Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards of 2010, Part 2
December 20, 2010
By: Curtis Arnold
The second half of this year's Editor's Choice awards continues to spotlight credit cards and banks that bucked a trend toward fewer rewards and higher fees while offering enticing added value for cardholders.
Best Reward Point Credit Cards
Unless you never watch television and you didn't go to the movies in 2010, you've probably seen ads for the Chase Sapphire credit card. The couple in those black-and-white commercials must do plenty of spending to earn all those vacations and cocktail dresses. But even if you're an average consumer, Chase's entry-level Sapphire card makes it easy to earn enough reward points to treat yourself to travel, gadgets or even a statement credit.
After you spend your first $500 on the Chase Sapphire card in your first three months as a cardholder, you'll earn enough bonus reward points to enjoy $100 cash back redeem for merchandise, travel credit or more. Double points for qualifying purchases made at restaurants makes this card even more attractive for business travelers. And, just as the ads promise, you'll get a live human being on the phone whenever you call for customer service.
Zync from American Express
If you're a company that built its reputation on serving the needs of veteran business travelers, how do you attract a new generation of cardholders? American Express answered that question by reinventing its classic charge card. Zync combines American Express' investment in travel and entertainment with new technology that customizes each cardholder's account and experiences.
Instead of settling for a cookie-cutter rewards program, Zync cardmembers can choose from an ever-expanding selection of reward "packs." Most packs add between $10 and $40 to a cardholder's annual fee in exchange for exclusive cardmember experiences and bonus points in the American Express Membership Rewards program. However, Zync offers several no-cost packs including, the Eco Pack, Personal Finance Pack, Give Back Pack, and Family Travel Pack.
Reward points credit card predictions for 2011: We didn't see a big ramp up for general reward points cards in 2010, but I expect we will see new and innovative rewards points programs and card offers in the upcoming year. I predict more robust rewards and signup bonus offers before the end of the year.
Best Credit Cards for Poor or Bad Credit
Citi Secured Card
You wouldn't have blamed Citi if it had scaled back its involvement with the subprime credit card market in 2010. The company sold off large portions of its lending portfolio to comply with regulators' recapitalization requests. At the same time, it backed away from the retail financing market that often helps Americans with bad credit begin the recovery process.
That's why we're happy to recognize Citi's "back to basics" approach to customer service through its revamped secured credit card program. Citi's secured MasterCard offers credit limits up to $5,000 based on linked savings account deposits, one of the highest limits available for secured credit cards. While some banks still use secured credit cards as fee generators, Citi's affordable annual fee of $29 allows consumers to rebuild their credit without surrendering too much cash.
Credit cards for bad or poor credit predictions for 2011: Subprime offers have changed quite a bit due to the CARD Act. I think many people thought the new legislation would mean the end of the subprime market, but I believe subprime issuers will continue to restructure their products to be both profitable and attract new customers who need to build or rebuild credit.
Most Innovative Credit Cards
The Plum Card frames up company purchases around "trade terms," rewarding cardmembers for frequent business-to-business buying. Additionally, the card offers flexible payment options where card holders can get a 1.5 percent discount for paying early or up to 60 days to pay without interest, or both each month.
MySpace Forward Card
In the same year that the Kardashian sisters faced a media firestorm for targeting an expensive prepaid debit card at young adults, this clever partnership between Citi and MySpace went largely unnoticed. That's too bad, since it offers one of the best feature sets for credit cards aimed at younger consumers.
Instead of attracting new customers on college campuses, Citi leveraged the social networking website for both reward ideas and interactivity. Along with offering no annual fee and a lengthy 0 percent APR teaser period, the MySpace version of the Citi Forward Visa empowered cardholders to take action with 12 resolutions around responsible spending and community involvement.
Most Innovative Program
Capital One Charitable Giving Site
Nonprofit organizations rely on credit card donations more than ever, but often surrender 3 percent or more of their receipts as merchant fees. Capital One took an innovative approach to solving this dilemma by passing fee-free transactions from its cardholders directly to any of over 1.2 million eligible charities.
Through a partnership with Network for Good, Capital One's giving site also connects charities to free and discounted online services that can minimize the cost of accepting credit cards and managing e-mail appeals. Not only can you use a Capital One credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees, you can help your favorite charity put more of its donations toward its mission.