Rates and terms for charge cards can be as different as night and day. One bank may charge a very low interest rate as a teaser to get you to sign up, then after six months raise your rate to the highest legal limit. It pays to shop around for your credit cards, and wise consumers know that it's worth a little of their time and effort to get the best deal available.
When looking for the best charge card, keep these questions in mind:
- What is the interest rate? Don't forget to read the fine print on all of the applications. If a bank is offering a low introductory rate, how long is it in effect? And what will the new rate be? If you are transferring a balance from one credit card to another, it might be worth six months or a year at a lower interest rate to help the balance get paid off sooner. Watch the business section of your local newspaper to see if they publish a list of banks that offer credit cards and the interest rates they charge.
- What is the annual fee? Many banks are now charging as much as $39 to $49 or higher just for the privilege of carrying their credit card. Look for banks that offer cards with no annual fees, or the lowest one available. Many banks are now charging annual fees to customers who pay their balance in full each month.
- What is the grace period? Some cards provide no grace period at all and begin calculating interest as soon as a charge is made. Other cards may allow 25 to 30 days after a purchase is made for the customer to pay off the balance with no interest charges due.
- Are interest rates higher for cash advances? Some bank cards now charge you a higher rate of interest if you use your credit card for a cash advance. Shop around for cards that have the same interest for purchases as they do for cash advances.
- What other benefits are available? Do they offer free flight insurance if you charge an airline ticket? Or can you get additional frequent flyer miles by using your card? Because competition is becoming fierce for customers, many banks are now adding some very good incentives.
See also: Managing Debt, Your Credit Report, and Home Budgeting