Affinity credit cards are one of the most popular kinds of plastic we carry today, especially as the fashion for balance transfer deals and the like continues to fade. Where once the focus was on how we could save money by shifting our credit card debt around, now more and more of us are looking to profit from our card use, or at least to benefit in some way from our everyday spending habits. This change of emphasis has led to a vast increase in the number of rewards and cashback cards on the market, but where do affinity cards fit in to the picture?
At its simplest, an affinity card is one which identifies the cardholder with a particular company, organization, or field of interest. The card will generally have a visual design to reflect this link, and will also offer some benefit related to the affinity topic in question. A good example is a hotel chain affinity card. If a credit card account holder travels a lot on business or for pleasure, and has a favorite chain of hotels to stay in, then a credit card linked to these hotels can offer benefits such as discounts on room reservations, a points program which lets you build up credits for free meals or use of facilities, or even access to advanced concierge services to make your stay in a new city more enjoyable.
A hotel card such as this is an example of where affinity cards and rewards cards meet and overlap, but the affinity card will have a more tightly focussed reward scheme than the general card.
Another kind of affinity card which has grown in popularity over recent years is a charity credit card. In many ways, these cards can be viewed as variations on cashback credit cards, where a small percentage of everything you spend using the card is refunded. The crucial difference with a charity card is that instead of the cashback being credited to your account or sent to you in the form of a check, it is instead donated to the charity or charities linked to the card. Animal charities are popular, as are health research charities, but the range is huge and you're sure to be able to find a charity card supporting a non-profit that you'd like to support.
Closely related to charity cards are sports affinity cards. These operate in much the same way, but instead of donations being given to charitable organizations, they're instead passed on to the card holder's favorite sports team. By holding one of these cards, you can help support your team financially, while also declaring your support with your teams logo or badge emblazoned on the card itself.
The final kind of affinity card could be loosely termed a lifestyle card, and rather than giving you direct rewards or supporting your favorite organization, they are simply run of the mill credit cards that visually reflect an interest or hobby - for example, your favorite TV show, or work of art. For obvious reasons, these cards are not overly popular these days, as cards offering more concrete benefits have overtaken them in usefulness.
So are affinity cards worth using? In general, they probably won't offer such a great range of features as a market leading general credit card, but if you can find one that closely fits your lifestyle, then they can be very attractive and well worth applying for.
Michael writes for credit card comparison site Card Sense, where you can easily research cheap credit cards, balance transfer deals, cashback cards and more.