*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Jun 28, 2013, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
There are credit card-sized multi-tools that let you carry screwdrivers, can openers, knives, and wrenches with you everywhere you go. There’s a Swiss Army knife designed with the same approximate dimensions as a credit card. But while those are handy for all sorts of wilderness survival scenarios, they won’t help you understand balance transfer fees, choose the best low interest credit card, or pay college tuition. There are other cool credit card tools to help solve those kinds of problems, however, and taking advantage of them can simplify your financial life while amplifying your savings.
One of the most fascinating is the compound interest calculator, which factors in the power of saving money that earns interest that can then be reinvested to earn even more interest. You can also use a compound interest calculator to figure out how much money you lost by not saving, and the results may astound you.
Just paying a two percent management fee every year from a retirement account, for example, can reduce the amount of money saved for retirement by as much as 75 percent. That’s because the relatively small two percent could otherwise be earning at a turbocharged rate through compound interest and making you a whole lot richer. Find a compound interest calculator online, play around with it for free, and see how powerfully this economic phenomenon works. Here’s one we found on Investor.gov.
Credit card companies make a fortune, for example, by leveraging that same concept. They charge cardholders interest and then turn around and loan that same money back to them for a hefty fee. Just imagine how much you could boost your savings by picking the right cash-back credit card and putting that extra money to work in a savings plan that multiplies your rate of return. Then again, if you pick a card with lots of rewards and perks, but the annual fee or interest rate is too high, you’ll just wind up giving back everything you worked so hard to earn. That’s why it is so helpful to use automated tools to ensure that you pick the right card to fit your financial needs.
The world of credit cards used to be pretty simple. You could choose between MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and one or two other forms of rather obscure plastic like the Diner’s Club card. These days there are hundreds of different choices, each with their own options, features and perks.
Choosing the right one can either accelerate your savings or cost you extra money that you do not need to be throwing away each time you reach for your plastic, so choose wisely. Use our various card comparison tools and reviews to drill down and examine the nuts and bolts of each credit card offer while doing a true apples-to-apples comparisons. You’ll find the card that really delivers in ways that are important to you and can save you money when it comes to the bottom line.
Balance Transfer Tables
One of the most convenient and insightful tools on our site is the balance transfer calculator, which is a grid or chart that puts all of the important features and costs of balance transfer offers in a snapshot format. With just one glance, it’s possible to quickly compare various balance transfer offers and promotions.
You’ll see the name of the credit card and the balance transfer fee, which is one of those easily overlooked, but all-important charges that can make or break balance transfer savings. Next to the fee you’ll also see the length of time that the special balance transfer interest rate lasts, so you’ll know how much time you have to take advantage of the offer before your interest fees spike.
The Credit Card Fee Experiment
Perhaps the coolest and most entertaining of all online credit card tools is the magical “Credit Card Fee Engine,” which simplifies credit card comparison shopping to a rather entertaining and interactive little game.
Just drag the kind of card or “creature” you want to learn about into the circles. Next drag all of the different features you want into the same circle. When you’re ready, the Fee Engine tool will instantly combine everything and show you the various configurations possible with each card and menu of features. Even a child can help you pick the perfect card using this remarkably futuristic tool. How great is that?
Plastic that Pays Tuition
Another cool feature worth checking out is the kind of credit card that rewards you with tuition money. While other cards give you travel points or cash-back awards, these help you get an education that continues to repay you with huge benefits and dividends for the rest of your life.
One example is the Fidelity 529 College Rewards Card. There is no annual fee, so you don’t have to worry about having your earnings undermined at the end of the year. Meanwhile the rewards are worth 1.5 percent – which is better than many programs that only offer one point per dollar spent. Your earned money goes into a Fidelity Section 529 college savings plan for your child's future education.
Small Business Tools
Business tools offered with credit cards are also valuable if you are an entrepreneur.
At the same time you’ll have free access to tools such as itemized spending reports to help with budgeting and tax preparation. Many business credit cards additionally offer robust rewards programs so that you can retain more of the hard-earned money your company brings in.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.