As Credit Cards Enhance Rewards, Consumers Advised to Comparison Shop

Tuesday, July 25 at 09:15 AM
Category: Arvest News

Did you know 25 million credit card holders have held the same credit cards for at least a decade?

LOWELL, Ark. – Consumers routinely search for the best price or the best deal when making a long-term financial commitment – from automobiles to cable companies to phone carriers. They don’t, however, tend to comparison shop once they have committed to a credit card.

A report by* shows that some 25 million credit card holders have held the same card for at least a decade, and another 20 million have never switched to a different creditor. This, despite the emergence of rewards programs that offer consumers robust benefits. 

Among the most popular perks offered through reward programs are cash-back options and bonus rewards. When offered, cash-back and other reward options can put extra money in the pocket of cardholders. Cash-back benefits can be applied as a credit on a future statement or deposited electronically in the customer’s bank account. 

Some financial institutions offer bonus opportunities such as providing customers with as much as triple rewards during certain times throughout the year, when they spend a particular amount on their card or when they charge specified items such as groceries or gas. 

More than half of consumers who did switch to a new credit card made the change because of a better rewards program, according to a* survey from 2015.

A rare and competitive offering among a handful of institutions is a rewards program that touches every level of credit cards. From a classic card to the platinum level, a rewards program could be in place, though the rewards may vary.

In addition, card issuers are becoming increasingly competitive by eliminating various fees, such as annual rewards program fees and balance transfer fees, and increasing the amount of control cardholders have at their fingertips.

One factor that will always get the attention of cardholders is interest rates. An individual’s improved credit score could mean they are eligible for a lower rate on their credit card. That provides another option for saving money and another reason to evaluate and compare programs. 

The Federal Reserve anticipates additional increases in interest rates later this year. With that change, every percentage point and every rewards option could affect consumers’ wallets in one way or another.

The bottom line for consumers is that, with the emerging new benefits programs offered by credit card issuers and the expectation of a rising rate environment, comparison shopping for the best credit card for their particular needs is becoming more important than ever.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards, Financial Education

6 Ways to Get the Most from Your Credit Card

Tuesday, September 06 at 09:30 AM
Category: Personal Finance
Credit cards are a tool, and you need to know how to use them properly to get the most benefit from them and not accidently hammer your thumb, so to speak. 
  1. Pay on time. Paying your credit card account on time helps you avoid late fees and penalty interest rates applied to your account and also helps you maintain a good credit record. A good credit record leads to a higher credit score, which helps you qualify for lower interest rates. Know the date your payment is due. If your bill is due at an inconvenient time of the month -- for example, if it's due on the 10th and you get paid on the 15th -- contact your credit card company to see if they will change your billing cycle to fit your cash flow. You may also consider setting a calendar alert to remind you before your bill is due for payment.
  2. Stay below your credit limit. If you go over your credit limit on your card, your card issuer could charge a fee and increase your interest rate to a higher penalty rate. To avoid this, keep a record of your spending or check your balance online. Also, be aware that some merchants (for example, hotel and car rental companies) put a "hold" on your credit card based on their estimate of the amount you will charge. This can reduce your available credit until the final charge is processed. 
  3. Avoid unnecessary fees. Credit card companies not only charge late payment and over-the-limit fees but can also charge fees for cash advances, transferring balances, and returned payments. Some companies charge a fee when you pay your bill by phone. Pay attention to the transactions that trigger these fees. If you need a cash advance, withdraw enough so you don't have to take a second cash advance - -and incur a second fee -- later in the month. Read your credit card agreement to learn more about the fees your credit card company charges.
  4. Pay more than the minimum payment. If you can't pay your balance in full each month, try to pay as much of the total as you can. Over time, you'll pay less in interest charges, money that you will be able to spend on other things, and you'll pay off your balance sooner. 
  5. Watch for changes in the terms of your account. Credit card companies can change the terms and conditions of your account. They will send you advance notices about changes in fees, interest rates, billing, and other features. By reading these "change in terms" notices, you can decide whether you want to change the way you use the card. For example, if cash advance fees increase, you may decide to use a different card for cash advances. If you have a card with a variable rate or if you have an introductory rate that is ending, be aware that credit card companies are not required to send you a notice about raising your interest rate. Interest rates are listed on your monthly bill. Read your bill carefully and take note of any changes.
  6. Look for rewards. Many credit cards have a rewards program that allow you to earn rewards in various forms like cash back, statement credit and travel discounts.  
With the knowledge to use the credit card in your tool belt effectively, you’re now equipped to get the most from your spending. 

Information courtesy of Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Blog edited by Blog Admin 9/29/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards

Advantages and Responsibilities of Credit Card Use

Monday, August 08 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Credit cards offer many advantages. There is the convenience of being able to buy needed items now and the security of not having to carry cash. You also receive fraud protection and in some cases rewards for making purchases.

With these advantages also come responsibilities. You need to manage credit cards wisely by understanding all of the card's terms and conditions, staying on top of payments and realizing the true cost of purchases made with credit. Using a credit card is like taking out a loan. If you don't pay your card balance in full each month, you'll pay interest on that loan.

Choose Wisely
The best way to maximize the benefits of credit cards is to understand your financial lifestyle – your money needs and wants. Once you determine how you'll use a credit card, it's important to understand all of the card's features including:
  • Annual percentage rates (APRs) and whether rates are fixed or variable
  • Annual, late and over-limit fees
  • Credit limit on account
  • Grace periods before interest begins accruing
  • Rewards including cash back, statement credit and travel discounts
Understand Your Rights
Credit cardholders are entitled to protections:
  • Zero liability means you are not responsible for fraudulent charges when you report them promptly.
  • In some cases, you have the right to dispute purchases with merchants for unsatisfactory products or services.
Follow the 20-10 Rule
This general "rule of thumb" helps you understand how much credit you can afford. Credit cards are loans, so avoid borrowing more than 20 percent of your annual net income on all of your loans (not including a mortgage). Payments on those loans shouldn't exceed 10 percent of your monthly net income.

As you responsibly use credit cards, you’ll feel the advantages of this alternate payment method. 

Blog edited by Blog Admin on 9/29/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards

Choosing and Using Credit Card Rewards

Monday, December 07 at 10:10 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Credit card rewards programs can provide you with appealing offers for things such as points to be used for travel and shopping or cash added to your account. But finding great deals is only half of the equation. Also make sure you don’t miss out on other more important account features.

Before jumping into any rewards program, consider these tips for maximizing the potential benefits and minimizing mistakes.

Comparison shop different rewards programs, including their fees and other costs, before deciding to apply for one. One credit card might offer seemingly terrific rewards but also charges fees that may negate the rewards. So it's important to take a look at other products (such as a rewards card without an annual fee) and weigh the costs and benefits of each one.

Consider an Arvest Credit Card with Arvest Flex Rewards when doing your search. Apply online.
Choose a rewards program that fits your lifestyle. The best way to maximize benefits and avoid spending problems is to choose a program that rewards you for purchases or deposits you would make even without the gifts.

"You may want to think about rewards programs in terms of reaching your goals, because each one has different features," said Susan Boenau, chief of the FDIC's Consumer Affairs Section. "For example, if you are planning a vacation, then a credit card offering a lot of points for airfare and hotel costs may appeal to you. But if the card also has a high interest rate and you plan to carry a balance, you may find another credit card offering a lower interest rate may be a better deal overall."

Remember what it takes to earn rewards. Many credit cards provide rewards when you use them to make purchases, but it's important to know exactly how much you can earn. For example, a card issuer may offer 5 percent cash back on groceries, but the fine print may say that reward is available only on the first $1,000 spent each year. Likewise, while some banks offer sign-up bonuses for simply obtaining a card, others may require you to charge a certain amount of money to the card within the first few months. In addition, some card issuers offer specials that double or triple rewards for purchases in certain categories. 

While rewards can be beneficial, don't spend just to earn rewards. A recent Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago report noted that overall spending and debt accumulation may increase slightly among consumers who use a rewards credit card. 

Check your account regularly to make sure you receive your rewards. A mistake or a coding error by a merchant may result in you failing to receive the full rewards amount you're due.

Be wary of signing up for too many rewards programs. Some consumers take on many rewards cards, either because they see a reward that is too enticing to pass by, or they're trying to build as many rewards as possible. However, using several cards may sometimes reduce your rewards. For example, if your purchases are spread out among multiple cards, it may be difficult to accumulate enough purchases on one card to acquire rewards. Be sure to look strategically at the cards you have before making a decision to apply for another one.

Understand how you may lose access to rewards. Consumers focus on the potential rewards they may earn but can forget that it is possible to earn rewards and lose them. Here are some examples involving credit cards:
  • If a cardholder misses a payment on a monthly credit card bill, some card issuers will take back the rewards earned during that month
  • Some card issuers place expiration dates on using rewards, which may be an unpleasant surprise if you plan to save rewards over a period of time
  • Card issuers may require customers to spend a minimum amount on the card to continue to earn rewards or keep the rewards they've already earned
Also be aware card issuers may reserve the right to change the terms of their rewards programs or cancel the programs at any time.

Manage your credit cards. Any rewards you receive can become worthless if you allow fees or other penalties to pile up. So, try to pay your credit card bill on time and in full each month to avoid interest charges and late fees. 

Information courtesy of FDIC Consumer News.

Article edited by Blog Admin 1/4/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards, Financial Education

Keep Your Financial Sleigh on Course During Holiday Shopping

Monday, November 23 at 09:35 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Holiday shopping can easily get out of control when you have a long list of gifts to buy, and you’re easily enticed by the latest gadget, toy or trend in the store window. Review these tips to rein in your spending before your financial sleigh gets off course.

Set a budget. This basic principle often gets abandoned when you have the non-routine expenses of the holidays. BEFORE you begin shopping, decide how much you’re going to spend on each person. Don’t forget your co-workers, babysitter, housekeeper, lawn maintenance person, postal delivery worker, etc. Allocate some money for people you may have forgotten when making your list. 
Start early. When you keep your eyes out for gifts, even before the holidays, you give yourself time to find a good deal so you’re not pressured to overspend on a gift at the last minute. 
Take advantage of free shipping. Many online retailers offer free shipping during the holidays. Take advantage of this offer, and it’ll save you the cost of gas and parking associated with going to a brick and mortar store. 
Team up with a friend. If you find buy one get one free sales or discounts for buying in bulk, then team up with a friend to share the goods and the savings. 
Accumulate rewards. An indirect way to save money is to earn money! Consider opening an Arvest Credit Card with Arvest Flex Rewards which can be redeemed for travel, shopping and dining rewards. Apply online
Don’t indulge. Your child doesn’t need every toy he or she desires. Just because an item is on someone’s wish list doesn’t mean you have to buy it for them, especially if his or her list is long.
Personalize it. Buy basic gifts and then add a personal touch at home. For example, buy plain stationary and then use letter stamps to put the receiver’s initial on each card. The receiver will appreciate the personalized touch and your wallet will appreciate the money saved from not buying customized items. 
With some conscious planning and forethought, you’ll hear the sleigh bells and change in your pocket jingling as a reminder to enjoy the season by shopping within your means. Come January you’ll feel like you’re riding along in a wintery fairyland when you see a positive balance in your bank account.
Blog edited by Blog Admin 1/4/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Arvest Rewards, Budgeting, Credit Cards, Financial Education

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