The question “what’s in your wallet” should be more than a credit card company’s pitch line. It should be a credit card holder’s party line. I say that because two studies have just come to my attention that show there are vast differences between the fees charged and the benefits offered by today’s credit cards. To use another famous line by the classic group The Miracles “You better shop! shop arou-ou-ound.”
First I heard from the folks at CreditCards.com that some credit cards levy as many as twelve different fees while one card doesn’t charge any fees at all! The average is six fees, and, of course, the amount of those fees is another important factor in the equation. Read the website’s detailed report if you want a who’s who of which banks and credit unions seem to have the most consumer friendly deals —and which do not.
Then I saw some research by ConsumerWorld.org showing that a handful of credit card companies are dropping benefits that consumers have long counted on. For example, collision damage coverage, lost or delayed luggage compensation, travel insurance, and emergency roadside service. And while the Consumer World analysis only found four credit cards slashing their perks, it worries me because credit card companies have tended to be copycats in the past.
What to do? Actually read your credit card terms and conditions to make sure none of the fees charged are likely to impact you. (If they charge foreign transaction fees and you never travel abroad, why should you care?) And actually read those tissue-paper thin notices that come in the mail letting you know they’re “changing their rules” which always seems to be code for raising prices or reducing services.
If you’re no longer happy with the credit card you have, “shop, shop around.” There are dozens —maybe hundreds— of different credit cards on the market. Here are some resources to help you sort through them. Just know that they sometimes display their partner card companies’ offers first, so be sure to look beyond the first page:
Credit.com: Known for its in-depth articles about credit and credit cards to help you educate yourself before you buy.
CreditKarma.com: This site has a tool to search for credit cards according to the strength of your credit score.
LowCards.com: Need a low interest rate because you carry a balance? This is the place.
NerdWallet.com: Want to know how much your cash or rewards could be worth on an annual basis? This site does the math.