×

5 signs it's time to hunt for a new credit card

The credit card commercial tagline from Capital One — "What's in your wallet?" — is actually a pretty good question for consumers to consider. Many people have stuck with a favorite card for years, potentially padding their costs and missing rewards opportunities.

An estimated 32 million credit card holders haven't updated their preferred card in at least a decade, while 21 million others have never switched cards, according to a new report from CreditCards.com. The site based its analysis on a survey of 1,003 adults conducted in January, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

"There's a group of people who change credit cards all the time, and chase rewards and sign-up bonuses," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com. "But the truth is most people need some sort of incentive or reason to change their favorite card. A sign-up bonus isn't enough."

No matter how you feel about your current card, it's a good idea to periodically review offers on the market to make sure you're not missing out, said Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of WalletHub.com.

"The last few years have been one of the most competitive credit card environments I can remember since I started in the industry 17 years ago," he said.

These five factors should be a nudge to survey the market:

Payment habits. Cardholders who are carrying a balance, even occasionally, should be on the hunt for a card with a better rate to save on interest paid, Papadimitriou said. If you have excellent credit, he said, there are plenty of cards on the market that start out offering zero percent rates on purchases or balance transfers.

Credit health. An improvement in your credit score could entitle you to better interest rates and terms than you might have been eligible for when you last hunted for a card.

Annual fee. If you're paying one, reassess each year before your card anniversary, when the fee is charged to your card. Make sure the benefits are still competitive, compared with what other reward cards are offering — and what they're charging for those perks, Schulz said. You should also analyze whether you're still getting your money's worth by actually using those benefits.

A major purchase. Lucrative sign-up bonuses can be worth several hundred dollars, but they often require spending a set amount by a certain date after opening the card. If you have a big purchase or vacation on the horizon, that's a good opportunity to leverage that spending, Papadimitriou said. Depending on the rewards on offer, you may even be able to use the bonus to cut the cost of that purchase or trip.

Rewards. If you're holding on to an old card, you might be earning a lower rate of rewards compared to newer cards on the market, Schulz said. For example, a decade ago, 1 percent back was the norm for cash-back cards; today, a handful offer 1.5 percent or better on all purchases.