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Credit cards are valuable tools offering many benefits besides the ability to finance purchases. The best credit cards offer a wide variety of perks and benefits that might include earning rewards, gaining airport lounge access and providing protection against unauthorized charges.
Of course, credit cards also come with additional upsides. For example, credit cards give you added purchasing power, the ability to build credit and access to emergency funds in a pinch.
Let's go over some of the best credit card benefits of 2023, such as rewards, welcome bonuses, interest-free introductory offers and other perks that can make owning a credit card worthwhile.
1. The Ability to Earn Rewards
One of the most important benefits any credit card can offer is the ability to earn rewards. Credit card rewards can earn you money on online purchases, travel expenses, purchases at the gas pump and more.
Credit card rewards typically come in one of three forms: cash back, points or miles. Depending on which card you have, you'll usually only earn one type of reward.
- Cash back: If you're interested in using your rewards to help pay off bills, you might want to stick to a card that earns cash back. With cash back, you earn a certain percentage back on your purchases, which you can then redeem against charges on your statement or receive as a deposit into your bank account, among other options.
- Points: Certain issuers, including American Express, Chase and Capital One, operate their own proprietary points programs with rewards you can earn by using their credit cards. Depending on the particular credit card you carry, you might be able to redeem your credit card rewards for statement credits you use to pay your bill or for specific types of purchases such as travel; you may even be able to transfer them to airline and hotel partners.
- Miles: Finally, you might pick up a credit card that earns miles which can be redeemed for purchases with a specific airline or hotel chain. Some cards earn miles that can be used just like points.
Just as there are multiple ways to earn credit card rewards, you also have several options when it comes to redeeming those rewards.
You can usually redeem cash back rewards as a statement credit, check or direct deposit to an eligible bank account. The redemption value of cash back rewards is generally pretty simple: $1 in rewards is equal to $1 in cash back.
If your card earns points or miles, how you redeem rewards could vary depending on your card and its rewards program guidelines. For example, you may be able to redeem your points or miles for travel benefits, statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards, merchandise and more.
2. Intro Bonus Offers
The other great way to rake in lots of extra rewards is to apply for a credit card with a generous introductory bonus.
Intro bonuses, also known as welcome bonuses, offer a windfall of points, miles or cash you can earn by opening a new account and reaching a certain spending requirement. These bonuses can include anything from thousands of airline miles or hotel points to put toward travel to hundreds of dollars in cash back. In general, welcome bonuses are a great way to earn a lot of points or miles when you first get your new credit card.
Credit card companies offer intro bonuses to entice you to sign up for their credit card. For example, you may see introductory bonus offers of $200 cash back or 60,000 bonus points when you spend a certain amount on the card within the first few months.
It's also good practice to check the terms and conditions for the bonus offers on any card you're thinking about getting since some cards restrict who can earn a bonus, especially if you've had the card before.
As examples, here are some bonus restrictions from three popular card issuers:
- American Express: American Express allows you to earn their intro bonus on any specific card once per lifetime.
- Chase: Chase imposes what's known as the Chase 5/24 rule, which prevents your approval for a new Chase credit card if you've opened five credit card accounts within the past 24 months—which includes cards from other card issuers.
- Bank of America: Bank of America institutes a 24-month rule on their credit cards, which means that once you're approved for a Bank of America credit card, you cannot get the same one again within 24 months. The bank's 2/3/4 rule also limits the number of Bank of America credit cards you can be approved for over a two-, 12- and 24-month period to two, three and four, respectively.
3. Introductory 0% APR Financing
One of the most significant benefits of credit cards is 0% intro APR financing, which allows you to make charges on the card for a period of time without accruing interest. You still owe the money you borrow, but you don't incur added interest until the intro APR period expires, often in nine to 21 months. Keep in mind, you must pay off your balance before the introductory period ends to completely avoid paying interest.
Some cards offer 0% intro APR financing on any purchases you make. You may want to use a 0% intro offer if you were planning to make a large purchase, such as a new couch or plane tickets, or you're facing a large unexpected expense, such as replacing an expensive home appliance. The introductory period can make your purchase more affordable by allowing you to stretch out interest-free payments over several months rather than all at once.
If you're looking to pay off debt faster and save money at the same time, you might consider getting a balance transfer credit card. As the name suggests, these cards let you transfer debts from other accounts. Once transferred, cards with a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers allow you to pay off your balance interest-free, as long as you pay it off before the intro period ends. This interest savings can be a great way to save money in the long run. Before you sign up for a balance transfer card, check out the card's terms and fees. Generally, you must pay a balance transfer fee, which typically ranges from 3% to 5% of the balance.
4. Annual Statement Credits
Another fantastic credit card benefit to look out for is annual statement credits that can save you money on specific purchases. Often, the best credit cards with benefits like annual statement credits come with high annual fees. These credits can help offset the annual fees.
Statement credits come in various forms, namely:
- Travel credits: Many cards offer annual statement credits as travel perks or reimbursements. For example, you may receive credit for delivery orders and rides and or credit for TSA Precheck.
- Dining credits: Card issuers that provide dining benefits may partner with certain eateries or delivery services to provide a certain amount of money you can use per month or per year on meals.
- Streaming credits: With the right card, you could earn annual statement credits while binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix or creating your super-fab playlist on Spotify.
5. Zero Liability Protection
Sadly, it's possible that your credit card could be used fraudulently by someone who steals the number or the physical card.
Under The Fair Credit Billing Act, you are not responsible for any charges made to your credit card if they occur after you report it lost or stolen. And your liability is capped at $50 in case you report your card lost after fraudulent charges appear on your account.
However, many credit cards provide zero liability protection against fraudulent charges. Zero liability protection is a policy from your cardholder agreement that pledges you won't be financially responsible for unauthorized charges at all.
How to Choose the Best Credit Card for You
If you're thinking about adding a new credit card to your wallet, consider getting a card with benefits that align well with your needs and lifestyle. Whether you're earning valuable cash back rewards or bonuses, saving money with a card that has an introductory 0% APR period or snagging annual statement credits on specific expenses, you may find valuable credit card benefits that make sense for you.
As you're looking at different credit card options, use a tool like Experian CreditMatch™ to gain a clearer picture of which cards you may qualify for based on your credit profile. Quickly filter and compare card options by welcome bonuses, type of rewards and more, so you narrow your choices and choose a card that works best for you.
Learn More About Credit Card Benefits
- What Is a Rewards Credit Card?
A rewards credit card allows you to earn cash back, points and miles on your everyday purchases. Find out how to pick the best rewards card for you.
- 7 Best Credit Card Features to Look at Before Applying
Credit cards can offer a wide-range of perks. Consider these seven features when choosing your next card.
- How to Get the Most From Your Credit Card
Credit cards are safe, convenient tools for making purchases, but if you maximize their benefits, their value increases. Here’s how.
- Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2023
The best rewards credit cards offer the chance to rack up cash back, points or miles on every purchase you make. Some also offer huge welcome offers.