Getting a credit card has many benefits. It can enable you to earn extra money or gifts with points, it can help you access affordable debt, and it can extend your cash flow when you’re short on funds. As a result, you can avoid late fees and interest by being able to pay your bills on time.
However, there are many credit card providers and many different types of cards to choose from. It can be an overwhelming decision to make—choosing poorly can lead to you paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more than is necessary. To help you make the right choice and save more money, here are some top tips.
1. Determine What You Want to Use the Card For
Often, finding the best credit card depends on what you’ll use it for. Many cards rank high in certain categories and are designed to be used for specific reasons, and knowing what your needs are can help you narrow down your choices.
For example, if you have credit card debt and you’re looking to transfer it to a lower interest card, then a 0% balance credit card may be your best choice, enabling you to reduce your interest to nil for the first six or 12 months. Or, if you’re looking to maximize the points you get on everyday purchases to cover a vacation, then an Aeroplan card may be the best option. A low-interest credit card is the best option if you’re looking to make large purchases with payments spread over several months.
2. Pay Attention to All Rates and Fees
Knowing how you want to use your credit card is the first step. Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s a good idea to do a deep dive into the products you’re most interested in, so you can compare and contrast each card. When searching cards, make sure you’re not only taking the promotional rate into consideration but also the term of the rate, balance transfer fees, and annual fees. Often, a card will look great at first glance, but as you start to dig deeper, you realize it’s actually a costlier option than many of your other contenders due to all the additional fees you’ll need to pay.
3. Determine What Rewards You Want
Most credit cards these days offer some type of reward. What each provider offers can vary, so it’s important to determine what rewards you’re looking to make the right choice. Do you only want cash back? Are you looking for air miles points? Are you looking to use your rewards to buy gifts during the holiday season? If so, you’ll want points you can cash in for gift cards.
What’s more, you’ll want to make sure you can redeem the points in a timely manner—it shouldn’t take you three years before you can redeem the items that you value. You’ll also want to consider whether there are ways to maximize your points. It might be a good idea to choose a card with a large sign-up bonus or one that allows you to double your points on certain expenses if points are an important consideration for you.
4. Compare and Contrast
Credit card providers are required to share information about rates, fees, and points in a similar manner, which makes it easier to compare and contrast cards. If you’re looking at different cards from a variety of providers, however, there are many credit card comparison engines online that can help you quickly compare different cards in one place. You can search by card type and get ranked results for cards that will give you the best value. This makes it simple and easy to choose a card that will meet your spending habits, your wants, and your needs.