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Five Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Credit Card


Even when you're looking for a specific type of card like travel reward credit cards, there are some basic questions you'll want to ask before you commit to a card. If you have any other questions, please visit our FAQs section.

How will I use my card?

If you plan to always pay your bill off in full, then pay more attention to annual fees than APR's. Look for cards with longer grace periods and no annual fees. If you tend to carry a balance on your cards, find cards with lower APR's to save yourself money on interest. For those who plan on getting cash advances with the card, pay special attention to the cash advance APR's and choose the card with the lowest rate and fees.

What are the APR's?

Most cards have multiple APR's for different situations, and you should be aware of all of them. Know the APR on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, as well as the introductory APR (if there is one) and the default or penalty APR (that you will be forced to pay if you are late on your payments). Also be aware if your APR is fixed or variable.

What is the grace period?

A grace period is how long you have to pay your balance completely before a finance charge is assessed. Keep in mind that this typically only applies to new purchases, not balance transfers or cash advances. If you pay your balance off in full every month, cards that offer extended grace periods might be your best bet.

How do you calculate finance charges?

Your finance charge will depend on your APR and your balance. There are as many ways to calculate the finance charge as there are travel reward credit cards. Depending on the method your creditor uses, it could make a huge difference in your finance charges. Make sure you know whether your balance is calculated using the previous balance, average daily balance, or adjusted balance. Creditors may also calculate your balance over one billing cycle or two, with one-cycle billing usually resulting in lower finance charges. Finally, finance charges will also depend on whether your creditor includes or excludes new purchases in your balance.

What fees do you charge?

Fees add up quickly, especially when you weren't fully aware of them in the first place. Find out if your card has the following fees and know exactly how much they are: annual fees, cash advance fees, balance transfer fees, late payment fees, over-the-limit fees, credit limit increase fee, set up fee, bounced check fee, and any other fees.