If you don’t take full advantage of the rewards, many offers do not make sense, Huffman said.
Depending on how much you spend each month, signup bonuses and other rewards don’t always offset the cost of an annual fee, which can be as much as $450 depending on the card, according to personal finance site WalletHub. (Don’t rule out a card entirely because of the fee, either. Often these cards have better initial bonuses and higher earning rates than cards without a fee.) CNBC Make It has ranked the best travel and cash-back cards.
You must also be able to hit the minimum spending requirement to reap any rewards at all, which is generally $2,000 to $3,000 over the first three months. The popular Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a 50,000 point rewards bonus — if you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
“All of these initial bonuses come with a caveat,” Hardekopf said. “Make sure you read the terms and conditions.”
The same goes for the interest rate, or APR, which is generally higher for rewards cards to compensate issuers for the additional perks.
“If you carry a balance even occasionally the interest rates will wipe out much if not all of the reward benefit you are earning,” McBride said.
And some of the most enticing offers are only available to those with good or excellent credit. In addition, opening and closing cards purely to snag the initial sign up bonus can ding your credit score if you are not careful. (One of the key components of a score is your credit history, which is the length of time you’ve had accounts open.)