Tips for Picking Your First Credit Card
There are a lot of credit cards out there. When you’re searching for your first card, the number of choices may seem overwhelming.
Before you rush to apply for your first credit card, make sure you ask yourself why you want the card and you understand all that the card has to offer.
Applying for the wrong card, or not having an understanding of good credit card management, could put you in a bad place financially.
Here are some things to consider before you get your first credit card.
Why do you want the card?
Ask yourself why you want to apply for your first credit card. Understanding the purpose of getting the card can help make sure you use it correctly.
Here are some of the most common reasons:
- Building credit. A credit card can be a great way to build or rebuild credit, if used correctly. You might want to look for a card with no annual fee. If you plan on paying the balance in full each month, the interest rate isn’t as important.
- Large purchases. If you want to use the credit card to make large purchases, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the credit limit. Since you’re a first-time card holder, the credit limit might not be high enough to cover the purchase. Also pay attention to the interest rate. Since it’s a large purchase, you’re likely to carry the balance from month to month, and a high interest rate can really add to the balance. Most importantly, do not put large purchases on a credit card unless you have a solid plan in place to pay down the balance.
- Rewards. Different cards offer different rewards packages. Some introductory cards don’t have rewards programs, though. You may have to build a credit history before those offers start coming in.
5 things to consider when choosing your first credit card
There are many different factors to consider when choosing your first credit card. Depending on what you’re looking for, some may be more important that others.
1. Annual fee
Some credit cards, particularly those for people with bad credit, charge an annual fee that can range from $19 to $100.
There are a lot of credit card offers out there, so if you look hard enough, you should be able to find one that doesn’t charge this fee.
Read the fine print, too. Some cards offer an introductory $0 annual fee for a period of time, but then they’ll start to charge you.
Our Platinum Visa Credit Card offers $0 annual fee, year after year.
3. Interest rate
High interest rates and credit cards usually go hand in hand. As a first-time cardholder, you will probably get a rate on the higher end.
Interest rates typically range from 11 to 30% APR. Our Platinum Visa credit card offers an APR as low as 7.25%.
Remember, if you pay your credit card balance in full each month, you won’t have to worry about interest charges adding up. If you plan to carry a balance, definitely look for the best rate possible for your situation.
You can find all sorts of reward programs on credit cards these days. From cash back on purchases, travel rewards, and discounts from retailers, the possibilities are almost endless.
Look for a card that has rewards that fit your needs and lifestyle. Does cash back on all purchases sound good to you? Do you love to travel and want discounts on hotels and flights? Shop at a lot of retail stores? Maybe discounts on purchases would be nice.
Also look at redemption terms and expiration dates. If you’re looking at travel rewards, particularly, be sure to read about blackout dates.
Make sure you’re aware of any and all fees associated with the credit card. These could be annual fees, balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, and so on. The most common type of fee is a late payment fee.
Our Platinum Visa Credit Card has zero fees for balance transfers, cash advances, and no annual fee.
5. Credit limit
Typically speaking, a first-time cardholder will only qualify for a low credit limit. If you’re using the card to build credit, that probably won’t matter to you. If you’re looking to make a large purchase, you might have to wait until you establish credit history.
A lot of credit card companies will offer you a credit limit increase if you’ve made consistent on-time payments for an established period of time (such as a year or more).
The bottom line
There are a lot of credit cards out there. When you’re searching for your first credit card, make sure to do your research to get the card that’s right for you. Don’t jump at the first offer, as it may not be the best in the long run.
Ask yourself why you want the card in the first place. And consider things like annual fees, interest rate, credit limits, and so on.
If you’re trying to establish or rebuild credit, check out these helpful articles in our Learning Center.