Credit Card Rewards, Miles To Tempt Affluent Into Spending

If you've got money to spend, the time is ripe to look into getting a new credit card.

Card companies like Chase, Citi and Capital One are throwing points, miles and other rewards at the so-called mass affluent, hoping to nab new customers and cash in on wealthy consumer's looser spending. And the rewards are better than ever--at least for the rich.

Capital One Venture Rewards Card is the top-ranked travel reward card according to consumer comparison site It offers $2 flight and hotel redemption value for every $100 spent. The catch? You must spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of having the card and has a annual fee of $59 after the first year.

The Citi Thank You Premier card offers between 50,000 and 80,000 points as an initial bonus reward--a value of $665 to $1,060 in airfare value--but only after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

But while some offers might light up the brain with the promise of free money, they can be as hard to catch as fish with your bare hands. JPMorgan Chase recently offered as many as 75,000 points--about a $900 value--to customers who signed up for the Sapphire Preferred Card and spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, according to the Wall Street Journal. But that was a limited time offer and reportedly has dropped to just 40,000 points last week, according to USA Today.

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And for some bread-and-butter credit card holders, seeing these rewards is like standing outside a restaurant window and watching the rich eat steak. To even get in the door for most of these exclusive reward clubs, consumers have to have a minimum credit score of 720, according to the Journal. And for customers who do qualify, easy credit and rewards only work in one case: when you pay off your bill each month and do not carryover an interest-bearing balance.

Another catch? Those signing-bonus points could be taxed if you don't spend the minimum requirement. Some surprised Citi customers learned that the hard way earlier this year when they received 1099 tax forms for the rewards points they received for signing up for the card. Folks who are trying to build up a great credit score to qualify for a mortgage or another loan might also consider this: Opening a new card can ding a credit report by about five points, according to the Journal.

Big banks are trying new ways to lure in affluent customers as regulations have made it tougher for them to make a fast buck off of fees and penalties they used to squeeze out of low-balance customers. They can still make a hefty profit on interchange fees for credit cards. Each time a customer swipes, the issuer makes between 1 and 4 percent of the purchase. Debit-card swipe fees were capped last fall under Durbin Amendment, and now big banks only make around 21 cents per purchase.