What credit card should you get? How to choose the best one for you

While considering the right credit card for you, some factors think about include your credit score, spending habits and perks. (iStock)

There’s no single best credit card for everyone. The right card for you depends on your credit situation, spending habits and preferences.

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If you’re considering adding a new card to your wallet, here’s what you need to know about the process and finding the right credit card for you.

How to apply for a credit card

Applying for a credit card doesn’t take long, but before you even fill out an application, here are some steps to take:

  • Check your credit score: Credit cards are designed with a specific customer in mind, and your credit score is a big part of that. Most rewards cards, for instance, are reserved for people with good or excellent credit—typically a FICO score of 670 or higher. Knowing where your credit stands will give you an idea of which cards to compare.
  • Shop around: It’s rarely a good idea to take the first offer you see. Take some time to research different cards that provide the features you’re interested in, and consider rewards, interest rates, perks and general terms to find the best fit for you.
  • Submit your application: You can usually apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in-person at a local bank or credit union branch. The process is quick, and you’ll typically get a response within moments. If you’re approved, you’ll see your credit limit and interest rate, as well as a note about how long it will take to receive your card.

While finding the right fit is important, no card will be the perfect fit because your needs and preferences will change over time.

Finding the right credit card

While everyone is different, there are three main things to consider in finding the right credit card for you: your credit score, how you spend your money and your general preferences.

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Your credit score is important because if it’s not good enough to qualify for the card you want, you’ll likely be denied. In some cases, you may need to take time to build credit before you apply. You can get free access to your FICO credit score through Experian or Discover Credit Scorecard.

Second, consider how you spend your money, especially if you’re getting a rewards credit card. Many rewards cards offer bonus rewards on certain spending categories, and if you spend a lot in those areas, you could earn more than you could with other cards.

Also, if you plan to pay off your balance in full each month, the interest rate on the card may not matter as much. But if you think you’ll carry a balance, you may want to target cards with lower interest rates.

Finally, consider your preferences. There are several types of credit cards out there, including:

  • Cash-back credit cards
  • Travel credit cards 
  • Balance transfer credit cards
  • Zero percent APR credit cards
  • Student credit cards
  • Secured credit cards
  • Business credit cards

Depending on the reason you’re applying for a card, one of these card types may be better than the others. Also, look at individual perks that could provide more value based on how you to plan to use the card.

For example, some travel cards offer trip insurance, credits for certain travel expenses, premium benefits and more. As you shop around, take note of how you can maximize value with each card.

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Finally, consider the credit card companies themselves. Read reviews about their satisfaction with payment and billing, customer service and other things that could affect your experience with your new card.

Quick tips for using your new credit card

Once you get your new credit card in the mail, here are some ways to maximize its value:

  • Spend only what you can afford to pay off each month.
  • Avoid carrying a balance and paying interest, if possible.
  • Set up automatic payments, so you don’t accidentally forget.
  • Don’t forget to read the fine print, so you don’t get any surprises.