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Credit cards rewards on the rise

By Jen Haley, CNN
Some credit cards are raising their cash-back programs and other rewards.
Some credit cards are raising their cash-back programs and other rewards.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some credit card companies are going to give consumers bigger rewards
  • Citibank is upping its miles-to-dollars ratio on American Airline-branded cards
  • Chase's Freedom card upped payout to 5 percent on some purchase categories
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New York (CNN) -- Credit card holders have faced rising interest rates, new and higher fees, and fewer rewards programs during recent economic turmoil.

But now card issuers are ramping up their rewards programs.

Citibank, for example, is upping its miles-to-dollars ratio on American Airline-branded cards from 1 mile for every dollar spent, to 1.2 miles. This upgrade won't be available everyone -- only good customers get the perk.

JPMorgan Chase is also increasing its miles-to-dollar ratio on it's co-branded British Airways cards to 1.25 miles for every dollar spent. The company is also letting you rack up more rewards on its Marriott-branded cards.

Chase's Freedom card, which gives cash back on some purchases, has upped the payout from 3 to 5 percent on certain purchase categories.

So, why are rewards programs getting sweeter just as credit card companies are losing income from new credit card regulations?

There are a few reasons. First, using a rewards card builds loyalty. Second, the people who use rewards cards typically aren't the folks at risk of defaulting. Third, the more stuff you charge, the more fees the credit company makes from merchants. These interchange fees send about 1 to 2 percent of a given transaction to the credit card company

A new credit card product is backed by the value of gold bullion. Your gold bullion. That is, if you happen to have some lying around. Otherwise, you can buy gold from the company behind the card.

Here's how it works: The gold is held at a deposit center -- and your Gold Bullion Credit Card limit is 75 percent of the value of that gold. But consumer beware. If the price of gold drops significantly, the bank may have the option of selling your gold or dropping your credit limit. On the other hand, if gold values rise, you could see a higher credit limit.

Bottom line: Try to get a regular credit card and investigate other credit cards that are secured with cash. And watch out for fees. The Gold Bullion Card has annual and storage fees. The APR is expected to be low, from 8 to 13 percent says Jeff Silver, vice president of marketing for the Gold Bullion Credit Card.

Experts are wary about the benefits of the card.

"This could be a stick of dynamite waiting to explode on some folks," says Curtis Arnold of Cardratings.com. But he says there are some times when a card like this will serve a purpose. "If you don't have cash but you do have gold bullion lying around and the price of gold remains high, this could make sense."