Why It’s Never Been More Crucial to Compare Rewards and Cashback Credit Cards

In these uncertain financial times, it can be tempting to consider opening a credit card account, especially one promising to make your money go a little further.

But while cashback and reward cards give you the chance to get a percentage of what you spend back, you really need to do your homework before applying. You can apply for a credit card in many ways: you can use a comparison site, apply online, by post, over the phone or at a bank or building society. Below, Sarah Henshaw of Must Compare discusses why caution is necessary.

Firstly, with economies struggling around the globe and many nations already in recession, you should think twice before applying for any credit card. This is especially true if your job or income is looking precarious, or you’re going to struggle covering your bills as a result of the current coronavirus crisis. Higher than usual interest rates mean these credit cards are generally best suited to customers who will pay the entire balance off in full every month. The moment you fall behind, the interest incurred on any remaining debt may start cancelling out the rewards you’ve earned. Plus, by dangling incentives to use your card, you’re more likely to ‘justify’ splurging on items you might otherwise have had the self-control to resist. If you’re trying to economise in this crisis, you’ll need to have the willpower to capitalise on cashback opportunities without falling into an over-spending trap.

Secondly, bear in mind that you’re cooped up at home right now, with limited access to high street shops. Although cashback on what you spend at the till might sound tantalising, if it’s not with a retailer you’d ordinarily visit, or you might not even be allowed to under lockdown rules, you’re going to be waiting a while before reaping the benefits. Online shopping, unlike groceries and travel, doesn’t generally yield the best perks on reward credit cards, so if your plan is to use it from your sofa make sure it’s fit for purpose first by looking at the small print.

If you’re trying to economise in this crisis, you’ll need to have the willpower to capitalise on cashback opportunities without falling into an over-spending trap.

When looking into getting a credit card, it is important to know the exact requirements needed to apply. Some card companies have been tightening their criteria due to COVID-19 and the new risks it poses, however many won’t announce any changes, so this will be another factor to look into.

If staying at home is giving you itchy feet, and you’re looking to stockpile travel points through your rewards credit card, bear in mind many hotels, airlines and cruise companies will be suffering at present. While this doesn’t mean they won’t bounce back once movement rules are lifted, it could see some adjust their frequent traveller programmes and loyalty schemes to ride out the worst of it. You don’t want to be stuck with a pile of points you can’t use! Especially with the new updates on what countries you can and can’t go to without self-isolating for 14 days when you return. Remember, too, that once you’ve accrued them some rewards will have an expiration date. Another thing to check out before applying.

As well as the type of rewards on offer and where you can accrue them, there are countless other factors to look at when comparing cashback credit cards. Some providers offer a sign-up bonus that can boost your rewards – while others might charge a sign-up fee, uncompetitive interest rates, or an upper limit on the amount of cashback you can earn, which could make attractive headline ‘deals’ look altogether less appealing once you’ve read the T&Cs. Some cashback and reward credit cards come with minimum spending quotas before you’re allowed to cash in your points, others have tough application criteria which, if you’re refused, could impact negatively on your credit score.

Additional support packages have been setup during this time of crisis, such as pay freezes on UK loans and credit cards, which aim to help people who are in debt and experiencing financial struggles due to COVID-19. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) have awarded those who have lost their jobs, or are receiving less income, with what they call ‘breathing spaces’ that allow them to request up to £500 overdraft for three months free of interest, or request a payment freeze. Make sure you keep up to date with these support offers as at the moment of writing this, customers have until the 31st October 2020 to apply. Many other sites have been covering the updates on financial help available, so it’s good to research your options.

There are many websites that you are able to use to compare cashback and reward credit cards. Most will show you a wide range of cards available, from ones that pay a flat rate of cashback, to those offering different rates depending on how much you spend or where you shop. By looking at a big sample you should be able to better identify the card thats best suited to your current spending habits or future needs.

It helps to have a goal in mind. Is there something that you are saving for? Selecting the right card for your goal can help you reach it quicker. Whether it is a 2021 luxury holiday that air miles can help you out with, or an all-out Christmas lunch with the family, you need to think about your goal and choose the best card for you.

If you’re still not sure whether reward and cashback credit cards are right for you, you can find more information about how they work, how to make the most of them and some common pitfalls online. You can also view information and advice on how to choose the right card and what to consider when applying in more detail. These cards can be a great way of making your money work harder but can equally turn into a real headache if they’re not used wisely. Always do the research first and you should reap the rewards as a result. If you are feeling financially worried or vulnerable, make sure you contact your card provider as they may be able to assist you.

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