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How to Choose a Credit Card That Is Best For You

Oct 04, 2018 - Posted by: Rocky Mountain Credit Union

We all receive credit card offers through mail and e-mail, advertisements, and social media. The first instinct when you receive these offers is usually to shred them, block them, or send to the junk pile. But, if you take the time to read some of these offers, you will find that you can choose a card that will better fit with your lifestyle.

There are things that vary from card to card that are important to know like, what is the annual percentage rate (APR) that the card charges?  What are the cards’ annual fees? How do I accumulate rewards points and how can I use those points later?

If you are paying off your balance every month, the APR will not matter as much. The general recommendation is to not purchase anything with your credit card that you cannot afford to pay off within three months. This is a good rule of thumb to follow because then you aren’t paying outrageous interest fees.

Types of Credit Cards

There are so many types of credit cards out there, that it can be tough to know what your best options are. There are more choices than airline and rewards cards, so be ready to learn all about your credit card options.

  • Gas Card – If you are accumulating a lot of highways miles this card may be for you. These cards offer points, cash back, and rebates on gas purchases. Some of them also offer points when the card is used to buy things other than gas.
  • No Transaction Fees in Foreign Countries – If you are a traveler, then you will appreciate this card. Many cards charge an additional 3% when used outside of the United States and a foreign currency is involved. Imagine the extra charges you are accumulating for eating out and taking a tour bus while abroad! Try this card type instead. It doesn’t charge you any of those transaction fees saving you money for more adventures.
  • Small Business Card – Struggling with cash flow is a problem well known to the small business owner. Some small business cards offer rewards. These cards can be a good way to help you track expenses, which will help with tax preparation and reconciling monthly expense reports.
  • No Annual Fee – Rewards card can seem like a good idea but many of them have annual fees to offset the expense of tracking and dispensing rewards. Consider this type of card especially if you find that you are not using the rewards offered on your other card(s). No annual fee can save you anywhere from $50 to $100 a year!
  • Student Credit Card – Fortunately most student cards have low maximum charge amounts. That means you can only charge so much before hitting the card limit. If you aren’t used to making monthly payments this can be a good way to develop the habit, build credit, and dip your toes into the world of credit cards.
  • Cash Back Rewards – It might sound too good to be true, but you CAN earn cash back on your purchases. The trick here is to read the fine print so that you clearly understand the types of purchases that will earn you cash back. Some cards might cover all purchases, but many have specific categories. For example, you can earn cash back when eating out, but only when eating at certain restaurants.
  • Low Interest Cards – Cards with a low APR can be hard to come by. Having a low-interest rate helps when you are paying down debt but having too much debt can also prevent you from getting a low-interest rate. Read the fine print to understand what it takes to qualify for this type of card and what will happen if you are late with a payment.
  • No Interest Cards – The offer to pay no interest usually comes with the promise that you will transfer your balance from another credit card. Just be aware that your no interest offer probably has a time limit. Usually, it is between six to 18 months. After that time frame is up, your interest rate will adjust, and you will resume paying interest on the remaining balance. This type of card can be a great option when your goal is to pay down or even pay off your accumulated debt.
  • Rewards Cards – These types of cards are generally associated with specific brand service providers or retailers. If you prefer to stay at a certain hotel or always shop at the same box store they have a credit card for you. As you accumulate points they can be used as cash back on services and products. Additional incentives like coupons, better sale prices, and exclusive offers can make these cards even more attractive.
  • Airline Cards– A very common type of credit card is the airline card. You can usually use these cards anywhere to accumulate points, but they do require an annual fee. These points can be used to help reduce flying expenses. Airline cards also offer other benefits like no baggage fees, early boarding, and upgrade offers. If you are a frequent flyer this type of card might have big incentives for you.
  • Secured Cards – This means you have the money up front to put on (secure) the card. The amount you put down is the limit you get on the card. You can use these cards where ever you shop. If you need to establish credit or repair your history this can be a good option.
  • Premium Cards – Not only do these cards offer high charge limits they often have additional features. These extra features are things like, travel insurance, emergency services, and purchase protection.

There is an overwhelming number of credit card choices. Do your research and find the card that will best fit with your lifestyle and your spending habits, and make sure you are always managing it. If you need more help deciding on a card,  NerdWallet can help you narrow it down.

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