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It’s human nature to be attracted to a rewards credit card that offers a large sign-up bonus. You spend a certain amount of money within a specified period of time—three months is common—and you get some cash. Ka-ching!

But guess what feature makes people most likely to have a wandering eye when it comes to rewards cards? According to the recent Capital One Quarterly Rewards Barometer Survey results, 49% say that more rewards per dollar spent is a bigger draw than a large sign-up bonus. Only 16% chose the big bonus.

So don’t feel bad if you now wish you’d made a commitment to a card with more generous rewards. Unlike traditional relationships, you can live happily (and legally) with two rewards cards if it fits within your lifestyle. But before you decide to apply for the latest card that caught your fancy, here are a few questions to answer:

  • Is your credit life in order? I know that sounds broad, but I want to know if you’re successfully managing the credit you have right now. If so, then adding another card is OK. But if you’ve frozen your card and you’re constantly trying to defrost it whenever you see a sale at your favorite department store, then stop right there. You don’t need more access to credit.
  • Does the new card offer a different type of reward? Depending on your spending patterns, it’s often a good idea to have a rewards card that offers cash back for everyday expenses and a travel rewards card that lets you earn airline miles. If the cards offer the same type of rewards, but one is more generous, then you can still consider moving forward with the idea that you’ll put the old card in moth balls, so to speak. You don’t have to close it (this might actually ding your score), just store it away safely so it’s there if you ever need it.
  • Do you understand the new rewards program? The Capital One survey also showed that consumers’ overall satisfaction with credit cards rewards has declined within the past three months. Almost half the survey respondents said that their experiences would improve if the rewards were easier to understand. All good news for Capital One since the issuer’s rewards programs are pretty simple. But many rewards programs are either complex or just not explained simply enough. Before you dive in, make sure you read the fine print and feel comfortable that you’ll use the card and profit from it.

Image: mlinksva, via Flickr

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