Clark Howard: Tailor rewards credit card to your spending

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

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

A new tally from Consumer Reports has named the nation’s top three cash-back credit cards.

The November 2012 issue of Consumer Reports lists Fidelity Rewards American Express as just about the best card out there. There’s no annual fee and you get 2 percent cash back when you link it with a Fidelity account.

This could be a good place to look if you’re a refugee from the defunct 2-percent-cash-back Charles Schwab credit card. 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.

Next on the Consumer Reports list is American Express Blue Cash Preferred. This card has an annual fee of $75, and it’s skewed to favor those who spend heavily on groceries and gas.

If you don’t want an AMEX, the third contender here is the Capital One Cash Rewards card, which effectively gives you 1.5 percent back on all purchases. And if you travel overseas, this card has no foreign currency transaction fee.

What’s missing from the Consumer Reports list is the very popular Starwood hotel chain American Express card.

Yet I love the idea of you having a short list like this to work from. You can earn up to $1,000 or more a year on credit card purchases if you’re a high-volume charger.

Of course, cash-back cards work best for those who always pay their bill off in full every month. If you tend to carry a balance, try a credit card from a credit union because they typically have lower interest rates.

Meanwhile, if you want to drill down to your specific spending pattern in your search for a cash-back card, try using CreditCardTuneUp.com. You put in your charge pattern and the website will pop up your best choices.

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website. And get more savings tips from Clark’s previous blog posts.

– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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