Best Credit Cards for Earning Rewards

Handful of credit cardsWe recently told you about CardRatings.com's top credit card picks for 2010 in the travel, low interest and low balance transfer categories. The site just released the second half of its picks for 2010, covering the best points-rewards cards, the best cards for people with poor credit and the most innovative cards and programs. WalletPop called up CardRatings' founder Curtis Arnold to chat with him about his site's picks. Here's what he had to say:

When it comes to points-based rewards cards, the site made note of two cards, one conventional credit card (the Chase Sapphire card) and one charge card (ZYNC from American Express). Arnold points out that while ZYNC is marketed to young adults, its customizable rewards make it a good option for anybody who wants to get rewarded by their issuer and who plans to pay off their balance every month. The Sapphire card offers a very generous 10,000 bonus points after a $500 purchase within the first three months; that's the equivalent of $100 cash back!If your credit isn't good enough for a conventional credit card, CardRatings points you towards the Citi secured MasterCard. While this card keeps users on a pretty short leash (it is, after all, designed to give people with poor money management skills "training wheels" to get back into the credit fast lane), it offers a rare perk in that it places the cardholder's deposit in a CD-like account that earns interest. Both the Citi offering and the unsecured "subprime" card the site mentions, the Orchard Bank Classic MasterCard, have what Arnold calls reasonable annual fees. Subprime card issuers are still being very careful, he says, since they were so badly burned by tremendous numbers of defaulting cardholders recently.

The roundup highlights a number of innovative cards and programs; one, the Plum card from American Express, is notable because it's a business card. Users have to be more careful with business cards, since the consumer protections afforded by the CARD Act don't apply to them, but if you have a small business, this might be a viable option for you.

Overall, Arnold reiterates what he told WalletPop when the first roundup of top cards was published: The industry is rebounding, and credit is more available to consumers than it's been in quite some time. "We thought it would be years before the industry came back, if it came back at all," Arnold says. "What we've seen is on the reward and innovation end of it, is that the card industry is really bouncing back, and pretty quickly. They came out of a perfect storm," he says.

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