Your Guide to Choosing the Best Credit Card - Genisys® Credit Union

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Your Guide to Choosing the Best Credit Card

on 5/8/2024

Happy young adult with credit card in hand

Credit cards are one of the most popular payment methods today. Whether managing monthly cash flow, making large purchases, covering unexpected expenses, or earning valuable rewards, credit cards are the go-to payment method for most. 

They’ve become so commonplace that people often forget credit cards are loans. And with any loan, the most important factor is the interest rate. However, due to heavily advertised rewards programs, the rate is rarely the deciding factor when choosing a credit card. This oversight leads many to become entangled in high-interest debt that’s difficult to manage and ultimately drops their credit score.

Whether you’re searching for your first credit card or want to eliminate high-interest debt, the right credit card will always be the one with the lowest interest rate.

Understanding Credit

Before diving into the intricacies of credit card selection, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of credit and how credit cards work. 

First and foremost, it’s essential to remember that credit cards are loans. When using a credit card, you borrow money from the lender and pay it back later. Unlike other traditional loan types, credit cards offer a revolving line of credit that allows you to borrow repeatedly up to a specific limit. 

As with any loan, credit cards also come with an interest rate. This rate plays a pivotal role in determining the total cost of borrowing. Securing a low-rate credit card is paramount as it reduces the financial burden of carrying a balance and incurring interest charges. Even if a credit card boasts top-of-the-line rewards and perks, a high-interest rate can quickly negate the card's potential advantages. 

The Pitfalls of High-Interest Credit Cards 

While rewards programs and other perks may tempt users to overlook interest rates, it’s crucial to recognize the downsides of high-interest cards. Here are some of the potential pitfalls of high-interest credit cards: 

  • High-interest credit cards can lead to hefty monthly interest charges, causing your payments to barely dent your outstanding balance. This cycle can trap you in a constant struggle, where most of your payment goes towards interest, keeping you in debt.

  • High-interest rates can make it challenging to pay off your credit card balances in full each month. This not only leads to substantial interest charges but also carries long-term implications for your financial well-being. 

  • A not-so-common feature that people overlook is the interest rate in relation to the rewards program. Many people will attempt to justify high-interest rates or costly annual fees to earn rewards or get something in return. 

The truth is that if you cannot repay your high-interest credit card balance in full each month, you’ve likely already paid more in interest than you’ll ever earn in rewards. 

Credit card companies spend big bucks to promote their rewards programs and distract you from costly interest rates and fees. When searching for a credit card, focus all your attention on the cost of the loan.

Tips for Choosing a Low-Rate Credit Card 

Rather than signing up for the first offer you receive, take the time to do your research so you can make sure you are choosing the best option for your financial needs. Here are some tips to guide you through the process of selecting the low-rate card that’s right for you: 

Compare APRs & Fees: Look beyond the flashy rewards and focus instead on the interest rate and any associated fees. Your goal is to secure a credit card that allows you to minimize borrowing costs. It’s easy to find credit cards without annual fees today.

TIP: Most credit unions cannot legally charge interest rates greater than 18% APR. Members’ actual credit card rates are usually significantly lower. However, banks and credit card companies often charge up to 29% APR! 

Understand Introductory Rates: Be cautious of credit cards offering exceptionally low introductory APRs, especially 0%, since the rates tend to spike drastically once the promotional period ends. Read the fine print to ensure you understand the introductory period's duration and what the new rate will be once the limited-time rate expires.   

Evaluate Rewards & Perks: While securing a low-interest rate is crucial, that doesn’t mean you can’t also take advantage of rewards programs. With a bit of research, it’s possible to find low-rate cards that also offer generous rewards and perks. 

Consider Eligibility Criteria: Before applying for a new card, assess your creditworthiness and make sure that you meet the lender's eligibility requirements. Higher credit scores tend to qualify for lower interest rates and more favorable terms. 

How to Use Your Credit Card Responsibly 

Selecting a low-rate credit card is only the first step in your journey to maintaining low-to-no debt. Responsible card usage is just as crucial in keeping debt at bay. Here are some fundamental principles of responsible credit card management to abide by: 

Manage Credit Limits & Utilization: Keep track of the credit limits on your cards and other loans. Aim to maintain a utilization rate below 30% across all your credit products to avoid negatively impacting your credit score.   

Pay Bills on Time: Making timely payments on your credit card bills is crucial to avoid late fees, penalty APR hikes, and damage to your credit score. Consider enrolling in automatic payments or setting upcoming payment reminders to ensure you never miss a due date. 

Monitor Statements: Regularly review your credit statements to examine your transactions and identify any discrepancies or fraudulent activity.   

Avoid Cash Advances: Cash advances often come with costly additional fees and vastly higher interest rates than standard purchases. Avoid using your credit card for cash advances unless it becomes essential.   

Manage Debt Effectively: If you find yourself carrying a balance, prioritize paying off high-interest debt first. Consider strategies like a debt consolidation loan or a credit card balance transfer to lower your interest expenses. 

We’re Here to Help!

In the vast sea of credit card options, choosing a low-rate credit card can be seen as the life preserver that keeps you afloat and safeguards you from drowning in debt. Understanding the nuances of credit cards, rates, and features can help you select the low-interest card that is right for you. 

If you want to learn more about our credit card programs or are struggling with debt, we're ready to help. Please stop by any of our convenient branch locations or give us a call at 248-322-9800 extension 5. 


© Genisys Credit Union and, 2024. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Genisys Credit Union and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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