When applying for credit cards, it’s important to shop around. There are many credit cards with various features, but there is no one single best card. When you’re trying to find the credit card that best suits your needs, consider these factors:
- Annual Percentage Rate (APR) - The APR is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly interest rate. If the interest rate is variable, ask how it is determined and when it can change.
- Periodic Rate - This is the interest rate used to determine the finance charge on your balance each billing period.
- Annual Fee - While some credit cards have no annual fee, others expect you to pay an amount each year for being a cardholder.
- Rewards Programs - Can you earn points for flights, hotel stays, and gift certificates to your favorite retailers? Use online tools to find the card that offers the best rewards for you.
- Grace Period - This is the number of days you have to pay your bill in full before finance charges start. Without this period, you may have to pay interest from the date you use your card or when the purchase is posted to your account.
- Finance Charges - Most lenders calculate finance charges using an average daily account balance: the average of what you owed each day in the billing cycle. Look for offers that use an adjusted balance, which subtracts your monthly payment from your beginning balance. Avoid offers that use the previous balance in calculating what you owe; this method has the highest finance charge. Also, find out if there is a minimum finance charge.
- Other Fees - Are there fees if you get a cash advance, make a late payment, or go over your credit limit? Some credit card companies also charge a monthly fee. Be careful: sometimes companies may also try to upsell by offering other services such as credit protection, insurance, or debt coverage that you may not need.
- Terms and Conditions - Read the agreement before you apply for the card to make sure that you agree with the requirements, such as mandatory arbitration or repossession clauses.
- Security Features - Does the card allow you to switch it on or off, receive fraud alerts, or text messages immediately after purchases?
- Chip and PIN - Does the card issuer offer chip and PIN security features that use an embedded strip instead of a magnetic strip? You may need this card type if you travel internationally. In 2015, merchants and businesses in the U.S. were required to add in-store technology and processing systems so you can make a purchase using a chip card.
The Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act requires credit and charge card issuers to include all of the information above on credit applications.
Credit Card Guides
Get tips to help you choose and use a credit card:
- Guide to Credit Cards - Learn about important things to consider when choosing a credit card, such as customer service, transaction fees, and more.
- How to Shop for a Credit Card - Find out how to plan for, shop around, and get a credit card that best suits your needs.
- Using a Credit Card - Get the basics on using your credit card, including refunds, errors, disputes, unauthorized charges, and security.