Picking the perfect credit card can feel like an impossible task. The market is huge, and the competing options are overwhelming, which isn’t ideal if you’ve got a busy schedule and not enough time to spend hours comparing every last option.
As a result, it’s helpful to narrow down the field before you get started, and these are the must-have features that will give you a more manageable shortlist.
A low rate of interest
It should go without saying, but the most valuable feature of any credit card deal is an interest rate which is as low as possible.
Things like your credit score will of course impact your eligibility for the best deals. And plenty of providers offer cards with variable rates that can change over time.
Whatever the case, sorting deals by interest rate and eliminating anything that isn’t competitive or affordable will work wonders.
A cash back scheme
Another popular and widely available feature of modern credit cards is the opportunity to earn cash back on the purchases you make.
This can be as a percentage of every purchase, or it can apply only to purchases of a specific kind. For example, business credit cards often only apply cash back to purchases made for business-related items, for obvious reasons.
The amount of cash back provided and the generosity of the areas covered by the scheme will let you work out if it’s a good match for your needs.
A large, reputable credit card company
This isn’t a feature so much as a piece of advice which everyone should stick to; choosing a product from the largest credit card issuers is wise because it means you’ll be getting the support of an established brand with a good reputation to back it up.
There’s not a huge amount of room for new players in this market, and so it’s always better to remain affiliated with a well known name, rather than taking a risk with an alternative that has yet to prove itself trustworthy.
A rewards system
Cash back is not the only way that credit card providers incentivize customers to use their products. Many brands also offer different types of rewards which are still based on the amount of transactions you handle using your card over a given period.
In some cases you’ll earn points for each purchase, which can then be used to unlock benefits such as discounts on goods purchased from a retail partner. You could also be rewarded with things like air miles, which again are transferable and redeemable elsewhere.
What matters here is whether or not the partner brands that a card provider is working with are a good match for your own lifestyle. For example, if you regularly fly business class for work and there’s a particular airline that you use all the time, making sure that your credit card allows you to earn air miles that can be spent with this airline makes sense.
A robust anti-fraud solution
Credit card fraud is a multi-billion dollar problem, and while there are industry-wide protections in place to make sure that victims are compensated, it’s better to avoid being hit by any kind of nefarious activity in the first place.
Checking up on the fraud detection features that a credit card provider has in place before you choose which one to sign up for will save you from a lot of hassle.
The best providers give a mix of security and convenience, detecting fraudulent transactions and stopping them in their tracks, while still letting you make purchases without stepping on your toes through complex authorization processes.
A spending tracker function
When it comes to managing your money, being able to see how your spending breaks down at a glance is immensely handy, especially when it comes to managing expenses.
A lot of card providers are starting to offer this functionality as standard, although again there are differences in the effectiveness of the systems they use from brand to brand.
If in doubt, check online reviews from real customers, as well as experts, to find out about the usability of any spending tracker that’s included.
A great mobile app
Last but not least, any credit card provider which wants to impress and appeal to modern customers has to offer a mobile app that has all sorts of built-in management abilities.
User-friendliness is key here, as there’s no point using an app if it’s unwieldy. Compatibility also matters, as you don’t want an app that runs slowly on your device, or has limited functionality because of the handset you happen to own.
The bottom line
A lot goes into making a great credit card product, and each customer will have their own set of preferences and requirements. So when choosing, think first about what you want, and then whittle down your options accordingly.