Money & Career

What's the best credit card for you?

How is your interest rate treating you? Are you using the points and the perks? Is your card working for you? Important questions that affect your bottom line.

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Is it time to switch credit cards?
If the interest rate on your credit card is getting close to your actual age, it might be time to think about switching to another one. There are so many different types of cards out there — they offer a myriad of rewards, interest rates and features that might better suit your needs. Think you might be ready to switch plastic? Ask yourself these questions:

How are you using your card?
If you find yourself carrying a balance on your card (a definite no-no, but hey, it happens), then find one that can offer the lowest interest rate possible. The lowest interest rate I was able to find today was with Capital One’s Smartline Platinum Mastercard at 5.99 percent. There’s no annual fee but also no bells and whistles like travel rewards or rental car insurance. Other cards like the ScotiaLine VISA Account currently offers secured prime plus 1 percent (or unsecured prime plus 4.99 percent) — also with no annual fee. Do you homework and you’ll find lots of low interest, no fee options out there.

Are you using your points?
If you’re paying an annual fee for points you don’t use then that’s another reason to consider switching to a different type of card. So, if you got your card for the great travel rewards but you just had twins and a major lifestyle change, then consider switching to a card that offers rewards for things like grocery purchases or even charitable donations.

Do the fees make sense?
If you’re paying an annual fee for a card that offers great rewards and the points don’t add up quickly enough, then you might as well save your money and pay for your own flight/car/hotel every few years. Make sure you’re making the most of your rewards given the annual fee you’re being charged otherwise it’s probably not worth it.

Is your interest rate too high?
If everything about your card is working except the interest rate, try calling up your credit card issuer to ask for a lower one. It can’t hurt, especially if you’ve been a long time customer with a reliable track record. Before you call, try collecting all the credit card offers mailed to you over the next month or so — then call up your issuer, tell them what you’re being offered and ask what they can do to keep your business.

Shop around
Even if you think your card is great, you should keep on top of what others are offering to make sure you have the best deal. Hands down, The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has the best online credit card comparison tool around – it’s unbiased, it lets you input all of your needs and information and it quickly spits out a list of all the credit cards available to you that meet your criteria (and the rates are updated very regularly!). It’s another easy way to see if there’s another card out there that will better meet your needs.

Caroline Cakebread is a Toronto-based financial writer and editor. She’s also a recovering academic and the mother of two kids. Check out her personal finance blog for Chatelaine Your Money.

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