Can Credit Cards Help Us Spend Better?

In the midst of the recession, some credit-card companies are trading in the old, carefree “life takes Visa” approach and rewarding more responsible credit use instead.

Chase Blueprint is a system that can be activated with certain Chase cards. In addition to reminding cardholders that they are taking out a loan (not just shopping), Blueprint encourages users to map out how they plan to pay back each purchase. Caryn Kaiser, Senior VP of Chase Card Services, says Blueprint users pay their balances twice as fast as similar, non-Blueprint users.

But… If you carry a balance, you’re likely to get more out of Blueprint than if you pay in full.

Citi Simplicity lets users set their own due dates, has no late fees or penalty rates, and has a single rate for purchases, cash advances and transfers.

But… A missed payment might be reported to the credit bureaus or result in suspension. And the 16.99% interest rate (which kicks in after 21 months) is about two points higher than the average.

Discover Motiva gives users a monthly cash-back bonus for paying on time, along with other rewards. The bonus equals 5% of your interest charges in a given month.

But… You have to maintain a balance (i.e. not pay your bill in full every month) to reap the 5% reward.

While features and rewards can be useful, remember that credit-card issuers are in a for-profit biz. “Regardless of how cool something might seem, or how altruistic it may come across, all those variables are meant to get you enamored with your card so much that you’ll use it in lieu of another card,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at

Take some credit. Does your credit card offer any consumer-friendly features?

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