I was out for dinner with some friends recently, and because they know I blog about money, they commented on my choice of credit card when it was time to pay the bill.
“Do you like your credit card?”
I do, actually. I love it.
I raved about my Tangerine Cash-Back credit card, because I hands-down adore it, and it’s a great fit for me (The Boyfriend has positive things to say about it too). I went over how I can choose my own reward categories, and how I’ve earned over $200 in rewards this year, and how it has no annual fee.
But looking back, you know what I should have said instead?
“Sure, I like it, but you might hate it. I have no idea.”
Like, literally no idea. Because here are the real questions you need to ask – or more likely, answer – before you can decide if a credit card is the right one for you.
- How much do you spend every year?
- How much do you spend in typical categories, like groceries, gas, pharmacy, travel and entertainment?
- How much do you make every year? (Because some cards have strict income minimums.)
- What kind of rewards do you enjoy and prefer getting?
- Do you carry a balance on your card sometimes?
I love my friends, and we’re pretty open about money because I’m the most awkward dinner guest ever, but that is a whole ton of very personal details I just don’t know about anyone other than The Boyfriend. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, great, let’s rock, but even still, I can only give you solid credit card advice if you spend roughly the same amount as I do, on the same things, in the same places.
Even if you’re Kate Saves, who I’m convinced is my blog twin, that’s a pretty long shot (and even then, I don’t know Kate’s life! Maybe she’s way more frugal than I am when it comes to groceries? No idea.)
When it comes to my credit cards…
- I’m all about no-annual-fee cards, because I straight-up do not spend enough to offset the annual fee when it comes to earning rewards.
- I like cash back cards, because I’m not locked into a rewards program I might only sometimes use.
- I’ve had a few travel rewards cards, and they’re great too if you can swing the minimum spend to score their sign-up bonuses.
- I personally don’t care about the interest rate on the card, because I never carry a balance
But when it comes to recommending a card for you ?
I have no idea. I don’t know your life.
Luckily, there are ways you can find out what card is going to be the best fit for your life, and sadly, none of them are sitting across from you at the dinner table. That’s because they’re all patiently waiting on your laptop screen whenever you need them.
I’m talking about comparison websites.
You guys know I’m a big fan of comparing car insurance rates, but if you haven’t used a comparison site before, you can use them to compare just about anything, and that very much includes credit cards.
Here are links to some of the best comparison sites you need to check out if you find yourself asking friends if they like their credit card – because if I’m that friend, I’ve very much learned my lesson and will be directing you to these sites anyways.
- Lowest Rates breaks down each type of credit card in a perfect amount of detail, giving you the nitty gritty on different types of perks that might be important to you, including balance transfers, low interest rate card and business cards.
- Ratehub compares each card based on the information you give them about your average monthly spending, and can even get into the details about your spending categories, like grocery and gas spending, to recommend the right card.
- RateSupermarket lets you compare cards side by side to see how they compare on set factors.
Most of these sites will also, spoiler alert, have promotions they run with the different card providers at different times.
If you have your eye on a particular card, it might be worth checking to see if there’s an incentive at any of the comparison websites that could score you some extra cash back or a gift card – but only if you’ve already decided that’s the right card for you, based on your spending habits and needs.
So as with basically every piece of financial knowledge I’ve learned, when it comes to choosing the right credit card, it really boils down to a combination of…
- “It depends.”
- “Do your own research.”
- “Obviously, take free money if it’s appropriate.”
I need to make that into some kind of artsy poster. In the meantime, here’s a pinnable image for ya.
What else would you add, if you were advising someone on how to choose the right credit card? Do you think personal recommendations matter when it comes to choosing a card – or a rewards program, for that matter?