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What to look for in credit card specials

By Ben Woolsey

Credit card issuers often tout limited time offers on "special" rewards or low introductory APR credit card offers. These special offers often show up in your mailbox with tantalizing graphics, begging to be opened and examined. But, if you are like most Americans, you're somewhat jaded by all the credit card hype.

As with any type of marketing stimuli, a special credit card offer must keep upping the ante in order to register with the consumer's psyche. If you look back over the course of credit card marketing history, you can observe this phenomenon at work.

The first credit card promotions involved no annual fee. At the time, in the 1980s, this was a fairly radical concept in credit card marketing since a $20 annual fee was standard operating procedure. Then, there were the APR price wars. When the average annual percentage rate for credit cards was 18 percent, some innovative marketers began offering rates that went all the way down to 9.9 percent for six months. And, while this sounds modest compared to today's special promotional rates, it was wildly effective for its time.

Credit card videos

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So what qualifies as a credit card special in 2006? It depends on the way you use credit cards. Something truly special for a person in credit card debt up to their ears is very different from a special that is geared for a frequent flier searching for an airline rewards credit card incentive. In general, however, a credit card special must have some feature or limited time promotion incentives that are either not available to everyone or not considered a permanent feature of that card. Examples might be a rate or bonus incentive that can only be accessed by providing a special code or by applying before a certain date.

Listed below are examples of credit card specials in some of CreditCards.com card categories:

  • Low Interest: 0 percent for purchases and balance transfers for 12 full months
  • Cash Back: 5 percent cash back on grocery, drugstore and gasoline purchases
  • Rewards: $50 gift card earned upon first purchase

Is it worth chasing after credit card specials? That depends. Probably not, if you are not in need of a credit card and only apply to get the incentive. Getting a new credit card should be a thoughtful process, not undertaken lightly. That's because everything you do regarding credit affects your credit score, which is vital for long term financial well being.

If you are looking for a new credit card, you would be well advised to check out the best credit card specials currently available on our Credit Card Specials Web page.

Published: February 5, 2006


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