If you’re a new credit card user or only have a few accounts in your name, you may mistakenly assume that every credit card is the same. Yes, all credit cards let you buy now and pay later. But the similarities stop here. Credit cards feature tons of perks and incentives, and if you don’t know your options, you could apply for a card that’s completely wrong for your spending habits. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best credit cards.
- How’s Your Credit Score?
Credit cards are geared toward specific credit groups. Some credit cards are designed for people with an excellent history, whereas others are a better fit for people with bad or fair credit. Go to Myfico.com and order your credit score and then search for appropriate credit cards. Websites, such as Creditcards.com, allow you to narrow down your search and find the best cards for your credit level.
- Do You Carry a Balance?
If you have existing credit card balances and you want a lower interest rate, a credit card with a balance transfer option might be a good match for you. These types of credit cards are very attractive because they tend to offer 0% interest for 12 to 18 months. You can consolidate your balances onto one credit card, and with no interest payments, you can knock down your balances faster.
- Do You Pay in Full Each Month?
Paying your credit card balances in full each month is an excellent habit, and the best way to avoid debt and interest payments. If you fall into this category, reward yourself and apply for a credit card that offers a rewards program, such as a cash back bonus. Use your credit card at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, the movies and earn (on average) 1%-5% cash back. Or apply for a rewards credit card that gives you points on every dollar spent and redeem these points for merchandise, travel, cash and gift cards.
- What’s the Annual Fee?
Credit card fees can get expensive, and if you apply for a cash back or other rewards credit card, expect an annual fee. These fees can start at $39 and exceed $175 a year. However, a large number of credit cards do not charge an annual fee. Compare different credit card fees before submitting your application and consider whether the card incentives outweigh any fees. Many reward credit cards offer a cash bonus or bonus points if you spend a certain amount within the first 90 days. Oftentimes, this bonus compensates for the annual fee.
- Do You Want Simplicity?
Maybe you’re not interested in the best credit card for cash rewards or bonus points. What’s more, maybe you rarely use credit cards – except for emergencies. In this case, you might benefit from a card with zero perks, such as the Citi Simplicity Card and Blueprint from Chase. You enjoy all the benefits of a having a credit card without the annual fee, reward programs and high interest rate.