According to data released by the Federal Reserve early this month, Americans currently owe a combined whopping $936 billion in credit card debt-an astonishing $103 billion more than just five years ago.
There are a handful of reasons why this type of debt continues to climb each year, but one in particular could be a huge culprit: credit card perks.
With recent laws put in place banning outrageous over-limit fees or double-cycle billing, credit card companies have been forced to get creative with their money making schemes.
Ingenious credit card perks are one way many have wooed consumers. Here's a list of the newest perks attracting customers:
1. Zero percent introductory rates
Although these offers have been around for a while, credit card companies have gotten more creative over the years with these types of offers. So-called teaser rates have expanded, in some cases, upwards of two years. Zero interest balance transfers have also been introduced. Consumers, however, should be wary of the interest charged after the intro period ends.
2. Cash back
To many people, nothing truly compares to cash in your pocket, and credit card companies know this. Some offer $2 cash back or statement credit for every dollar spent on certain purchases. However, many consumers attracted by the offer aren't necessarily aware of the high interest rates that accompany these types of offers.
3. Travel points
Points earned toward a free airline ticket is also nothing new, but like zero percent intro rates, companies have innovated their travel point offers. Some are offering 35,000 points upon opening up a new card-enough to go towards a free ticket. However, a certain spend amount within a certain timeframe is typically contingent upon receiving the points.
4. Retail discount cards
Retail outlets everywhere have issued their own credit cards-with so-called perks for card holders. Gas stations, for instance, offer consumers 10 cents off per gallon with the use of the card, easily wooing consumers who spend $50 or more a week to fill up. However, many people aren't aware that such cards often come with double-digit interest rates.
On the surface, these benefits may seem like they are helping consumers rather than harming, but since credit card companies are in the business to make money, consumers should always read the fine print before opening up a new line.