For this episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick are joined by Austin Smith from our new personal finance-focused website, The Ascent. They discuss a trio of credit card trends that you should be aware of, and how you can make the most of them -- or avoid getting burned by them.
In this segment, they talk about trend No. 2: Credit card banks are shifting away from the practice of giving account holders lots of minor benefits like price protection or free insurance on rental cars to putting all their perk power into one or two large baskets. Austin explains the best way to finesse this trend.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on July 10, 2018.
Alison Southwick: what's the second trend that our listeners should be on the lookout for?
Austin Smith: The second trend, which relates to the first, which is one of the ways credit card companies are now able to afford these lavish sign-up bonuses, is by eroding side perks. It used to be that credit cards maybe came with a dozen different perks, and most people didn't realize they had access to all those benefits, they didn't use any of them. Things like auto rental coverage, price protection, free credit scores.
Basically, what we've seen is, they've traded this more benefits mantra that persisted in the credit card space for a very long time in favor of the best. They're going to bundle all of their chips in a huge sign-up bonus or a huge cash back allowance on the card. They're doing away with a lot of these side perks, maximizing their sign-up bonuses.
Southwick: Alright, and how should I take advantage of that?
Smith: Most people didn't even know that they had access to most of these benefits. What we've found is, there are still side door ways to reap these same rewards, but maybe not through the credit card issuers themselves. The way to play this trend, since what we've found is that what most people care about, in order, are, cash back cards, no annual fee, and a low interest rate, you pick the benefit that's most important to you. Find the card that maximizes that benefit the most. If you're looking at a cash back card, maybe look at something like a Discover it or a Bank of America cash back card, both of which have really great rates right now. Maximize on the single benefit that's most important to you.
Then, add in the tertiary benefits with other third-party services that you no longer get through your credit card yourself. For example, you can still get price protection through a program like Earny, which automatically scrapes your credit card statement and looks for price differences between what you paid and refunds you half of the balance automatically. Though you no longer get that through your credit, you can still get it through the third-party bolt-ons, if you so choose.
Southwick: Wait, what is that? Earny? I've never heard of this.
Smith: You've never heard of this?
Southwick: No, tell me about Earny!
Smith: Price protection used to be something that persisted in a lot of credit cards. They no longer have it, so that vacancy has been filled by a company called Earny. You connect it to your credit card statement and they scan everything that you purchased on your statement and balance it up against the lowest available price. If there's a difference, if you overpaid, they file a claim on your behalf, and they refund you half of the balance.
We find that, by combining these other features with a card, you can maximize the benefit that's most important to you -- maybe cash back, maybe low interest rates. Pick your ideal best card for your pillar, most important benefit. Then, you can still get these other benefits like auto rental coverage or price protection through other third-party products.
Southwick: Earny. I have to look that up.
Smith: We have a Fool in Colorado who gets $20-25 back every month from their statement. It's fabulous.