There are TONS of credit cards out there! And if you must absolutely have one (Derek recommends going without one if you can), how do you know which one might be right for you?
Whenever I face a massive amount of choices, I use the process of elimination. For this article, I’ll show you how I narrow the number of credit card candidates so you can find the right credit card that works to your benefit. Let’s begin:
Qualities of the Right Credit Card?
Believe it or not, some cards actually begin charging you interest just a few days after you make a purchase (which is obviously not the right credit card for anyone). Most reputable credit card companies give you a month to pay off the debt. But not all cards. Avoid any card that begins charging interest within the first month. One example is the ever-so-spammy Credit One card. Google it and you’ll find nothing but bad reviews. Never get a card that begins charging interest sooner than one month.
If you don’t spend a ton of money, consider getting a card with a signup bonus. This is smart because you get the cash right away. Let’s say you get a $500 sign-up bonus. If you don’t spend very much, it could take 5 years to earn that with a traditional cash back rewards system. Money up front is always better than money down the road. Never forget about opportunity cost.
I loathe annual fees. Upon reviewing a credit card offer, my eyes quickly check to see if there’s an annual fee. If there is, the card is no longer a candidate. There are a few exceptions, however. A few cards have so many rewards, it’s worth paying the fee. But these cards are rare and really only apply to 750+ credit score type cards. For the most part, avoid annual fee cards.
Foreign Transaction Fee
Do you travel a lot? Find a card that has no foreign transaction fee. Most cards charge 3%. 3% is a lot of money! Instead of paying a foreign transaction fee, you could spend the money in a fun way. Perhaps you could enjoy a 5-star meal. Or perhaps you could upgrade from a regular room to a suite for your last night in Paris. Enjoy your international trips without the hefty fee.
What kind of rewards are you after?
The best thing about credit cards are reaping the rewards. Some people even make a sport of it. Common rewards include air travel miles, cash back on purchases, and discounts for purchases at places like Amazon, Target, Kohls, or any number of stores. Determining the best reward for you depends on your lifestyle. Do you travel a lot? Do you want cold hard cash for every purchase? Are you a loyal Amazon shopper? Decide what reward type appeals most to you. For me, I want cashback rewards on fuel and groceries. Those two categories mean a lot to me.
What cards can you qualify for?
If you have a low credit score, this will narrow down the list in a hurry. Using a site like Credit Karma allows you to see what credit score it takes to attain certain cards. Cards are usually broken up into categories such as bad (a below 600 FICO score), poor (600-649), fair (650-699), good (700-749), and excellent (750+).
Remember: You Can Have More Than One Card
Some people have one credit card, some people have 20. The right amount is up to you. What I suggest is looking at your 3 major spending categories and getting a specific card for each need. Let’s say your 3 major payments each month (besides housing which can rarely be paid with a credit card) is:
- Amazon Purchases
Find a card that works well for each category. And remember to use that card. If you get more than 3 cards, it’ll be hard to remember which to use where. And no one likes their wallet to look like a deck of playing cards. I saw someone play 52 card pickup at the grocery store. It ain’t pretty.
Choose the right credit card for your exact situation. It will take a few hours of research, but the benefits will make the effort worthwhile. Feel free to comment – I will respond!
What is your take on credit cards?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.