Littered throughout the personal finance blogosphere are ideas, tricks, and success stories about video gaming rewards charge card. If you play the rewards card game right, you can make some cool money back, free flights, or cash for college. Provided you’re paying off your balance each month and staying clear of any costs or interest charges, a credit card awards program is a fun game that the money nerds will always win.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that.

Not only do almost one-third of credit card benefits go unclaimed every year – to the tune of $16 billion simply left on the table – but the psychology and regards to credit card rewards indicate that even the accountable card users who game the system wind up investing even more than they intend. After all, the banks wouldn’t provide rewards cards if they did not make money from them.

Here are the truths about rewards cards that never ever seem to make it into the uplifting commercials starring celebrities.

You Spend More When You Pay With Credit

The mere truth that you prepare to pay with a charge card is enough to make you invest more money. Whipping out your charge card simply doesn’t harmed as much as counting out cash money, suggesting you’re more probable to overindulge.

In addition, researchers have discovered that the prospect of making rewards with a charge card will certainly trigger your spending to increase – and the boost is more pronounced in cardholders who’d not otherwise make use of credit. This indicates that even accountable credit card holders are enticed into even more spending (and financial obligation!) due to the fact that of the motivation of rewards.

As if that isn’t traumatic enough, a research from 1986 (which has recently been checked and shown once again) has actually shown that simply seeing a credit card logo is enough to enhance spending. In the initial experiment, psychologist Richard Feinberg asked subjects to browse images of products from mail order catalogs (with the prices got rid of) and write down just how much they’d be willing to spend for them. For half of the topics, the table on which they were working was scattered with MasterCard paraphernalia, left lying there to recommend that the researcher just had actually not cleaned up from a prior experiment. The other half of the topics sat at a vacant table. Those topics sitting with a pile of MasterCard logos wanted to spend more on every single item, and they wanted to invest approximately three times as much on some items.

Since that initial experiment, further research studies have actually revealed that the logo result works on ‘associative conditioning.’ That is, those individuals who’ve favorable associations with charge card will invest more with plastic, while those who’ve negative associations will certainly not.

In particular, those people who game the rewards programs will certainly have really positive associations with charge card.

That means the banks are seeing enhanced spending (and debt) from the ‘liable’ cardholders, as well as those who struggle with credit. All for the low, low rate of a few benefits.

The Lake Wobegon Effect

What’s even more pernicious about the previous details is the reality that I’d want to bet that nearly every Wise Bread reader with a benefits card is right now shaking his/her head and stating, ‘It doesn’t impact me!’

That’s due to the fact that of an intellectual predisposition called the Lake Wobegon Impact, called for the fictional town in Fort Keillor’s radio program, where ‘all the kids are above average.’

Basically, every individual really believes that she or he’s better than most people at everything from driving to handling money. In the book You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney composes, ‘Nobody, it seems, thinks he or she’s part of the population contributing to the statistics producing averages.’

Banks are counting on that impression of superiority, since it snags benefits card consumers who’d otherwise pay with money.

You Can Just Pull out of the Benefits, Not the Costs

You might be thinking today that it would make even more sense to merely eliminate your benefits credit card and lug cash. That’ll certainly ensure that you aren’t affected by credit’s damaging pull on your much better impulses. Nevertheless, that doesn’t totally fix the trouble of the expenses of benefits cards.

That’s since even though banks make a lot of money through their rewards cards programs, they still discover ways to pay for those rewards without having to eat into their revenue. They do this by charging costs to business for accepting their cards.

According to Ron Lieber of the New York Times,

Rewards-earning credit cards with the Visa and MasterCard logo commonly expense business more than plain-vanilla ones, which hints at the card business’ laser-like focus on subsidizing rewards for the wealthy customers who’re still investing, even if they’re paying their expenses off each month and therefore paying no interest.

To protect their own bottom line, merchants build the charge card fees they pay into higher prices for their goods – which clients pay whether they utilize cash or credit.

In reality, the National Retail Federation approximates that the costs their members pay to accept simply Visa and MasterCard cost an average of $427 per American household in 2008. This doesn’t even include the expenses for American Express and Discover.

Disappearing Rewards

Finally, there’s the problem of unclaimed benefits. As I discussed above, nearly one-third of the $48 billion worth of value in rewards go unclaimed and unredeemed.

According to that research,’ [To] put [this] in viewpoint, the average home that’s active in commitment programs earns $622 a year, but doesn’t redeem $205 of those rewards.’

It’s definitely understandable how this can take place. Unless you’re inhumanly arranged, it can be extremely easy to misplace numerous benefits or forget to account for expiration dates and the like.

The great news is that the typical household is still generating $417 worth of rewards ($622 – $205 = $417) each year. Sadly, you’ll discover that’s $10 less than the average expense per household because of merchant costs that I mentioned above.

So, even if you’re effectively gaming the system, it’s most likely that you are still paying for it somehow.

Using Rewards Cards Rationally

The finest method to prevent the mental pitfalls of rewards credit cards is to use your card moderately, settle the balance every month, and schedule regular check-ins on your rewards, but otherwise neglect how your spending is tied to your benefits. These things will assist you to sidestep spending traps and the possibility of ignoring your benefits.

Do you use a benefits charge card? Do you redeem all your rewards and benefits?