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Getting a credit card isn’t as simple as selecting one online and waiting for it to show up at your doorstep. They are an integral part of your financial portfolio, which means a thorough application process is involved. But it’s not only meant to determine whether or not you can be approved for the card. This process is just as important for you as it is for the issuer.

Asking the following questions before you apply for your card will help to ensure you have the necessary information to make the very best decision.

What are all the fees associated with the account?

Applying for a credit card is a process that sometimes comes with a cost. Check to see if there is a fee attached to opening an account with the issuer. If there is, ask if there is a way for the fee to be waived or lowered.

Also, ask if there are any processing fees that you’ll incur once you begin using the account. You want to be clear on any costs involved with making purchases with your card.

Lastly, ask if there’s an annual fee and when the fee will be applied. Annual fees are usually attached to rewards cards. While an annual fee is not a deal breaker, it’s good to know that the benefits of the card will outweigh the annual cost to maintain it.

How can I make payments?

Making monthly payments on your credit card is important. Find out all of your options for making those payments. Common methods include paying online, autopay from a checking account and paying by mail. Setting up autopay is the most recommended method, since it ensures timeliness.

Another way to pay your bill might involve paying with another credit card. Check with your provider to find out if this is an option and if there are any fees involved.

Is there an introductory interest rate, and how long does it last?

Credit cards charge interest on your monthly balance, but that interest will often be waived or reduced when you first open your account. Introductory rates can be as low as zero percent, but can go up to 28% after the introductory period. Find out what the introductory rate is for the card you’re considering.

Also check the length of the introductory period, and what the rate will be after the introductory period has ended. Keep in mind that your card will likely have a variable rate. Also, determine if you want to carry a balance from month to month.

When and how can the variable interest rate be changed?

The majority of credit cards have a variable interest rate. These rates are affected by a variety of factors. When researching a new card, check with the issuer to see what factors they use to determine the initial interest rate, and what can cause it to increase or decrease. You may also want to ask about the interest rate range, so you’ll have an idea of where your rate will max out.

What is the length of the grace period before the regular interest rate is applied?

Interest is applied to the balance on your account, however there is a grace period before it kicks in. Ask a credit card representative about the length of this grace period. Once you have your card, you can keep tabs on the length of your grace period by subtracting the due date from the date your statement was issued.

What happens if I am late on a bill or can’t pay my bill?

In the event that you’re late on a bill, you’ll want to know what kinds of penalty fees you could incur. These fees can be as much as $39, and it can also affect your credit score. Also ask about any fees for missing a payment altogether, as well as your options for paying off the balance in full.

How will my card issuer provide updates about my account?

When something happens with your account – such as a rate increase or a fraudulent purchase – you need to know in a timely fashion. Ask how and in what time frame the issuer will communicate important updates or alerts about your account. Also, determine your preferred method of communication – whether it’s call, text or email – and see what options are available.

Are there any penalty or incidental fees I should know about?

It’s fairly common to ask about interest rates and late fees for a card, but there might be other fees that you need to consider. For example, find out if you would be charged a fee for closing your account, transferring a card balance or going over your credit limit. While you might not have plans to do any of these things, it’s good to be aware of any potholes if your situation changes.

Bottom line

When you apply for a new credit card, you’re entering into a relationship with an issuer. Relationships work when there is communication. If you feel like you’re not getting clear and helpful information, don’t be afraid to move on to another option. There’s a card out there for everyone, and by asking the right questions, you can find the one for you.