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Credit Cards

Thinking of upgrading to a credit card with more perks? Use these 4 tips to pick the one that's right for you

Kristin O'Keeffe Merrick shared some pointers with NBC's "TODAY." Here's a look at her best tips.

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Delmaine Donson / Getty

There are hundreds of credit cards out there offering a myriad of perks and benefits, including the ability to earn travel rewards or cash back for the purchases you're making already.

If you're thinking of upgrading your current credit card to new one that'll provide more of a bang for your buck, financial advisor and Select contributor Kristin O'Keeffe Merrick shared some pointers on the do's and don'ts of choosing (and managing) a credit card with NBC's "TODAY" that are definitely worth considering.

Check out the full interview in the video below and read on to see some of her best tips.

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1) Use your credit card responsibly

While getting a new credit card can be exciting, it's important to remember that credit is borrowed money — and borrowed money comes at a cost. Issuers charge interest on your balance if you don't pay it off in-full each month.

In her interview, O'Keeffe Merrick cites that a credit card APR's can be as high as 25%, and this can make your total debt add up quickly if you're unable to pay off your balance each month. And if you make a late payment or forget to pay your bill altogether, you can rack up late fees and wind up damaging your credit score.

While you should make it a habit to only use a credit card for charges you can pay off immediately, if you do find yourself carrying a balance, you could try calling your credit card issuer to ask for a lower APR. This could help you save some money since more of your payments will go toward your balance instead of just the interest. Alternatively you could transfer your balance to a card with 0% introductory APR period and use that time to save money on interest charges while you pay off the balance.

Select ranked the Citi Simplicity® Card and the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card as some of the best credit cards with 0% intro APR periods.

Citi Simplicity® Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for 21 months on balance transfers; 0% for 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    16.99% - 26.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases

  • Regular APR

    17.49% - 27.49% (Variable)

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2% to 3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees. Terms apply.

Because most balance transfer cards do come with a small balance transfer fee, you'll need to do the math to make sure the money you save on interest will outweigh the fees.

2) Consider whether the annual fee is worth it for you

For starters, if you're interested in getting a credit card that offers a lot of perks and a strong rewards program, you'll typically have to pay a larger annual fee. Card issuers charge annual fees to help them offset the cost of offering cardholders numerous features and benefits. So it makes sense that the more perks and benefits being offered, the higher your annual fee may be.

For instance, the Citi® Double Cash Card has no annual fee and offers $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening, and 2% cash back on all eligible purchases (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay). The American Express® Gold Card, on the other hand, comes with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), but cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of opening their card. And in addition to 4X Membership Rewards® points earned on dining and 3X for travel, cardholders can take advantage of $120 ($10 per month) in annual dining credits and $120 ($10 per month) in annual Uber Credits .

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    16.24% - 26.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    18.99% - 25.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

“Almost every card has an annual fee associated with it," O'Keeffe Merrick says. "Some of them can be as high as $500, which can be a lot of money unless you’re using the card right.”

If you decide to go with a credit card that has a heftier annual fee, make sure the card is offering perks you're actually going to use. Because while perks like annual statement credit feel "free," you're technically paying for them through the annual fee.

3) Make sure your travel credit card fits your needs

There are many perks that can be offered through travel credit cards besides just a welcome bonus that can potentially be redeemed for no-cost flights and hotel stays. O'Keeffe Merrick suggests considering airline-specific credit cards based on the airline you fly with the most, or based on the airline that has a hub at the airport you typically use. This way, you know you'll be using the card's perks — like free lounge access and a free checked bag — to the fullest extent while you travel.

Furthermore, if you don't travel by plane often or don't even have a specific airline you choose frequently, an airline-specific credit card may not be right for you.

O'Keeffe Merrick also points out that some rewards cards allow you to use your points toward your hotel, car rental and other transportation needs while you're traveling. Or, they just automatically include certain travel protections. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card includes an auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement, so you won't have to pay extra for these add-ons.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.24% - 25.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

4) Think about some services you already use that could be offered as a perk through a credit card

Aside from welcome bonuses and rewards points, many credit cards offer lots of little perks on things like streaming services, ride share credits and gym membership credits that may also fit your needs and make any annual fee you pay well worth it.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, offers an unlimited 6% cash back on select streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music, Disney+ and Prime Video. So if you're already subscribed to many of these services, you can now get rewarded for it and earn some sweet cash back. The card is also offering The Disney Bundle which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ with $7/month back in the form of a statement credit after you spend $13.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription with your Blue Cash Preferred Card.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

    16.99% - 27.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

And if you want a card that does good for the causes you care about, there are now credit cards that can fit your philanthropy. As an example, every purchase made with the Aspiration Zero Card results in the planting of a tree.

At the end of the day, though, you shouldn't be drastically changing your lifestyle in order to keep up with the perks of your credit card.

“They need to be used in a way where they adapt to your life," O'Keeffe Merrick says. "If you don't travel, then a travel card is not for you."

Bottom line

When you're finally ready to make the move and upgrade from your current credit card, considering all the perks and benefits you'll receive can be very exciting. Just make sure you're also thinking about your personal needs and interests and weighing whether or not it's worth it for you to pay an annual fee.

O'Keeffe Merrick also says to keep in mind that borrowed money isn't free. That being said, the healthiest way to use a credit card is to make a purchase and pay it off immediately so you can still get in on the perks without having to pay any additional interest.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of American Express Gold card, click here.  

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, click here.  

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
Plenty of rewards and benefits including 4X points per dollar for dining at restaurants worldwide
Enjoy an intro APR on purchases plus, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.