Pre-approved! Guaranteed acceptance! Zero percent APR for the first six months! Credit card offers use these words to entice you to fill out an application, but you need to look at all offers with a critical eye. Offers that sound too good to be true probably are. Many of them come with hefty annual fees or sky-rocketing interest rates after the initial term. Be discerning when you use credit card selection criteria to help you choose the right card.
From cash back to special discounts and airline miles, many credit cards offer special features to lure you in. When choosing a credit card, look for features you will actually use. If you plan to use your card for everyday purchases, look for one that rewards you for shopping at grocery stores and gas stations. Consider how much you have to spend to earn the rewards. If you must spend thousands of dollars to earn cash back or earn the equivalent of one airline ticket, the card might not be worth it.
If you have less-than-stellar credit, credit cards that you qualify for will probably come with high interest rates. If you only pay the minimum balance every month, those rates can add up. Look for a card with a fixed interest rate, or one that rewards you by lowering the interest rate when you make payments on time. Avoid cards that raise your interest rate significantly if you go over the limit or make a late payment.
Some credit cards come with fees attached. To avoid paying more for your purchases, choose a card with the lowest fees. If possible, avoid getting a card with an application fee or one that charges an annual fee. Also, look for cards with low late payment fees, over-the-limit fees and finance charges. Even if you plan to make payments on time and stay within the limit, it's still not reason enough to get a card with high fees. If you accidentally miss a payment or come close to the limit, you could end up facing excessive costs.
Think about how and where you plan to use your credit card. If you plan to use it at a major retailer, consider getting a card from that retailer. Make sure your favorite shopping haunts accept the credit card you get. Most retailers accept cards through MasterCard and Visa, but not all stores accept American Express, Discover or other cards.
Stacy Zeiger began writing in 2000 for "Suburban News Publication" in Ohio and has expanded to teaching writing as an eighth grade English teacher. Zeiger completed creative writing course work at Miami University and holds a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in secondary education from Ohio State.