Clark Howard: Do you have good credit? Then get rewarded

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardLooking for the best credit card in America? I’m still standing by a prior recommendation if you’re someone who pays your bill in full every month.

Consumers have been shedding credit card debt at an incredibly fast pace. I read in Barron’s that the outstanding balances at the nation’s biggest credit card issuers are down by 20 percent to 50 percent from their peaks three years ago. Sure, a small percent of us defaulted, but the larger majority of us paid down those balances.

Now the banks have credit card portfolios that aren’t as profitable. So for those with solid credit scores, you’re probably having your mailbox bombed with pre-approved offers for new credit.

My wife must have a better credit profile than me. It’s not unusual for her to get three pre-approved offers a day. All the offers she gets are back to the hysteria from a few years ago, with big type on the envelopes shouting about bonuses, points, miles or what have you.

If cash is king for you, Fidelity Investments still offers the best card in my book. (If you usually carry a balance, credit unions cards typically have lower interest rates than those from the big banks.)

The Fidelity Rewards American Express card pays two percent cash back, no games and no gimmicks. The money can either go into a 529 plan, a Roth IRA or the Fidelity equivalent of a checking account and it’s your money to spend.

Cards that have those teaser intro rates — where you can get 10 percent cash back (and then it says “for 90 days” in mice type) or where they constantly change the category of purchase that qualifies for cash back — are a joke. It’s like a part-time job figuring out how to best use them!

If you’re looking for simple, look at Fidelity.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at ClarkHoward.com. You can also listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on AM 750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB.

11 comments Add your comment

DW

June 9th, 2011
7:44 am

I was just looking at this stuff last night. The Fidelity Card is great except that you have to have the Fidelity account which means there are probably fees to go along with that OR minimum account balances. Unless you want to switch your brokerage account to Fidelity, youre probably better off with the Chase Freedom card that includes a $150 bonus when you make $500 in purchases within 90days and 1% back on all purchases and 5% back on revolving catagories (gas, food, etc).

ali

June 9th, 2011
7:49 am

Chase is awful…left them in the dust last year and never looked back. There is a reason why so many account holders left the bank in droves. I couldn’t imagine having a credit card with them.

DW

June 9th, 2011
8:07 am

ok WHY are they so awful Ali? You say “There is a reason why so many account holders left the bank in droves”. How do you explain them being at least in the top 4 Largest Banks in the world? JP Morgan Chase..

Pee Wee

June 9th, 2011
9:41 am

I somehow get the sneaking feeling that DW is somehow affiliated with Chase.

DW

June 9th, 2011
9:49 am

Im NOT but thank you. All my accounts are with Bank of America. I just applied for the chase credit card yesterday.

scooby-doo

June 9th, 2011
10:05 am

DW- Chase sounds like a good deal. How did you hear about it? Did they send you a promo offer in the mail or can anyone go to their website and sign up for the same deal?

DW

June 9th, 2011
10:17 am

@Scooby Bankrate.com – just search cash rewards cards and its at the top of the list.

scooby-doo

June 9th, 2011
10:44 am

Thanks DW. I forgot about Bankrate.com. Great website! The Chase deal looks nice. I might try it although we’ve got enough credit cards to make a deck. Like Clark says, for these kind of deals you’ve got to have excellent credit which is not a problem for me, but which actually becomes the problem because of the bombardment of offers you get in the mail. It can be hard to resist the attractive sign on bonuses and deals they offer to get you to use their credit card. It’s like a game you’re playing. On the other hand…an extra $150 is a no-brainer!

DW

June 9th, 2011
10:59 am

@Scooby EXACTLY.. I know just what u mean buddy.

Kar

June 10th, 2011
11:18 am

You’re going to have to rip out my USAA credit cards from my cold, dead hands. My brother kids that we basically sign over our paychecks to them but if are eligible, take advantage of using their services.

I have almost all of my insurances, mortgage, credit cards, etc. with them. Consistently rated best on customer service and just well, service.

redhousecat

June 12th, 2011
8:10 am

Yep, can’t beat USAA. They are much better than any big box corporate bank. I’m an advocate of credit unions and the likes. Corporate banks are ruining our country.