The "very first question" the consumer should ask is, "Why am I applying for this card? Why do I need this card?" says Bruce McClary, media director for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, a nonprofit affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Some positive reasons: The card has low or no fees, a lower interest rate or offers a rewards program that suits your spending habits. "It has to make sense, and it has to fit into your overall lifestyle," McClary says.
Do you pay off your credit card balances every month? If so, "you don't care what the interest rate is because you won't pay any," says Ric Edelman, author of "The Truth About Money." "But you care about the (annual) fee," he says.
If you run a balance, you want the lowest rate you can get, even if that comes with an annual fee.
One clue to your usage: "Look at your past history," says Edelman. "Because what you've done before is what you will be doing."