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Boost your credit score before purchasing a home

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 at 6:38:28 PM

In the past couple of years, the housing market has been on the road to recovery, with buyer activity picking up. However, mortgage standards are still strict, so you may struggle to obtain a home loan with a poor credit score. Therefore, it is recommended that you take the necessary steps to boost your rating before purchasing a home.

No. 1 - Don't allow your credit balances to get out of control
When your credit score is calculated, one of More...


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When you are looking for a new card, you have many decisions to make, related to everything from the lender you use to the deal you get. Because of this, finding your best offers can be a little tricky if you don't know exactly how to go about it.

There is no one best credit card for every person.

Because each borrower is in a unique financial situation and has their own credit score and account management habits, there is a wide range of credit card offers available to them that will benefit them in one way or another. The trick is determining exactly which type of account will be best for you, based on the accounts available. And that will take a little bit of understanding of how each of these accounts works.

Types of accounts

Balance transfer cards

This type of account is a very good one if you're already carrying a balance on another card - and sometimes more than one - and want to get it reduced quickly and easily. The benefit they provide is that they come with a low introductory rate - usually 0 percent - for a number of months after the account is open. This teaser period can last for as little as three months and, in some cases, as long as 24, though usually the period is between six and 18 months.

During this time, you will be able to pay down a significant portion of your balance without incurring one cent's worth of interest charges, meaning that everything you pay is being applied directly to the principal.

However, there are some things to look out for. First, you will need to be careful of how you use this card during those first few months; sometimes they will apply the 0 percent interest rate to purchases as well as balance transfers, but more often they will not.

Consequently, if you buy anything with this card, you will likely face a standard interest rate for doing so. Furthermore, if you are unsuccessful in paying off your balance in full by the end of the introductory period, you will likely have to pay retroactive interest on the remaining total, which can be expensive.

Finally, you will almost certainly have to pay a balance transfer fee - usually about 3 percent of the total being moved to the new account - to get started with your new card. However, that will likely be a small amount compared with what you would pay in interest on a normal card. Fortunately, the best cards for balance transfer will provide a significant benefit to you in the end, so the time and effort spent doing research before you apply for a card is well worth the time and effort.

Rewards cards

This is an extremely popular type of credit card offer for many consumers because they see the benefits they earn from them as "free money." However, this is not always true.

Rewards accounts - whether they grant consumers cashback, points, or airline miles - can be a great way to defray the costs you face for using a card to finance purchases, but if you want to maximize the benefits, you have to be smart about them.

These cards typically come with far higher interest rates than traditional accounts, and many have annual fees. For this reason, you will need to do a bit of research into your own habits to find the best rewards card for your finances and lifestyle.

For instance, you should look at how much you spend on your charge cards now, and how much you might expect to spend based on the amount you usually carry over from one month to the next. By doing so, you can calculate how much you would earn in rewards and the amount you would also end up paying. If the former exceeds the latter, that rewards card might be worth it for you.

Of course, you should also consider the type of rewards you want to earn. For instance, if you don't travel often, airline miles probably don't make much sense, and it might be a better idea to settle on cashback cards or those that give you points you can redeem for everyday items.

Cashback card offers

Cashback cards are a specific type of rewards account that may be the best option for some people. Since rewards are paid in cash, you won't run into a situation where you can't find a reward for your points or miles. You may even be able to use the rewards as a statement credit and reduce your debt.

Different cashback cards also offer additional savings in particular spending categories on a rotating basis or have other extra benefits. These may vary based on your own personal credit history or any annual fees that the card may come with.

Also check for a cap on cash back that can be earned. This is often expressed “x percent of purchases, up to a limit of y dollars.” In practice this may mean that there is a maximum cashback you can earn. Many cashback offers also require you to exceed a monthly minimum spending level before you start to accumulate cashback credits.

Low-interest credit cards

These programs are a great idea for consumers who tend to carry a balance from one month to the next because the cards apply relatively low interest rates to an account when this happens.

The value of this type of card is easy to see: If you are paying a lot in interest charges, you can reduce that amount with a low APR offer. However, you will have to consider what interest rate you qualify for. That's because not every card offer is created equal.

For this reason, you will need to consider a number of credit card apps, and inspect them to make sure there are no other costs associated with them, such as annual fees. These might eat into the savings you expected to enjoy from your new card and make them less beneficial than your current account.

You might also want to consider comparing the various online credit card applications for these accounts with what you are paying for carrying over your current balance. The difference might not be as stark as you think.

No annual fee cards

These cards are idea for those who do not tend to use their credit card very often, or want an account they can put away for a rainy day.

These are ideal because they do not charge an annual fee, as the name implies, and can therefore be relied on only in an emergency or when a big purchase has to be made, without worrying about incurring costs for simply letting it sit in your wallet or desk drawer.

Of course, lenders usually make sure they generate some amount of revenue from these cards by increasing the ongoing APR, so it is important to make sure you pay down your balance in full at the end of every month to avoid higher interest charges. Furthermore, you should also know lenders might cancel such a card if it goes too long without being used, so making even a small purchase on it every few months will ensure it stays open.

Student credit cards

These cards are generally intended for people who do not have a credit history - usually young people, hence the name - and therefore the cards can come with terms that may not be overtly beneficial. That's because the lender usually cannot accurately judge the recipient’s credit risk.

If you are looking at student card offers, you can expect to pay fees and higher interest rates, but they will grant you the ability to borrow money and establish a responsible, strong credit history, at which point you can upgrade to a more beneficial account.

Business credit cards

This kind of card is a good idea if you own a small business because studies have shown that private companies that have access to credit are in a better position to succeed financially. However, there are some things you will need to be careful of when dealing with these accounts.

For one thing, the credit limits on these accounts are likely much higher than you're used to dealing with, and for this reason it can be easy to run up a sizable debt in a small period. Furthermore, these cards do not come with the same protections that are standard with those for consumers.

Because of this, ensuring you have selected the best card for your business will be a function of the card you have chosen and how you use it once you have it.

Can you generally improve the quality of credit card offers you receive?

If you're trying to find the most beneficial credit card deals available, one wise strategy is to take steps to improve your credit score before you apply.

Generally, your credit standing will affect the kinds of programs you have available to you; if you have bad credit, you might not even get the chance to apply for more beneficial cards, and normally, the top credit cards are available only to people who have top-notch credit scores.

For this reason, working to improve your score - by making all payments on time and in full, and by working hard to reduce your various outstanding balances - is usually a good method for getting the best available credit card offers.

Any time you're in the market for a new bank card, you should always make sure the offer that catches your eye would work for you and your unique personal financial situation.

Consider checking these resources before you apply:

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Final thoughts on getting your Best Deal on a Credit Card:

  • Do your research before you apply for any card.
  • Compare a reasonable number of relevant deals.
  • Estimate your usage patterns and the benefits you might use/accrue versus the cost of that card.
  • Carefully fill out an application for your top credit card choice and wait for the results. Online applications are turned around quickly, so if for some reason you are not approved for your first choice, you can always apply for another later.

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