Choosing the Right Kind of Card for You

Understanding credit card features, benefits and tradeoffs will help you choose the right kind of credit card program for your needs. Here are some of the most common features and benefits.

Credit Card Feature Key Benefit Things to Consider Before Choosing This Type of Card
Secured Card Small credit line that requires an up-front cash deposit from you, which will be matched by the bank.
  • May have Fees — possibly an Application Fee and/or an Annual Fee. Inquire.
  • APR might be higher than a traditional card. Inquire.
  • Requires a minimum cash deposit from you.
Reward Card Can accumulate points or miles — which can be redeemed for merchandise, airline tickets, cash, charitable donations and many other items — based on the total dollar value of the transactions on that card.
  • May have an Annual Fee. Inquire.
  • APR might be higher than other types of cards. Inquire.
    • If you plan to carry a balance, you'll generally pay more in interest costs.
    • If you plan to pay off your balance every month, a higher APR may not be a concern to you relative to the potential rewards.
Shop around for the best deal. Consider both the number of miles/points you'll earn per dollar spent and the redemption requirements and match against your shopping behaviors to make sure you find a rewards card that works for you.
Co-branded or Affinity Card Offer two types of benefits:
  • Customer-focused Benefits

    Offers special rewards to card holders, which can be redeemed with the partnering organization. Rewards are based on accumulated points from dollar transactions.

  • Partner Organization-focused Benefits

    Offers cash to the partnering organization — generally a non profit — based on a percentage of your total annual transactions.

  • May have an Annual Fee. Inquire.
  • APR might be higher than other types of cards. Inquire.
    • If you plan to carry a balance, you'll generally pay more in interest costs.
    • If you plan to pay off your balance every month, a higher APR may not be a concern to you relative to the potential rewards.
Cash Back / Rebate Card Offers cash-back rewards based on the total accumulated dollar transactions on that card.
  • May have an Annual Fee. Inquire.
  • APR may be higher than other types of cards. Inquire.
  • Cash back offers can help offset your APR (if you carry a balance) and other fees that may be associated with the use of that credit card.
Introductory or “Teaser Rate” APR Card Offers a very low APR for a defined period of time when the card is first issued. APR then increases at the predetermined time. Read the card issuer's terms carefully to know exactly how long your introductory APR will last, and what it will increase to when the introductory period expires.