Comparing Credit Cards

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Today many credit card offers claim to have the best rates and benefits, but when it comes to finding the best one for your financial needs, you should read the fine print. It is important to look beyond the generous benefits of cash back or rewards and learn more about the credit card.

The main thing you should do is to understand why you need a credit card. Is it a short-term way to finance purchases and borrow money or credit card is a convenient financing tool for you. Also, figure out if you want to use your card for emergencies or as a financing tool, whether you pay bills on time, and how much you spend.

Knowing your financial discipline will help you sift through the different credit card terms. And the tips below will help you consider as you choose a credit card.

Point Rewards or Cash Back

If you are planning to spend a significant amount on your credit card, then the cards with cash back or rewards are great because they bring extra value. Consider what gets you more value – cash back or points.

Choosing credit card with cash back means you will have cold cash in your wallet. When you spend money on your credit card you will get some percent of that money back and some issuers will cut you a check, give you a credit on your balance or send you money in a bank account.

Point rewards credit cards work in a different way, they earn points on purchases. Look at what you earn for every purchase or within specific categories. Also understand how to redeem rewards and whether you need a minimum balance to do so. If you prefer rewards instead of cash, look for a credit card with a good sign up bonuses base. Cards with rewards that change on a monthly or quarterly basis can be difficult to track.

Annual Fee

Annual fees for cards may vary dramatically, as well as benefits. If you are going to apply for a card with an annual fee, there has to be a reason for it and you have to get back enough to justify that annual fee. As there are many cards without an annual fee with benefits like rewards, paying an annual fee may not make sense if your card spendings are low.

When you apply for a credit card with an annual fee, understand what you will get in exchange. The extra airline miles, free checked bags or airline lounge access may make economic sense and outweigh the cost of the annual fee. If you do not use such benefits, you may not want to pay for them.

Interest Rate

Interest rate or the annual percentage rate (APR) is important if you carry a balance and don’t pay your bill in full.

The higher the APR, the more you will pay every month. To keep charges low, look for a card with low interest rate instead of one with rewards.

Also, there are cards with low introductory rate that increases over time. When you get such card, make sure to either cancel it before the interest gets high or never carry a balance.

Late Fees and Grace Period

If you are one of those who pay late or go over the credit limit, it is recommended to review a card’s grace period and penalty fees because they are usually higher than the interest charged. It may want to understand what will happen if you are late and how rates will change.

Insurance, Purchase Protection and Credit Tracking

There are credit cards which provide insurance when you rent a car and come with purchase protection. And more credit cards are starting to offer credit card monitoring tools to track your credit or even FICO score. But you have to make sure your credit card offers these benefits and if they are free.

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