Just because your credit card has worn its own spot in your wallet doesn’t mean that it’s the best card for you. Take a close look at what your plastic pal actually costs you and what it offers, and you may be surprised to find that your card sucks.
Put your credit card to the test and see if it’s time to shop around.
Related post: The Top 5 Credit Cards of 2014
1. It has an annual fee
Bad cards charge you for the privilege of being a cardholder. This charge is usually in the area of $25 to $55 per year, which takes an annoying bite out of your budget. Paying anything is absurd when you consider the competitive credit card market. Good companies don’t insult their clients by charging annual fees.
2. There’s a hefty APR
If you pay your credit card off every month, a high annual percentage rate won’t bother you—unless you forget to make your payment on time. Considering that current good credit card APRs can run as low as 13 percent to 15 percent for a fixed rate, it’s ridiculous to charge as high as 25 percent, but some crappy cards do.
3. There was a bait and switch APR
Some credit card offers are devious and even dangerous. Some institutions will play up a low interest rate, but in fine print list an astronomical rate that the card will switch to after, sometimes, as little as three months.
If it’s a no-interest card that lasts for a period of 6 to 12 months and you plan on paying the balance off before the expiration date, that can be a smart financial move. But if you plan on keeping the card indefinitely, this is a bad choice.
4. The card has a mysteriously changing due date
If you’ve ever been surprised to find a late charge on your bill even though you know that you paid the bill the same time as last month, you probably fell victim to a change in due date. Generally, such changes are sent to you as an update that you’re likely to miss, and this is a crappy way to do business.
The law states that your grace period needs to be at least 21 days, but that doesn’t apply to non-credit transactions, so some companies also shorten the grace period for cash advances. A good credit card has consistent due dates for all products.
5. There customer service is terrible (or nonexistent)
If emails to the credit card company’s customer service end up in a black hole and finding a phone number on the website to call a real person takes 20 minutes and only results in sitting on the phone for another 20 minutes listening to elevator music, you have a crappy credit card. When you have a good credit card, the company will answer your query quickly—be it by email, online chat or phone.
6. You have sneaky, shocking fees on your bill
If your credit card company springs exorbitant fees on you, like sky-high charges for late payments, cash advances and going over your credit limit, take a look around for another card. Even though these mistakes should be few and far between, it’s possible to find a card that charges you reasonable rates when you make an accounting mistake.
Learn how to live a debt-free lifestyle with this post.
7. The rewards program is lousy
Getting rewarded for your business offers you a great way to take financial advantage of your credit card. Good credit cards offer generous rewards programs, such as 3 to 5 percent cash back on spending, a good selection of gift cards and ample airline mileage.
8. There is no rewards program
Worse than a poor rewards program is no incentive program at all. Since a wide variety of cards offer tempting perks for giving them your business, there is no reason at all to carry a card that gives you nothing in return.
9. The company fails to report to credit scoring bureaus
If you’re trying to build credit, it’s important that the credit card company reports every one of your on-time payments and credit limit to all three credit scoring bureaus. Some companies fail to report or miss reporting some months, resulting in a useless “no data available” on your credit report.
10. You (still) have a low credit limit
When your card offers you a low credit limit that doesn’t jive with your credit history, it may be time to switch credit cards. Even if you don’t need all of the credit, it’s good for your score to have more credit than you use, and you never know when the need for extra credit may arise.
Of course there is no perfect credit card, but some come a lot closer to perfection than others. Take the time to do your homework, and you’ll find a card that’s worthy of your ownership.