Using credit wisely is all about good decision making and responsible money management. You should never charge more than you can afford to pay back or use credit without a strategy for repayment. Good decisions are just as important when you’re in the market for a new credit card. It’s easy to get distracted by dazzling offers of airlines miles, “cash back” rewards, and other incentives. When you strip away all the smoke and mirrors, however, choosing a credit card is really just a numbers game. If you have already narrowed your list of possibilities to two, then you’re well on the way to selecting a card that suits you needs. So let’s go into some detail about the specific things to look for when comparing two equally attractive credit card offers.

            Many card issuers extend appealing introductory offers to new customers, such as zero interest for 12 or 24 months. While these deals may sound great, don’t choose a card based on first impressions. Keep reading and comparing the particulars. Some cards may provide long-term rewards that outweigh any introductory offers. As a side note, it’s always a great idea to monitor your credit score and correct any errors. When your credit is good, banks and lenders will gladly offer their most favorable terms. Instant approval credit cards, or cards that claim to disregard your credit history, sometimes have terms that are less than favorable.

            With so many people interested in getting out of debt, the number of balance transfer card applications is going through the roof. However, the only way to guarantee that a balance transfer will really work out is to pay off the balance within the promotional period. After that, interest begins accruing and is typically higher than ordinary purchase interest. Remember also that balance transfers usually include a percentage fee, which will be added to your total balance. Several online calculators are available to help you decide which card gives you the most economical way to pay down unwanted debt.

            Interest, also known as annual percentage rate, or APR, is how credit cards make money from their cardholders. It’s probably the single biggest factor to look at when comparing two cards. A lower number means that in the long run, you will pay less money on any balance that you carry. Of course, interest isn’t the only number to look at when comparing credit card offers.

Some cards have annual membership fees, but these cards also usually have several perks to membership. If you’re a big spender or business traveler, the benefits of a “high-end” credit card might make those annual fees worth your while. This is where assessing your needs and wants becomes really important.

            These days, credit card companies understand that customers want more than another piece of plastic. The best rewards credit cards are upfront about what they offer and how customers can earn their rewards. Avoid cards that don’t seem provide much detail or make unrealistic promises. In addition, you may also want to calculate how likely you are to actually use a rewards program. If a credit card offers a great airline miles package, for example, but you’re afraid of flying, then that’s probably not the card for you.

            They say “the devil is in the details,” and when we’re talking about financial decisions, the details are in the fine print. With an online credit card application, you can print out all of that fine print in an easy-to-read format. Pay special attention to any hidden fees, penalties, and loopholes that might make one card inferior to another. When you accept a new card, you’re essentially signing a business contract with the bank – you’d be foolish not to know all the particulars of that contract.

            Today’s average credit card applications can be filled out and submitted with only a few clicks of the mouse. That kind of convenience demands that we, as consumers, be ever more vigilant in our financial decisions.