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Just How Rewarding Are Your Rewards Credit Cards?

According to a new survey by LendingTree, fully 52 percent of Americans “are clueless about credit card rewards.” Given the extent to which credit-card payments have displaced cash, that cluelessness translates into a tremendous amount of lost value.

A related finding: 20.3 percent of the survey respondents figured the value of their credit-card rewards was 0.5 percent or less, while only 6.5 percent thought they were getting rewards or rebates amounting to 2 percent or more of their charges.

As a baseline, consumers might well consider the consistent 2 percent cash rebate available with both the Citi Double Cash and the Fidelity Investments Rewards cards, both with no annual fee. And there are many other cards that offer the equivalent of a base 1 percent rebate, with periodic category bonuses upping the rebate to as much as 5 percent.

So whether your priority is travel rewards or cash, there’s no reason to settle for the paltry returns many consumers are earning from their credit-card spend.

I still have a couple of travel-rewards cards in my wallet, from an earlier period in life when miles were more important than cash. But I also have both the Citi and Fidelity 2 percent cash-rebate cards, and those are the cards I now turn to for the great majority of my purchases. (I occasionally use the old airline cards, just to keep the miles in those accounts from expiring.)

I might be able to squeeze more value from other cards, by taking advantage of category bonuses or redeeming points for high-value awards. But a straight 2 percent rebate, day in and day out, is solid value with no muss or fuss. And cash, in my book, is king.

Reader Reality Check

What cards are in your wallet? How rewarding are they?

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