Credit Cards

Picking a Card? Forget the Sweepstakes

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Pick the right credit card, win $1 million. That’s the pitch from Discover, plus another 75 cash gifts every day for up to $500.  Discover, Citibank and other credit card issuers are ramping up big-money sweepstakes to encourage people to pick their cards.

But people shouldn’t let the prospect of big one-time winnings change their spending habits, says Gerri Detweiler, a credit adviser with

“The chances of winning are so small that you shouldn’t choose a card based on sweepstakes like this,” Detweiler says.

The average American has 3.5 credit cards, according to the Boston Federal Reserve. And they’re becoming more choosy about which cards they use and which ones they throw away. The Boston Fed found that the number of consumers discarding credit cards annually grew from 14% in 2008 to 16.5% in 2009.

Combined with consumers cutting back on spending due to the recession, that makes credit card companies more anxious than ever about making sure people pluck the right card from their wallets, even if that means giving away a million dollars.

“Well they must be making a lot of money to make it worthwhile,” Detweiler says. “They’re trying to get you to use their particular brand of card as opposed to the others in your wallet.”

On its website, Discover says it will give people five extra chances to win for every purchase they make at groceries and drug stores through the end of November.  Citibank is offering up to $10,000 for people who use its cards between now and Dec. 31.

But that’s a pretty lousy way to pick a credit card, Detweiler says. Given the slim odds of winning, consumers are much better off picking their card based on other things, especially which one charges the lowest interest rate. Also consider the different cards’ reward point systems, and whether the retailer gives you rewards points for shopping with a particular card.

Check out Which Type of Credit Card is Right for You? to help you choose a card to meet your needs.

Image: Andres Rueda, via

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