credit-cardsMany people don’t associate credit cards with banks, but the truth is that all credit cards are offered by banks and credit unions. The cards are just co-branded or re-branded to appear to come from other companies. The Amazon card, for example is currently managed by Chase. There are a few businesses that do their own financing, but that is becoming more and more rare. Those types of credit cards are typically referred to as Store Cards.

Getting a credit card is easy. Choosing the right type of card and getting the best rate on a credit card takes a little effort.

The whole world seems to revolve around credit purchases these days. Credit card offers can be appealing for various reasons. A credit card may have a low interest rate, the credit card may have a good rewards program, or… it may just be really easy to get the credit card. It’s important that you match your need with the right type or card.

Do You Want a Low Interest Rate?
If you plan to carry a balance, then the interest rate will probably be your greatest concern. If you carry a balance with a high interest rate, then you will be paying a lot of money just to borrow that money. The typical credit card carries an interest rate that is about twice as high as a unsecured debt loan. For that reason, you’ll want to find a low interest rate card. That low interest credit card will most likely have little other incentives, such as a rewards program, but it’s the low interest rate you’re after anyway.

Are You Looking for a Rewards Program?
If you use your credit card frequently, you will benefit from a good rewards card. Look for a credit card rewards program that matches your interests, hobbies or habits. Most credit card reward programs give you at least one point for each dollar spent. Then the credit card usually gives you additional reward points if you buy products and/or services related to the credit card sponsor. If you fly all the time, then an airline sponsored credit card could be a great fit. Buy airline tickets, you’ll earn more points that you can use to buy tickets at a discounts or even get free tickets. Get an Amazon.com credit card and you’ll earn more points for buying items off Amazon.com. Those points will earn you gift certificates you can use on Amazon… to buy more stuff. Other cards will reward you for buying a variety of items, such as gas and groceries.

So you want a new credit card and you want the best rate?
Hold on there, tiger. Before you get ahead of yourself, you need to decide WHY you want the credit card. I know your thinking, “Dumb question”. What we’re really asking you to thoroughly consider is what you want to do with the credit card. This decision will determine what kind of credit card is right for you.

Are you trying to consolidate debt?
Do you want to pay off debt?

If you want to consolidate or payoff debt, then look for a low interest or zero interest introductory offer.

  • Figure out how much time it will take to pay off the debt. Be realistic. If you can pay off the debt within a year, then a 0% interest card may be the answer for you.
  • Balance transfer fees. Read the small print. Many cards will offer you a low interest or 0% interest rate but will charge you a fee to transfer the balances from other credit cards or loans. Depending on the time of year and the offers you are receiving, you may not be able to avoid this fee, but you can choose the card with the lowest fee. For example, some cards will charge you 3% of the balance transfer with a minimum of $50. Other cards may only charge 1.5%, and some have no fee at all.
  • Only use that card to pay off the debt. Do NOT use the card to make purchases; use a different card for purchases. It gets confusing to keep up with the debt you transferred to the card and the amount from new purchases. You may find yourself still owing money on your debt at the end of the introductory rate period, and then you could owe a whole lot of interest.

Patience is a Virture… when looking for a low interest rate
Do you just feel special, because they sent you an offer, and you couldn’t possibly say no?

Tips

  • Be patient. Have you ever noticed how many credit card offers show up in your mailbox? I average 3 a week. The card offer you want is coming to you; just wait for the credit card offer to arrive in your mailbox.
  • Read Carefully. Some offers sound fantastic. Get a free computer! Or Fly to Hawaii for Free! If you read the fine print, you’ll find that the way you qualify for these ‘Free’ offers will actually cost you more money than if you just bought the items yourself.
  • Or 0% interest for 1 year.

Ok, so now that you’ve assessed your credit card needs, you’re ready to get a card. What do you do?

Here are 2 things you can do to get the credit card offer you want.

  1. Wait for it. The offer you want will actually come to you. I tend to receive about 3 credit card offers a week. If I’m trying to pay off debt, I like the offers that give 1 year at 0% interest for balance transfers
  2. Ask for it. If you want a deal on the interest rate or you want a balance transfer offer, just ask the credit card company for it. If you already have a credit card with the company, they would usually rather keep you as a customer than lose you to another credit card company.

What if this is your first credit card? What if you have no credit history… or even a bad one?

No Credit. No Problem. Have you ever heard that before? Well, no credit can be a big problem for a few reasons.

  1. It’s hard to get credit when you don’t have a credit history. You’re a risk, because you haven’t established a past record of good credit repayment.
  2. When you don’t have a history, some banks and other companies may offer you credit, but you will have a higher interest rate… because you’re ‘risky’.
  3. If you don’t repay your credit card in a timely manner, your interest rate may skyrocket, and it can be VERY difficult to recover.

So, what do you do when you have no credit history? How do you build a good credit history?

  1. Apply for a low balance credit cards. It’s just a starter credit card, but you need to start somewhere. This credit card is usually similar to a student credit card.
  2. Start making small purchases each month and make sure you set that money aside to cover those expenses when it comes time to pay the bill
  3. Pay your credit card bill on time. Don’t risk being late. And try to pay off the credit card balance every month. Running a balance can make it difficult to catch up later. If you fall behind, you may risk hurting your credit history, which directly affects your credit score.
  4. Be smart. Only buy what you know you can pay off each month. If you couldn’t pay with cash or check, then don’t buy it with your credit card either. That’s just a sure fire way to dig yourself into a hole.