If you’re shopping around for a credit card, you’ve probably noticed that there are plenty of options on the market today. Low-interest, balance transfer, rewards, cash back, airline- and hotel-specific cards, retail cards, student cards, business cards…the list is endless. So how do you find the credit card that’s right for you?
Your Credit Score Matters
Your credit score determines what cards you may qualify for as well as interest rates. Keep it healthy by paying your bills on time, not maxing out your credit lines, or applying too frequently for new credit. Late payments and carrying a high balance are two of the quickest ways to drop your score. If you don’t know where you stand credit-wise, annualcreditreport.com provides a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company. However, keep in mind that credit scores aren’t included with the free reports; you must purchase them separately.
Challenged or No Credit
If you have a low score, or a thin credit history, you’ll have to seek out options that can help you build or rebuild your credit profile.You may qualify for either a secured or unsecured card. With a secured card, you put up a cash deposit that you borrow against. For instance, SchoolsFirst FCU offers a secured credit card that allows you to deposit an amount equal to the credit limit you seek, up to $5,000. Then, by making modest charges and paying the balance off each month, you’ll build a credit history which will be reported to the credit bureaus. In time, you’ll see your score rise. If you’re a college student, you may qualify for a student credit card. NerdWallet.com’s “Best College Student Credit Cards of 2016” research allows you to compare features and interest rates from a variety of cards. There are many benefits, such as cash back and travel perks that can help you or your student build a credit history and be rewarded for managing credit wisely.
Carrying a Balance
If you carry a balance on your card, an important feature to consider is finding one with a low interest rate so you are reducing what it costs to finance your debt. Your local credit union may offer the most competitive interest rates, because data provided by the Credit Union National Association to Informa Research Services shows that credit union platinum credit cards had an average annual percentage rate (APR) of 8.87% in 2015, as compared to bank platinum cards with APRs of 10.36%. SchoolsFirst FCU offers credit card APRs as low as 9.00%.¹
If you have a game plan to pay off credit card debt and keep it paid off, then you may want to consider a balance transfer card, which allows you to transfer a card’s balance with a higher interest rate to one with a low- or no interest rate. Keep in mind that balance transfer offers are usually for a set period of time, so you’ll need to factor in whether or not you can reach your goal in the time period offered. And—when that time ends, make sure the card’s new interest rate is competitive and not higher than it should be. Avoid cards with balance transfer fees, which typically hover around 3% APR.
Rewards, Cash Back and More
Diligent about paying off your card each month? Then, you probably don’t need to worry as much about interest rates and can shop around for cards that fit your lifestyle. For instance, if you travel a lot, a card that offers travel rewards and no foreign transaction fees can really make a difference in your bottom line. Do your homework on research sites such as Bankrate.com, NerdWallet.com, and Credit.com. Be careful with store retail cards, which may come with plenty of perks, but interest rates tend to be higher, so you’ll need to use them with care.
1 SchoolsFirst FCU’s credit card program features a range of rates based on a variety of factors, including the applicant’s credit rating. APR = Annual Percentage Rate. As of 12/19/16 Inspire credit card rates range from 9.00%-17.90% APR; Rewards credit card rates range from 12.00%-17.90% APR, and School Employee credit card rates range from 8.00%-17.90% APR. Rates are subject to change, are variable and subject to change after account opening. Foreign transaction fee: 2% of the transaction in U.S. dollars.
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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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