As much as some people would hate to admit it, everyone needs a credit card. Credit cards, when used properly, can help build you credit history. A good credit history will allow a person to be approved for major loans, like auto loans and mortgages. A good credit history will also ensure the lowest rates possible for those loans, which makes for major savings! The CGS Team is sharing a few basic tips when it comes to shopping for credit cards. Keep these things in mind when searching for your first, or next, credit card.
The most tempting part of a credit card is the promotional offers used to get consumers to apply! While the promotions can be great, your focus should be on what happens when the promotion ends. If your new card has 0% interest and $0 fees for balance transfers for a certain amount of time, that’s great! Can you be sure to have your card paid off before interest kicks in? If not, is the interest and penalty rate affordable for your situation? Try not to get tempted by all of the great offers. Keep a level head and continue researching.
Increased Interest Rates
Credit cards will typically give consumers a range that their interest rate will fall in. This range is based on credit. A good credit score will result in a rate in the lower range, while a bad credit score will result in a rate in the higher range. While the interest rate can only be controlled so much, reading the fine print can help you avoid higher interest that can be controlled.
Some creditors increase interest rates based on the borrower’s payment history. A late payment can mean a higher interest rate. Be sure to confirm if your card’s interest rate will vary based on you pay the card.
Paying your bills on time is the best way to increase your credit score, since payment history accounts for the highest percentage of your score. A grace period is the length of time before interest starts to accrue on any balance after that period. Nowadays, creditors average a 20 day grace period, instead of the typical 25. Some creditors have no grace period at all! If you plan to use your card and pay the balance in full each month, understanding your grace period will help save you money.
Late Charges, Balance Transfers, and Cash Advance Fees
Did you know that missing your payment due date can result in a late fee? Literally, one day late! When shopping for a credit card, check for the late fee rate. Most creditors charge anywhere from $35-$55 for late fees. In addition to researching late fee rates, check for balance transfer and cash advance fees. When you complete a balance transfer, you are transferring a balance from another card onto your current card. Creditors will charge a one-time fee or a percentage of the balance transferred. If you plan to use your card for transfers, check the rates.
Lastly, if an emergency comes up and you need cash quick, you can take a cash advance from your card. Cash advances typically charge different rates and interest as opposed to general balances. Most creditors charge a percentage and a minimum fee. Some creditors have no cap on the fees they can charge on cash advances.
If you plan to use your card for cash back or product rewards, you will typically pay an annual fee for that card. The annual fee helps the creditor give away all that great stuff. If you don’t care about cash back or rewards, look for a card that has no annual fee. Annual fees typically start at $99 and can go as high as $150. Why pay for that luxury if you don’t plan to use your card often, or if you have no need for rewards?
Related: 3 Credit Card Terms You Can Negotiate.
Shopping for the best credit card can save you a lot of money over time! Making sure you get a card that suits your needs and financial situation will help ensure you have the best success with your new credit card. What do you look for when shopping for credit cards? Do you prefer cards with cash back or bonus rewards? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!