[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — American Express Blue Cash Preferred, Discover it and Chase Freedom. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
As 2016 begins, now’s as good a time as ever for cardholders to ask themselves these five vital questions.
1. Do I Need a New Credit Card?
There are several reasons why you might want a new credit card. First, there are new offers available all the time that might feature lower interest rates, generous rewards or attractive benefits. In addition, holding multiple credit cards can help your credit score by expanding your credit history and lowering your debt-to-credit ratio. Finally, a new credit card may offer a valuable sign-up bonus in the form of points, miles or cash back.
However, consider your options carefully. If you know you want to buy a home or need to buy a new car soon, applying for a new credit card may not be the best decision right now — it can ding your score. (You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.) Also, if you’re looking at a credit card with a high annual fee, be sure to crunch the numbers and make sure it’s worthwhile for you.
2. Do I Need to Close a Credit Card?
It’s important to look through your credit cards and decide if there are any that you should be closing. A good reason to close an account can be if it has an annual fee that is not worth the rewards or benefits it provides. Another reason is if you are dissatisfied with the rates, terms or customer service. The credit card industry is so competitive, there’s little reason to keep an account open if you’re not satisfied. Just be prepared for your credit score to take a small hit — credit age is a major scoring factor. It may be worthwhile to keep your credit card open and inactive, though an annual fee may make that decision easier for you.
3. Can I Spend Differently to Maximize Rewards?
For card users who pay their balance each month, one of their highest priorities should be to earn rewards for their spending. So it makes sense to look through your credit cards to find out what types of bonus rewards are available from particular merchants and what you can do to maximize them. For example, both the Discover it (reviewed here) and the Chase Freedom (reviewed here) offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at specific categories of merchants that change each quarter. Other cards like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred (reviewed here) feature 6% cash-back rewards at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), but only on the first $6,000 spent each year. It’s important to go through your cards and reacquaint yourself with the terms of their rewards programs.
4. Can I Negotiate Better Terms From My Issuers?
As your credit history lengthens, and (hopefully) your credit score improves, you may have the opportunity to receive better terms from your card issuers. For example, you could request a waiver of your annual fee, a higher credit limit or reduction in your card’s interest rate. To do so, contact your card’s customer service and ask them specifically. To improve your odds of success, try to pay down as much of your outstanding balance as possible.
5. How Can I Manage My Accounts Better?
Do your statements sometimes get lost in the mail? Perhaps you should switch to receiving them electronically. If you have trouble remembering to make payments on time, then configure email or text alerts. Another useful option most issuers offer is the ability to set a custom due date so you can have payments due after receiving your paycheck and align all your credit card payments up in a way that’s easy to remember. Finally, take the time to download and explore the mobile app offered by your credit card issuer, as there is tremendous progress being made in this field every year.
At publishing time, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, Discover it and Chase Freedom are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. 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.