Terms of Use:

Consider and compare all terms, including the following, before you select a card:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR) - the cost of credit as a yearly rate.
  • Free or Grace Period - allows you to avoid any finance charge by paying your balance in full before the due date. If there is no free period, you will pay a finance charge from the date of the transaction, even if you pay your entire balance when you receive your bill.
  • Fees and Charges - most issuers charge an annual fee; some also might charge a fee for a cash advance or if you fail to make a payment on time or go over your credit limit.
  • Credit Card Insurance - is unnecessary because it duplicates protections you already have under law in case your credit card is lost or stolen.
  • If you pay bills in full each month, the size of the annual fee or other fees will be more important. If you carry a balance, the APR and the method used to figure your balance are key.
  • Get all terms and fees in writing, including whether a deposit is required.
  • Apply directly to the card issuer.  Don't give money to a company that offers to get you a credit card for a fee. You may not get a card or your money back.
  • Beware of "credit cards" that only allow you to buy from their own catalogs.
  • Avoid companies that promise instant credit or guarantee you a credit card "even if you have a bad credit history." No one can guarantee you credit in advance.
  • Be cautious of offers for secured credit cards. These cards usually require you to set aside money in a separate bank account in an amount equal to the line of credit on the card to guarantee that you will pay the credit card debt. Some of these offers advertise that secured cards can be used to repair a bad credit record, but no matter how well you handle this account, your payment history on your past debts still will be taken into consideration when you apply for credit, employment or housing.