Finder.com’s free service makes comparing credit cards simple. To help you find the best credit card for you, we’ve organized our comparison by card type, card features, and card provider. Whether you’re after a card with a low interest rate, a balance transfer option or a rewards card, we make comparing easy.
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How credit cards work
A credit card is a revolving line of credit, allowing you to borrow money to make purchases without having to put up collateral (upfront cash). Based on your perceived ability to make repayments, credit card companies assign a credit limit, which is the maximum amount of money you can borrow.
Unlike a debit card that uses your own money to make purchases, when you use a credit card, it is the lender who pays the retailer. At the end of your billing cycle, you receive a statement and that tells you the total amount you owe the lender for that period. Credit card companies make money on fees and the interest that accrues on your revolving credit.
How does credit card interest work?
Interest is a fee you pay to a lender for the amount of money, or credit, you borrow. The amount of interest you pay for borrowing is set at a percentage rate determined by your credit score. Without interest, lenders wouldn’t have much incentive to lend money.
Each month, you’ll receive a statement that will detail the transactions you’ve made, the total outstanding balance you have and any interest you’re accruing.
As you spend on your credit card, your debts will also begin to collect interest if you’re unable to pay the whole balance back by the end of the statement or interest-free period. If you’ve used your card for purchases, it will start collecting interest.
This is called an APR, or annual percentage rate, and it usually hovers between 11.99% and 20%.
If you’ve used your card for an ATM withdrawal or any other transaction that’s considered a cash advance, you’ll accrue the cash advance rate of up to around 22%.
If you decide to transfer your debt from one card to another — maybe another card offers a better APR — you’ll also accrue a balance transfer interest rate, which is usually the same as either the interest rate or cash advance rate.
Some cards do offer 0% promotional periods on purchases and balance transfers, so this is something to keep in mind during your comparison.
How to avoid paying interest on purchases
When you pay your entire balance in full, you can usually take advantage of a grace period in the next billing cycle. If you don’t pay your entire balance in full, the remainder will start to collect interest.
While you’re only required to pay a minimum repayment each month — 2% to 3% of your total balance — it’s best to pay as much as you can.
8 types of credit cards
There are many types of credit cards designed for different types of users. Credit card companies target these specific individuals by offering tailored rewards, sign-up bonuses and travel perks to entice users to spend with them.
These are the eight categories credit cards are broken down into:
0% APR and low interest cards
0% APR or low interest credit cards come with little or no interest on purchases during promotional periods that can run as long as 21 months. That equals big savings on interest if you’re the type of person who carries a balance from month to month.
“Bad credit” cards
Credit cards made for users with bad credit are typically either secured credit cards or prepaid credit cards. Both types of cards require cash upfront in order to load funds for spending. People with bad credit scores usually find it difficult being approved for other cards, so they have to rely on “bad credit” credit cards.
Balance transfer cards
These credit cards offer people the opportunity to transfer a balance from a credit card with a high interest rate to one with a lower interest rate. Balance transfer credit cards can help users save a good amount of money that they would’ve paid on interest.
Designed for business use, a business credit card comes with perks and rewards that are specific to small businesses needs. Using a business credit card is an effective way to keep your personal and business expenses separate.
A cash back credit card rewards your spending with cold hard cash. The amount of cash back you earn is set a percentage rate. There will either be a cap on on how much you can earn or be unlimited. Cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit towards your balance, in a credit card shopping portal, as a gift card or in a deposit to your bank account.
These cards let you earn points for your purchases. Sometimes all of your spending is rewarded, other times you’ll have to spend in a bonus category to earn rewards. Because there are different reward structures, you have flexibility with how you redeem your points.
A secured credit card works just like a regular credit card, however, you’re required to put down a security deposit that acts as your line of credit. Typically these cards are used by people trying to build their credit or repair their credit.
Made for the traveler, a travel credit card lets you earn miles on your purchases, and they often come with greater rewards for your travel related purchases. You can cover your airfare, book hotels and much more with your miles. You’ll find that some of these cards are branded by hotels or airlines and allow you to maximize your rewards when spending directly with them.
Consolidate an existing debt at a lower APR with a balance transfer card.
Manage your debt. The longer the low or 0% balance transfer APR lasts, the more you’ll save.
Beware of the revert rate. When the introductory low or 0% APR ends, you could find yourself confronted with a much higher interest rate.
What is the balance transfer offer? There are a few ways to compare how competitive an offer is. The introductory APR you’ll be charged on a balance transfer card is usually low or 0%, so this is something you’ll want to consider. The length of the balance transfer period also differs, though it generally falls between six and 24 months. You’ll want to choose a balance transfer offer that will allow you to pay off your debt before the offer ends.
What’s the revert rate? If you don’t think you can repay your existing debt within the promotional period, consider whether the revert APR will attract more interest and how this will impact the savings you’ve made.
How much can I transfer? Many providers set limits on the percentage of the credit limit you can transfer. If your existing balance exceeds the limit, you may want to consider a card with a higher credit limit.
Rewards can be a worthwhile way to get something back from your spending. Whether you’re a frequent flyer, loyal customer or big grocery spender, you can find a rewards credit card to suit almost any lifestyle.
The major draw of this type of card is earning points that can be redeemed for rewards. Depending on the card you use and the promotions in place, you may be able to earn bonus points when making certain types of purchases or shopping with a particular retailer.
What you can redeem your points for will vary from card to card. Some allow you to redeem points for flight rewards as well as shopping or travel vouchers. Others can be used for cash back, to redeem merchandise or even to donate to charity.
What are the associated costs? Typically the higher the rewards the higher the card costs, so be careful. While some rewards cards charge no ongoing annual fees, others charge higher annual fees up to $450 and beyond. The more features the card has, the higher the fee is likely to be.
Are there limitations? Your card provider might not let you earn more than a given number of points in a calendar year, and your points can also expire after a set time frame.
What are the other perks? Most rewards cards are affiliated with Visa or Mastercard, and you can use these cards in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Many rewards cards also offer extra perks, such as complimentary rental car insurance. Compare your options to see which features work best with your lifestyle and spending habits.
0% APR credit cards allow cardholders to take their time when paying off larger purchases or consolidating existing debt.
If the 0% APR is only in place for an introductory period, the revert rate could be significantly higher. These cards often require applicants to have a good credit history as well.
How long is the 0% APR? Carefully confirm how long the 0% offer lasts. If you do not repay your balance by the end of the promotional period, you may find that your existing debt attracts a much higher APR.
Are there other fees? If there’s an annual fee, make sure that the savings you’ll make in interest and other benefits of the card will offset the annual fee.
What are the other perks? Is there a rewards program, or can you earn bonus interest-free days if you pay your balance in full each month? Extra features like these can help you determine the true value of the card.
A low interest credit card allows cardholders to repay their debts at a lower APR than your standard card. Depending on the card, the length of the low interest period may vary from an introductory period to the life of the card.
If you struggle to repay your balance each month, low interest cards can help you reduce the costs of your card.
The advantage of low interest usually comes at the cost of forfeiting the extra features that a premium or platinum card may offer, such as a rewards program, complimentary rental car insurance or other extra perks.
How long is the low APR period? Sometimes the low APR will only be in place for an introductory period (say, six to 12 months), whereas other cards may offer the low APR for the lifetime of the card. If it is the former, make sure to check the revert rate to avoid any nasty surprises when the promotional period ends.
What are the other fees involved? Depending on the card, the low APR may be balanced out by higher fees. Read the terms and conditions of the card to ensure that the overall costs, such as the annual fee, don’t outweigh the low interest.
A no annual fee card doesn’t charge a yearly fee. Some cards have this as an ongoing deal; others will waive the standard fee for the first year of using the card.
Not having to pay an annual fee can result in savings each year.
If the annual fee is only in place for a promotional period, there may be a high annual fee when it reverts to the standard rate.
How long is the no annual fee offer in place? You’ll need to confirm whether the no annual fee is in place for the lifetime of the card or only for a promotional period. If it’s the latter, you’ll want to check how long the promotional period lasts and what the annual fee will revert to at the end of the introductory period.
What other fees and rates are involved? Just because there’s no annual fee doesn’t mean there won’t be other fees associated with the card. For example, if the card comes with a higher APR or a lower rewards rate, you may find that these overshadow the savings you’ve made on the annual fee. Calculate these figures before applying to make sure the card works for you.
What perks are on offer? Cards with no annual fee often lack additional perks such as high-earning rewards programs or concierge services. If these extra benefits are of value to you, you may want to reconsider what’s on offer.
That really depends on what you’re planning to use your credit card for. There’s no such thing as a single best credit card because each person’s situation can be completely different.
Here a few examples of common situations that can help guide you towards the right credit card.
How you plan to use your credit card…
Type of credit card to apply for…
Refinance or consolidate other credit card debt
A credit card that has 0% APR on balance transfers.
Get rewards on all purchases
A credit card that has cash back or rewards for every purchase.
Build your credit
A credit card that reports activity to all three bureaus and offers free credit scores.
For business expenses
A business card the has rewards in line with your business spending.
Traveling in foreign countries
A travel card with no foreign transaction fee and travel based incentives.
Carry a balance from month to month
A credit card with 0% or low interest.
Reduce chances of being denied
A secured credit card.
A card with no annual fee with terms that are suitable for you.
What are the costs of a credit card?
Repayments. You’re free to repay as much as you like as often as you like. You’re required to make the minimum repayment when your statement is issued. The minimum repayment is usually 2% of your outstanding balance. You will pay a late payment fee if you don’t make the minimum repayment by the statement due date.
Annual fee. This is the cost to own a credit card. The annual fee ranges from $0 to hundreds of dollars depending on the credit card type. The credit card annual fee is deducted from your available credit and accrues interest at the purchase rate if it isn’t paid in the first statement period.
Interest rates. Interest is the price you pay to borrow money. Credit card interest rates are much higher than other types of finance because credit cards are an unsecured product; financial institutions have no recourse to take your assets if you default on your repayments.
Other fees. Other fees you may run into include late payment fees, overlimit fees (a fee for spending past your credit limit), rewards program membership fees and cash advance fees.
7 credit card application tips
While applying for a credit card doesn’t have to be complicated, it can come with certain risks.
Assess your needs. Before you begin your search, spend some time considering what you want, need and can afford with your next credit card.
Compare your options. Once you’ve decided what type of card you want, it’s time to begin comparing your options.
Are you eligible? Know the requirements for the card application – do you need a minimum income, and do you meet the age limit?
Know your credit score.You should request a free copy of your credit history before applying, so you can correct any possible errors on it and see exactly what the bank will be seeing when they assess your application.
Lower your credit utilization ratio.If you already have a credit card balance, it’s wise to pay off your existing balances before submitting a new credit card application.
Don’t apply for multiple cards at once or within a short period.You may be tempted to apply for a second card just in case your first one doesn’t get approved, but don’t. Each credit enquiry that a lender makes about your credit history leaves a new mark on your credit file for five years.
Be practical. Look for a card that matches your credit rating. It doesn’t make much sense to apply for a card that you may be denied for. Also, don’t chase reward based credit cards if you can’t meet the spending requirements.
Getting a new credit card is exciting for sure, however, there are some important things you should know before you swipe your plastic .
Activate your credit card. When you receive your new card, there will likely be a sticker on the front side with directions for activating it. The two most common methods to activate a new credit card are either by phone or online.
Understand the terms and conditions. Know the fees, interest rates and any other costs that come with your credit card so you aren’t hit with any extra charges by surprise.
Pay attention to your credit limit. Experts recommend to keep a credit utilization ratio of less than 30%. So if you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit, try to keep your balance below $1,500 so you don’t damage your credit score.
Know when the promotional rate ends. A lot of new credit cards come with 0% or lower than usual interest rates for a limited period of time. Mark on your calendar when the promotional rate expires so you can pay off your balance in full to avoid being hit with the reverted interest rate.
Get familiar with the rewards program. Learn how you can benefit the most from your spending. Some credit cards reward you for all purchases, yet others only earn points when you spend in specific categories. Also some reward programs require you to register or sign up in order to earn, so don’t forget to do that.
Sign up for an online account. Having access to your account online can simplify how you manage your credit card activity. With an online credit card account, you can make payments, keep tabs on your spending and regularly check your balance. Some credit cards even have an app for your mobile phone so you can monitor your account on the go.
Choose if you’d like paperless billing. Most credit card companies will give you the option to get a paperless statement opposed to a bill in the mail every month. With paperless statements, you receive an email alerting you that your bill is ready and then you can log on to your online account to take care of it.
Set up autopay. To ensure you never miss a monthly payment, you can link your bank account to your credit card account. This way, an automatic payment is drawn from your checking or savings on a set date each month so you never have to worry about incurring a potential late payment fee.
Keep your credit card safe. Be careful with your credit card information and the physical card itself. Store it in your wallet or purse and know where it is at all times. Protecting your account information is a key factor in preventing credit card fraud.
How does my credit score impact my ability to get a credit card?
The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — use a set of factors and complex equations to determine your credit score. This is important, because your score is often used by lenders to help decide whether to approve you for new credit cards. The higher your credit score, the better position you’re in to get a credit card with competitive features and perks.
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