Credit card rewards: when miles, points, and cashback are not created equal

As I have explained in previous posts, credit cards have a large variety of benefits over debit cards and other methods of payments, such as credit profile building, warranty extension, delayed payment, and emergency fund. Apart from APR’s, credit cards are more or less the same with respect to most benefits.  And of course, you should never carry a balance because a low credit card APR is still a ridiculously high interest rate. How, then, do you decide what credit cards to obtain?

Credit cards

Well, how about rewards, the most prominent feature of credit cards that are advertised these days on TV and newspapers, as well as brick-and-mortar banking locations? 1% cash back on every purchase. 5 points per dollar spent on honey. 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways flights. I’m sure you’re familiar with these commercials already. What’s confusing about these reward systems is that they use different types of currencies which are sometimes hard to evaluate. I will attempt to decipher the most common credit card currency types for you below.  Continue reading Credit card rewards: when miles, points, and cashback are not created equal

Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?

Many years ago, before I came to America, I was studying for the IELTS test. The IELTS is a test of English language skills that students coming from countries where English is not the official language have to go through if they want to study in an English-speaking country. For the listening portion of the test, exam-takers listen to an English conversation to answer questions related to the conversation. The conversation topics are sometimes specific to the country that administers the exam: either the UK or Australia.

One of the questions from the listening portion left me really confused at the time, so confused that I still remember it today. Actually the question was easy to answer; it was the content of the question that was not understandable to me. The conversation occurs in a store where the guest is asking whether the store accepts Discover or American Express, to which the waitress responds that they only accept Visa or Mastercard. I had never heard of these names before, and would not until years later when I actually set foot on a country where credit card use is the norm. My reaction at the time was something like: What? What’s American Express? A newspaper? OK, Mastercard is probably a card, but what about Visa? Is it the same sort of thing as a tourist visa?  Continue reading Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?