Credit cards are brilliant payment tools and have significantly changed the way in which consumers shop. Not only are credit cards easy and convenient to use, but they also come with a vast array of advantages for the buyer, as well as the seller.
Using a credit card on a regular basis gives customers the opportunity to build up a successful credit rating. They can also be used as a safety net for immediate finds when emergency situations rise while you’re low on cash.
And of course, in the current covid climate, using a card for contactless payment is much safer for both customer and vendor than handling real cash.
Due to the simple convenience of paying with plastic, it’s easy to spend too much and end up in credit card debt. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on your credit history and credit score.
So, aside from throwing it away, how can you avoid your credit card pushing you into debt? The most obvious, perhaps most crucial, tip is to look at the interest rate each time you apply for a new card.
In this article, we’ll explore some tips on how to make sure you choose the right credit card for you.
The interest rate charged on a credit card is usually stated yearly and is known as its annual percentage rate (APR). Depending on the credit card company, the APR might be a set rate or could be calculated based on your credit score.
In an idea world, you avoid paying the APR on your purchases if your balance is paid on time and in full each month. But of course, in real life, this isn’t always possible. Impulse purchases, sudden emergencies, loss of employment or benefits are just some examples of why you miss paying a bill in full.
Consequently, not only are you faced with a double bill the following month, but you’ve been hit with the added interest as a result of your card’s APR. That is why it’s vital that you make sure your card has an APR that you can handle. So, what is a good APR?
The answer is subjective and tends to be determined on what the average rate is in a particular year. Therefore, a good place to start when deciding what makes a good APR on a credit card is to look at the current average credit card interest rate and measure it against that. According to US News, the average new card APR as of December 2021 is 16.5%. Therefore, any interest rate on a credit card below that percentage would be considered a good APR.
Many credit cards offer an attractive rewards or loyalty points schemes. Points are often accumulated by making purchases and can then be redeemed later for various rewards, such as cash back opportunities, discounts on purchases, entry into prize competitions, or air miles. As the customer earns more of these incentives, they might reach certain levels, allowing them to unlock even better rewards.
Thinking about your lifestyle and what your hobbies are is a good start when choosing what credit card is best for you. Do you travel abroad a lot? You might want to consider a credit card that offers air miles as an incentive. Drive long journeys for work and leisure? Look for a card that rewards with petrol mileage.
However, it’s worth noting that as reward credit cards offer more value, they’re more likely to charge customers a higher APR. Retail credit cards are particularly known for this. Another factor to consider is that some credit card companies offer exciting welcome perks to attract new customers, but these are often only short-term or could even end up resulting in added costs further down the line. With such schemes, it’s always wise to err on the side of caution and make sure you read the small print in full.
Consider restrictions on usage
It’s no use choosing a credit card if you’re limited to where you can use it. Some credit cards can’t be used at certain retailers, often due to high transaction fees. Both Mastercard and Visa recently raised their fees, resulting in Amazon announcing that it would stop accepting the latter’s UK-issued credit cards as of January 2022.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right credit card for you. While a good rewards or loyalty scheme might seem appealing, you need to weigh up other factors that could impact you, such as the APR and whether you can afford that card in the long-term.
It’s also important to consider what restrictions, if any, come with the card, for instance, are there any retailers that don’t accept that particular brand?
Ultimately, only you can decide what credit card is the right one for you.