4 Questions to Ask Before Getting a Credit Card

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated December 11, 2020

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October 6, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.


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Many people think that getting a credit card should be a simple process. Find out which credit card is best and apply, right? Wrong. Credit cards are complicated. There are a ton of credit card types circulating right now, and choosing the right card for you can be difficult. Before you sign on the dotted line, here are four questions you should ask yourself before apply for a credit card:

Sounds like an odd question, but many people tend to choose the wrong credit cards to fit their life. They see a commercial on TV or an article about how great a certain credit card is and immediately think it is for them. Not all credit cards are created equally, and you need to choose a credit card that is going to do the most for you.

If you don’t travel more than a couple times a year, you don’t need a travel credit card. Better to get a cash back credit card that you can use for any expenses, whether travel or not. Same goes for any “branded” credit cards, like the William-Sonoma credit card or the Virgin America credit card. If you don’t shop at William-Sonoma all the time or fly Virgin wherever you go, the perks that these card provide are not going to fit your lifestyle. Speaking of perks …

This is a question that people need to ask themselves but generally don’t. Credit card perks can completely change how you use a credit card. Before you sign up for any credit card, learn what the perks are and figure out which ones are most important to you. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Intro Cash Bonus: This is bonus points or cash that the credit card gives you when you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months. These bonuses can range from $50 to $400. If you are planning on making a big purchase, these are good cards to choose because you will immediately hit the amount you need to get the bonus AND you can use the bonus to help pay for your purchase. Here’s a good list of bonus cards.
  • 0% Intro APR: Many credit cards these days are offering a 0% intro APR for any period up to a year and a half. That basically means that you will pay no interest on your balance for that specific period. Again, if you are making a big purchase or if you are doing a balance transfer from another card, this is a good perk to look for. This is the best 0% intro APR card.
  • Rotating Category Cash Back: Cash back credit cards generally give you a certain percentage of cash back on the purchases you put on the credit card. Cash back credit cards with rotating categories generally give you a higher percentage if you spend money within that certain category. Remember that these categories rotate, so now it is online shopping, but in three months it might gas or groceries. Always keep track of what categories currently have the 5% rate.
  • Continuous Cash Back: If you don’t want to keep track of categories, you can get a card that gives you a flat rate for cash back. You can either get a card that gives you a higher rate for certain category (3% for gas, 2% for groceries) or you can get a card that just has one flat rate for all purchases (1-2% usually). These cards make it easier to earn cash back without worrying about which category you are spending in.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when choosing a credit card is not picking a card that works with their credit score. If your credit score is Average, and you apply for a credit card that require Excellent or even Good credit, you are guaranteed to be turned down. While many people think, “Well, it doesn’t hurt to try,” it actually does hurt. It hurts your credit score. Applying for too much credit at one time can drag down your credit score. It looks to lenders like you are trying to take on too much debt. If you apply 3 or 4 credit cards before you get approved, it will drag down your score, making it even harder to get approved. Always apply for a credit card that fits your credit score.

Too many people don’t ask this question before they apply for a credit card. While having the perks and the convenience of a credit card is nice, if you aren’t able to pay off your balance each month, you can end up putting yourself in some serious debt. If you think you won’t be able to pay off the balance each month and still want a credit card, make sure to look at the APR on the card. The higher the APR, the more interest you will be paying on your balance. If the APR is high, look for a different card. Here are some cards with low APRs to choose from.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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