You’ll find a lot of websites out there that will provide you ratings for all sorts of credit cards. Some cards are for travel, some offer cash back, and others have gimmicks like a low APR or zero fee balance transfers. You really have to determine what qualities in a credit card are you looking for, and then focus on those aspects only. Unfortunately, there will never be that perfect storm of the best rate, zero balance transfer fee, best in class rewards system, quality customer service, etc. However, there isn’t any reason that you shouldn’t get the card that is most valuable and beneficial for YOU!
What I Have Experienced
I’ve had one credit card or another for about 12 years now. It took me quite a long time to learn how to use and to payoff a credit card properly, which is unfortunate in some aspects, but it has also provided me with plenty of knowledge on how they work. I’ve learned that customer service is invaluable. I used to think low rates and promotional rewards were always the way to go. A friend of mine got married not too long ago and I was the best man, and believe me I could not have been happier to fill that role for him. As most of you know, being the best man means you get to plan the bachelor party. Well we decided on, and I planned, a trip to Las Vegas. Three days, fourteen friends, and celebrating the groom-to-be on his last days as a single man, it’s a trip that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put to words. Well the main night of our trip we had long decided would involve the all out VIP service at one of the hottest clubs in Vegas. Being with 100% DUDE does not make it exceptionally easy to get inside of the nightclubs, and to obtain prime real estate at that (VIP tables on the dance floor in case you were wondering). In short, I made some reservations with a host, and we paid more money in that one night than we spent on the entire trip. That being said, the most convenient way of paying is by credit card. For this trip I had used my Barclay Bank issued Spirit Onyx MasterCard. A card I had essentially received a free ticket on Spirit Airlines for signing up with. I thought, hey, first annual fee waived, and a free airplane ticket….I would be stupid not to get this card right? Well their APR is over 22% so I better get some really great rewards out of it. I am familiar with the security measures a credit card company takes when a person travels, as such, I made sure to call the company prior to leaving Michigan and letting them know the exact dates I would be in Las Vegas. I used the card to purchase the not-so-free baggage fee’s on the way there. However, once I was there my card was declined at the hotel, a reputable place called the MGM Grand, on the very day I told them I would be flying in. The next day I was sure to call them again and to let them know that I would be making a charge of several thousand dollars on that specific night, to which I named the specific club and even an estimated time of arrival. Guess what? Yep, they declined me again, this time in a crowded club, and with an annoyed cocktail waitress ready to tend to her other tables. I called this company more than once with complaints, they route me to a call center in India, and have very rude (and very unhelpful) employees that do little to nothing to assist you with any issues at all. To be quite honest, I would be less offended and annoyed if they just cut their overhead, and instead of a live person inadequately fielding your calls, they would simply have a recording that tells you to stop wasting your time.
Hey customer service is more important than you realize, but you have every right to covet those low rates too. Personally, the lowest APR I have ever had was 6.9%, and this was a fixed rate! Variable rates change with the economy, but a fixed rate tends to stay the same, and only change with company policy. I had a credit card issued through FME credit union, a small credit union, but able to offer a rate unsurpassed by any other institution I’ve found since. Personally, if it wasn’t for their lack of a rewards program, and my kicking the “carry a balance on my card” habit, I may still covet this card over all else today.
Now if you are the type that likes your rewards, and you should, then I truly believe that American Express offers just about the best deals you can find. They also have impeccable customer service as well. This combination is probably why most corporations use them as their company card of choice. The most common card for the average customer would be that of the American Express Blue Card. You gain access to their wonderful rewards system, which offers cash back rewards, and point multipliers based on what you purchase. It’s important to know that many credit card companies typically offer 1 point per 1 dollar spent using their issued card, however, when you monetize those points you’ll realize that each one is worth only about a penny. The AMEX Blue Card has rewards that can reach as high as 10% on every dollar you spend, which is significant amount. They have an introductory offer at the moment of up to 12 months interest free on purchases and balance transfers. Sounds great, but this is the part that you need to be careful with. “Up to 12 months” doesn’t mean that you actually have 12 months, and frankly, you won’t know how long you have your interest free period until your card application has been completed, they already pulled your credit, and you have been approved. Also, any balance transfer will carry a minimum $100 fee or 3% of your total transfer, whichever is greater! I once transferred a balance to delay interest on a card for six months, only to pay $350 to process that transfer, cutting into most of the savings on interest I was hoping for!
If you have a balance, need a break from paying interest so you can actually cut into your debt, and you don’t feel like suffering from a lack of rewards programs, then consider the Discover More card. Discover has a phenomenal customer service center that is all about helping you. Granted they did make a small verbal error on my credit limit amount that I wasn’t made aware of until a couple weeks later, but they apologized and promptly assisted me with any concerns I may have had. They have a zero-fee balance transfer, combined with a zero APR on balance transfers and purchases for an entire year. That’s a combination that can’t easily be found, go ahead and start looking, I dare you! Completely interest free money in an economy that has long suffered a credit crunch, especially in consumer lending. Here’s the kicker…. they also have an great rewards program! They offer as much as 5% cash back on rolling categories throughout the year, and I promise you that all the categories of spending apply to the average person. Their APR is variable just like AMEX, with a range of 12% – 20% based on creditworthiness. Not the lowest rate, but you can’t win them all! Quite honestly this is my card of choice, and have been nothing but happy with them. Please keep in mind that I do NOT receive any monies from any of these companies in this article, these are just my pure and simple opinions in my quest to better our financial futures.