Credit cards are tools that consumers should use to improve their financial life. Sometimes, though, tools need to be replaced–or swapped out for ones that do the job better.
The fidelity expressed by many Americans to their particular piece of plastic is likely costing them money, according to a recent CreditCards.com report. For instance, 25 million borrowers haven’t jettisoned their favorite card in at least the past 10 years, while another 20 million have never replaced it. While Baby Boomers are the most likely to stick with a preferred payment option, 25% of those between 30 and 49 haven’t rotated their favorite out in at least six years.
Yet as CreditCards.com’s Matt Schulz said in a statement, “The truth is that loyalty doesn’t pay when it comes to credit cards.” That’s because many cards entice potential new customers with lucrative sign-up bonuses and better opportunities for amassing points, rewards, and cash back. If you sit out and stick with the same old card for years, then you’re likely missing out on more money in your pocket.
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What You’re Missing
Take the Citi Double Cash, a two-time MONEY’s Best Credit Card. The card offers 1% cash back when you buy something, and 1% back when you pay your bill. The unlimited 2% earn rate, combined with no annual fee, is a major boon to consumers, especially at a time when the yield on a 10-year Treasury Note sits at 1.8%. This card only became available to borrowers in the summer of 2014, so obviously anyone who has been using the same card for a decade hasn’t taken advantage of it.
Planning a trip? The Chase Sapphire Preferred, another MONEY’s Best Credit Card, offers 50,000 points as a signup bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Travelers can redeem those points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform at a value of $625, knocking off the price of many flights immediately. There is an annual fee of $95, but that’s waived the first year. If the two points you earn for restaurant and travel spending and one point per dollar spent on everything else isn’t enough for you to hold on to the card, you can simply cancel it before the fee kicks in.
Why You’re Loyal
Most borrowers are rational, and there are legitimate reasons they haven’t changed their favorite cards in more than a decade. Almost half said that don’t cancel their old credit cards because they’re afraid of hurting their credit scores, according to CreditCards.com. Quite right. Canceling old accounts can indeed affect your credit score. So the smart move is to keep old cards in a freezer–either literally or figuratively–and stop using them for purchases. Then, swap in the new card with better rewards and bonuses as your go-to payment method.
Meanwhile, more than a quarter of those who stick with their old credit card said that they’ve held on due to a lingering balance, per CreditCards.com. If this is the case, you probably shouldn’t be getting new credit cards. It’s unwise to open a card if you can’t pay off your balance every month; the interest payments will vitiate any rewards you’ll accrue.
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But debt holders do have options. Consider another MONEY Best Credit Card, the no-annual fee Chase Slate, which lets you transfer your balance without a penalty and gives you 15 months of 0% interest to pay it off. Just make sure that you do actually pay it off.