Finding the perfect credit card for you

Score your perfect credit card

The right credit card can make life easier, save you money, and generate some great benefits. The path to this perfection can be bumpy as you weed through the hundreds of offers and pages of fine print. These easy steps will help you score the ideal card for you.

Search, don't settle

Just because a credit card is promoted in your mail or a top Google search return doesn't make it a great offer. Go to the major credit card providers − banks, financial services companies, or groups you're affiliated with − and evaluate their offers making sure to pay attention to the fine print.

Lifestyle list

To thin the pack, rank options by importance to you. If you routinely carry a balance, a low interest rate may be a priority. A frequent traveler may want to quickly rack up rewards points. Special interest cards let you "give back" to your favorite cause. Busy "road warriors" may value unique "concierge" services.

The details are important: Are there caps on earnings? Are redemption options limited? Check rewards earnings against your spending habits: Some cards reward higher points based upon the category − like restaurants or travel services. Comparing many different plans will help you match the benefits to your lifestyle.

Rate the rates

Scrutinize the variations in rate. Many offers are based upon the prime lending rate. Beware of "prime plus" offers: Add the two for the actual − and very high − rate. If there is an introductory rate, how low is it and how long does it last? Make note of the rate adjustment policy − what happens if your payment is late?

This also is the time to consider fees − annual fees or charges for services you'll use like international currency exchange. Make note of fees for cash advances, balance transfers, late payments, and over-the-limit charges.

It may sound like work, but the payoff is a credit card in sync with your lifestyle. It's not an impossible dream. Learn more at card.