How to Choose the Best Credit Card for You

“What’s the best credit card?”

Sounds like a simple question, right? Well, while there are certainly some credit cards that are better than others, there’s really no “best” credit card since the best credit card really depends on you and your financial situation.

For instance, if you have bad credit, the best credit card for you is the one that can help you improve your credit score. If you have good credit, that very same card looks like a dud since you’ve earned the right to some of the most lucrative cash back or low interest cards available.

So you see, the best credit card for you depends on … well … you.

That said, there are certainly some things to consider when it comes to determining the right card for you. Here’s what to look for, depending on where you’re at with your personal credit situation.

For Students
Student credit cards get a bad rap, but they’re actually some of the very best out there to build credit if you can manage approval. These days, it’s a bit harder to get approved for a student credit card as a consequence of the consumer-protection regulations enacted by the Credit CARD Act of 2009.

That said, if you can get approved for a student credit card (and we’ll tell you how in a moment), there are some really solid options available. And in an era of more restricted lending, it’s as important as ever for young consumers to build credit early.

So how do you get approved for a student credit card? There are a few ways, but the easiest is to hit up Mom or Dad to sign on as a co-signer. And while they’re likely to show apprehension at such a suggestion, if you make the case that it’s incredibly important in the long run to build credit, combined with the fact that your credit line is likely to start off very low AND the fact that you’re ready to start using credit responsibly, hopefully they’ll have a change of heart.

And if they still say ‘No’, remind them that by becoming a co-signer on a credit card that you WILL pay back each month, they’re going to see a bump in their own credit score, too.

The other way to receive a credit card when you’re under 21 is to show proof of sufficient income. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the Credit CARD Act of 2009 that defines what “sufficient” income is, so there’s a bit of trial and error when it comes to whether or not you’ll be approved based on income.

Again, this is why it’s recommended that you use a co-signer when applying to your first student credit card.

For Poor or Limited Credit
If you have limited or bad credit, then your main focus should be on building your credit history and improving your credit score. And while building credit is a (excuse the cliché) “life-long journey”, there are some credit cards available specifically for those consumers interested in building credit.

There are both secured and unsecured credit cards available for bad credit; the difference between the two is that secured cards require a security deposit and unsecured cards do not. While on the surface unsecured sounds like the better option, it’s important to note that secured credit cards often have lower annual fees, lower or no monthly fees and lower ongoing interest.

The best secured credit cards will even include credit monitoring tools free of charge, so the credit newbie will be able to better track their credit monitoring success. That said, if a security deposit simply isn’t in your budget (deposits required range from $49-$200+), then maybe the unsecured option is best for you.

For Good or Excellent Credit
If you have good-to-excellent credit, than you essentially have your pick when it comes to the best good credit credit cards on the market today. In fact, it really comes down to what you prefer to receive from your credit card – airline miles, cash back or points; it’s really your call.

The most simple advice we can pass along is to pick the credit card that rewards you the most for the purchases you’re already making, and to make sure these rewards match up with your lifestyle. Basically, don’t make your lifestyle fit your credit card; make your card fit your lifestyle!

If you’re saving up for an upcoming vacation, then we would absolutely consider researching travel rewards and airline miles credit cards. And as a follow-up, be sure to consider the travel credit cards that reward you with bonus miles or points after you hit a spending threshold that fits within your budget.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most lucrative travel credit cards available today. Why? Because they reward cardholders with 40,000 bonus points after making $3,000 in purchases in your first three months, the equivalent of $500 in travel. Combined with their excellent Ultimate Rewards® Program and all of a sudden you’re looking at a heavily discounted vacation.

If travel isn’t your forte, there are several excellent cash back cards with flexibility that could fit your personal finances well. Again, it really just comes down to what types of purchases you make and who rewards you the most for said purchases.

No matter which way you go, remember that “best” is a term relative to YOU. Consider your own personal finances, budget and lifestyle to determine the best credit card offer available to you.

This guest post was written by Jason Bushey. Jason is a full-time financial blogger and the Editor of Creditnet.com.

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