Credit Card Offers: How to Separate the Best from the Rest

You know what it’s like: You go to your mailbox or email inbox and see a credit card offer that looks enticing, but without reading the fine print you can’t be sure if it’s one to consider.

Here are some tips to help you decide which offers are right for you, plus how to keep your credit score in mint condition.

First: Can Too Many Cards Ding Your Credit Score?

The most important part of building and maintaining a great credit score is to always make on-time payments and pay off your balances monthly or keep them at 30% of your total credit line.  In fact, 35% of your score is derived from your payment history and 30% on how much you owe. Your credit mix—or all the loans and cards you carry—accounts for only 10% of your score. Still, keep in mind that applying for too many credit cards over a short time period lowers your score. That’s because each time you apply for a new account, a hard inquiry is made to access your credit report, which drops your score by a few points. And according to research, if you open several credit accounts over a short time period, you are deemed to be a greater credit risk which can lower your score even further.1

Next: How Do You Manage Your Credit?                 

If you are disciplined with credit and pay your account balances off each month, you may care more about travel rewards, cash back and other perks than interest rates. But if you do carry a monthly balance, getting the best rate is critical, because those charges can really add up if you’re not careful. The bottom line is: Build and maintain a stellar credit score and you can pick and choose the best options available on the market today. If you have had some credit bumps in the road, or little credit history, you can raise your score over time, simply by making timely monthly payments and reducing your existing balances. The trick is to just stick with it.

No matter what your situation is, your local credit union may offer the best credit card solution to fit your needs. SchoolsFirst FCU offers interest rates as low as 9.00%, annual percentage rate2 as well as free financial education and advice. So it can be beneficial to develop a relationship with a local financial institution that can partner with you to improve your money management skills and build lasting security.

Finally: Always Research Your Offers Online

When you get an offer that seems to be just right, go online and research the card before you take the plunge and apply. NerdWallet,Credit.comNextAdvisor and Bankrate 3 are just a few websites that provide free research and advice, so you can compare your offer to other cards based on your needs, such as low interest rates, balance transfers, travel rewards, business services and more.  And keep in mind that those special incentives won’t last forever. For instance, if you are considering transferring a balance from an existing card to one that offers 0% annual percentage rate for a set period of time, make sure you know how much that interest rate will increase once the balance transfer period ends. Finally, many cards today offer free credit score tracking, which is a great way to keep tabs on your credit health.

1Source: MyFico.com
2Annual Percentage Rate: Purchases 9.00%-17.90% when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. After that, your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. APR for Balance Transfers: 9.00% -17.90% based on your creditworthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. APR for Cash Advances: 13.50%-17.90% based on your creditworthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Cash Foreign Transactions Fees: 2% of the transaction in U.S. dollars.

3 When you click on hyperlinks to external websites, you are leaving SchoolsFirst FCU’s website and are linking to an alternate website not operated by SchoolsFirst FCU, and SchoolsFirst FCU is not responsible for the content of the alternate website. The fact that there is a link from SchoolsFirst FCU’s website to an alternate website does not constitute endorsement of any product, service, or organization. SchoolsFirst FCU does not represent either you or the website operator if you enter into a transaction. Privacy and security policies may differ from those practiced by SchoolsFirst FCU, and you should review the alternate website’s policies.

When you click on external links, you are linking to alternate websites not operated by SchoolsFirst FCU, and SchoolsFirst FCU is not responsible for the content of the alternate websites. The fact that there is a link from SchoolsFirst FCU’s email to an alternate website does not constitute endorsement of any product, service, or organization. SchoolsFirst FCU does not represent either you or the website operator if you enter into a transaction. Privacy and security policies may differ from those practiced by SchoolsFirst FCU, and you should review the alternate website’s policies.

Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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