How to Choose a Credit Card

As somebody who pays for things almost exclusively with credit cards (easier tracking, easier payment, loss prevention), I am quite choosy with which credit card I choose.

I’ve had a handful in my life, which is a far stretch from the dozens that many card hackers will have to get the most out of their cards, but I still do quite well for myself when it comes to card hacking. Earlier this year I posted about travel hacking through credit cards and my success with the ability to get free trips this way.

Because each credit card that you either apply for or open can have an effect on your credit score, it’s advisable to limit the amount of cards you open and focus on good quality cards.

Here are a few tips on how to find the right credit card:

Know Your Intent

What is the purpose of your wanting a new credit card? Will you actually be using it for purchases that you can’t afford? Or are you looking for a credit card to make it easier to track your spending and expenses? Maybe you want to be able to hack your way to a free trip or electronic.

While this does seem obvious, it’s apparently not; I caught myself one time thinking that I didn’t want to open a credit card that had amazing travel rewards because the interest rate was super high. I never carry a balance on my card and the purpose of the card wasn’t to go into debt because of it. I’ve never incurred interest charges anyway. I wasn’t thinking about the purpose of the card.

If you are a student and you need to put your tuition on a card so you can pay it back (bad idea by the way), then get one with an incredibly low interest rate. If you want one that will track your expenses well, you have to look into the provider.

Know the Best Timing

Timing is everything if you want to capitalize on credit card rewards. I have opened all of my cards because of their sign up bonuses (in conjunction with really liking the rewards). But just because a card has a great sign up bonus this month, doesn’t mean that it will have the same one next month. Be aware that the sign up bonuses are often limited time offers. If your preferred card doesn’t offer one, wait and see. 

Sometimes the timing will just afford you the annual fee being waived, and sometimes it’s something like free cash or a flight. It’s worth it to hold out, as you’ll see with this Money Crashers article.

Consider Acceptability and Ease of Use

Something to always consider when looking at which credit card to get is whether the card is widely accepted globally, and if it’s easy to use. When I say easy to use, I mean that the fine print should be legible and not too complicated, the platform that the company hosts the card on electronically should be easy to use, and you should be able to pay it off whenever you choose without penalties.


These are just a few things that I look for before getting my credit cards. What about you? 


7 thoughts on “How to Choose a Credit Card

  1. Knowing your intent is huge. I know some people that use a credit card for every purchase. But most of my purchases are at the grocery store and gas station. As such, I have a credit card that gives high cash back at those places. I’ve found in the past, without a plan like this, you can easily have your credit card spending spiral out of control.

  2. I use it for travel rewards and also keeping track of expenses for tax purposes since I’m self-employed. I do avoid any (even with great sign up bonuses) that have an annual fee the first year. I consider ones that waive it the first year. In a sense, how much am I saving them with travel rewards if I’m paying a bunch of annual fees. Then I have to shut a lot down and I’m a little nervous how it affects my credit score. So for awhile I’m putting a bit of a hold on opening any new ones and just using the ones I have to rack up points.

  3. Great points. I’ve been looking into cards for travel rewards. The annual fee is a factor for me, I don’t want to be paying one in the first year at least. And this must seem like a given – but the promotional offer / reward.

  4. Cash back rewards are the reason for using two of my credit cards (always paid monthly) and low rate balance transfer is the reason for my third. I actually make prepayments on my mortgage from the low rate balance card. I ensure I do not pay a transfer fee. So I pay .99% for 24K and pay it off over 11 months versus 2.79% on my mortgage.

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