CLEVELAND (PRWEB) December 19, 2006
It's all about the rewards. At least that's what IndexCreditCards.com (http://www.indexcreditcards.com) concluded in naming its top 10 new credit cards for the year 2006. In creating its list, the credit card news and comparison site looked at the strength of new card offers, each card's breadth of appeal (how large an audience a card might command), and which of the newest cards received the most click-throughs from IndexCreditCards.com visitors. The top ten include:
1. Saks World Elite MasterCard - For the first time, Saks' customers were able to choose a credit card that could be used anywhere, allowing them rebates of up to 6% on Saks purchases and also 1% rebates on purchases anywhere else.
2. ESPN Total Access Visa Card - Cardholders earn points for sports memorabilia, apparel and tickets. For the true ESPN junkie, however, there is the chance to use points to attend ESPN's ESPY Awards, tour the ESPN studios, attend the Winter X Games and for other ESPN "experiences."
3. Chase Home Improvement Rewards Visa - Allows cardholders to earn 3% rebates on home improvement purchases, plus 1% rebates everywhere else. In addition, the card also pays out one point for every dollar in interest paid--a rarity, especially in combination with other card rewards.
4. Best Buy Reward Zone MasterCard - Best Buy took their in-store-only rewards card, beefed up the rewards and created a card that could be used (and rewarded) outside the store. Rewards include 4% back on Best Buy purchases and 1% elsewhere.
5. Enlightenment Card - Unusual rewards program offers points toward yoga classes, spiritual retreats, meditation aids and other "enlightening" rewards.
6. Bank of America MLB Extra Bases Credit Card - Bank of America revamped the rewards program for its Major League Baseball credit cards, increasing the number of unique "experiences" available, from throwing out the first pitch at a game to watching batting practice from the field at the All-Star Game.
7. GM Flexible Earnings Card - The knock on the previous version of the GM credit card was that points could only be used toward GM vehicles, and would otherwise be forfeited. The new version of this card gives cardholders the flexibility to choose between vehicle discounts or cash back.
8. Borders 3.2.1 Visa - While this card offers a fairly standard rewards program, in which points equate to gift cards toward Borders purchases or other rewards, it does offer double rewards points on gas, restaurant and grocery purchases, making point accumulation quicker than with similar cards.
9. BP Visa Rewards - Gas rewards are nothing new, but BP makes an enticing offer in an attempt to increase customer loyalty. Although the initial period in which cardholders earn 10% rebates on BP gas is short (two billing periods), afterwards BP is still offering 5% rebates on BP purchases, 2% rebates at restaurants and 1% back everywhere else.
10. Home Depot Rewards MasterCard - While not a particularly unique rewards offering, this card qualifies as one of the best purely because Home Depot did not previously offer a card that could be used both in-store and out. This one offers two points per dollar at Home Depot and one point per dollar everywhere else, with points used toward Home Depot gift cards as well as other merchandise and travel rewards.
"Reward credit cards are a win-win for both cardholders and the credit card companies, so it's no surprise that our list focuses on the many new offerings in this area," says Justin McHenry, Research Director for IndexCreditCards.com. "Most card companies have given up competing on interest rates and are now focused on building loyalty through cards that give consumers something back. Whether it's cash, merchandise or the possibility of unique 'experiences,' the credit cards on this list are representative of the fact that today there exists a credit card related to just about every consumer interest."
In addition to naming the top new credit cards of 2006, IndexCreditCards.com singled out other developments worthy of mention this year:
- MasterCard restructured and became a public company in 2006, receiving an influx of cash to help it compete with Visa and also offer some protection from lawsuits pending against it.
- Merchant groups raised a stink about the interchange fees they are charged by Visa and MasterCard, claiming the card companies are exploiting a monopoly. While Visa and MasterCard say merchants want the convenience of accepting credit cards without paying the price, lawmakers on Capitol Hill seemed sympathetic to merchants' claims. Whether this dispute will be resolved amicably or via a legislative battle remains to be seen.
- Radio frequency identification (RFID) credit cards, which allow for quicker transactions by requiring the cards to pass before a special reader instead of being swiped, got a wide rollout in 2006. However, security experts questioned whether the cards make it easier for thieves to steal credit card information.
- Bank of America's partnership with Caremark on a credit card that rewards customers for making prescription drug purchase decisions that Caremark approves of could be a wave of the future.
- Competition in small business credit cards heated up this year, with Discover entering the market and a greater number of choices being offered overall. American Express' SimplyCash business card was the most generous of the new offers, with 5% cash rebates on gas, office supplies and wireless charges, and 1% rebates elsewhere, with no cap on the total amount earned.
- Finally, after 50 years, Waffle House began accepting credit cards. "We wanted to make sure credit cards were here to stay," joked Waffle House Vice President Walt Ehmer.
IndexCreditCards.com offers credit card news, research, calculators, and perhaps the most comprehensive index of credit cards available on the Internet today, with a master listing of over 1,000 credit cards as well as categorized lists based on interest rates, reward programs, business credit cards, student credit cards and credit cards for those with poor credit histories.
CONTACT: Justin McHenry, 216.221.0312