Five Factors To Consider When Selecting A Credit Card
Nowadays many credit card companies offer perks to lure new customers ranging from introductory offers with zero percent interest for transferred balances, reward programs offering airline mileage and cash back, and discount programs with select merchants. While these offers may be very enticing, there are five key factors, none of which include perks, that you should consider when selecting a credit card.
One of the first factors to consider when selecting a credit card is the number of fees associated with using the card and the totality of all of them if incurred. Companies can charge a variety of fees with the most common being annual, closure, over-the-limit and late fees. Because not all companies charge the same fees and the level of the fees can also differ, it is important to read all of the fine print and details that accompany any credit card offer.
An annual fee is a membership or participation fee that is charged for having a credit card. An annual fee can range from $25 to $50.
Some companies also charge a closure fee when an account is closed. This fee also falls within the $25 to $50 range.
An over the limit fee is assessed when the sum of your purchases and fees exceed the amount of credit available. Generally speaking, this fee is around $25.
Late fees are charged when payments are past due. Some companies assess late fees as early as one day after the payment due date. Late payments can also trigger an increase in your annual percentage rate.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE
The annual percentage rate (APR) is by far one of the most important, if not the most important, factor to consider when selecting a credit card. The APR, which is stated as a yearly rate, is the interest rate applied to outstanding balances. Low rates are preferable since this means you will be paying less to use a credit card. One single credit card can apply a different APR for balance transfers, cash advances and purchases.
You should also consider the level of credit that is being offered when selecting a credit card. A credit limit is the amount of money that is available for purchases, cash advances, balance transfers, fees and finance charges. Credit limits can start as low as $200 for department store credit cards and go into the thousands for major credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) depending on your credit rating and income.
SECURED VERSES UNSECURED CARDS
Another factor to consider when selecting a credit card is whether the card is secured or unsecured. Users of secured credit cards pay a deposit to obtain credit. These offers often appeal to two classes of individuals: those who are very young and are having a difficult time establishing credit and those who have blemishes on their credit reports that prevent them from obtaining unsecured credit. The credit limit for secured credit cards is usually determined by the amount of your deposit.
Unsecured credit cards are by far the most widely held cards and tend to have higher credit limits.
The final factor to consider is the grace period. This is the length of time you have to pay your credit card balance in full without accruing interest charges. The ideal card will have a grace period of 25 days or longer. If you carry a balance from month to month you will pay interest regardless of how many days are in a grace period. Only new purchases will be exempt for 25 days. The grace period is usually not applicable to cash advances and balance transfers.
PERKS AND REWARDS
While not one of the five key factors, I still felt it necessary to write a blurb on perks. Many credit card companies offer perks as an incentive to lure new customers and reward loyal ones. Perks can include a Rewards Program that awards you with airline mileage and cash back on your purchases. Some cards also offer discounts at select merchants. Unless you are a frequent user of credit, perks should be the last item you consider when selecting a credit card because the biggest payoffs tend to go to the biggest spenders.