How to Find a Credit Card That's the Perfect Match for Your Money Goals

Let's face it: Choosing the perfect credit card is insanely complex. If you are trying to buy a house when someone financially identical to you in every other way is planning a bachelorette trip to Vegas, the cards you shop for could be totally different.

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To help us decipher APRs, annual fees, and pinpointing the credit card that's the perfect fit, The Stir got several tips from Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma.

1. Consider cash back. If you're trying to save, you'll be able to milk the most out of your rewards with a cash-back card, Hardeman notes. "When you get into the categories of airline miles and rewards points, they involve more planning and specificity," she says. "It's different if you want to plan your travel around your credit card rewards, but for people trying to save, I always recommend cash-back cards."

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2. Think big picture. "It's important to look at your current spending patterns and goals before choosing a card," Hardeman explains. "Look at where you're spending your money, and look at the spending you're going to be doing on a weekly basis."

That means looking back at your finances and seeing how much you spend on gas vs. plane tickets, or on groceries vs. furniture. If you can find a card that fits best with your spending habits, you'll get the most savings out of it.

3. Be realistic. If you have bad or no credit, getting that perfect, 200 percent cash-back card (just kidding, this doesn't exist. We wish, though!) might be tricky. 

"If you're starting from scratch with credit, you're not necessarily going to get those great cards, so it’s important to spend some time building up your credit," Hardemen says. "You're going to need excellent credit to get good rewards."

Best case scenario, you have awesome credit and a couple years of good credit history behind you. Then, if you're trying to save up for a house or a car or a kid, there are lots of wonderful options.

Here are Hardeman's top three faves:

Blue Cash Preferred American Express

"This is a great cash-back card, especially for parents," Hardeman says. It has great cash back on groceries, gas, and department stores, but it does have an annual fee. "You just want to make sure the spending you're doing outweighs that fee," she advises.

The details:

  • 6 percent cash back on supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year)
  • 3 percent at gas stations and select department stores
  • 1 percent on all other purchases
  • $150 sign-up bonus (you'll get $150 if you spend $1,000 in your first three months)
  • Annual fee of $75
  • 12.99 percent to 21.00 percent variable APR, so it's a better choice if you plan on paying your balance in full each month

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

Hardeman recommends this card for people who are looking to really tightly tailor their card to the spending they do.

The details:

  • 5 percent cash back two categories of your choices (so categories like groceries, department stores, gas, etc.)
  • 2 percent cash back on one everyday purchase
  • 1 percent cash back on everything else

Chase Freedom

"Chase Freedom is an all-around good cash-back card and a really good introductory [one]," Hardeman says. (She also adds that it was her first cash-back card.)

The details:

  • 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases on quarterly categories (right now those categories include Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Diapers.com)
  • $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR but $13.99-$22.99 variable APR after that, so another good one to pay off in full each month

These three options are good places to start, but also make sure to see what's out there before making a decision. Sites like Credit Karma or CreditCards.com let you shop around, read reviews, and compare your favorites.

Credit card rewards could help you a lot, but a poor fit could sink you into debt. So, choose wisely!

 

Image via Africa Studio/Shutterstock

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