There’s lots of talk about the new credit card changes resulting from the CARD Act, but these changes really struck home when I watched my own credit card agreement change. Here are the two big takeaways I’ve learned from the experience: 1) Always open your mail. 2) Be active in your own finances.
Most Snail Mail Is Junk—But Not All
I use paperless statements, so I’m automatically suspicious of envelopes from credit card companies (for some reason, they always seem to come from Delaware). The text on the outside turns me off even more (“New Perks! Special Offers!”), but I’m really glad I opened a couple particular emails from my credit card company. The lowdown? Turns out that my card—the beloved cash-back card I’ve been using for years—is changing. So: Make sure you’re alert.
My Credit Card Is Still Fine...as Long as I’m on Top of My Game
Under my old agreement, I received a flat 1% cash back on all transactions, with 3% cash back at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, and utility bills. Now, I’ll be getting 1% on all purchases, with 5% cash back in rotating categories (from July to September, those include restaurants, hotels, and rental cars). 5% is greater than 3%, so I’m fine with the change, even though I don’t rent cars very often. Problem is, I’m only eligible for the special promotion if I sign up specifically every quarter. What used to be automatic will now require me to sign up four times per year. Lesson: Take note of your credit card changes and what your company asks you to do.
If I Hadn’t Been Active About It, I’d Have Missed Out
After reading my mail, I followed the instructions to sign up online…but there were no clear instructions that I could see. Instead, I called the number provided to register for the special deal over the phone. The whole process took under two minutes, and the payoff is potentially quite large. It’s probably not a coincidence that the sign-up process required annoying effort, and I assume that my credit card probably won’t remind me to sign up every quarter. After all, the card company stands to save money every time I forget. Moral of the story: I already set a calendar reminder for September 27th, so I don’t forget to register for the next deal before October begins.
Lesson Learned: There Are Still Good Cards Out There, But No More Silver Platter
If you have good credit, it’s still very possible to reap the benefits of cozy rewards cards. The biggest change is that we’ll have to play an increasingly large part in our own destinies.
But, you know what? Self-determination isn’t really such a bad thing.