Could you be getting better rewards and rates with another card? Find out.
Years ago, you wouldn't have been shocked to see first-year college students get starter credit cards just for setting foot in the nearest dining hall.
Maybe, but there's no hard and fast rule about when or why a bank might "charge off" your credit card balance.
School's out but summer won't last forever. Save money now on back-to-school prep by shopping smart with your credit cards. By shopping now, you'll land some great deals and avoid the headache of shopping during the back-to-school rush. Get a jump on that back-to-school wardrobe Earn 3 percent cash back any time you shop for school wardrobe essentials ...
There's no such thing as the perfect credit card. Instead, reviewing your credit history, finances and lifestyle will often help reveal the best credit card for you.
How's my credit?
Your credit score is key to getting the best credit card deals, but if you're just starting out or your credit report isn't so shiny, you might need a secured credit card can help you regain lenders' trust. Those in the fair to good category will likely find they can qualify for reasonable rates and basic rewards programs. With an excellent credit score, you have a veritable buffet of options. When shopping for a new credit card, ask yourself the following questions to help steer you towards your ideal piece of plastic.
Will I carry a balance or pay in full?
How you spend and save money can dictate the best credit card for your budget. Ask yourself if you will frequently need to carry a balance on the card. If you will need to carry a balance, look at low interest rate cards with no annual fee and a balance transfer offer that can help you pay down debt quickly. Low interest credit cards do not often come with a rewards program, but the interest you'll save is a much better value than most rewards.
If you use your card on a regular basis and plan to pay the balance in full each month, then a rewards card is an excellent way to gain some extra perks. Carrying over a balance on these cards isn’t ideal since the APR on reward credit cards is usually higher than average and easily negates any rewards earned.
Inventory your monthly spending to see if you'll benefit from the category-based bonuses now popular among many rewards credit cards. You'll earn the most rewards by concentrating your purchases onto just one or two credit cards. Only pay an annual fee if you're getting more value from a credit card than the amount it costs to maintain it.
Will I use those rewards?
If you travel often, airline credit cards and travel rewards cards can shave hundreds of dollars per year off the cost of airfare and hotel stays. Travel rewards cards offer some of the best deals, especially if you're flexible about your vacation plans. Airline credit cards offer some of the industry's biggest signup bonuses, usually doling out enough frequent flier miles for one or two round trips.
Or perhaps you'd get from the most from points that you can cash in for discounted meals and VIP culinary experiences at restaurants around the world. Other programs offer invitations to unique experiences or discounted shopping websites.
Or would I prefer cash back?
If you don't travel often or prefer cash to gifts, then perhaps a cash back card is right for you. Cash back credit cards take the hassle out of tracking and redeeming your rewards. Basic cash back programs are relatively low maintenance. In order to earn the largest rebates, however, many issuers feature a few categories for a certain time period that offer a larger rebate percentage. This usually requires signing up for the time frame and strategizing when to make certain purchases.
What extra perk will I use the most?
An affinity credit card can maximize your rewards when you build loyalty with a single merchant. Price assurance and purchase protection benefits let you stop worrying about whether you bought too soon or if you've got to buy a replacement. Travel rewards cards with free baggage allowances and airport lounge access can save you hundreds of dollars on a typical family outing. Frequent foreign travelers should look for cards with no foreign transaction fee, saving as much as 5 percent on every purchase. Don't underestimate the power of good customer service, especially among credit cards that include comprehensive concierge services.
Answering these questions alongside our comprehensive database of credit cards should help you achieve your goal of finding the credit card that can work best for you?
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. Curtis is the author of "How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line" (FT Press, 2008). He is a... Read Curtis Arnold Bio.