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Smart Buying

Debit Rewards on the Rebound

You can earn cash by making purchases from participating merchants.

A few years ago, debit card rewards were dwindling, victims of the Great Recession and a 2011 regulation that caps the “swipe fee” large banks may charge merchants when customers use their debit cards. But debit rewards are making a comeback: The number of issuers offering rewards jumped from 32% in 2012 to 47% in 2013, with further growth expected when the 2014 numbers come in, according to bank consultant Mercator Advisory Group.

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Rising in popularity are programs that provide cash back for purchases from participating merchants. That’s less costly for banks than awarding points for spending that you can trade for cash or merchandise.

When choosing a bank, don’t give the debit rewards program top priority; account fees and interest rates have a greater impact on your wallet. But consider taking advantage of the free rewards your bank offers. With Bank of America’s BankAmeriDeals, PNC Bank’s Purchase Payback, Regions Bank’s Cashback Rewards and Santander Bank’s Cash Rewards, customers get cash back to their accounts for using their cards at certain merchants.