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Do Debit Card Rewards Measure Up to Credit Card Rewards?

Written by CardRatings.com
Posted On: March 10, 2006

 

America’s love affair with reward credit cards continues to burn; and debit cards are helping to fan the flame as more and more banks begin to issue both cash back and reward debit/check cards. Like their credit card counterparts, reward debit cards come in a variety of styles with varying eligibility requirements and reward rates. Here are some tips to be aware of as you shop for the perfect fit in a reward card.

Annual Fees
Generally, cash back debit cards do not have a fee while points based cards have fees ranging from about $12/year to $55/year. On the other hand, most credit card reward programs (including point based ones) do not have a fee.

The Reward
The reward rate for cash back debit cards tends to be smaller than those of credit cards, some of which offer up to 5% cash back. On the flip side, debit cards typically don’t have an annual rebate limit or cap, while most credit card programs do.

A typical reward rate for cash back debit cards is the US Bank Cash Bonus Visa Check Card at 0.25%. However, a few points based cards do offer significantly higher rebate rates. AmSouth’s Check Card Rewards program offers up to a 20% rebate, but you have to shop at qualifying retailers or online at AmSouthCheckCardRewards.com.

Point based debit cards generally give one point for every dollar spent. Two exceptions are the US Bank WorldPerks Standard Visa Check Card, with which you have to spend two dollars for one point; and Chase Leisure Rewards Check Card, which gives four points for every dollar spent (that’s right, 4 points per $1)! But don’t get too excited because it takes far more points to earn anything with the Chase card. For example, domestic airline tickets begin at 40,000 points (compared to 25,000 points for most other debit and credit reward programs) and go up to 460,000 for an International or first class ticket.

orangecardQualifying Transactions
Credit card reward programs often offer higher rewards for certain types of everyday purchases, such as gas, drugstore and grocery purchases. Debit card programs are a little different. The reward rate usually stays the same for every type of purchase.

One notable caveat is that debit card transactions typically must be signature based in order to qualify for a rebate. PIN-based and cash back transactions normally don't yield any rewards. On a related note, some issuers require that your debit card gets processed as a credit card in order to be eligible for a rebate (money is still withdrawn from your checking account right away). One exception is the AmSouth Check Card Rewards program, but with this program you are limited to certain retailers or to shopping online at www.AmSouthcheckCardRewards.com.

For consumers loyal to debit cards, they’ll find the debit card reward trend to be a great away to set a little money aside or earn travel rewards. But for those who are credit card savvy (and pay their balance off each month since the reward rarely outweighs interest paid on outstanding balances), a credit card reward program usually offers more incentive. If you're in the market for a new reward card, you can comparison shop for the best rewards program based on your individual needs at CardRatings.com.

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