Monday, June 18, 2012

Top Rewards Cards

To win over customers, banks around the world have initiated rewards cards for acknowledging customer loyalty. Banks earn customers' trust and yearly APRs, and in turn, customers earn cash back or rewards on their purchases. The only downside to this phenomenon is the overwhelming wealth of rewards card options from which there is to choose. So if you’re in the market for a new rewards credit card but don't know where to begin, below is a brief overview of the highest-rated cash back rewards cards currently available.

Discover Card Cashback Bonus
The Discover Card Cashback Bonus card offers an extended 0% introductory APR period of 15 months (compared to the typical one year), which also includes 0% balance transfers. This card is an excellent choice for big ticket purchases, as you can pay them off interest free over 15 months.

Following the first 15 months, the 10.99%-20.99% APR (depending on credit score) is very reasonable. Unfortunately, at this point, balance transfer fees come at 3%, so if you plan to use this card for the aforementioned big ticket purchase, you’ll want to pay off your debt by this point.

In terms of cash back, the Discover Card Cashback Bonus offers a generous 5% cashback on annually rotating categories. The downside: once you’ve hit a Discover-designated amount in a category, your returns drop to 1%.

According to a recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara, the Discover Card Cashback Bonus is a great starter card. "It was great when I was learning financial independence," he said. "I tended to overspend when I was first getting my financial bearings, but the consequences were limited because I could only spend $1000 at a time with zero APR."

Blue Cash American Express
Though the exact introductory offers change every so often, the Blue Cash American Express card typically comes with a start-up bonus, such as $100 cash back with your $1000 in purchases over the first 3 months.

After 12 months, APR is raised to 17.24%-22.24%, which is high, but shouldn’t be a problem if you pay off your bills on time. The card offers 3% cash back on groceries, 2% on gas and department store purchases, and 1% on everything else. Unlike Discover’s cash back card, there is no limit to your cash rewards. While this may seem like a benefit, it's American Express’s way of pushing you to spend more.

The card allows you to redeem your rewards as statement credit, gift cards, or a variety of merchandise. The card also automatically enrolls you in the Blue Savings Program, which offers you discounts on restaurants, car rentals, hotels, cruises, and much more.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card
In addition to no annual fee, the Citi Thank You Preferred Card offers an introductory special of 25,000 bonus points (which equals $250 in gift cards) when you spend $2,000 during your first four months with the card.

The Citi ThankYou Preferred card works by allotting you 1 point for every dollar you spend. There is no limit to the points you can earn, and your points won't expire as long as you make one yearly purchase. The card allows you to earn extra points by signing up for an online account, opting for paperless billing, and shopping through their Bonus Center retailers, including Sears, The North Face, and Sephora. Every year, you will receive an anniversary bonus, which is calculated by your yearly ThankYou points. In the first year, you will earn 1% of your points, in the second, 2%, and so on. Like the Blue Cash, you can redeem your points as cash or as merchandise/travel expenses.

This is just a small sampling of some of the best rewards cards currently available. For a comprehensive overview of rewards credit cards and further rewards card comparisons, check out's rewards page.

About the Guest Author
Lynn Jackson blogs on a variety of financial and business-related topics. She wrote this particular post on behalf of

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Save Cash when Choosing a Credit Card Processing Company

As a small business owner, you understand the value of a dollar. Your business rises and falls on its profit margins. Anything that cuts into those margins – such as credit card processing fees – hurts your business.

Yet credit card processing fees are one of those areas that many small business owners just accept as a cost of doing business. They don't realize that they could be realizing significant savings by doing some shopping around and finding the company that best fits their business.

Here are some ways to save money when you’re choosing your credit card processing company:

  1. Start by identifying your transaction profile. One of the most important factors in getting the best deal on credit card processing is understanding what type of transactions you’re likely to have. Rates can vary significantly for a company that processes 10,000 credit card transactions a month versus a company that processes less than 100. In addition to volume, your average transaction amount will matter, as well. If most of your transactions are under $10, you need a different type of plan than the small business whose transactions average over $200.
  2. Identify how you'll accept credit card payments. A small business with a brick-and-mortar store that runs physical credit cards through a machine has different needs than a small online business that only uses web-based transactions. Some credit card processing companies have plans that are more geared toward businesses that swipe cards, while other processing companies are better for online transactions.
  3. Ask about all of the applicable rates and fees. Some credit card processors will only have a per-transaction fee that you’ll pay whenever someone buys something. Others will have a standard monthly fee, usually along with a reduced transaction fee. Here again, whether or not you’re going to physically be processing cards can have an impact on this; most of the time, a credit card processor will want to lease or sell you equipment in order to process your transactions.
  4. Check out the credit card processor's reviews and chargeback rates. In addition to the fees that a processor will charge you for transactions, you need to be aware of some other factors. Customer service is important, for example; after all, this company could be responsible for thousands of dollars of your business. You need a company with a decent reputation. Beyond that, however, some credit card processors seem to have a higher rate of chargebacks or account freezes. Make sure you do some legwork, and hear from some of the processor’s existing customers before you make a final decision.
  5. Make sure you understand all of the applicable laws and terms of your contract. There are a number of rules you need to follow when processing credit card transactions. Some have to do with security, some have to do with Visa or MasterCard policies, and others have to do with your credit card processor. Violating any of those terms or laws could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Don’t leave your business' well-being to chance by putting it in the hands of a credit card processing company that isn't right for you. Follow these tips to make sure you get the service that best fits your business' needs.

About the Guest Author
Emma Vasar is a finance expert whose passion for helping small business owners lead to the creation of You can learn more about choosing the best credit card processor here!