Consumer Reports: Overdue for a credit card makeover?

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Consumer Reports says it might be time for a credit card makeover. (WLS)

Cash back cards have changed in recent years, but many people aren't reaping the benefits because they're still using the same old credit card that's been in their wallet for ages. If that sounds like you, Consumer Reports says it might be time for a credit card makeover.

When it comes to plastic, Americans don't seem to bend from their established routine.

According to a 2016 survey, 20 million consumers have never changed their preferred credit card and another 25 million have held onto their favorite card for at least a decade.

Loyalty has some of its own rewards, but cash back may not be one of them. About half of all credit cards that offer rewards now offer cash back as an option. That's up from only around 25 percent in 2013.

"While you're typically looking at 1 or 2-percent back, some cards can go as high as 6 percent cash back on certain purchases. And the consumer usually gets to choose how they want to redeem their reward," said Consumer Reports Money Editor Margot Gilman.

Already using a cash back card? Why not double your effort? Since different cards offer higher rewards for purchases in certain categories, Consumer Reports found using two cards strategically can really boost the benefit, earning you as much as 40 percent more cash back.

"So here's one strategy. You can use a Blue Cash Preferred Card to get 6 percent on groceries and 3 percent on gas. Everything else can be charged on a Citi Double Cash Card and get 2 percent cash back on all other purchases," said Gilman.

So how do you know which cards will work best for your wallet? Consumer Reports has a tool on its website.

"First you plug in how much you spend each year in a number of categories. The tool then compares 66 different cashback cards to estimate which will get you the most money back after one year and three years," Gilman said.

And remember, cashback programs only count if you pay your balance in full. Otherwise you'll likely rack up more in interest charges than you'll earn in rewards.

And here is a link to Consumer Reports credit card comparison tool:

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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financeconsumer reportscredit cards

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