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Which Kind of Credit Card Should You Have in Your Wallet?

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Some credit card users rely on a single card, while others have dozens. Thankfully, its easy to find a middle ground where you have a few cards that meet their essential needs, but not so many as to be difficult to manage.

If you are striving to carry just the cards that you truly need, and are looking to avoid the bulk, cost and complexity of carrying unnecessary cards, then here’s how to make sure the cards you have are the right fit for you.

1. If You Travel Internationally

If you travel internationally, you will want to have a card that has no foreign transaction fees and EMV chip compatibility. Thankfully, most credit cards are now offered with EMV chips, as this standard is being widely adopted in the United States later this year. In addition, there’s an increasing number of cards that are being offered without foreign transaction fees, particularly those that are marketed to international travelers. Nevertheless, there are still many credit cards that charge a 3% fee on all purchases processed outside of the United States. Other features that can be important to international travelers include access to airport business lounges, a travel assistance hotline and robust travel insurance policies.

2. If You Travel Domestically

Frequent domestic travelers will want to have a card affiliated with the airline that they use the most. These airline cards will offer benefits like priority check-in and boarding, as well as free checked baggage. Other perks can include discounts on in-flight food, beverage, and entertainment. And as you look toward the more expensive cards, these can even offer access to business lounges as well as elite qualifying miles to help you reach the next level of status, and become eligible for first-class upgrades.

3. If You Have Debt

People who are struggling with credit card debt may want to look for a card with 0% APR promotional balance transfer offer. Currently, these offers extend for as long as 21 months, but by law they have to apply for a minimum of six months. Opening an account with one of these offers allows you to take a break from interest charges, and pay down your debt even sooner (this calculator can help you figure out how long it will take to pay off). Unlike other financing offers, 0% APR credit cards will not impose interest charges, even when you are unable to pay off your entire balance before the promotional financing period ends.

4. If You Pay Your Credit Cards in Full Every Month

Those who avoid interest charges by paying their entire statement balance in full each month should be leveraging their good habits to earn the most valuable rewards available including points, miles, or cash back. There are even competitive cash back reward credit cards with no annual fee, so you don’t have to make any tradeoffs.

5. If You Are Rebuilding Your Credit

If your credit is poor, then it can be challenging to qualify for a new account that will help you to rebuild it. The big exceptions are for secured cards, which accept nearly all applicants, but require you to submit a refundable deposit when you open an account. Once opened, these accounts work the same way as standard credit cards. You will have to make a minimum payment each month, and you will be charged interest if you carry a balance. Secured card issuers will also notify the major credit reporting agencies of your payment history, and as you make on-time payments over a period of time and improve your credit, that may allow you to receive your deposit back and upgrade to a non-secured card in as little as one year.

6. If You Are a Student

Students and other young adults have a limited credit history, and will need to use a credit card cautiously in order to create a record of on-time payments and increase their credit score. One of the easier ways to start is with a student credit card. These cards tend to have slightly less favorable terms than similar cards, such as higher interest rates, fewer promotional financing offers or a smaller sign-up bonus. But in exchange, these products offer students the chance to open an account in their own name and build their own credit history. Just remember that the CARD Act requires that applicants under 21 show their own ability to make the payments.

Before you begin your search for a credit card, it helps to know where you stand credit-wise so you can target your search to cards with requirements you’re more likely to meet. You can get your credit scores for free on Credit.com, along with a personalized plan with suggestions on how you can improve your credit.

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