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Should I get a credit card?

Learn the pros and cons of owning a credit card.

A credit card opens up a world of financial possibilities. Among the many perks, you can earn rewards on your purchases or you can build your credit score and enjoy low-interest rates on future loans. But whether you should get a credit card depends on multiple factors, primarily your credit score and your financial needs.

Why should I get a credit card?

A credit card can be a powerful, rewarding financial tool if used responsibly. Here are a few benefits to getting a credit card:

  • Build your credit score. You can build your credit score if you use your card responsibly and make on-time payments. Excellent credit can get you things like better credit cards and better loan terms.
  • Access to credit. Every time you’re approved for a credit card, you get access to money you don’t have in the form of a revolving line of credit. Your credit line may start with a few hundred dollars, but as you build your credit you will likely get an automatic credit limit increases. Remember that some purchases, such as paying your taxes, come with credit card restrictions.
  • Earn rewards. A number of credit cards let you earn rewards on your purchases. Depending on your card, you can earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets or 5% cash back on gas. Some cards let you earn airline reward points, which you can redeem for flights and seat upgrades.
  • Save money on interest. Most credit cards offer a long 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both. Only a few cards offer an interest-free period on cash advances. Depending on your purchase or the debt you’re moving, you can save hundreds of dollars on interest.
  • Additional perks. Travel credit cards often come with the most perks, such as free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access, car rental and travel insurance and more. The best card perks are highly valuable and often worth the price of a high-end card.

Why shouldn’t I get a credit card?

There are cases where getting a credit card may not be a good idea. For example, if you:

  • Lack self-control. Buying on credit means using borrowed money. If you can’t control yourself and overspend, you could end up in debt. In this case, a debit card could be a better choice.
  • Can’t pay off your balance on time. If your income doesn’t allow you to pay off your credit card purchases before it’s due, you will pay late payment fees and start accruing interest.
  • Prefer cash. Using cash is one of the best ways to avoid spending more than you have and to avoid interest rates. If this is your cup of tea, you may not need a credit card.

When should I get a credit card?

Ideally, you should get a credit card as soon as your financial situation allows. That’s because you get to start building your credit early on, which gives you access to better and relatively cheaper financial products in the future. But if you already have a good credit score, here’s what to ask yourself to answer the question:

  • Do I want to buy a house one day? With cash in your account, you won’t have any issues buying a house. But if you need to take a loan, getting a credit card long before that can help you build your credit and get lower interest rates on your mortgage loan.
  • Am I planning a honeymoon or a trip abroad? Getting a credit card before you travel can help you save money on flights, checked bags and you can chill out like a VIP at airport lounges while you wait to board your plane.
  • Do I need cash before my paycheck? A credit card helps you buy groceries, gas and whatever else you may need before you get a paycheck. If you pay it back on time, it won’t cost you anything extra. With a good credit score and a steady income, you can get a higher credit limit and overall better cards. In this case, apply for a card as soon as you need cash.
  • Do I have a high-interest debt? Consider getting a 0% balance transfer credit card to pay off your debt without interest. The longest 0% intro APR period you can get with a credit card is 21 months. But most credit cards offer an intro APR period between 12 and 15 months.
  • Do you want to save money on your purchases? Getting a rewards credit card or a card with a long 0% intro APR period on purchases whenever you’re ready can help you save money. For example, if you spend $2,500 every month with your credit card, you can earn $600 cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card. Depending on your spending habits, other credit cards with rewards may help you earn more.

Compare credit cards for people with no credit history

Don’t worry if you have no credit history — there are credit cards that can help you start and build your credit score.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
22.49% variable
A no annual fee secured card for people who are new to credit or have limited credit history.
Petal® 2
1% cashback, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments, plus 2% - 10% back from select merchants
12.99% to 26.99% variable
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score of 600 or higher. See if you prequalify with no impact to your score.
Petal® 1
2% - 10% cash back from select merchants
19.99% to 29.49% variable
A high-limit no-annual-fee credit card that's ideal for rebuilding scores as low as 550. See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

There are many reasons why you might want to get a credit card: access to a revolving credit line of credit, the chance to earn rewards on all of your purchases and the ability to build your credit — to name a few. But it’s important to find the right card that fits your needs. Compare credit cards to find the right card for your wallet.

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