The most important things to look for in the fine print of a rewards credit card application are key limitations such as expiration dates, minimum spending requirements, and earning limits. Some of the most important details regarding credit card rewards can be found in the card’s terms and conditions and its rewards program agreement.
But you’re probably not going to read all of the fine print from start to finish. So in the interest of not missing anything, try searching for these key terms.
What to Look for in the Fine Print of a Rewards Credit Card Application:
"Earn." You’ll get rewards at a specified rate on each purchase – sometimes more for certain types of purchases than others. Other types of transactions, such as balance transfers, typically do not earn rewards.
"Expiration." It’s crucial to know if and when your rewards will expire, especially if you like to save your earnings and cash them in all at once.
"Up to." Some rewards credit cards cap how much you can earn in a certain spending category over a certain timeframe. The presence of any such limits could diminish a card’s value, depending on your spending habits.
"Rotating." Credit cards sometimes provide bonus rewards in designated spending categories that change on a quarterly basis. You typically need to sign up each quarter to get these bonus rates.
"Tiers." Some credit cards will begin rewarding you at a higher rate once you cross an annual spending threshold. In these cases, it’s very important to consider how much of your spending will actually earn rewards at the card’s highest rate.
"Redeem/Redemption." Redemption options vary by card but may include statement credits, gift cards, travel, merchandise and more. The value of a card’s points or miles can also vary by redemption method.
The most important things to look for in a credit card are meetable approval requirements, a low annual fee and either generous rewards or a low introductory interest rate. But what exactly you’ll need to look for in a credit card depends on both your credit standing and personal preferences. Step one is getting approved, so you’ll want to look for a card that requires a … read full answercredit score equal to or lower than yours. If you have bad credit, your best bet is a secured credit card. Otherwise, you need to decide whether to focus on rewards or low interest rates because most credit cards are better in one category or the other. You should go for rewards if you plan to pay your bill in full each month and low rates if not.
Those are the most important factors to consider when shopping for a credit card, as they’ll help you get approved for a great deal. But there are other aspects worth evaluating, too, including merchant acceptance, regular APRs, benefits like rental car insurance and more.
Here’s what to look for in a credit card:
Approval Odds. Check your credit score, then compare it to a card’s approval requirements. If a card asks for good credit, you’re unlikely to get approved with fair or bad credit, for example. And if you have excellent credit, just about any card on the market is within your reach.
Rewards. You can focus on rewards if you plan to pay your bill in full each month, as interest won’t be a concern. There are several types of rewards to choose from: cash back, points and miles.
Introductory Purchase Interest Rates. You might want to make a big-ticket purchase that will take a while to pay off. In that case, a 0% APR credit card is best because you’ll owe no interest for a certain number of months after account opening. But such cards usually don’t have rewards, so they aren’t good for everyday spending.
Introductory Balance Transfer Interest Rates. If you already have high-interest debt, you’ll want a 0% balance transfer credit card. Just don’t forget to consider balance transfer fees when comparing offers. Make sure not to overlook the regular APR, either. It will apply to any balance remaining when the low-interest intro period ends.
Regular Interest Rates. A card’s regular APR only matters if you carry a balance from month to month. And it’s best not to do so without a low intro APR because regular rates are very expensive.
Annual Fee. This is the most important credit card fee to watch out for. Some credit cards are worth paying an annual fee to use. Others aren’t. And there are lots of really good credit cards with no annual fee, too.
Foreign Transaction Fee. If you plan to travel internationally or make online purchases through merchants based abroad, you’ll want to avoid these fees. A no foreign transaction fee credit card can save you up to 9% on international transactions, thanks in part to low credit card currency conversion rates.
Other Fees. Credit cards charge fees for things like late payments and cash advances. But you shouldn’t seek out cards that lack such fees because it’s best to just avoid the transactions that trigger them.
Usability. Mastercard and Visa are accepted by more merchants than Discover and American Express, both in the U.S. and abroad. The gap is bigger internationally, though. On the other hand, store credit cards only work at certain retailers, rather than wherever one of the four major card networks is accepted.
Secondary Benefits. Rewards aren’t the only thing you can get out of your card. There are plenty of extra perks offered by issuers and their networks, including purchase protection, extended warranties and travel insurance. These benefits matter, but you should look at them as secondary to other categories.
Reviews: You don’t need to base your evaluation entirely on what other people say, but it’s good to consider the opinions of both experts and people who own various cards. On most card pages on WalletHub, you’ll see a rating and a review by our editors. You can also check out what other users have to say about each card, along with an average user rating.
The best first credit card is Discover it Secured because it offers 2% cash back on the first $1,000 spent per quarter at gas stations and restaurants and 1% everywhere else. Those are the best rewards you’ll find on any credit card for first-timers. Plus, Discover will match all the rewards earned during the first year on the first account anniversary. Discover it Secured has a $0 annual fee, but it does require a refundable $200 + security deposit to open the account. The credit limit is equal to the amount of the deposit, up to $2,500. … read full answer
If you’d rather not put down a deposit, there are some good unsecured first-time credit card offers as well.
Best for no deposit: Capital One Platinum is the best unsecured credit card for first-timers because it has a $0 annual fee. The downside is that Capital One Platinum does not provide rewards.
Best for rewards with no deposit: Capital One QuicksilverOne offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases but has a $39 annual fee.
Like all Capital One cards, both of those options do not charge foreign transaction fees. Some of the best first credit cards are targeted specifically toward students. Only people enrolled in school can get them, but they provide some of the best terms and rewards.
Best for students: The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card for Students is the best credit card for first-timers who are still in school in large part because it offers a bonus of 25,000 points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. It also gives 3 points per $1 spent at the BofA Travel Center and 1.5 everywhere else. And, you get a 10% bonus on your points if you have a BofA checking or savings account. To top it off, the annual fee is $0.
Even if you’ve never had a credit card before and don’t have a credit history, you should have high chances to qualify for any of these cards if you have an income.
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