Photo: Andres Rueda via Flickr
How can you tell if a credit card promotion you receive in the mail is worth it, or worth trashing? (A better way to find credit card offers, by the way, is to use a card comparison site — I’m partial to ours, but hey, our competitors have good deals as well!)Here are five things to look out for:
Balance transfer fee — If the card offer you receive in the mail or directly at your bank has a balance transfer option you plan on taking advantage of, pay close attention to the balance transfer fee. It should not exceed 3 to 4 per cent of the total balance transfer amount. If it does, say “thanks, but no thanks!” — you can find a more competitive offer elsewhere.
0% Intro APR — A competitive credit card in today’s environment should offer those with good to excellent credit 0% intro APR for at least six months, in my opinion. We have a card in our deals portal this week that offers 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. You should try to get something similar.
There is one exception. Many high-end travel rewards cards and airline miles cards don’t offer 0% introductory APR. This does not necessarily mean those card deals aren’t worth it; if you are getting a lot of bonus air miles simply for signing up, it may make good financial sense to sign up and then treat the card as a debit card, paying your balance off in full each month to avoid any interest charges.
Foreign transaction fee — If your card is an airline miles credit card or travel card, or if you do a lot of international travelling, you need to pay attention to this fee in the small print. Is there a foreign transaction fee, and if so, how much is it? There are enough cards out there that have no foreign transaction fees. If you take the wrong card with you to Europe, you could find yourself hit by a “surprise” 3% extra fee on everything you’ve purchased while over there. That sucks.
Customer support — Do you get VIP support? Or, at the very least, can you reach a human being when you need help with your account? Many credit card companies seem to be moving in the direction of great 24/7 support for their higher-end cards. The Discover More Card, for example, offers access to a U.S.-based account manager within 60 seconds of when you call the support line. A real person, not a phone menu robot.
Chase Sapphire offers similar U.S.-based live customer support, with no wait time or phone menus when you call.
Online account management — One of the issues I have with cards from smaller regional banks and credit unions is that their web sites don’t always offer the same number of features as a large bank’s like, say, Chase or BofA.
When I sign up for a new card, I consider these features to be absolute necessities: text alerts when I hit a predetermined spending threshold, text alerts or email reminders before a payment is due, the ability to set-up auto pay, and real time review of my card’s most recent transactions.
American Express, for example, offers a feature called “Pending Charges” which allows you to see the purchases you’ve made today that have not yet posted to your statement. This is incredibly useful information and helps me keep within my budget — and look out for fraudulent charges.
Bank of America, at least with their BankAmericard Cash Rewards VISA card, seems to be offering real-time purchase history as well. I have that card in my wallet and I notice the transaction appear on my account overview page immediately after swiping at Starbucks, the gas station, or anywhere else.
— provided by Outlaw; see more new deals in our card offers portal.
Disclosures: We’re a credit card offers site, so obviously we maintain financial relationships with numerous banks and financial institutions, including some of the card issuers mentioned in this article. No relationship or position on Bank of America, Capital One, Citigroup, or JPMorgan Chase at time of publication.