Right now is probably one of the best times to be a consumer in the credit card market! Why? Because all of the lenders are pouring millions of dollars to develop strong products and to offer premium rewards in order to gain your business! They are increasing the rewards, sign on bonuses and reducing fees (generally) to entice you to apply and to spend your money using their products.
However, don’t jump into an application with the first offer you receive! There’s a lot to consider about the rates, fees, reward structures, partners, and the type of credit card you will be getting. Adding a credit card to your financial life should support your life style and your priorities. You need to make sure that it is adding value to your finances in every possible way.
Here are the items you need to consider for your next credit card:
Key questions you need to ask yourself before applying for a credit card:
- What are my largest expenses and how can I receive the biggest bang for my buck?
- Do I prefer rewards or cash back?
- Am I going to pay my balances in full each month?
- Am I looking for premium rewards?
- Am I a frequent traveler?
- Do I have a preferred airline and hotel?
- Do I primarily travel domestic or international?
- Do I want a program that has less impact to my credit score?
- Do I need a new credit card and will I truly utilize it?
Every lender offers different rates. Read the terms and conditions carefully to look for the following:
- Interest rates
- 0% Introduction APR offers
- Low Balance Transfer Fees
When it comes down to fees, don’t be surprised if the premium credit cards have higher annual fees. However, there is more to consider:
- Annual fees
- Foreign transaction fees
- Cash advances
- Late payment penalties
Hotels & Airlines
If you have a strong preference for a specific airline or hotel brand, then selecting a credit card with that brand would be a great idea. They typically have strong reward structures, but keep in mind that the rewards are more likely than not limiting to that airline and hotel. If you want more flexibility, then you may want to consider a general points reward structure.
There are a lot of options when it comes to rewards. First ask yourself, do you prefer cash back or points? With both a points and cash back program, make sure to find a lender and program that compliments your spending behaviors. For instance, are most of your expenses gas, groceries, and restaurants? Then you will want to receive accelerated points/cash back for those categories of expenses.
Points will vary depending on the lender, the program, and how they are redeemed. You can redeem points for hotels, gift cards, airlines, shopping at participating retailers, etc.
Cash back is straight forward because cash is king!
Types of Credit Card
- Standard credit cards are basic credits and offer less rewards and incentives.
- Premium credit cards offer high spending power and come with a lot of features, such as insurances, purchase protection, extended warranties, etc.
- Rewards credit cards offer cash back and points structure programs.
- Private Label – i.e., department stores, gas cards, etc.
- Affinity credit cards are programs that support charities, colleges and sports teams.
- Secured credit cards require a cash deposit as collateral. This type of card is a great way to build your credit!
- Credit cards will have a hard line of credit and the lenders will report your utilization rate every month to the credit bureaus.
- Charge cards have a no pre-set spending limit and do not report a utilization rate to your credit bureaus.
With this information you should be fully prepared to make your decision on the new credit card! Here are some more tips:
- Learn more about the differences between a charge card and a credit card.
- Learn more about how to leverage a credit card to your full advantage.