Credit Cards

Advertising Disclosure

Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in editorial content are of the author alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the advertiser. We make every effort to provide up-to-date information, however we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented. Consumers should verify terms and conditions with the institution providing the products. Articles may contain some sponsored content, content about affiliated entities, or content about clients in the network.

Editorial Note

LowerMyBills is compensated by third-party advertisers, however, any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in editorial content are of the author alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the advertiser. While reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, the information is presented without warranty.

Make your wallet work for you

FIND THE RIGHT CARD FOR EVERY SITUATION
Cash Back
Travel
0% APR
0% Interest
Balance Transfer

Your credit card may stick with you longer than your current friend group, your main squeeze or your dog, so it pays to choose wisely. So make sure you really need a card, pick the right card for you and learn the terms inside and out before you apply. 

Asking the right questions before you get a card is key to making sure the card serves you well for years to come and doesn’t get you into financial trouble. “You need to think of your credit card as a tool, not as a ticket to buy ‘all the things,’” Kari Lorz (founder of Money for the Mamas) says

Here are nine questions to ask when choosing a credit card to make sure you end up with a good match — and don’t get hit with any surprises such as credit card debt, high annual percentage rateslate feestransfer fees, issues with your credit limit…you get the picture.

9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Credit Card

by Allie Johnson

How good am I at managing my money?

“Time to be honest,” says Ben Watson, a personal finance coach and virtual CFO at DollarSprout.com. “Do you tell your money where to go or does it seem to just disappear without you knowing exactly where?” If you scrape from paycheck to paycheck, that’s a bad sign. If you set and follow a budget, that’s a good sign. “Answering these questions will give some clear indications of if you’re disciplined enough to manage a credit card or not,” Watson says.

Why do I want a card now?

Your reason for wanting a card will guide your search. Are you trying to build credit? Rack up miles for a luxury vacation? Or swap out an old card that no longer fits your needs for daily spending? Get crystal clear on your “why” before you start shopping for a card.

How will I use the card?

“Are you going to pay this card off every month?” asks Kari Lorz, the founder of the personal finance blog Money for the Mamas. “Or are you going to be racking up interest charges because your cash flow is lacking?” While most experts strongly recommend you pay your credit card bill in full each month, you may decide to use a card to finance a needed item such as a new fridge to save money in the short term. If you know you will carry a balance temporarily, you may want to consider a card that offers a zero-interest introductory deal on purchases and make a plan to pay off the balance in the allotted time.

What is my credit score?

Some cards require excellent credit while others accept applicants with good or fair credit. If you have poor credit, you may need to start with a secured card to build your credit. While there are no guarantees when applying for a card, this credit score chart from Experian may give you an idea of how your credit score measures up. You’ll want to use this credit report to consider credit requirements before you apply for a new credit card since each inquiry dings your credit. If a card requires excellent credit and you have bad credit right now, you’ll want to aim for opening a different credit card account.

What kind of rewards program do I want?

The first choice you need to make: cash back rewards card vs. points or miles? While travel rewards sound sexy, cash back may truly be the best choice for you if you want simplicity, don’t want to spend much time learning how to maximize rewards or simply don’t travel a lot. If you do prefer travel rewards, think about your travel patterns. For example, which airline do you fly and where do you want to go? The card that’s right for flying the family to Florida in coach is all wrong if you have your sights set on taking first-class to Paris for your honeymoon.

What credit card deals are available now?

Shop around a bit on issuer websites and credit card sites to see what deals are currently available. Offerings change frequently, and shopping around can help you make sure you’re getting the best deal. For example, issuers frequently change offerings for sign-up bonuses, which allow you to get a slew of points or miles just for getting a card and spending a certain amount within a set timeframe.

How much will I pay to carry the card?

Once you’ve shopped around and have a specific card in mind, take a look at the annual fee and all the other fees, crunch numbers, and make sure you’ll use the card benefits enough to come out ahead, says certified financial planner Eric Croak. “Annual fees on credit cards aren’t actually a bad thing,” Croak says. “The benefits can greatly outweigh the cost.” Note to international travelers: watch out for foreign transaction fees, which could tack hundreds of dollars onto a trip.

What is the interest rate on the card?

It’s crucial to know the APR on any card you’re considering. If there’s a low or zero-percent introductory rate balance transfer card, check to see what it reverts to after the promotional period. Credit cards typically advertise an APR range that can hit 25 percent or higher and depends on the applicant’s creditworthiness. Lorz says: “Hint: if you’re considering getting a store credit card, just don’t.” From clothing stores to lingerie shops to home goods emporiums, she says, retail credit cards usually have “ridiculously high rates.”

Will I actually use the cool perks?

Perks like travel insurance or reimbursement for a Global Entry application fee may get you dreaming about jetting off to the Maldives and floating your cares away in infinity pool at an all inclusive resort. But what if your only real life travel is your annual holiday trip to your grandma’s house in Missoula, Montana? “Don’t say ‘Oh, I’m going to travel,’ because chances are you’re not and all those reward points will go to waste,” Lorz says.

Top Credit Card Reviews

Credit Card Reviews: BankAmericard ® Credit Card
Credit Card Reviews: BankAmericard ® Credit Card

I’m sure you’ve heard about award travel fans who go everywhere using points and miles from their credit cards. But for every one of them, there are plenty who aren’t worried about rewards as much as they are just struggling to pay off their credit card balances....

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Overall As a flat-rate cash back credit card, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card has some great things going for it. For starters, there’s a sign-up bonus, so you can snag an extra $200 if you spend $1,000 with the card in the first three months.  The card...

Review of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Review of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

If you’re thinking about dabbling in credit card rewards but aren’t sure where to start, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card could be the answer. With generous rewards across a variety of spending categories, extra perks like cell phone insurance and no...

Top Credit Card Reads

9 Questions To Ask When You’re Choosing A Credit Card
9 Questions To Ask When You’re Choosing A Credit Card

Your credit card may stick with you longer than your current friend group, your main squeeze or your dog, so it pays to choose wisely. So make sure you really need a card, pick the right card for you and learn the terms inside and out before you apply.  Here are...

6 Tips For Filling Out A Credit Card Application
6 Tips For Filling Out A Credit Card Application

Written by: Holly Johnson So, you’ve decided to apply for a new credit card. That’s good news for you — or, at least it should be. A new credit card can benefit you in myriad ways, after all, from helping you build credit to letting you earn rewards for each dollar...

7 Ways To Avoid Credit Card Fees
7 Ways To Avoid Credit Card Fees

Nobody likes paying fees — especially when it comes to credit cards. After all, any fee represents money that provides no benefit to you. The good news is that you can avoid credit card fees fairly easily. Tweak your spending habits and look for credit cards with few...

Average Credit Card Debt By State
Average Credit Card Debt By State

Whether your state ranks high or low on average individual credit card debt, if you’re carrying a balance on your credit card — or even multiple cards — you’ve got plenty of company. Credit card balances in the U.S. rose by $26 billion to $870 billion in the fourth...

The 6 Best Strategies for Paying Off Your Credit Card Debt
The 6 Best Strategies for Paying Off Your Credit Card Debt

Carrying a credit card balance may seem like no big deal at first, but over time it can cost you a lot in interest.  And you’re not alone in carrying a balance. As of January 2019, Americans are holding onto more than 1 trillion dollars in revolving debt, which...

3 Ways to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates
3 Ways to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates

A few years ago, I was overwhelmed with medical bills after a long hospital stay. My savings ran dry, so I had to use my credit cards to cover expenses. With high interest rates — mine was about 15% — my balances ballooned out of control....