points concentrated on one card, you can redeem a wider range of rewards. You also avoid paying unnecessary membershi'p fees on duplicate cards you don't need. Never roll oyer credit card debt to the next month unLess it is abso­ lutely necessary, because interest charges can add up, And keep a close eye on those payment dead­ lines to avoid fine' and charges. Any of this unnecessary expendi­ ture will easily outweigh any bene­ fit you might have earned from carefully husbanding your rewards and privlIeges. But most of all, use credit cards wisely, especially in an economic downturn like this. If you play your cards right, rou can make them work a lot harder for you.
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In the 10 )'ears that I have worked at th'is newspaper, the question I have been most often asked is: How do I choose a credit card? It may seem an inappropriate question these days when people are spending less, not more, in the face of recession. But people use credit cards in good times and bad. And when times are tough, they want to get
even more value·for·money from

the cards that they sign up for. Many people continue using the first card they signed up for when they started work, or the one their bank issued them free. But with the credit card market as intensely competitive as it is,
there is fC(llly no L'X(llS(' for settling for a standard card with \tandard

The problem, of COllr~c, i~ thai in Singapore, th('n.~ is () mind-bog­

gling array of cards to choose from - all toting their own long list of privileges and rewards. Huw doC's one cven start sifting through ,,'hat's on offer? The first thing I tell people is that 10 get the be,t deal, they need to start by looking at the cards that they are currl~ntly using. If yOLl are llsing a card that you signed up for mOTe than five years ago, you me probably 110 longer get­ ting the maximum benefit from it. lhat's I'mtly becaUSE: of the eeo­ nomks of lauilching a credit card in todav'.'i m;:ukl't. i\ new cMd is 0n­ Iy viable if there are enough sign-ups. And to "ntiee enough cus­ tom~rs to r~mp up the numbers, banks alwa)'s neeJ the best rewards and privileges for the card's launch. This is wh)' man)' newly launched cards come 'with btonefits

ancl discounts that quietly expire af­ ter a year or h,'O. Som~ custOnlt:rs noth:l' ,Jnd switch to ('ven neWl'r CilrcJs, bllt llI.ilnV othl'IS (lon'l and ke('p u,ing th,";' evc-n thuugh the value pmpo.\ilidn or tlll'.\v cards has fallen. Okay, so assuming you <lrc rcady to sign up for a O('W c:Hd {or ditch your old one), how do yOll aSSl'SS what's on offer? A key question ~'OU n('('d to ask yourself is whether you all' the t}'pe of custOJ1l~r who L.:an bother pla~r­ ing the (;reward~ gamel' That means k~C'ping tr(lck ot how many points ~'Oll have and what you Gill n,....~leem thl~m for. Some p~oph.· just have no pa­ tience for this. for them, the best option is to go for cards that offer "cashback" or l"ash rl'bates.

The L'oncept is \imple: The issu­ er gIves yOli a fraction of "'hi'lt ~'()tl

There an: many (CirJs no\\' that
give' you douhle or triple pOints,

spend back in (';I)h. So you usc: your card, and at the end of each month
or quarter, you get cl cheque. There' is, of course, a price to pay for such convenie.nce. The rebate rate is often very Jow and it's not uncommon to get several Lil1ll:~ what yOIl would get in lash back schenws if you opt for a ITIOH; tradi­ tional (ewaLds programme. So how do you get the b<.";t nul

of rewards programmes? . I like to think of it (to; an


tinll, with "inpue' at OIW ('nct and "output" at the other. '{ou \\'am to maximise hoth thl' "input", whidl refers to how much

v,,,hich simply lnrans ~'ou earn a re­ ward t\Vo or thrce times as quickly. A small numb"r of cards give you douhle poinls on all spending. But once you get to higher multi­ ples of poinh, tl1e card issuer tends LO limit either the store, that )'ou can earn extra points from or the type of rE:v..:ards ~'()U can claim. I usc a t:omhination of two cards to maximh<.' the "input" of my l..:C]uation. The Citi j1rl'rnil'r i'v(jks card is where I pul the bulk of my spend­ ing bccausl' it give~ me triple

This way, I reckon I'm earning poinls at least three times as fast as the aVl:rage card user. One of my friends, who puts all his corporate spending on his own credit card, is a classic case of some­ one who benefited dramatically from switching cards. After he switched to a card that gave him triple points, he re­ deemed a business class flight to London in just e.ght months. Oth­ erwise, it 'would have taken t'wo

The "output" .,ide of the equa­
tion js more straightforward.

CDs so oftell, I helVe a all Clear Platinum Visa, which givE'S me five times the points (..It all book and mu­ sic retailers here.
TIut becall:-.e I buy books and

you have to spend to earn the rc­ wards points, as well as the "out­ put", whkh is what sort of rewards )'VlI g€'t.

All good card issuers have top­ notch r('wards programm~s with long lists of items anti vouchers for \\!hicll yOLi can redeem using your points. If you often shop at a particular

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