With the wealth of credit cards available these days, it can be hard finding the right card for you. Think about your way of life and personal needs before you choose a credit card. After all, there is little point taking out a credit card that offers rewards such as air miles, if you never travel. Similarly, a credit card designed with the balance transfer functionality at the forefront will be pointless if you always clear your credit card balance each month.
Your personal credit card requirements.
Consider these questions.
How do you usually use your credit card?
If you have never had a card before, why are you thinking about applying for one now?
What do you want this card to provide? People, and their lifestyles, are very different. What card suits one person, may not another. Bear in mind:-
You, Your spending patterns and Your finances.
If you do not use your credit card wisely, and choose one that is inappropriate, it could cost you dearly. If you are not going to clear the outstanding balance each month, a card which has a consistently low APR, annual percentage rate, will be good for you. Always check the APR, as it will give you a more realistic and accurate figure of the potential costs, than the monthly rate of interest would.
If you have a large outstanding balance on your credit card, moving this blance to another card could pay dividends, especially if you know that you can clear this balance in, say nine months. Choose a balance transfer credit card with an interest free period of nine months and you could be laughing, as long as you adhere to the agreement.
Rewards cards, or not?
Reward and loyalty credit cards have come a long way in recent years. If you are on a tight budget, with little disposable income, a reward card will probably be a bad idea. Still, if you have a good income, and regularly spend huge amounts of money on your credit card, such a card could be just what you need.
Some cards offer cash back whilst others offer, discounts and the like. Be careful though as often the best reward cards are only open to those with a very good credit rating. Have a bad credit score and the only reward card, that will accept you, will charge you a huge APR. This could be as high as 40%. If you already have difficulty managing your finances you would be wise to stay well clear of such cards.
Managing your account on-line.
Many of the best credit card offers are only available if you are prepared to apply and manage your account on-line. Although the Internet is relatively secure there are still some problems. Internet credit cards only ever use secure servers and transactions are just as safe as traditional payment methods. When you think about it, paying over the telephone, or via a cash point, could still attract fraud or theft. Using a cash point could even jeopardise your health with the risk of muggings, so I guess, it is safe to say that nowhere is potentially crime free these days.
On-line accounts should be fine as long as you stick to the usual rules, such as:-
Keep your pin number private.
Never offer more than the minimum amount of personal information which you must supply.
Be careful when using shared computers. Make sure that you delete the browsing history, cookies and temporary folders after use, and do not save your password on the computer.
Know exactly what your credit card arrangement is.
Checking your credit score.
Before applying for a new credit card, check your credit score, just in case. It would be silly, and perhaps damaging, to apply for a credit card that you do not have a hope in hell of being accepted for.
Simply search the Internet for Credit Report and you will be amazed at how many sites pop up. A word to the wise though. Make sure that you only use reputable and established credit report sites. If not you could be sharing valuable and personal information about you, and your finances, with any Tom, Dick or Harry. Experian.com seems to be the most popular site for checking your credit rating, in the UK.
The benefits of debit cards.
The debit card seems to have replaced the cheque book in the UK. In the same way that a cheque did not offer credit ,but took funds directly from your current account, so does a debit card. Many retailers these days offer cash back, at the till, if required, when you are shopping and paying by debit card. This saves you traipsing to the bank to make a withdrawal.
In fact debit cards can help you manage your finances better. As they can be used just about anywhere, even for small payments, they are flexible. This can reduce the need for you to carry much cash at all. Keep the receipts of your purchases in order to balance your bank account. Dispose of these receipts sensibly, for example by shredding, as they all carry some personal details. An additional bonus is that a debit card payment may not be taken from your bank account for anything up to a few days. This could be ideal for using the day before your salary is paid into your bank account.
If you have a bank or building society current account you should be eligible for a debit card so check it out.
Balance transfer fees.
In order to assess if transferring a credit card balance, or part of it, would be good for you financially, you will need to do your sums. The balance transfer fee will usually be around 3% of the amount transferred, with a set minimum amount charged. The interest free period that you are being offered will have a time limit, which could be as little as 3 months or as long as 15 months, however there are catches.
Any purchases made on this card will not have such an attractive offer applied and could cost you more than they should. If you cannot pay all of the balance transfer, within the timescale given, you may find that you start paying high charges. Never assume that you will just swap again a few months down the line, as such balance transfers may no longer be available in the future.
Work out what you owe, and what the offer entails, in order to assess whether or not the balance transfer deal will really save you money. Sometimes such deals do not in the long run, however it may give you a little breathing space.
Take your time.
What's the rush? Unless you are in dire financial straits take your time. Search and compare all the credit cards on offer. This way when you finally apply you will know that the new credit card is perfect for you, and as good as it seems.
Ask your bank.
If you have well managed bank accounts it may be worth enquiring at your usual bank if they have any good credit card offers. Some banks and building societies actively promote their company's credit cards to their customers. As such you may find that currently the best credit card deal, for you, is with your current banker. The rewards could also include insurance deals and good mortgage offers.
Fixed interest rates.
So, if one of the balance transfers or reward credit cards are not for you what else is out there? How about a credit card that has a fixed, low rate APR for ever? Sure if rates carry on plummeting you could lose out but credit cards usually have fairly high rates. A fixed rate will help you budget and there will be no surprises in the future. Remember that interest rates will probably rise in the near future.
Is there an annual fee?
Unfortunately all too many credit cards now have an annual fee payable. This can be variable, so watch out.
So, now you know how to find the right credit card for you, what are you waiting for?