Today, selecting the proper credit card can be a bit confusing to say the least. There are literally hundreds of offers from the major institutions eagerly competing for your business. The easiest way to shop for a credit card is to break them down into categories. There are seven major categories that all credit cards fall into. Each category is listed and explained below. Once you identify the proper category, simply narrow down the offers to the ones that best suite your particular needs and lifestyle.
General Purpose/Low Interest Credit Cards:
These cards are great general purpose credit cards for those not interested in all the special features and costs associated with CashBack or Rewards cards. They feature either a low introductory interest rate, and/or a low fixed rate.
General purpose credit cards are usually favored by those who tend to carry a monthly balance on their cards. A lower interest rate can add up to substantial savings on finance charges, and be of more value than cards offering high rewards, or cash back. If you are planning a large purchase, a low introductory APR may be just what you need. You can stretch out your payments over the length of the introductory period, and save a bundle on finance charges.
Cash Back/Rebate Credit Cards:
Cash Back credit cards give you cash or rebate incentives every time you use the card. The amount given is usually a percentage of your total purchases excluding interest and finance charges. Cash back credit cards should be considered by those who tend to pay off their entire balance every month, and therefore would not realize the benefits offered by low interest rate cards. Cash back cards are always hard to beat, but others may favor a rewards program offering goods and services in place of cash. The card you choose will depend upon your particular needs and lifestyle.
Reward Credit Cards:
Reward credit cards give you points every time they are used to make purchases. The points that you accumulate can later be redeemed for goods and services. Cards offering reward points are most attractive to those who tend not to carry a monthly balance. If you pay off all or most of your balance each month, a low interest rate will be of little consequence, making reward cards the perfect solution for reaping some extra benefits out of your spending dollars. There are many cards in this category that give special rewards as incentives to shop at specific retailers. Check the terms of each card to find the one that will best suit your needs.
Airline Miles/Travel Credit Cards:
If you’re an airline traveler, you should look into credit cards that offer Frequent Flier miles. You earn Mileage points as you spend on your credit card. You also earn mileage points for the miles you fly. If you took a round trip to Orlando from Washington DC you would earn 1516 mile points. If you bought the ticket on your card you would earn even more! Most Frequent Flier credit cards will give you 5,000-10,000 free miles as a sign-up bonus, as well as discounts on car rentals, free hotel upgrades, and many other perks. Be aware that there may be caps on the amount of miles you can earn in a year, as well as expiration dates for unused miles.
Business Credit Cards:
If you own a small business then you should consider a business credit card. With a business credit card, you can make purchases under your business name, allowing you to separate your business and personal expenses. Business cards can in some cases carry a higher limit than a personal card, and additional cards may be issued to executives, or employees. Most institutions offer business cardholders a special categorized statement that makes it easier to manage your company’s finances and spending habits.
Student Credit Cards:
Student credit cards are available to actively enrolled College students. They are ideal for building a credit history, and teaching the principles of financial management. After graduation, the credit history established with a student credit card can be a great help when buying that first new car, or even applying for a mortgage. It pays to start early and establish yourself as a responsible person by paying your bills on time. A student credit card usually carries some restrictions not found on ordinary credit cards. A co-signer is sometimes required on the account, and in such cases, permission from the co-signer must be obtained before the credit line can be increased.
Bad/No Credit Credit Cards:
If you have bad credit, or simply no credit history at all, there are alternatives to help you build/rebuild your credit. Many institutions offer secured, or pre-paid credit cards to individuals seeking to build or rebuild their credit. A secured credit card requires that you supply the institution with some type of collateral such as a car, home, boat, or cash. They will issue you a credit card secured by the value of this collateral. It functions just like a regular credit card, except that if you default the bank can seize the collateral.
Another solution is a Pre-Paid credit card or “Debit” card. Pre-Paid cards require that you deposit funds into the card’s account in advance of making any purchases. When a purchase is made, the funds are deducted from the account balance. This is not really considered a credit card since no credit is actually being granted by the institution. Debit cards are a great alternative to carrying cash, and are hence much safer.