Credit cards are more than just borrowed money — they can also perform strategic functions that help owners achieve specific goals.
While just about every credit card has its perks, it makes sense to choose ones that provide the extra benefits you value the most.
Let’s look at four scenarios and see how different individuals chose the credit card offers that best fit their own needs.
1. For those looking to reduce their debt
Mary is unhappy — she owns too many credit cards and is making too many minimum payments each month. At the rate she’s going, she’ll never make a dent in her credit card debt.
Mary decided to get a card that offers a 0 percent interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. She then transferred all her credit card balances to the new card and now only has to make a single payment a month — all without accruing interest for 18 months.
Now Mary is happy. She’s cut her credit card debt in half and will soon have no outstanding balance.
2. For those who want to see the world
Jim is a sales manager for a Midwest medical equipment manufacturer. His duties include frequent trips throughout North America to pitch his latest wares. Jim never paid much attention to travel miles until he got married. His new bride has the travel bug and wants to see the world.
Jim asked his company to get him a high-mileage rewards credit card. He received the card already loaded with 40,000 bonus miles and now earns double miles on all travel expenses, including airline, hotel and rental car costs without any blackout dates. The miles never expire, and the card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
It won’t be long before Jim and his bride will be headed for two weeks in Europe thanks to credit card travel rewards.
3. For those building credit for the first time
Nikita, age 21, just entered community college while still living with her parents. She’s never had a credit card before and has no credit history. She had difficulty finding a credit card company that would accept her, until a friend told her about credit cards for people with no credit history.
She applied at her bank for a secured card in which her credit line is secured by a minimum balance in her bank account. She chose a bank that reports her credit card activity to the credit bureaus so it would build up her credit history (not all credit card issuers do this or only do so when you do something wrong, like miss payments).
The annual fee was only $19, and she received a higher credit line after making timely payments for five months. She’s on her way to achieving a good credit score.
4. For those looking for cash back
Jim and Sue live on a tight budget. They have three children and both work full-time. They take a no-nonsense approach to credit cards — they want cash back to help them stretch their monthly budget for food, clothes and utilities.
They chose a credit card that pays 2 percent cash back on all purchases with no annual fee, no earning caps or rotating bonus categories. Had they wished for a rotating bonus card, one was available with 5 percent cash back and three-month bonus categories for grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and online purchases.
They chose the 2 percent card because they have no car and don’t go to restaurants much. The cash back rewards help keep food on the table, a great benefit that comes with using the right credit card.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.