How to Choose the Right Credit Card For You

How to choose the right credit card for you

Choosing the right credit card is a deeply personal experience.

You guys know I’ve railed against the “do you like your credit card?” question as being the wrong one to ask if you’re looking for a new card… but what’s the right question to ask?

Or, more accurately, what are the right questions, multiple, to ask?

And when should you ask them?

I’ve teamed up with RateSupermarket.ca to help you figure it out, since they’re celebrating their 9th anniversary with a roundup of pretty stellar credit card promotions (so if you read this and realize your credit card might not be as effective as it could be, you’ll definitely want to check out their list of amazing promos!)

Plus, they’re holding a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate with the opportunity to win one of nine $100 giftcards to brands like Apple, Starbucks, The Keg and Amazon – and you can enter right here!

Love me a good giveaway.

So let’s get to it!

How do you know when to re-evaluate your credit card situation?

There are two main times I think you should re-evaluate the cards you’ve got in your wallet: When something changes, and when nothing’s changed in far too long.

Let’s start with “something changes”.

Here’s a list of potential changes that might be a sign you need to seriously look at whether your credit card is the best fit for you right now.

  • If your income has gone up (or down!)
  • If your spending has gone up (or down!)
  • If your spending patterns change (i.e. fewer bars, more baby clothes, for example)
  • If you’ve got travel coming up (for work or play!)
  • If you’re entering a ~new life phase~ (i.e. homeownership, going back to school, merging finances, etc.)

All of these things could impact how much you spend, on what, and which types of rewards matter the most to you – which are the underlying factors that can help make or break whether a specific credit card is the right fit for your life.

And by “right fit,” I mean the one that will earn you the most rewards or cash, with the right amount of fees, and that charges the right amount of interest for your situation.

(Note: I never, ever recommend carrying a balance on a credit card, but if you’re in that situation, the interest rate on your card should be top of mind while you’re in aggressive-debt-payoff mode.)

And if none of those things have happened in a while for you, let’s take you finding this article as a sign that it still might be time to check in on your credit card situation.

It’s far too easy to get stuck in a “this is the way things are” mentality with financial products, and if you haven’t switched up or compared your credit cards in a while, you might be surprised to realize you’re sitting on a card that isn’t a good fit for where your life is these days.

Hi, you’re talking to the girl who racked up 30K Scene points before realizing she never went to the movies.

(At that point, Scene just starts emailing you asking if you’re OK, or maybe have you died?)

What credit card type is right for you?

So now that we’re on the same page about comparing credit cards, here are a few situations you might find yourself in – and some guidance on how to handle it from a credit-card perspective if you are.

If you’re… a student

Listen, I love you, my dear student friends, but when it comes to credit cards, be cool. And to be especially clear on what “be cool” means, do not get a fancy credit card with a spendy limit.

You are not fancy yet.

You can be fancy when you graduate and get a job! But for now, you will almost definitely want a no-annual-fee card that gives you rewards that you’ll actually use, like the Scotiabank Scene Visa (which, fun fact, was my first credit card! Oh, the nostalgia. Oh, the free movies.)

If you’ve… got travel coming up

We don’t have as many great credit card reward options as they do in the States, but if you’ve got travel coming up and you want to earn points to offset some of your costs, the Scotiabank Gold American Express card is likely one that should be high up on your list.

You’ll need a certain income to qualify, but if you do, you could score a ton of bonus points if you hit the minimum spend in the first three months. (That’s how I got my flight for my trip out west last summer, actually, which was a huge help with keeping costs down.)

If you’re… spending more than you used to

I’m the last person to judge lifestyle inflation, because hi, when my income went up I got a dog. He’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, your income and lifestyle change, and you end up spending more every month – and as long as you’re still saving a solid chunk of your income, I salute you.

But if you’re still rocking a credit card designed with your less-spendy past self in mind, you might be missing out on rewards.

Sure, in the past, an annual fee might not have made sense, since you didn’t spend enough to take advantage of the increased reward categories… But spendier-you might be better suited with something like the Scotia Momentum® VISA Infinite, which comes with a bananas 4% cash back on groceries and gas.

If you’re spending enough, you’ll more than earn back the $99 annual fee.

If you’re… spending less than you used to

On the other hand, if you’re spending has gone down – whether it’s because of a drop in income, a renewed commitment to frugality or another trip around the higher-education block – you also probably need to make sure your credit card still works for your life.

An annual-fee card likely won’t work if your spending is drastically reduced, but luckily, there are some killer no-fee credit cards that will earn you some pretty great rewards sans $99-a-year charge. One that should be on your radar is the President’s Choice Financial® MasterCard® – because getting the equivalent of 3% of your money back in PC Points is a pretty great deal.

There’s nothing more frugal, or more student-appropriate, than free food.

Speaking of free…

Now that you’ve got a good handle on what your next steps are when it comes to your credit card, I just want to remind you that entering RateSupermarket.ca’s epic anniversary giveaway definitely needs to be on that list.

You could win one of nine $100 giftcards to places like Apple.ca, Sport Chek, Amazon.ca, Starbucks Canada – and hey, that’s $100 you don’t need to put on your credit card in the first place. Get in on the giveaway right here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was a sponsored collaboration with RateSupermarket.ca to celebrate their 9th anniversary, but all opinions are – as always – my own!

Desirae is on a mission to demystify and un-boring financial info for millennials, so that we can all save more money, spend on stuff that matters to us, and still have a latte or two along the way. Money is literally why we can have nice things, and Desirae is committed to helping make sure you know just enough to make the right calls for you. (She’s also committed to her expensive dog, her side hustle, and her retirement fund.)

6 Comments on “How to Choose the Right Credit Card For You”

  1. Jenna

    Great post! I’m wondering what credit card do you currently use and why? 🙂

    Personally I have the AMEX Gold Rewards card, but I live in a rural town and find that not many places accepts AMEX. I got the card for the travel benefits/insurances and the points program (as I love to travel and on a budget). Looking for any suggestions on any other travel related credit cards :).

    1. Desirae Odjick

      That’s an awesome question Jenna! I’ve got three cards currently – I use my Tangerine Cash Back card for everyday stuff, I have a basic, no-fee Amex for my business expenses, and I still have my trusty old Scene Visa card from Scotiabank because it’s my oldest credit account by far, haha.

      I’ve had the Gold Amex, and I know what you mean about it being hard to find places to use it sometimes! Almost all of my biz expenses are with online companies in the States, so it’s been a non-issue on that front. I’ve actually heard good things about the Westjet RBC Mastercard – I don’t know a ton of details, but I do know it has two levels, so make sure to check out how each one would compare to your spending-and-income levels! But if you’re looking for a travel card that’s accepted more places, it’d be on my list for sure 🙂

  2. Owen

    We’re currently using no-fee credit cards because our monthly spending wouldn’t justify a fee based card (even with better benefits). The PC Points Card sounds awesome though. I’ll check that out.

    My current favorite card is the Tim Horton’s card. Even if you make just one purchase per month you get a free Tim’s treat every weekend. This month its a free box of 10 timbits every weekend!

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Haha as if – that is simultaneously a great deal, and maybe the most Canadian thing I’ve ever heard!

      And I feel you on the fee-based credit cards. I’ve sat through so many pitches from well-intentioned friends who get great cash back from fee-based credit cards, but based on the rewards they get, they spend WAY more than we do! I’m all for maximizing your rewards, but it has to fit within spending you’d do anyways.

  3. Kate @ Making it Rain

    You have a way of posting just the right thing at the right time! I have been re-evaluating my credit cards over the last few weeks. I applied for the Tangerine Cash-Back one that you have several weeks ago and did not get approved (strange as I have pretty solid credit!) but am definitely shopping around for a new one that will meet my needs. Thanks for the great Canadian recommendations! 🙂

  4. Marianne

    I love the President’s Choice MasterCard. No fees and good rewards that are easily redeemed. It’s our go-to card for nearly everything we purchase.

    We also have credit cards from Amazon, because of their favourable exchange rate fees. We use them pretty exclusively for Amazon orders, online orders in US dollars, and for foreign travel.

    My husband recently reviewed some opportunities for other travel related cards though, and found one affiliated with Marriott hotels that has a low annual fee but would offer is high reward from the type of travel expenses he incurs for work, so he just applied for that card to use for all his business travel.

    We have had at least one other type of credit card in the past as well, which we acquired due to rewards it offered in connection to particular spending we were doing at the time.

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