By Mary Hunt
Checked your wallet lately? If yours is bursting at the seams the way mine is, it may be because of all those rewards cards. According to Consumer Reports Money Adviser, 85 percent of U.S. households participate in at least one rewards program.
Managing those rewards, however, can be a challenge. Sure, the perks can be fantastic (I can't count how many times I've flown free on frequent-flier points or enjoyed free car rentals). But the pitfalls can be costly. Why? Credit card companies, airlines, retailers and supermarkets rely on their programs to get you to do at least three things: come back again and again, increase the volume of your purchases, and become immune to the pull of the competition.
All this is good for them, but you need to make sure it's good for you. You don't want to be limited to one retailer, airline or supermarket. And while you want choices, you don't want to belong to so many programs that they become unmanageable or you're tempted toRead More »from Understanding Rewards Programs