Top 10 Things to Look for in a Rewards Credit Card

Top 10 Things to Look for in a Rewards Credit Card

1. How easy it is to access your rewards?

Imagine working diligently to build your reward points and knowing exactly what you want to redeem them for—but you cannot seem to figure out where and how to do so.You’ll want to make sure your card issuer has a friendly website that allows you to easily navigate through the reward redemption process and view your reward earnings in real time.

For instance, PenFed Credit Union cardholders can access reward point information in one, convenient login location—directly from within PenFed’s secure online banking site. The credit union also gave their cardholders the ability to monitor the shipment status on redeemed merchandise or gift card rewards through the rewards site online tracking service.

2. Does the card come with chip technology for extra security?

Also known as chip and PIN, chip and signature, EMV, smart cards, or just chip cards, this technology, which has been standard for some time overseas, is now being implemented in the U.S. With a chip card, there’s a microchip embedded in the card, making it much more difficult for a thief to counterfeit—cutting credit card fraud significantly.

If you do not already have a chip card, or you are not sure what kind of card you have,you’ll want to check with your financial institution to find out when they will be making the transition, and what you need to do to get a new card if you need one.

If you are shopping for a new reward card program, you’ll want to ensure the card is chip secured for that extra layer of security.

3. Can you use the card in mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay?

A digital wallet is an electronic version of a physical wallet—a convenient and secure method of conducting a payment online with the use of a mobile phone, tablet, or hand held computer.

If you are already using your mobile device for just about everything, then chances are you’ll want a reward card that offers the services of at least one of the big three in digital wallet technology: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

PenFed Visa cardholders already enjoy convenient access to all three digital wallet services, plus mobile banking, no matter which type of credit card they carry. PenFed American Express cardholders currently benefit from the convenience of Apple Pay, and will soon also have access to Samsung Pay and Android Pay.


4. What are the best perks to look for in an air travel rewards card?

There are a lot of really good air travel rewards programs to choose from, and there are a lot of really bad ones, too—the trick is to know what benefits and perks associated with air travel cards will serve you well.

    •   Are there restrictions on which airlines you can fly with?

    •   Are there blackout dates?

    •   If you snooze, do you lose those mileage points or do you get to roll them over? If you lose them, what are the expiration rules?

    •   How quickly do your points earn you those coveted free flights? Do you earn redemption points based on the miles you’ve traveled or by the dollars you’ve spent?

    •   Are there any travel discounts and services associated with the travel card; such as free bonus baggage check, concierge services, and discounts on hotels, dining, and entertainment?

5. What fees does the card have? Is it worth what you’ll earn in rewards?

Choosing a reward card is somewhat like walking into a candy shop. It’s hard not to be easily wooed and distracted by all the sweet incentives a reward card program may offer.

Before you commit to a program, take a moment to look beyond all the enticing reward incentives offered. Be sure you fully understand all the terms and conditions associated with the card; such as what the interest rate is on purchases, and what are the fees and their amounts charged.

You don’t want to blow a month’s budgeted allowance on a reward program that looked appealing at first glance because of the brightly packaged program presentation—only to find out the card just doesn’t deliver the savings and quality you initially expected due to a high interest rate and fees you were charged.

Ask yourself these questions: What is the interest rate on purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers? Is there an annual fee? What other types of fees are associated with the card, i.e., foreign transaction fees, late fees, over limit fees, prepayment penalty fees, etc.?

Do the math. Do you tend to carry a balance or pay it off every month? If you tend to regularly carry a balance over each month, then maybe a rewards card isn’t the right type card for you. The monthly purchase interest you are charged each month on any balance you carry over could defeat the purpose of the reward incentives associated with the card. You may be better off using a simpler card that features a lower interest rate, and fewer or no fees.

Questions like these will help you decide which type of rewards card program is going to give you the most bang for your buck, or if a reward card is actually a good fit for you.

6. Is there a cap on the amount of rewards earned?

Some rewards cards promise big earn rates but have a limit on the total amount you can earn. Others may let you build up great rewards, only to put a cap on the amount you can actually redeem. Do you want a rewards card that restricts you in this manner?

If you want to avoid caps on your reward earn potential, check out the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card. PenFed created the card to appeal to folks who desire a reward program that features every day value.

“With a reward structure such as no caps on the rewards cardholders can earn, a diverse range of point categories—including the highly coveted gas point rewards—and a rewards website that is easy to access and use, our card definitely stands out,” said John Kelly, senior vice president of Card Services at PenFed.

7. What is the reward structure?

There are many reward programs available depending on the reward card chosen. If you do choose to use one, the type of rewards and the earning structure associated with the card are important considerations.

Be sure to choose a reward card program that will give you the best value related to your spending habits and lifestyle.

    •   Do you travel frequently? Then a travel rewards or air rewards card might be a serious consideration.

    •   Do you frequently commute or travel long distances by car? Then a gas rewards card might be an even better choice.

    •   Or are you looking for an everyday value rewards card; one that combines reward points on groceries,     everyday purchases, and gas?

8. Has the card received any awards?

Just like with any consumer purchase you make, it’s smart to research and read the reviews about the reward card you are interested in before you make a final decision. Websites that specialize in personal finance tips and financial service product reviews are a good place to begin your research.

If you’re shopping around for a credit card, you have lots of choices. PenFed offers some compelling card options, no matter what you’re after because their award-winning cards have racked up accolades that show they’re some of the best cards to keep in your wallet.

Accolades such as: Best Airline Rewards, Best General Rewards, Best Gas Rewards, Best Everyday Rewards and Low Rates for Military Members, Best Card for Simplicity, and more—from WalletHub,, and Magnify Money, are just a few notable mentions.

9. Are there any extra perks with the card?

Every credit card has an appealing set of benefits to convince you to apply for it—but is the card’s specific benefits ideal for your needs? You should have a good idea of what’s important to you in a credit card, so you have an idea of the benefits you need as well as the ones that might not matter.

When you’re shopping for a new card, pay attention to the benefits and extra perks the card has to offer: Emergency Roadside Assistance? Travel Accident Insurance? Concierge Services? Emergency Card Replacement? Travel perks such as complimentary discounts and upgrades to hotels, resorts, and cruise lines?

When you’ve narrowed the list down, consider which card offers you the best benefit for the lowest cost—chances are, that’s the card you want.

10. What type of rewards card to do you need?

The hard part about choosing a good rewards card is the fact that you need to decide what kind of rewards you want before you can choose the best card. Before you choose, it’s important to consider what’s important to you. What kind of lifestyle do you lead? What are your spending habits? Do you travel frequently?

PenFed’s diverse selection of award-winning reward cards are definitely worth looking into. PenFed has great reward card options that will meet most any lifestyle or budget criteria; whether your priorities are saving on gas, travel, or you just want cash back.

Bottom line: When you’re shopping for a new card, pay attention to just what each card has to offer and how well those things match your needs: Rich rewards? Extra perks? Does it have a low interest rate, with few or no fees?

At the end of the day, if you are still undecided—checkout PenFed’s award-winning credit card portfolio—and see which card is the best fit for you.