Paddy Sullivan, WalletHub Credit Card Advisor
To choose a credit card for the first time, you should first decide what will you use it for. You should also check your credit score and weigh your current financial situation. This is to assess whether you can make monthly payments on time and in full. If you’re planning on carrying a balance, make sure you understand things such as minimum payments and interest rates.
Above all, be realistic in your expectations. Your first credit card will likely have a low credit limit, a high interest rate, and an annual fee. If your most viable option is a secured card, make sure you know the difference between secured and unsecured credit cards.
Here is how to choose a credit card for the first time:
- Decide if you need a credit card.
If used responsibly, a credit card is a good way to start building credit. Good credit can set you up for future car loans or mortgages, and land you favorable interest rates.
- Determine how the card will be used.
The credit card you should get depends on what you'll be using it for. There are cards for everyday expenses such as gas and groceries, or transferring existing debt. However, understand that whatever you purchase on the card, you will have to pay it back. Make sure you’re aware of your card’s credit limit, and how credit utilization affects your credit score.
- Check your credit score and take a look at your finances. If you don't have a credit score, focus on cards for limited or no credit. Otherwise, narrow your search to cards that accept your level of credit. And make sure you have enough income to pay the credit card bill, preferably for the full amount. Covering just the minimum payment will end up costing you more in the long run, due to interest.
- Consider a secured credit card.
A secured card is also an option for establishing credit. They tend to be some of the easiest cards to get as you’ll have to put up a security deposit, which will serve as your credit limit. You’ll get a better rate, and fewer fees than with an unsecured card for bad credit.
Plus, with responsible use, you may be eligible for a credit limit increase. You could also transition to an unsecured card with much better terms in time.
- Consider a student credit card, if eligible.
Student credit cards are generally open to students with limited or no credit history and often have better terms than their general consumer counterparts.
- Compare cards and review their terms and conditions carefully.
Compare against several cards. Research a card’s interest rate, or APR. Familiarize yourself with the card’s grace period, and how you can avoid all those interest charges. Know your minimum payment and when it’s due. If a card has any fees (such as annual fees), know that those charges will impact your credit limit.
Don’t feel like you have to accept the first credit card that’s offered to you. And don't apply for more than one card at the same time. That’s because too many credit card applications can damage your credit score.
Also, having too many credit cards too soon may be an invitation to overspend and overextend all of your available credit. That will quickly damage the very credit history you’re trying to establish. Make sure you use your credit card responsibly while avoiding mistakes. This way, you'll build the credit you need for the best credit cards on the market.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
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