Credit cards offer convenience, and some sweeten the deal further with rewards, but they’re not all created equally. Choosing a card without doing your research could result in a mismatch. If you’ve decided to open a credit card account, there are certain questions you need to consider to make sure it’s the right fit.
1. Why do I want to open a credit card?
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First things first, you need to figure out what your goal is for getting a new credit card. For example,
- Are you hoping to use it to build your credit history?
- Do you want to open a new account to take advantage of a promotional APR offer?
- Are you hoping to transfer a balance to your new card at a lower interest rate?
Understanding what purpose the card will serve can help you target your search.
2. Is my credit good enough to open a credit card?
Credit card companies base their approval decisions on several factors, including your credit history. Some credit cards are geared toward people with excellent credit, while others may be more appropriate for someone with good or fair credit. Familiarizing yourself with what’s in your credit report can help you know whether the information contained in it is accurate.
3. Is earning rewards important?
A rewards credit card can be a valuable tool for earning rewards, in which you can use a rewards card to earn points, miles or cash back on purchases. Generally, the more you charge to your card, the more rewards you can earn.
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There is sometimes a trade-off for earning rewards in the form of an annual fee. If you’d prefer to avoid a fee or if you’re more interested in taking advantage of an introductory promotional APR offer, rewards may take a backseat. The same may be true if you want to open a credit card to cover occasional purchases, rather than everyday spending.
4. What type of rewards fit my spending style?
If earning rewards is a priority, the next question you have to ask yourself is which kind of rewards you’d like to earn. Someone who does a lot of flying, for example, may be partial to a travel rewards card. If you make most of your credit card purchases at the grocery store, on the other hand, a cash back credit card might make more sense.
Besides the type of rewards, you also have to consider the rewards program structure. For instance, does the card offer a flat rewards rate on every purchase or are the rewards tiered? Is your rewards earning potential unlimited or are you capped at earning rewards up to a certain dollar amount? The better you understand the program, the easier it is to tailor your rewards card choice to your spending habits.
5. Do I qualify for an introductory bonus?
Many rewards cards offer an introductory rewards bonus for new members. Earning the bonus typically involves meeting a minimum spending requirement. For example, you may have to charge $3,000 in the first three months to earn 30,000 bonus points.
If you’re interested in a particular card because of the bonus offer, you need to be clear on whether you can meet the minimum spending requirement if there is one. You should also read the fine print to see if there are any exclusions on who qualifies. If you’re applying for a new card with your current credit card company and you previously earned a bonus on a different card, you may not be eligible.
6. How do the APR and fees compare?
The last and perhaps most important thing to consider before you open a credit card is what it will cost. If the card has a high APR, that could make purchases more expensive if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month. Knowing how much you stand to pay for using a card is an important piece of the puzzle when making a final decision.