Life changes. It happens whether we like it to or not. And when changes occur, we often develop new credit card needs. Sometimes the signs that you need a new card are subtle. But sometimes they smack you right in the face.
If you experience any of the following, maybe it's time for you and your card to part ways.
#1: Your interest rate is similar to your teenager's test scores
This is a problem whether your teen is an "A" student or, you know, the other kind of student. If your credit score has been going up, it's possible your card issuer still likes the old you better--the one who deserved the 19.99 percent APR.
How to respond: Before you dump your old card, call your issuer and ask for a lower APR. You might actually get it. If not, then take your newly excellent credit score to a credit card issuer who values the new you. And who knows? Maybe your teen's test scores will start going in the same direction as your credit score.
#2: You're now earning 3 percent bonus cash back at pet stores
This would be lovely except that you haven't had a pet since Gracie, your beloved hamster, in the third grade. And we're talking about when you were in the third grade, not your kid.
How to respond: This is a common problem among reward junkies. Really, it's not cash in your pocket if you can't use the stuff you're buying. Check out these rewards credit cards and choose a card that offers rewards that fit your current lifestyle. Do you spend a lot on groceries and gas? Find a card that gives awesome rewards in these categories.
#3: Your credit card statement makes you scream
Remember that scene in Home Alone when Macaulay Culkin splashes on after shave and screams? Do you react like Macaulay when you look at your credit card statement? Impromptu screams are adorable when an eight-year-old does them on screen. At your age? Not so much.
How to respond: First, determine why you feel like screaming. Is it a barrage of new fees? Did you go over your budget? If it's the former, call your issuer and try negotiating the fees. If it's the latter and you're in angst over having a balance with a high APR, consider a new card with a zero-percent balance transfer introductory rate.
#4: Your stack of "changes to your account terms" notices are thicker than your actual credit card statement
Now, this isn't always a bad thing. The CARD Act requires card issuers to notify you about significant changes. This is designed to make all the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that card issuers do more transparent to you. So the abundance of mail you're now receiving is supposed to make you an informed consumer. That is, if you actually read it.
How to respond: Keep reading the stuff that shows up in your mailbox and file it for reference. If upon reflection, it makes you want to scream (see sign #4), maybe it's time for a change. Try a trial separation first. Put your card in a drawer, have a moment of silence for it, and then use a different credit card for a while.
#5: You're convinced that your credit card issuer has an entire team of people devoted solely to inventing new and creative fees
Credit-card-a-phobia manifests itself in a variety of ways. A mild form of this disorder is healthy. It keeps you on your toes and makes you read the boring, fine print in your disclosure statements. A little distrust makes you a discerning consumer. Now, if it gets to the point where you think your issuer is making up fees that are targeted specifically at you, well, you really do need a new card. And perhaps a little group therapy would be in order, too.
How to respond: Just to ease your mind, it's highly unlikely that a major card issuer has a team carrying around a manila folder with your name on it. But your fears are understandable. Some of the new fees you've seen are an unintended consequence of the CARD Act. Issuers lost revenue from a few sources, so they've tried to recoup their losses by creating new fees. If you get slapped with a new fee, take a good look at the other terms on your card and decide if it's still a good deal for you. If you decide it's not worth the trouble, it's time to move on.