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Choosing a Credit Card That’s Right for You

Choosing a credit card can be difficult. There are many options, and sometimes the best deals are found where you least expect them. Before you say yes to an offer, read these three tips that will help you choose the credit card that’s right for your wallet.

1. Know Your Credit Score

The best credit cards—those with the best rates, rewards, and terms—are usually reserved for people with the best credit scores. According to leading credit reporting agency Experian, most scores fall between 600 and 750, and the company considers a score above 700 to be good. You can purchase your credit score from all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Your credit score means a lot to creditors. They use your credit score to determine your credit worthiness and decide whether they will extend credit to you. The higher your score, the less risk you pose to credit card companies. If you have a low credit score, some high-interest credit card companies may target you. Don’t be fooled by their advertisements, and investigate them before you fill out their pre-approved offers.

2. Know the Terms and Conditions

When choosing a credit card, you’ll have to measure the costs against the rewards. The actual costs of a credit card depend on the terms and conditions of the credit card agreement. Read the fine print; not all credit cards are the same. Credit cards may charge an annual fee, usually about $35, but some major credit cards don’t charge this fee. Likewise, some creditors offer low or no annual fees, but they may charge a transaction fee every time you use the card, especially if you travel outside of the country.

A finance charge is the interest a credit card company charges if your balance is not paid in full each month. Most credit card companies will offer you a grace period during which no finance charges will be added to your account. You can avoid paying finance charges if you pay your entire balance before the due date stated on your monthly bill. If you intend to carry a balance on your credit card, look at credit cards with low finance charges. Next, make sure you understand how the finance charges will be calculated.

3. Know Your Creditor

When choosing a credit card, the final tip is to know your creditor. If you don’t have a credit history, the best place to build your credit is with a department store or similar retailer that offers a card. The finance charges will be high because you don’t have credit, but department store cards are easier to get than standard credit cards. To build your credit, make small charges and pay off your balance before you incur finance charges.

If you have bad credit, you may be able to get a secured credit card. Your line of credit will depend on how much money you keep in a savings account. Most credit unions and some banks offer this type of card.

Finally, don’t trust the first offer that arrives in your email or mailbox. When choosing a credit card, annual fees and finance charges vary, so be sure to shop around to get the best rates.

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