I have Olivia and Red Tag. I also just cut bits for the letters/shapes I want to die cut. I guess they do leave an impression, but I haven't noticed it being a lot of wear and tear.
The CB alphas area a *great* value. You get uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and extra dies all in one set. Most alphas are not that way. Sizzlits are a good deal, too, but remember that they won't cut through chipboard. If that doesn't matter to you, then they are a great option.The cost is pretty similar, depending on sales, coupons, etc. It was really important to me to be able to cut through chipboard, so the CB alphas were ideal for me.
Every time I'm near a Michael's with a coupon, I try to pick up a spare set of plates, so I don't worry about the wear too much.