Make us your home page

Credit card issuers making rewards harder to get

NEW YORK — Just as interest in cashing in credit card points for an iPod or airline tickets is likely to ratchet up, banks that issue cards are making it harder to redeem those points.

"They're certainly raising the bar on redemption thresholds and return rates," said Jonathan Silver, chief executive of Affinity Solutions Inc., a New York company that develops and manages rewards programs. The weak economy is pressuring card issuers, and one way to reduce costs is to increase the number of points needed to redeem rewards, he said.

There are steps consumers can take to maximize rewards, but advocates warn rewards should not be the focus for those who carry debt on their credit cards.

"People that don't pay off their balance every month really want the lowest interest rate and the lowest fees," said Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Whether you're looking for a new card or trying to take advantage of the rewards programs on your existing cards, there are steps to maximize the returns:

• Check the fine print of the rules, said Ben Woolsey of Some cards come with limits on the number of points, amount of merchandise or how much cash back a holder can get each year, he said.

• Some cards offer more points or a higher percentage of cash back for certain types of purchases, like gas or groceries. Others offer incentives for buying certain things at specific times of the year, like home-improvement shopping in the spring.

• Points on some cards expire after set periods of time, so make sure you know expiration dates.

• Making late payments or going over your credit limit could result in a freeze on a rewards program until your account is current.

• Choose a card with no annual fee. Some fees begin after the account has been open for a year.

Credit card issuers making rewards harder to get 01/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  2. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  3. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  4. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]