When used responsibly, credit cards offer a great way for you to earn rewards, get cash back, and improve your finances. But with so many credit card options from which to choose, deciding on the best card for you can be a challenge. Should you opt for a regular rewards credit card with no annual fee or a premium credit card with an annual fee that could be as much as $95?
Check out the perks offered by the premium card
Some airline-branded cards offer a free ticket once a year or the opportunity to purchase a companion ticket at a reduced rate. For example, if you can purchase a companion ticket for $99 instead of paying another $350 for your partner to fly, it would make the card worth the $95 annual fee. You can look at it as paying $194 (the $99 ticket plus the $95 annual fee) for your partner’s ticket, which would save you $156 overall.
Other perks, such as access to an airline’s lounge, free checked bags, free hotel stays, or discounts on concert tickets, can also be worth the annual fee. As long as you use those perks regularly, you will come out ahead, even after paying the fee. To optimize your perks, plan ahead, make your purchases, and then pay off the balance each month.
Find out if the premium card offers extra cash back
Some premium credit cards have set tiers for cash back earnings. For example, a card may offer triple the points on grocery purchases and double the points on gas purchases. If you use your premium credit card each day for regular grocery and gas purchases, you can quickly exceed the annual fee in the amount of cash back you receive.
You do have to pay off the balance each month if you expect to reap the full benefits of a premium card. Once you start paying interest on your balance, a premium card is certainly not worth it.
(Read more: Six Things to Know About Credit Card Rewards)
Know when to avoid a premium credit card
Using a premium credit card requires planning. Many of these credit cards are connected with travel, so if you don’t travel a great deal, a premium card might not be the best choice. Realize that receiving a large number of points that can be redeemed once for a free ticket—usually as your signing bonus—isn’t usually enough to justify the yearly fee for a premium credit card. While you may have come out ahead for the first year, you need to think about the next year, when that annual fee is due again.
You also may not want to get a premium credit card if you currently carry balances. No amount of bonuses and premium perks can make up for a high rate of interest on a carried balance. Instead, consider a 0 percent APR credit card so that you can transfer balances and pay them off.
Once you have your feet under you, you can decide whether or not a premium credit card is worth the annual fee.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.