Best Credit Card Perks and Bonuses

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated December 3, 2019

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best credit card perks
August 7, 2017

Simple. Thrifty. Living.


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If you are looking for a credit card, you should be searching for a card that will give you the best credit card perks and bonuses for your needs. It can be difficult to sift through all the best credit cards that are out there, so we did some of the leg work for you:

Credit cards are offerings some of the best perks and bonuses right now because there is so much competition in the marketplace. This is great news for the average consumer. If you use your credit card correctly and pay off your balance every month, you can actually make money from your credit cards, instead of going into credit card debt.

So what credit card perks and bonuses are the best? We start with the most outrageous perks and work our way down to help you find the best credit card perks and bonuses for you.

There are regular credit cards and then there are luxury credit cards, which are in a class of their own. If you are willing to pay the outrageous annual fees, which can top $2,500 although most stay around $500, you are entitled to some of the greatest credit card perks available today.

These perks include a credit card made out of stainless steel or gold, $100-$200 annual airline credits, 24-hour concierge service, financial and lifestyle manager, members-only gifts, airport lounge access, price assurance perks, exclusive travel credits, and VIP access to major sporting and concert events.

Not only do these cards offer great exclusive perks, but the also offer great standard credit card perks, like 2x the rewards on all purchases and bonus intros that can go as high as $1,000 in reward points.

Try these cards:

Cash back perks are the most common type of credit card perk. The credit cards basically offer you a percentage back on what you spend. So if you have a card that offers 2% cash back, when you spend $100, you get $2 back. These types of rewards seem pretty straight forward, but there are actually three different types of cash back perk categories that credit cards fall into now.

Cash back on specific categories: These credit cards offer up to 5% on certain categories (restaurants, gas, groceries, etc.), but those cards typically only offer 1% back on other purchases.

General cash back rewards: These credit cards will offer up to 2% on every purchase, meaning you are getting the most cash back no matter what you spend your money on.

Cash back when you pay: The newest of the cash back perks, these cards pay you a percentage, generally 1% when you make a purchase, and then 1% when you pay your credit card on time. This is a good incentive for credit card users who have a hard time remembering to pay their credit cards bills.

Try this card: Capital One(R) Premier Dining Rewards Credit Card

Many cards these days are offering a 0% intro APR, which basically means you pay no interest for a certain period after you first sign up for the credit card. This perk also has two different categories, although many cards offer the 0% intro APR perk for both categories.

Purchases: This is the most common and simple of the 0% intro APR perks, since it applied to any purchase you make within the initial period, which can range from 6 months to 21 months. If you are lucky enough to get approved for an 21 month card, you basically have an interest-free loan for almost two years, which is a great perk if you need to make a big purchase but don’t have the money right away. This way, you have 21 months to pay off your balance before you start accruing interest.

Balance Transfers: The balance transfer 0% intro APR works very similarly to the purchase version; you can make a balance transfer from another credit card to this credit card and pay no interest on that balance for 6 to 21 months, depending on the card’s terms. The only difference is that many cards that offer this balance transfer perk do charge a balance transfer fee, which can be up to 3% of the balance transferred, so even though you aren’t paying interest, you may have to pay to transfer the balance.

Try this card: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa(R) Credit Card

Credit card companies are competing for your business, and many of them are pulling out the big guns when it comes to the best credit card cash back bonuses. It used to be that credit cards would only offer you ongoing cash back perks for making purchases on your card. Now, credit cards are offering intro cash back bonuses to get some extra money in the pockets of their card users. There are two types of cash back bonuses you can get from your credit card.

Cash back for spending cash: Many are now offering up to $500 in cash back when you spend a certain amount in the first three months. The bonus offered usually affects the amount you have to spend. For a bonus such as $500, you might have to spend up to $3,000 to $5,000 in the first three months to get the bonus. If the bonus is only $100, you may only have to spend $500 on purchases. Either way, Take advantage of these perks to get some free money from your credit card.

Cash back match: A somewhat newer cash back bonus approach that some cards are now offering is a match of your cash back rewards. For example, if you earn $100 in cash back rewards in your first year, the credit card company will match that amount, basically giving you $100 in free cash.

There are two types of travel rewards credit cards, which makes for good options depending on what you are looking for. The original type of card was a branded card, used by a specific airline or hotel, that offered rewards for making purchases with that company. A new type of travel card is a general travel rewards credit card, which lets you earn and use your rewards more freely.

Branded travel rewards credit cards: These types of credit cards are specific to airlines or hotels who offer perks to those travelers that use their company often. These cards are good for people who live near an airport that is a hub for a specific airline, or who find themselves staying at the same hotel chain when they travel.

Branded travel rewards credit cards often offer higher cash back rates, up to 6x rewards, when you make purchases within that company. For example, if it’s a card for a specific airline, booking your plane tickets through the company’s website could net you up to 6x the travel points. The only downside is that it limits you to only flying one airline or staying in one hotel chain.

General travel rewards credit cards: This is where the general travel rewards credit cards come in. The cards offer up to 2x the rewards for purchases anywhere. Any time you use the card, you get 2x the points. This is better for people who don’t use a specific airline or look for the cheapest hotel price instead of being loyal to one brand. You use the points you accrue as statement credits for any travel costs on your credit card bill. Some cards even let you use your rewards points for things like Uber rides or public transit purchases.

Try this card: Hilton Honors(TM) Surpass(R) Card from American Express

Up until recently, students didn’t have many choices when it came to credit cards. Student credit cards were often marketed to students who were looking for financial freedom, and would take any credit card without checking out things like interest rates or annual fees.

Several years ago, though, the government started putting restrictions on student credit cards to cut down on the amount of student credit card debt that was happening. Since then, credit card companies are smarter about offering perks to students to set them apart from other student credit cards. Here are some of the best credit card perks banks are now offering students:

Cash back bonuses: Student cards are now offering both lump sum cash back intro bonuses, such as getting $25 if you spend $500 within the first 3 months, as well as cash back matching, where you get $1 for every $1 you spend during the first year, up to a limit.

Cash back perks: It used to be that the most a student could hope for was 1% cash back on purchases. Now, cards offer up to 5% cash back within certain categories, some which cater specifically to college students like

Higher credit limits: Since most college students have no credit history, credit limits on their credit cards are usually pretty low. Some cards are offering quick credit limit increases if you pay your bill on time for the first 5 to 12 months, depending on the card.

Education rewards: Some cards are even offering cash back for good grades. If you carry a 3.0 or higher for the school year, you can earn an extra $20.

If you have bad credit, your options to the best credit card perks are limited. Generally, credit cards for bad credit don’t offer any perks. In fact, usually, you have to make down payment to be approved for a secured credit card. Since the last recession, so many people are in need of secured credit cards to boost their credit rating that many credit card issuers are including some bad-credit specific rewards to help out people who have bad credit.

No deposit: Some secured credit cards are not requiring a deposit, so you can get a secured credit card without putting any money down, which is very unusual, but a good perk for those with bad credit.

Cash back rewards: You can actually get cash back rewards with a secured credit card now, which was unheard of even a couple of years ago. Generally, the cards offer 1% cash back on purchases, but some offer up to 2% cash back for purchases in specific categories.

Credit line increase: Instead of you having to be proactive and asking for credit line increases, some cards are now monitoring their secured credit cards monthly to look for potential for credit line increases on your card.

Credit reporting: One perk that you should make sure your secured credit card has no matter what is credit bureau reporting. Make sure your secured credit card reports to all three credit bureaus every month, so that you can start building some positive credit and start to raise your credit score.

Try this card: Credit One Bank(R) Visa(R) – No Deposit Required

If you have bad credit and you want to improve your credit score before applying for your credit card, you can either contest negative items on your credit report with the three credit bureaus, or you can check out some of the best credit repair companies to help you fix your reports and scores.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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