The Importance of Reading Rewards Program Fine Print

When you sign up for a rewards card, your first instinct usually isn’t to read the fine print. Instead, you are far more likely to pay attention to the benefits listed in the bigger print. However, at some point you need to read the fine print so that you understand the limitations associated with your rewards program.

Before you get too excited about the latest credit card rewards program, here are some of the details you should pay attention to:

Blackout Dates and Seat Restrictions

While many credit cards are doing away with blackout dates and seat restrictions, there are some rewards programs that still feature them. Read the fine print to find out whether or not you can fly during peak times of the year, or during peak times of the day.

Related: Best Airline Miles Credit Cards

Another consideration is seat restrictions. You might only be able to redeem your points for certain seats, or a flight might only have a certain number of reward seats available. Once those seats are gone, you might be forced to look for another flight. These issues can mean that you might not be able to use your rewards as conveniently as you would like.

Redemption Costs

Some credit card rewards programs charge redemption costs. You might be charged $5 or some other small amount when you go to redeem. In some cases, you might be charged extra points, or a percentage of the points you are redeeming. This automatically makes your rewards a little less valuable, since there are costs associated with redeeming them. Read the fine print so that you understand this possibility.

Purchase Requirements

We all like cash bonus credit card rewards. You make certain purchases, and you get a cash bonus, or you get extra points. However, this isn’t always what it seems. You might have to wait a certain period to make sure that you aren’t returning the purchases. This is especially true with cards that offer the bonus after the “first purchase.” Until you show that you aren’t returning something, you might not get the reward.

Also, you have to pay attention to timing. If you have three months to spend $500 to get your bonus, but you return something that cost $50 within that period and forget to replace it with other spending, you might miss out because your total is actually $450. Be sure to pay attention to these little details so you don’t miss out.

Category Sign Up

Finally, realize that if you have a rotating rewards credit card, you might have to sign up for your categories each quarter. In many cases, you have between two weeks and a month to sign up. If you forget to sign up for that quarter within the time frame, you don’t get the 5% cash back bonus on the special categories. Even if you do manage to sign up late, you don’t get to make up for the time you missed.

In the end, the fine print matters. It means the difference between maximizing your rewards, and only getting access to a sub-par rewards program.

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