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This article was last updated May 18, 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.
Many consumers want to find a better credit card, but the choices can be mind-boggling. There are hundreds of credit cards on the market nowadays, and every one of them has something different to offer. Should you go with the cash back credit card or the points rewards card? What kind of interest rate are you comfortable with? All valid questions for someone in need of a new piece of plastic.
In this article, we will give you a few quick tips for choosing a new credit card. You may need to learn more to officially choose the card for you, but this will get you off to a great start.
Know What You're Working With
First and foremost, you have to take a careful look at your own credit worthiness. That is what card issuers will do before they provide you with their plastic. You can sign up for a variety of free trial credit report offers to see what the company sees. If your credit isn't strong, you know not to apply for an excellent-only credit card. If your credit is strong, you will have a lot more options. After you've found a good source for your report, check it for any mistaken information. Then get your credit score from at least one – if not all three – of the major credit reporting agencies. With your credit report in hand and the knowledge of what kind of credit you have, you can identify a card you will logically be able to get.
No Credit or Bad Credit
If you have no credit history or poor credit, there are still solutions available to you. You can get a prepaid card or secured card to start with, or you can pay higher interest to use a conventional credit card that is designed for people in your financial situation. Don't bother applying for cards that require excellent credit because you will be declined quickly. That will hurt your already low score.
Traditional Credit Cards
If you are eligible for a traditional credit card, decide what you really plan to do with the card. If you are interested in travel rewards, for instance, then a card that offers free gasoline rebates may work fine. That's only if you plan to travel by car though. Otherwise, you may be better served by an airline miles card or even a hotel rewards card. Think about how you'll use your card and the rewards associated with it. Then find the one that is right for you.
Look for offers and special bonuses. There are tons of them out there and you can get a really sweet deal as a new card member from lots of credit card companies. Avoid department store credit cards, because they tend to cost more while being limited in their usefulness. Make sure that whatever card you choose will work for you in the long term, as it is easy to lose sight off that with the bonus offers. If you can get a good intro deal and still enjoy a credit card for years, you know it's a good one.
One thing to remember is that each time you apply for a card it can have a negative impact on your credit score. A better approach is to use resources like our credit card fee engine to do your research and narrow down you search. Choose just one or two cards to apply for based on your credit and their credit criteria, and that will give you the best options while also helping to preserve your good credit.
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.