Despite the much publicized troubles in the credit card industry, there are a variety of new credit card products soon to hit the market. Some of these new credit card offerings are designed specifically with current economic circumstances in mind, and feature out of the ordinary rewards programs.

Wells Fargo is making a cash back credit card available that, according to CardTrak.com, encourages consumers to apply the money they receive through the reward program “toward a personal loan or line of credit or to decrease their card balances.” This credit card is part of a variety of more debt conscious new offerings by Wells Fargo, including the “Debt Pay Down Solution,” which, as explained in a December 11, 2008, CardTrak.com article, “enables customers to consolidate high-interest debt and lower monthly payments through a Wells Fargo personal loan. Customers use the new Wells Fargo “My Spending Report with Budget Watch” to find opportunities each month to spend less and then transfer the extra money to the principal of the new loan.”  

On December 10, 2008, Kiplinger.com ran a story about the new Fidelity Retirement Rewards Card. This is a card put out by American Express, and it offers 2 points for every dollar spent, as long as those dollars are spent on applicable purchases. Once the minimum point of 5,000 points is reached, according to the article, then “points can be automatically swept into your Fidelity IRA (either a traditional IRA or Roth IRA) as a $50 current-year contribution. If you max out on your IRA contribution for the year, you can continue to accrue points and restart automatic deposits to your IRA next year.”

The Kiplinger article offers an interesting breakdown of the numbers, warning consumers that while on the surface, it may sound like a great idea, it is important to run the numbers with your own personal spending habits in mind, as late payment penalties can easily eat up any benefit this card may hold, particularly when considering the typical interest rates balance carriers will be paying and comparing those rates to other credit card options. Like many financial decisions, the devil is in the details, and it is essential to be honest with yourself about your degree of fiscal discipline.

Another interesting credit card option appearing on the market is the new Charles Schwab cash back card. On December 8, 2008, MarketWatch.com ran a piece on this credit card, one that comes with all the bells and whistles assigned to a top notch credit card – including “complimentary 24-hour personal assistance with MyConcierge(SM) services, common carrier travel accident insurance up to $1,000,000, and zero fraud liability.” This cash back reward card offers users, according to the MarketWatch.com article, “unlimited 2% cash back on purchases automatically deposited into a Schwab One brokerage account each month. Unlike some competing cards, there is no limit to the cash back cardholders can earn, no tiers, no minimum monthly purchase amount to receive cash rewards, no restrictions on place of purchase, and no annual fee.”

Naturally, this is another card that, if considering, it is important to enter into the application process as an informed consumer. After all, the investment market is tricky business these days and it doesn’t pay to not do your research. However, for the informed user, this card seems to hold excellent potential and does compare well with other credit cards in a variety of ways, including APR, with a prime rate of 9.99 percent.

It may be a hopeful sign, seeing the assortment of new credit card products entering the market. Perhaps the credit freeze is starting to thaw a bit. Another interesting aspect of these new cards is that they seem to be designed for exactly what so many are worried about today, debt and retirement planning. Of course, some of that is part ploy to attract responsible borrowers and let lenders make money. However, in the hands of a money smart and financially disciplined user, some of these new credit cards have the potential to be a positive fiscal tool.

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