By Haddon Libby
For many, the end of the holidays and the start of a New Year means the receipt of credit card bills and the realization that play time is over and it is time to get back to work.
The Federal Reserve reports that American consumers currently owe $4 trillion in non-mortgage debt. Of this, one-third is outstanding on revolving lines of credit like credit cards while the other $3 trillion are for purchases paid for on a installment basis. This includes motor vehicles but excludes homes. Banks hold 40% of this debt followed by the Federal Government at 30% and finance companies and credit unions at 12.5% each.
Forbes reports that during the fourth quarter of 2018, total transaction volume on credit cards could exceed $1 trillion for the first time. Most of these purchases are made on cards branded as Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express with more than half of all credit card transactions with a Visa logo. Mastercard and American Express have 20% market shares while Discover holds the remaining 4%.
When we consider which cards get the most by transaction volume, American Express laps the field with average spending per card of approximately $15,000 a year. This is three times higher than Visa, four tis more than Mastercard and six times Discover card users.
Citibank is the largest credit card issuer in the United States with 95 million cards which represents a 17% market share. Chase Bank is second at 15% followed by American Express and Capital One at 11%, Bank of America at 10% and Discover, Synchony and Wells Fargo at approximately 5% each. All other issuers represent 20% of all credit card issuances.
There are approximately 2,000 different credit cards issued here in the United States. With so many to choose from, it can be difficult if not impossible to figure out which credit card is best for you.
Below are a few credit card options that stand out from the pack:
For Small Businesses: Consider the Chase Bank Ink Business Cash Credit Card. This card earns 5% cash back on spending at office supply stores, internet/cable tv and phone services; 2% at gas stations and restaurants and 1% back on everything else. You can issue additional cards to employees at no cost while earning outsized perks as you open the card.
For Online Rewards: Spend a lot at Amazon? Chase has co-branded a card with Amazon that earns you 5% on all Amazon purchases. The only caveat is that you must spend your rewards at Amazon.
For Everyday Rewards: Many people who use Costco have their co-branded Citibank card and make this their primary everyday card. It is easy to see why as this card earns 4% cash back on Costco Gas, 3% at many restaurants and travel, 2% on Costco purchases and 1% on everything else.
Balance Transfer: Citibank has a No Late Fees Ever card. This card offers a 0% interest rate on purchases for twelve months and charges no more than $5 on balance transfers for the first 21 months. Once these teaser rates are gone, your interest rate goes to a ‘reasonable’ 16-24% rate and no late fees ever. If you are transferring a large balance, this is the best option for reducing interest payments for a short period of time.
With so many choices available, there is certain to be one that fits your needs. While a responsible card holder can ‘earn’ a lot by running all purchases through credit cards, it is important to pay off balances as quickly as possible if not at the end of each month.
Haddon Libby is the Founder and Managing Partner of Winslow Drake Investment Management, a fiduciary investment advisory practice. For more information, please visit www.WinslowDrake.com or email HLibby@WinslowDrake.com.
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