5 Tips on Finding the Right Credit Card
After giving it some thought, you’ve decided that you want to apply for a credit card. Why not? There are several advantages to having one, plus most people apply for a credit card at some point during their life.
But with so many options available, how do you decide which card is right for you? While many credit cards might seem similar, they still have key differences.
If you’re on the hunt for the right credit card for you, here are five tips to keep in mind.
Before you even contemplate getting a credit card, you need to look at where your credit score stands now. Even those with little or no credit history usually have some options to choose from. Whatever your credit history, understand that card issuers will be examining it when deciding whether or not to approve your application.
Knowing your credit score will help you determine which cards you’ll likely qualify for. Don’t apply for a “platinum” card if you aren’t sufficiently creditworthy; it’ll only end up hurting you in the long run.
Before you get ahead of yourself and start looking at cards, it’s important to ask yourself the tough questions. Why do you want or need a secured credit card? What perks are you the most excited about? These questions aren’t meant to deter you from getting a card. Rather, they will help you determine which one is best for you.
Here are some of the most common reasons to get a credit card:
- To use as a secure method of payment
- To boost your credit score or build credit
- To take advantage of benefits (cash back, sign-on bonuses, travel rewards, etc.)
- To have in case of emergencies
These are just a few reasons you might get a credit card. Determining your reason for wanting one will help you choose wisely.
Asking yourself why you need a credit card is important, but the questions shouldn’t stop there. You also need to examine your financial needs and spending habits. If benefits and rewards aren’t all that important to you, then choose a card with as few as possible. Cards with lots of rewards may require you to spend a lot and typically have higher APRs. These cards are best suited for people who pay off their balance in full every month and never incur interest.
You might be interested in a credit card because you want to build or rebuild your credit. Starter cards or secured cards may fit the bill in this case. Also, be sure to look for a card with an introductory 0% APR and an ongoing low interest rate. These will help ensure that you don’t dig yourself into a hole and hurt your credit score even more.
Be honest with yourself: how much will you be spending on your card? Are you good at making on-time payments? Your financial needs and historical spending habits say a lot — don’t ignore what they’re telling you.
Most credit cards, even the basic ones, have benefits attached to them. Decide which, if any, are the most important to you. Typically, cards will feature one of three reward structures: cash back, points (for spending), or miles (for travel). Which one appeals the most to you?
No matter which rewards structure calls your name, look for two things:
- Low required spending. Pick a card that requires you to spend less to qualify for signup bonuses or other benefits down the road. The less you have to spend, the less likely you are to fall into debt.
- No expiration date on rewards. On some cards, rewards will expire after a certain amount of time. Select a card that allows you to use your rewards as long as you keep the account open.
Since rewards are available, you might as well take advantage of them. Pay close attention to reward structures, though. Choosing the one that best suits your lifestyle will help you get the best overall value from your card.
Once you’ve selected a card that jibes with your financial habits and offers rewards you’ll use, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are some basic things you should look at when evaluating different credit cards:
This is the cost of borrowing money with the card if you don’t pay the full balance each month. In other words, it’s the interest rate you’ll pay on purchases. This is an important factor to consider if you know you’re likely to carry a balance on your card.
If you don’t pay off your full balance each month, you’ll be asked to pay a minimum amount. This is typically around 3% of the balance due. Make sure you can afford this monthly payment. (The amount will vary, obviously, depending on the balance you carry — do some hypothetical math.)
Some cards charge a fee each year to use the card. The fee is added to the amount due, and you have to pay interest on both your fee and spending.
Be sure to check in the credit agreement to see what other charges might apply. You’ll typically be charged for things like going over your credit limit, making late payments, or spending money abroad.
With some cards, you may start off paying no interest or very low interest. Then, the rate will increase — substantially — after the introductory period. If you’re comparing cards, look at how long this period lasts or if there is one at all.
One of these factors could make the difference when deciding between your top two or three card choices. Look closely at each card’s pros and cons and apply for the one that offers the best value overall.
Trying to find the right card for you may seem a bit overwhelming at first. With so many options available, it’s hard to know whether you’re making the right choice. But by following these simple steps and being honest with yourself, choosing the right card can be easy. If you select one with your lifestyle and spending needs in mind, you’ll get the most out of your new credit card.