Choosing the best credit card for your lifestyle can have a considerable impact on your overall financial health.
In an Ohio Credit Union League 2018 consumer survey, 73 percent of respondents stated they use at least one or two credit cards every month. Of those who regularly utilized credit cards, 39 percent carried up to $1,000 in credit card debt. Another 30 percent owed between $1,000 and $5,000. According to the Ohio Credit Union League’s Quarterly Performance Summary (2nd Quarter, 2018), the average credit card balance held at Ohio credit unions was $2,142.
Ohioans are right in line with national trends as 71 percent of Americans have at least one credit card, according to The Motley Fool. About 18 percent of Americans have three or four credit cards in their wallet, and those cards tend to carry debt.
With the possibility that their credit cards could carry significant debt, it’s not surprising consumers want to shop around before choosing a card.
The majority of respondents in the Ohio Credit Union League consumer survey, about 44 percent, said they look for the best interest rates and lowest fees in their credit cards. According to Experian, most Americans shop for credit cards with a similar mindset; 54 percent seek out a card with no annual fee, while 40 percent look for a low-interest rate. It’s not all business, though. Another 45 percent of Americans and 32 percent of Ohioans said perks, including points for travel, discounts, and other rewards, could influence them to apply for a card.
Americans might have clear motivations for seeking credit cards, but that doesn’t mean they’re easily finding the cards that suit their needs. Although consumers know they should shop for the best deals, according to the Experian survey, 69 percent of Americans said they feel researching the correct card is too time-consuming. Another 61 percent said they become overwhelmed by the number of options available, and 57 percent said it’s too difficult to tell which card would work best for them.
Still, the majority of respondents in the Experian survey, 64 percent, said they believe their perfect credit card is out there, they just haven’t found it, yet.
Don’t let stress over choosing the best credit card deter you from using plastic to pay. Here are tips for finding the perfect credit card.
- Check your credit. Higher credit scores are more likely to be approved for credit cards with better perks, while those with lower scores may need to shop around more. It’s best to begin the research process knowing your score, rather than being declined for the credit card you want after searching. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. AnnualCreditReport.com is a federal- authorized site where you can find your score.
- Figure out what type of credit card you need. There are three main types of credit cards, according to NerdWallet. Consumers can choose between cards that help improve limited or damaged credit, cards that save money on interest, and cards that earn rewards. Additionally, some consumers choose cards to transfer a balance from an existing credit card. Be sure you’re choosing the card most beneficial to your current situation.
- Decide how likely you are to carry a balance. If you know your credit card will carry debt you won’t be able to pay off right away, you should search for cards with low annual percentage rates. Otherwise, you could end up with card payments that don’t fit into your budget and that drag out longer than expected. A card with an 18 percent APR, for instance, would accrue $1,138 in interest on a $3,500 balance, according to CreditKarma.com. Making $120 payments on that card each month, it would take more than three years to pay it off. Make sure you know how much you can realistically afford to pay in finance charges each month and shop around accordingly.
- Read all the fine print. Thoroughly research and understand how your potential credit card will fit into your budget. You may be attracted to a card because of its 0 percent APR introductory offer, but make sure you understand how long that offer lasts and what you’ll be paying in finance charges once that rate changes. Some cards also include annual fees, late fees, and foreign transaction fees you should be aware of before you apply. Be sure you understand everything about your new card so you can use it as wisely as possible.
- Look to a credit union. The unique business model of credit unions allows them to offer competitive rates on credit cards, along with reward programs.