The most common catch of credit card reward programs is using the credit card and paying interest on purchases rather than paying off the balance each month, which is why credit card companies offer the incentives in the first place.

Other catches are credit card companies limiting the purchase categories that qualify for earning reward points, requiring the cardholder to activate the categories before purchases count toward rewards, and limiting the monthly dollar amount of purchases that count toward the rewards program. The categories are rotated regularly. If the cardholder doesn't remember to activate the new categories, he or she may not earn reward points on purchases even if they fall within the new categories.

Another drawback hidden in the fine print is a tiered cash-back program, in which the cardholder must charge a certain dollar amount per year at a much lower cash-back rate before earning the advertised rate. Some cards offer points which can be redeemed by making purchases with the card, but the cardholder ends up paying higher prices for online items that are purchased through the credit card's portal.

Other drawbacks are cards that offer cash incentives to open accounts, only to require the cardholder to spend a certain amount, usually more than the cash amount offered, before receiving the reward. Some cards only add the cash back rewards to the credit card account rather than mailing a check to the cardholder.

Whether the rewards are frequent flyer miles, cash back, reduced gas prices or points, the best rewards cards are those without much fine print or with fine print that is easy to understand.

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