Credit cards unlock an entirely new world of purchases that can be made. They also allow you to build up your credit score for larger-scale purchase items, such as homes, vehicles, and more. However, they can also come with a risk, which leaves many Americans struggling under crippling consumer debt. Beyond financial literacy and strategy, there are other ways that you can help boost your financial landscape. Often, this first opportunity comes before you even sign for your first line of credit. Below, we’re compiling a variety of considerations that you should make before agreeing to your next credit card, and exploring how you can choose the right credit card that suits your unique needs.
Credit cards: Large vs. small banking institutions
When you are looking to select a new line of credit for your consumer needs, it can feel overwhelming. With so many choices available, along with the perks that you can unlock with every purchase, it can feel tempting to jump at the first offer that you see. We recommend against this, as being more strategic in this choice could set the compass for your future financial strategy. The first consideration that you should make when choosing your card is working with a large or small banking institution.
While there are benefits to each, it’s important to identify the key differences. Large-scale banking institutions are generally armed with 24/7 customer service benefits and greater availability for use and service. However, smaller institutions come with a more personalized experience, which could result in lower instances of service and overdraft fees. You also may unlock more community or local perks than you otherwise would at a larger institution.
Only you can determine what will best suit your financial needs. Once you make the choice to go with either a larger or smaller institution, you can visit their local branch or website to review their card options for credit. Before you go, here are a few quick things that you should check for each card option in order to walk away with the best possible deal:
APR (Annual percentage rate)
The annual percentage rate is the cost that you’ll incur along with any sort of additional purchase costs that you put on the line of credit. Many consumers consider this the cost of “having” the card as an option, specifically if you choose not to fulfill the full amount due every month. This can be deceptively low but can make the difference between financial wellness and financial ruin. It runs up quite quickly, especially if the consumer isn’t consistently motivated to pay off the full amount every month. You’ll want to find a card that offers you as low of an APR as possible, and make sure that the amount due monthly from the APR alone will match what you can sustain with your financial situation.
Additionally, be wary of credit cards that offer 0% APR for a set time. These often are laced with opportunities to hike the APR up after a certain time period has passed, leaving you with a significantly larger credit card bill than you otherwise would. There may also be associated fees buried in the fine print as well, which is what leads us to our next point.
The fine print
Always check the fine print if you’re considering signing on for any sort of credit card — as this is often where you’ll find incriminating details and fees that are able to affect your long-term financial wellness. If you ever have any questions about a clause you read in the fine print, consider reaching out to a legal service or your banking institution for further explanation. Never feel pressured to choose a card that you aren’t sure about, especially if you don’t feel fully comfortable with the clauses that you read in the fine print.
Some credit cards come with an annual fee. This is a fee that the banks can charge at their discretion that will be layered atop your normal purchases along with any APR that you may be subject to. Choosing a card with a lower annual fee is often the best choice, although you may find that there’s a positive correlation between a higher APR and a lower annual fee.
Cashback or other benefits
Your card may come with the ability to earn cash back, or a slew of other benefits that you can redeem through your bank’s point system. You can make these work for you, especially if you pay it off consistently and strategically. Working with a financial advisor can help you to determine which perks would benefit you most, and which card would be right for you.
Do you need legal assistance managing your debt? Consider the experts at Ascent Law. To book your free intro call today, or to learn more about how we can help, please contact us at (801) 432-8682.