Iceberg header image for understanding the credit card simulator graph

WhatBank – Understanding the Graph

Many credit cards offer rewards for spending. The two most common types of rewards are cash back and points that can be used for flights. Every month that you use your card brings additional rewards. The monthly dollar value of these rewards is what is shown in the line graph.

WhatBank keeps track of annual fees, the many different kinds of welcome bonuses, the varying points awarded to different categories of spending (e.g. 2 points for gas, 5 points for groceries), cash back spending limits (e.g. 2% cash back up to $15,000 total annual spend and then 1% cash back), and time limited offers (e.g. 10% cash back in the first three months up to $1,000 spend) .

The colour of the lines is always in the same order based on final value at the end of either one or two years:

  • 1st - WhatBank Gold
  • 2nd - White
  • 3rd - Red
  • 4th - Green
  • 5th - Blue

Graph with Time Divisions Labeled

WhatBank credit card simulator line graph with time divisions labelled

Note, that if you carry a balance, the value that the card has may be negative! This means that the interest that you accrue on the card is greater than the value that the card delivers. In this case, WhatBank shows the cards that result in the least negative value.

Graph When You Pay Interest

WhatBank credit card simulator line graph showing example if balance not paid off in full each month

Some Things to Watch For

Welcome Points and Annual Fees

Here, cards represented by the blue and green lines go negative (down) right away. That’s your annual fee. Then, in month five there is a sharp uptick, that’s your welcome bonus kicking in.

WhatBank credit card simulator line graph showing example of annual fee and bonus welcome points

Hitting the Cash Back Limit

If a cash back rate in a spending category is more than (1.5% - 2%) it is often limited. That means that if your total spending in that category over a certain time period, often a year, exceeds an amount (specified in the card’s fine print) then the cash back rate resets to a lower amount for the remainder of the calendar year.

Here’s what that looks like. The white arrows show where the cards represented by the red and blue lines hit their limit. You can tell because the slope of the line, how steep it is, suddenly decreases.

High cash back rates are great. But if you see this happening early in the year, remember that you’re not getting that great rate for the whole year.

WhatBank credit card simulator line graph showing example of reaching cash back limit

Overtake Beyond Year Two

By using the “I change credit cards” radio buttons you can choose to show one year or two years of spending. After two years all the annual fee rebates and sign up bonuses are in the past and the change in value of a card is often steady, but not always. Here is a close up of the end of the second year and it appears that the card represented by the white line will overtake the WhatBank Gold line sometime in year three.

Both of these are good choices for you. Most likely the card issuers will have changed the card’s parameters by then.

WhatBank credit card simulator line graph showing example of 2nd place card overtaking first place card after sometime in year three

But fear not, WhatBank will track those changes for you too because, It’s worth it to know.