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3 things to consider when choosing a credit card

So you’ve decided that you want to take out a credit card… but where do you start? Before you hit the comparison sites or trawl bank websites here are three things you should think about before choosing a credit card.

What are you after from a card?

One of the first things to ask yourself when thinking about taking out a credit card is what do you want that card for? Are you looking to make a large purchase? Do you have an existing credit card balance? Do you need to improve your credit card history? The answers to these questions could help direct you to the right card.

Here is a simple breakdown of the typical types of card on offer.

Purchases card – This is a card that will give you an interest-free introductory period on any new purchases you make, great if you are looking to make a big purchase and pay it off over a period of time.

Balance transfer card – A balance transfer card allows you to transfer your existing balance to a new card with an introductory interest-free period. For the promotional period on that card, you will therefore not be subject to interest charges. Be aware that most balance transfer cards come with a transfer fee, but there are fee-free options available.

Combined purchases and balance transfer card – There cards combine an interest-free introductory period for both purchases and balance transfers.

Low rate card – A low rate card is one that offers a consistently competitive APR. This is one card to look out for if you don’t want the hassle of changing credit cards when your introductory period finishes.

Cashback card – This is a card that will give you some sort of cashback reward for any spend you make using your credit card.

Reward card – Typically attached to some sort of loyalty programme, this card will enable you to accrue reward points from your spending.

Credit rebuilder card – This is a card designed for people who have an issue accessing credit, be it from having a poor credit score or no credit history. It typically carries a comparatively high APR and lower starting credit limit.

Travel card – This is a card that will typically not have any fees attached to overseas usage.

Eligibility

You may have your heart set on a purchases card with a 27-month introductory period, but your credit score may mean it is not available to you. It is worth investigating whether a particular card is suited to your credit score (you can find out your credit score from a range of free services). All credit card reviews on MyWalletHero feature a credit rating requirement of Good/Excellent, Fair/Average or Poor/No Credit as a helpful guide. It is also worth checking your eligibility for a card before applying. Most lenders provide information on their website about what they require for you to apply. This could be anything from your addresses for the past three years to your annual income. Some also have stipulations over whether you have held a card from that lender in the past 12 months.

Incentives

You’ve decided what type of credit card you want, but now you need to think about what other extras you could gain.

It is always worth considering what incentives a card offers. Some cards, typically the cashback and reward cards, include an upfront bonus. Others offer interest-free introductory periods alongside a loyalty points scheme.

You may be tempted by the ability to earn Nectar points with a Sainsbury’s credit card, but if you rarely shop at Sainsbury’s are you likely to really reap the benefits? Similarly, there may be a very tempting cashback offer available, but if you have to spend a certain amount to achieve it and would pay an annual fee, are you really any better off? The key here is to read the fine print of the offer and consider it in the context of what you want the card for.

Check out our pick of the best credit cards for 2019

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