Q: I want to apply for my first credit card but I'm not sure where to start or what to look for.
When seeking your first credit card, start by comparison shopping for the best deals available and keep three things in mind: how you will use the card, the fees and rates charged, and the potential benefits you can get from the credit card.
CardRatings.com is an excellent resource for you to compare the available offers for credit cards in multiple categories, including cards for those with limited credit histories, student credit cards and so on.
If you are good at keeping your spending in check, and you plan to pay off your credit card balance every month, a rewards credit card is a good option to consider. Rewards include airline miles, cash back, or points that can be cashed in for merchandise or cash.
Keep in mind that rewards cards typically carry a slightly higher interest rate than do other cards that don't offer such perks. That's the tradeoff of a rewards card. Still, you should look for a card that is a couple of percentage points within the national average for variable rate cards. As of this writing, the typical card falls in the 14 to 15 percent range. But if you are a student and plan to apply for your first card, expect rates to hit the 17 percent range.
If you find that it's difficult to get your first credit card, don't be discouraged. You may be in a "Catch 22" situation where you have not yet established any credit whatsoever (i.e. no auto loans, student loans or traditional lines of credit), so some credit card issuers may be reluctant to approve your application.
If that's the case, and you can't get approved for a regular unsecured credit card, apply for a secured credit card to begin building your credit rating. Secured cards require an upfront deposit, which will be returned to you when you graduate to an unsecured credit card. After a year or so of having a good payment record with your secured card, you will be more likely to get a traditional unsecured credit card.
- So, I am about to turn 18. I may need about $100 or so each month to cover the remainder of my rent. What type of card should I be looking to get?
- I am 24, I work full time, I have never had a credit card. I want a credit card that will have no annual fee and give me rewards back.
- I'm in my late 20s with a credit score of 680. I'm looking to get my first credit card, one with cash back rewards.