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Which Card Should I Get?

How Can You Make the Right Credit Card Decision?

Think of getting a credit card a little like popping the Big Question. There's no little velvet box or pricey ring involved with your credit card company (that would just be awkward) but you are signing up for a commitment.

Technically, you could just cancel one card and choose another if you pick wrong, but choosing the right card and holding onto it for years and years is a very easy and painless way to improve your credit score. Some people find their credit card accounts last longer than their marriages, even—credit cards don't tend to run off with the beefcake from the gym.

That's a lot of pressure. But don't worry; there are ways you can make sure that you choose the right card:

  • Improve your credit score before you apply for a credit card so you get the best offers and interest rates possible.
  • Create an emergency fund with a couple hundred dollars (at least) so you can always make your credit card payment on time.
  • Compare at least three credit card offers.
  • Think long and hard about what you want in a credit card.
  • Call credit card companies to find out if they can sweeten their offers to you.
  • Don't sign for a card unless you're sure it's the right one for you and you can make the payments on it.
  • Pay attention to the important stuff (restrictions, rates, and limits) rather than the flashy stuff (like the ability to personalize your card or a celeb endorsement).

Bad Cards

Don't let yourself be taken for a ride. Side-eye any card that has any of the following red flags:

  • Really high interest rates
  • High-pressure sales tactics ("the offer is only available if you apply right this second!")
  • The fine print is really confusing and contains a lot of restrictions and limits.
  • The penalties for late payments or overcharging are really bad (big fines and big jumps in your interest rates).
  • You call the credit card company to ask for more information before you apply, and you don't get the answers you need.

Don't let a shiny piece of plastic distract you from your mission: compare and seek out the best offer to have a credit card you can live with for a long while. That card might just be the thing that pulls your butt out of the fire when you have a temporary financial emergency.

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