Credit cards can be used to make purchases that you can pay back over time. They also offer protections that aren’t available with cash. These include purchase protection, travel insurance and extended warranties.
Credit card offers can be found in prescreened ads or through direct mail. Many come with promotions that are limited in time and require spending thresholds. These can include sign-up bonuses and rewards points.
Sign-up bonuses are limited-time offers that credit card issuers use to attract new cardmembers. These offers can include cash back, points or free hotel nights. They are generally required to be spent within a certain period and may have additional restrictions.
The most common form of a credit card sign-up bonus is cash back, which is often applied to your account as a statement credit. Other rewards cards offer travel miles and points that can be redeemed for travel purchases or merchandise.
When choosing a card with a generous sign-up bonus, you must carefully evaluate the spending requirements and annual fees. If you are prone to overspending, you might end up carrying a balance with interest payments that can offset your initial reward earnings. In addition, some card issuers set limits on the number of cards that you can open in a short period. These limitations are designed to prevent credit card churning, where consumers open cards for the sake of earning the bonus and never plan to keep them.
Credit card rewards points can be redeemed for a variety of items, including merchandise and travel. Some cards also allow you to transfer them to loyalty programs of airlines or hotels. In this way, you can get a better value for your redemptions.
While the number of available redemption options varies by card issuer, most reward points have a value of about one cent each. However, this value can vary based on the type of item you redeem for. Travel-related items usually provide the best value.
Some cards also offer a fixed rate for all purchases or boosted rewards rates in specific categories, such as gas, grocery or travel. These rewards structures can help you choose a card that offers a value that matches your spending habits and goals. Many rewards cards also come with additional benefits, such as sign-up bonuses and cost-saving travel protections. Moreover, some credit card issuers may reward you for adding an authorized user or meeting certain spending thresholds.
Interest-free periods are an important feature of credit card offers. They allow you to make purchases now and pay later, and they can help you avoid paying interest if you repay the balance by the due date. However, it’s important to note that the period is only valid for a specific number of days. It’s also important to understand how your credit card company calculates interest, as this can vary from lender to lender.
ANZ, CommBank, and NAB are among the big four Australian banks that offer credit cards with interest-free introductory periods. They typically offer up to 55 days of interest-free purchases.
Despite this, it is still a good idea to plan your purchases carefully in order to get a longer interest-free period. For example, if you have two credit cards with different billing cycles, you can use them in combination to make purchases at the beginning or end of the interest-free period. However, you should be aware that the 0% APR offer doesn’t include cash payments and withdrawals.
There are a variety of credit card fees that can add up quickly. These include swipe fees (a fee charged to merchants for every use of a credit or debit card), assessment or service fees and markups from payment processors. These rates are often buried in the fine print.
The lion’s share of credit card transaction rates and fees is eaten up by swipe fees, or interchange fees. These fees are paid by merchants and flow through the card associations, such as Visa and MasterCard, to the cards’ issuing banks.
Rewards fees are another significant chunk of the pie. These fees are paid by the card issuers to fund their reward systems, which encourage consumers to use the cards. Other fees include return payment fees, which occur when your paying account is insufficient to cover a credit card balance, and foreign transaction fees, which vary by card issuer. These fees can range from 1% to 3%.