Credit cards, if used responsibly, can be a great way to leverage the use of your money. Over the last couple of years, I have been aggressively looking for opportunities to do just that.
NOTE: Your credit is one of your most important assets. If you currently have a high level of credit card debt, I highly recommend your first focus be on eliminating that debt before pursuing new credit card options.
A big part of choosing the right credit card is in looking at what you want from that credit card. I have a focus on maximizing our families travel opportunities, so my main focus has been on credit cards that can help me to reach some of these travel goals. I do this, primarily, by looking for credit cards that will earn points or miles toward travel opportunities. Depending upon your circumstances – your goals could be different: maximize cash back, lower interest rate, earn points at a favorite store, tie in with your banking institution, etc.
First, really decide what's important to you in what you get from the credit card company. Next, look at how you will be using your credit card. Will you use this for everyday purchase, or do you prefer cash? Will you use this for bigger ticket items? Will this be your primary credit card? Do you want family members to be able to use this card? Will it be for emergencies only? Do you plan to pay the balance off each month (I highly recommend it)?
Once you've determined how you'll be using your new credit card – now it's time to find a credit card that will maximize your possibilities for how you will be using that card.
You may have noticed booths at different events you've been at, in airports, in shopping malls, etc. The credit card companies who have these booths set up want you to make a quick, and not well thought out, decision and sign up on the spot. These promotions may be good, but remember that without some research, you really don't know if it's the best available opportunity for that card (or for how you intend to use a credit card). Note that if there's a booth setup and offering special incentives for signing up – there are, with almost complete certainty, those same incentives or better available online.
And that leads into what I believe is a better way to search for credit card opportunities – using tools that are available online. One method is to do basic Internet searches for credit card offers. And then really spend some time checking them out and determining what each link offers. Done thoroughly, this will give you excellent results. However, the drawback is that it can be time-consuming (which may or may not be okay, depending upon your own personal circumstances).
Another option is to use an online comparison tool to evaluate the current list of credit card offers. One such tool that I have found to be useful is Cardhub. Cardhub's credit card comparison is a great tool in helping you to determine what credit card is best for you. What I really like about this site is its ease of use. You can choose to browse through the current available offers – and that's a nice feature. What's even more powerful, though, is how you can easily limit down the list of credit cards based upon your own personal circumstances. And once you have narrowed down your choices, the display of credit card option is a quick snapshot of the card features and any bonuses available. That's powerful! With a quick glance, you can see what each card offers. There is more to each credit card, though, and there's even more functionality once you drill into each one – including reader submitted personal experiences (which I believe are a strong indicator of card experience). So, this is a great option for viewing credit card options in one consolidated place. If you find an option that works for you, there's also a link to take you directly to the application form.
Once again – your credit is one your most important assets. Any decision to get a credit card should be well thought out. Used with diligence, though, a credit card can be powerful way to leverage your money and reap some benefits from its use.
by Lance Ekum