Ditch debit fees for credit card rewards

By , Editor-in-chief
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Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, SunTrust and Regions Bank have all announced plans to charge a monthly fee to use a debit card, running between $3 and $5 per month. And debit rewards programs look like they're next on the chopping block. JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, SunTrust and Comerica have ended their debit rewards programs. Are there still benefits to using debit?

Many conscientious consumers switched to debit cards during the past few years in order to manage their debt. In 2009, Visa announced that spending on its debit cards had surpassed credit card spending for the first time in 2008. Debit payments were $206 billion versus $203 billion on credit cards. In 2010, American consumers made 37 billion debit card purchases compared with 19 billion credit card swipes, according to the Nilson Report.

But with new fees to use your debit card and the phasing out of rewards, now may be the time to rethink that debit-or-credit choice. And the card issuers are ready with beefed-up rewards programs. Current offers have holiday shopping and entertaining in mind, but the cash-back rewards can be attractive all year round. 

Before you apply for a credit card, be sure you read the fine print to be sure the places you shop most frequently are covered by the program. For example, if you make most of your purchases in warehouse stores, you won't be earning points or cash back with most cards.

But if you manage your credit wisely, pay off balances routinely and match your shopping habits with your card offers, you may benefit from the many rewards programs credit cards offer to attract and keep your business.

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