There’s no one-size-fits-all credit card. The ideal card for you is going to be one that meets your financial needs, spending habits and reward goals. Whether you prioritize cash back, travel miles, a signup bonus or saving money on fees and interest, you can start comparing credit cards and narrowing down your options.
Choosing the right credit card is often a compromise — you get one set of perks, but you give up others. To help you decide what the ideal credit card is for you, consider the following:
Do you want to earn rewards?
- You can earn cash back on everyday purchases, travel miles or points from a specific rewards program. With most cards, your redemption options will include a variety of rewards or the ability to transfer points between partner programs, such as hotels and airlines.
- Rewards cards typically come with a high APR. Try to pay your balance in full by the due date to avoid paying interest.
Do you want to save money on interest?
- This type of card often comes with a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers and purchases, and a low APR after that.
- Often you’ll have to give up on rewards to save money on interest. But some rewards cards, such as the cashback cards, come with a 0% intro APR period.
Do you want to pay an annual fee?
- This can get you the highest rewards rates and benefits. Depending on your card, these benefits could include companion flights, free checked bags, free hotel stays, dedicated concierge, complimentary airport lounge access and more.
- If you don’t use the additional perks as often as you would like, a no-annual-fee card may be a better option.
Do you want to save money on fees?
- Depending on the card you choose, you can save money on foreign transactions, balance transfers and cash advances.
- Most travel cards waive only the foreign transaction fees. The only type of cards that avoids all these fees are cards issued by credit unions. This is a drawback as you may not be eligible to join the credit union and apply for such a card.
Understand credit card rates and fees
Read all the fine print a few times to be sure you understand everything the card offers. Read up on what all the terms mean, such as APR and grace period. Sometimes they are explained on the credit card agreement, but you can also contact the credit card provider to learn more.
The ideal card for you may not be one without an annual fee. But if you are going to be carrying over a balance for a month or two, consider a card with a lower ongoing APR.
If you often carry a balance, a low-APR card may be the way to go. But know that unless you’re getting a credit union card — which often has fewer fees and lower APR — you’ll be giving up the option to earn generous rewards on your purchases.
Cash advances can be draining on a credit card since the fees and interest rates are high. Don’t count on using your credit card to get money out of the ATM every time you need it. Have a debit card at your disposal to withdraw cash at these times. Alternatively, you could get a credit card with no cash advance fees, but you will still incur an APR from the moment you make the transaction.
There is a credit card out there for everyone, but following the suggestions above can help you determine which card is ideal for you. Pay attention to your financial needs, spending habits and what you’d like to get out of the rewards.
Just don’t get overwhelmed comparing your many credit card options. Narrow down the perks you prioritize and you’ll be on your way to finding the right card.
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