Before the credit crunch, I often found that the credit card offers in my mailbox were better than those being offered online. But in the last two years, credit card mail offers have become less generous, while online offers have grown more competitive.
Perhaps the main reason why mail offers are no longer competitive with online offers is the fact that credit card companies are getting wise. Unless you go online, there is no way to compare the deal that lands in your mailbox. Thus, credit card companies can safely assume that a good portion of the people who receive their mail invitations won’t take the time to do some comparison shopping. Because of this, they can offer these people just about anything.
A prime example of just how much better online credit card offers are landed in my mailbox this weekend. Citibank sent me an offer for a balance transfer credit card with a 3.99% promotional APR until May of 2012. On the surface, this looked like a great deal. However, it is possible to get a 0% APR balance transfer from Discover online that lasts for 18 months* with the Discover IT™.
If I had accepted Citi’s 3.99% offer and transferred $5,000 from a credit card with a 15% interest rate, I could have saved about $700 on interest expenses. And, while saving $700 is pretty cool, I could have saved around $1200 on interest if I had taken advantage of their 0% offer. Clearly, comparing credit cards online pays off.
As with balance transfer offers, cash back promotions are also much better online. I’ve received a half dozen mailings for the Chase Freedom card that comes with an enticing $50 cash back bonus. I’m sure a lot of people have accepted this offer thinking it to be a great deal. And it is. Unless you go online and learn that you can get the same card with a $100 cash back bonus. (Another good link spot for you)
While comparison shopping is the key to getting the best deal on just about anything, the money you can save comparison shopping for credit cards is much greater than what you can save on a new grill or iPad accessories. Sure, you won’t always hit the jackpot and save an extra $500. But nine times out of ten, you’ll likely find that the credit cards available online offer much better deals than the ones credit card companies send you in the mail.
About the Author: Jeffrey Weber is a six year veteran of the credit card industry and President of Credit Card Depot Inc. He is an active blogger and former contributor to the Forbes MoneyBuilder blog. For more information and to learn more about current balance transfer deals, visit Smart Balance Transfers.
Published or updated February 7, 2013.