12 best credit card offers for 2012

Credit card offers have gotten downright mouthwatering as issuers compete for the best customers. Now, a website called CompareCards.com says that 12 cards are providing such generous deals, they're virtually irresistible for those willing to switch.

"Credit card companies are competing heavily against one another because there's a smaller pool of prime customers," says Chris Mettler, president of CompareCards.com. "The offers are the most generous they've ever been."

Consider the battle between Citi Dividend Platinum Select and Chase Freedom Visa. Both provide 1 percent cash back on all purchases and the chance to earn up to 5 percent cash back on selected purchases every quarter. But that's not the good part. If you spend $500 within the first three months of holding the card, either credit card company will give you a $200 bonus.

"Getting $200 for spending $500 is unheard of," Mettler marvels.

What's the difference between the two cards? If you're a really big spender, the Chase card is better because it doesn't limit the total amount of cash-back rewards you can earn in a year. Citi caps its cash back (not including the bonus) at $300 per year, so if you charge more than $30,000 annually, you'd run out of rewards. Mettler also thinks the Chase program is a bit easier to use.

Prefer travel rewards? Chase, Citi, Capital One and Starwood all offer credit cards that will provide bonuses worth $100 to $500 in the first year. The catch is that most of these cards have annual fees, but they are waiving them for the first year for new customers. Why so generous? Reward customers are less likely to switch, so the card issuers figure they'll get back these generous giveaways after a few years of charging the annual fees.

Those who carry a balance on a credit card, however, would be best off looking at Slate from Chase, which is providing a 0 percent introductory interest rate for the first year, with no balance transfer fee.

You can find the full listing of all 12 cards and what they offer on the CompareCards blog.

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