4 Credit Card Shopping Tips

4 Credit Card Shopping Tips
  • Opening Intro -

    If you regularly receive credit card offers in the mail or by e-mail, you may wonder why you're the target of such mailings.

    Likely, you've demonstrated a good credit history and have gotten the attention of one or more creditors.


How to find and use a new credit card.

Some creditors are persistent, sending you regular pre-approval notices or applications for new credit. This writer routinely receives new credit offers from one of his existing creditors, a seemingly wasteful use of this creditor’s vast resources.

Simply because you receive credit card offers doesn’t mean you should apply to the one soliciting your business. Even the same creditor, such as Chase, has multiple credit card offers to choose from. Certainly, you may get approved for a new card, but that card may pale in comparison to another card. For instance, if you want to accumulate airline miles you don’t want to sign up for a card that only offers cash back awards.

New Credit

Let’s take a look at how you can secure the best credit cards for your needs:

1. Review your credit report — Don’t assume that your credit is wonderful when you receive a credit card solicitation. Likely, it is good, but it may not be great. The interest rate you’ll be charged on purchases will be pegged to your credit score, a three-digit number that is tied to your credit reports. Three credit reporting bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — keep tabs on your credit. By law, you are entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each company through AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll pay extra to get your credit score, but that $5 to $8 fee is worth it. If your score is above 700 points, that suggests good credit management according to Experian.Correct errors found on your credit report before applying for new credit.

2. Read the details — Credit card offers can vary widely even from the same creditor. Read the details of the contract to determine what is being offered to you. There is really no difference between let’s say a MasterCard or a Visa, but there can be some differences if you’re considering American Express or Discover. The first two are widely accepted by retailers, the latter two are sometimes not accepted, particularly American Express.

3. Narrow the search — If you’re looking to rack up airline miles, then only apply for credit cards offering airline mile incentives. The same approach should be if you’re looking for discounts on gas or hotels, cash back or some other incentive. With your list narrowed, eliminate cards that charge an annual fee. Compare interest rates, but consider this: the interest rate charged won’t matter if you pay off your card monthly.

4. Make application — Once you are certain that a particular card serves your need, then apply for it. Limit your application to just one card as additional applications will result in “pulls” on your credit, lowering your credit score. Besides, if you only need one card, then why apply for two or more?

Receiving Approval

If you apply online, you may learn in as little as 30 seconds whether you’ve been approved or not. If approved, wait until your new card arrives before charging anything. Credit card providers will sometimes issue you your credit card number in advance, hoping that you’ll use the card right away. Instead, wait until the new card arrives before buying anything on credit.

Confirm that the name on the card is correct and that the terms match what was spelled out to you in your application. If something doesn’t line up, contact the card issuer to receive clarification about a policy or to seek an adjustment in what is being offered to you. Changes, however, are hard to come by unless the card issuer made a mistake.

Important Considerations

If you owe money on another credit card and the new card offers a balance transfer option, take it only if no fees are involved and the interest is waived or greatly reduced for the 6- to 12-months the lower rate is in effect. Plan to pay off your balance before the new rate kicks in. Also, avoid so-called “convenience checks” which give you “easy money” but can plunge you deeply into debt.

Debt Management reference:

maintaining good credit

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