[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Discover. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Does it ever seem like you are being barraged by credit card offers? They come at you online, in the mail, and are even pitched by flight attendants on airplanes. In fact, you are likely to see some of these same card offers in the branch office of your local bank. But are these in-branch offers any better than the others?
The short answer is sometimes.
For any given credit card, there are likely to be a variety of offers out there for the exact same card, but each with its own “offer code” that represents a specific set of terms to distinguish it from other offers. Typically, the difference between one offer and another will boil down to the sign-up bonus, promotional financing terms and the cost of the first year’s annual fee. For example, an offer you see in the mail might feature 50,000 bonus points, while you might find another online with 25,000 bonus points but with a waived annual fee for the first year. A good example on the market right now is the Discover it card, which lets you choose between an offer of six months 0% APR promotional financing on new purchases and 18 months on balance transfers, or a separate offer with 12 months of interest-free financing on both. (You can read a full review of the Discover it card here.)
Unfortunately, there is no simple formula to always find the best offer. Often, the best offers will be available online, as that’s the easiest way for banks to sign up new customers. But you simply never know if there is another offer available in the branch with a slightly better sign-up bonus or a longer promotional financing period. In addition, there are many times customers find the best terms in targeted offers received by postal mail or email — or when they check an account online.
How to Evaluate Credit Card Offers in the Bank
The next time you are in the bank, and a representative asks you to apply for a new credit card, how do you know if it is the best offer available? The truth is, you don’t. So the best course of action is to leave with a copy of the offer’s terms, go home, and compare credit card offers. Check out credit card offers online, or compare it to any offers you received in the mail. Pay special attention to the amount of the sign-up bonus, its minimum spending requirement, and if there are any other benefits for new applicants such as a waived annual fee or even a statement credit. It can be hard to say no to a friendly representative at your bank, but applying for a credit card is an important financial decision. So it’s worth politely declining to fill out a new credit card application on the spot while you take time to consider if you are getting the best offer.
You’ll also want to check to see if you fit the credit score demographic the card is marketed to. (If you don’t know where you stand, you can get a free credit report summary that includes two credit scores from Credit.com.) Because applying for credit can cause a small, temporary drop in your credit score, you’ll want to feel relatively confident that your application will be approved.
Advantages of a Credit Card With Your Bank
There is one thing that your bank’s credit card will always have going for it, the fact that it is offered by the same institution that you already have an account with. This means that paying your credit card bill will just be a simple matter of transferring funds between accounts, rather than the sometimes complicated (though increasingly easier) process of making a payment from one institution to another. In addition, you can continue to use the same website and login that you have been. Finally, those who are rebuilding their credit may find it easier to get approved for a credit card if they already have a banking relationship with the card issuer.
Nevertheless, your options aren’t limited to your current financial institution. You can feel free to sign up using the best offer you find online, in the mail or even on an airplane.
At publishing time, Discover cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
More on Credit Cards:
- Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
- An Expert Guide to Credit Cards with Rewards