116- Have You Done Your Annual Credit Card Review?
Updated: Jan 15
Today, given you are likely spending more time at home, I wanted to ask you if you have done your annual credit card review? Yes, just like having an annual physical exam or reviews of your insurance coverage and investments — you need to critically look at your credit cards at least once a year. This review can save you money and gain you significant potential rewards.
I will try to give you some hints on how to go about this and a tool to use to make the review easier. Before we begin you should know that over 25% of people changed credit cards within the last 36 months according to the latest survey from creditcards.com.
The FinancialVerse’s Thoughts on Credit Cards
From my posts, you should have learned that I don’t’ believe having debt is a bad thing. In fact, some forms of debt can be good for you like a mortgage. When it comes to credit cards, however, I think you should use them to make your life more convenient but that you should pay off all charges in full each month. If not, the rates of interest charged on the amount borrowed are astronomical given today’s low level of rates. You should not use credit cards to pay your normal monthly recurring expenses. However, we all know that this kind of discipline is not the case for most people.
Let’s start by taking a look at credit usage in the United States.
Credit Card Usage
According to the American Bankers Association’s fourth quarter 2019 Credit Card Market Monitor, updated in May 2020, there were 372 million open credit card accounts in the U.S. That number includes 194 million accounts held by super prime consumers, 101 million held by prime consumers and 77 million held by subprime consumers.
Credit cards are found in most Americans’ wallets. Multiple studies say about 7 in 10 Americans have at least one credit card. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta data released in August 2019, for example, found 75.5% of consumers had at least one credit card, defined as a card that allows the cardholder to make a purchase by borrowing funds that will be paid back to the credit card company later.
A key trend is that more and more Americans are going cash-free according to a fall 2019 survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Overall, cash payments dropped from 30% to 26% in the most current period, while credit card payments increased to 23% or up 2% over the prior period. This trend will likely continue to grow as we move to more contactless payments in light of COVID-19.
Americans also tend to hold a variety of different cards. According to a 2019 survey of 1,000 Americans by The Ascent, from the investing site The Motley Fool, almost 60% of Americans own a cash back credit card, just under 40% own a retail credit card, over 30% own a low-interest card and over 16% own an airline or other travel rewards card.
Perform Your Annual Credit Card Review Using a Credit Card Comparison Chart
It used to be pretty easy to complete an annual review of your credit cards but like everything else in life, times have changed. Today’s cards come with a variety of features, benefits, fees and interest rates. One of the easiest ways to analyze what you have is to compare your cards using a Credit Card Comparison Chart. There are a number of different examples of these charts available on the Internet. What these charts do is to compare key items from each card including:
Rewards available, including cash back, points, or airline miles
Annual interest percentage rates (APRs), including those for introductory periods, late and missed payments
Fees for having the card, balance transfers, cash advances and foreign currency transactions
Cardholder benefits including free checked luggage or use of airline clubs
Credit scores needed to secure the best terms – maybe your scores have increased in the past year allowing you to qualify for better terms. There are cards that are the best match for each credit profile ranging from people with excellent to bad credit.
Another important hack is that each year a number of the major financial websites perform in-depth analyses of the best credit cards for different personal financial profiles and needs. For example, on June 25, Wallethub.com presented its Best Credit Cards of 2020. I encourage you to review these posts as they can help you identify cards that could be a better deal for you.
Performing an annual credit card review can pay big dividends. Matching your cards to your lifestyle and financial goals is very important. Your credit cards are another important part of your financial life in the FinancialVerse, you need to make them work as hard as you do to meet your financial goals.
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