Are You Carrying the Wrong Credit Card?

What’s in your wallet could be the wrong credit card. At least one in five credit card customers are carrying the wrong card, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. More than 20% of customers have a card that has fees or rewards not aligned with their actual purchase habits.

According to Jim Miller, senior director of banking at J.D. Power, people are carrying the wrong card for a variety of reasons, often because either their needs or financial situations have changed since they signed up for the card; they signed up for a rewards program they no longer use; or the card’s fees or rewards programs have changed and the card has become less attractive. Another reason is that they may have opened a new card because of a promotional offer, such as a balance transfer or bonus miles, but long term the card is not the best fit for their needs.

Rewards Programs

The study revealed that rewards programs are the primary reason for selecting a credit card, yet 20% of cardholders who have a rewards card would be better off having a different rewards card or a lower interest rate card without rewards. These card carriers are either not spending enough to earn rewards to offset their annual fee, are creditworthy but paying a high-interest rate or are not using the rewards and benefits.

Co-Branded Cards

Airline co-branded cards, which charge an annual fee of $75 or more, are popular. However, the study finds that 44% of airline cardholders  have the wrong card because they spend less than $500 per month on the card (the typical amount needed to earn enough rewards to cover the average annual fee). Or they haven’t used the airline benefits accrued in the past 12 months, or they have not redeemed rewards in the past 18 months.

Finding The Right Card

According to NerdWallet, an online financial resource, there are three general types of credit cards: cards that help you improve your credit when it’s limited or damaged; cards that save you money on interest; and, cards that earn rewards.

As NerdWallet points out, the best card for you is one with features designed to meet your specific needs. If you don’t travel much, for example, then the best travel card in the world isn’t going to do you a lot of good. How do you spend your money? Look for a card that delivers the highest rewards for the categories you spend the most on.

A card with an introductory 0% APR and ongoing low-interest could be a good match if you plan to use your credit card for emergencies, or if you have an irregular income and carry a balance from time to time. A balance transfer offer could help you pay off a high-interest debt interest-free.

If you want to build or rebuild credit, get a secured credit card, which generally requires a security deposit of $200 or more.