Selecting a new credit card takes time, effort, and careful consideration. And with so many options, it may seem daunting to find the one that’s right for you. If you are currently considering a new credit card, here are five important questions to ask as you’re determining which card is best for you:
1. What’s your credit score range?
There are many different credit scores out there, but what you really need to know is where you fall on the credit score range. Your Equifax credit score can be anywhere from 280 (poor) to 850 (excellent).
If you only have fair credit, think carefully about applying for cards that require excellent credit as you could be denied. Understanding where you fall on the credit continuum helps you narrow down the cards for which you might get approved.
2. What is the annual percentage rate (APR) you’re being offered?
The lower your credit score, the higher the APR will likely be on the credit cards that you are offered and/or approved for. If you plan to pay your bill in full every month, the APR might not be a significant factor to you, but in general it’s a good idea to compare the interest rates among the cards you’re considering.
If you have excellent credit, you may want to call the credit card issuer and try to negotiate a lower APR if you believe the rate being offered is too high. In some cases, consumers with excellent credit may be able to obtain better terms and rates than those initially offered.
Rewards credit cards often have higher interest rates. If you carry a balance, you’ll be paying interest, which could negate some of your rewards. For this reason, if you think you’ll need to routinely carry a balance, you may want to consider a no-frills credit card with the lowest APR for which you can qualify.
If you plan to pay your bill off every month, a rewards card can be quite profitable if you choose the right type of reward. The key is to match the rewards with your lifestyle. Think about how and where you spend your money over the course of a few months.
For instance, if you spend a lot of time commuting to work, a rewards credit card that gives cash back on gas purchases might work for you. If you spend a lot of time flying, then an airline miles card might be just the ticket.
When you narrow your focus to a specific type of reward, be sure to read all the fine print for the rewards programs so you can choose the best one for your needs.
4. Are you interested in making a balance transfer?
If you have debt on a credit card with a high interest rate, then you may want to consider a balance transfer card.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a balance transfer credit card. First, pay attention to the length of time for the offer. For example, you might see an offer for a 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 15 months. At the end of the 15 months, however, you’ll be expected to pay any remaining balance you have at the go-to rate, which is your purchase APR.
You also want to see how much the balance transfer fee will be. This fee is usually between 3 and 5 percent, though every now and then a card issuer will waive it completely. If there is a fee, remember to add it to the amount you have to repay.
5. Are you willing to pay an annual fee?
Rewards cards sometimes have annual fees. Some people swear they’ll never pay a fee no matter how good the rewards are; however, depending on the type of rewards you’re seeking, some cards can actually be worth the extra money.
This is where you have to do your own cost-benefit analysis. Do the rewards you’ll earn with this card outweigh the cost of the annual fee? If the answer is yes, then this is a card you may want to consider.
Beverly Harzog is a nationally recognized credit card expert, consumer advocate, and the author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made. She runs a popular credit card blog on her website, www.BeverlyHarzog.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.