If you’re new to credit cards or looking to expand your knowledge of credit cards, the first thing to understand is that no two card offers are exactly the same. This is evident when you read the fine print. However, much of that language is difficult for the average consumer to understand. So if you’re wondering how to compare different credit card offers, here are four questions to answer that will give you a better idea of what you need.
1. What are your needs? What is the exact reason you’d like to open a new card? If you’re looking to transfer a balance from one card to another with a lower interest rate, pay close attention. There might be a fee for that, or any introductory offers on interest may not apply to balance transfers.
If you have very poor credit, you might want to go with a secured card. Secured cards usually demand that you pay a deposit as collateral, just in case you end up not paying on a balance. Those with average credit have other options which they can compare here.
2. Who is offering the card? Look into the institution that’s offering the card. As a general rule, you should be wary of any providers you’ve never heard of before. The same goes for card companies who approach you out of the blue; you should be seeking out a card that fits your needs, not taking companies up on random offers.
You also don’t want to accept a card that isn’t part of a payment network accepted by most retailers where you spend.
3. What kind of fees are required? A fee isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker since pretty much all cards have at least one. The one you usually need to pay is an annual fee. Once a year, you pay this fee simply for having the account.
How much you pay should depend on what rewards come with the card. Compare what the rewards are without an annual fee versus how those rewards change when you do pay an annual fee, and see which is a better deal for you. Opt for a card that limits or avoids many other fees, like those for late payments, cash advances, and other types of transactions.
4. Are there any incentives or rewards? So you’re getting a great interest rate. Is it really going to stay that way? Understand which features, if any, are part of an introductory offer. If you travel frequently, certain security features and reward points may be extremely handy, but if you don’t travel much at all, these shouldn’t be a huge draw for you.
Some credit cards offer rewards for regular shopping and can even save you money on groceries, so take this into consideration.
Ultimately, all interest rates are subject to change. For that reason alone, it’s key that you avoid letting your balance ride for an extended period of time. Aside from interest, consumers should keep an eye on what kind of fees a card demands, whether the rewards are really applicable to your lifestyle, and that the institution making the offer is truly reputable.