How to compare credit cards with Bankrate
- Select two cards you would like to compare.
- Click the "Compare Cards" button.
- Read the major details for each card side-by-side for easy comparison.
- Pick and apply for the card that best fits your needs.
Credit card features to compare
Credit card APRs
A credit card's annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest on a credit account. Many credit cards have introductory or promotional APR offers, meaning you'll get a low or zero-percent interest rate for a period of time, typically 12 to 21 months. Low-interest and zero-interest introductory offers give cardholders more time to pay down debts or make large purchases without added interest costs. Just keep in mind that these introductory rates don't last forever. Once the introductory offer ends, you will be charged the card's regular, ongoing interest rate on any balances you carry over after each billing cycle.
Similar to zero-interest cards, a balance transfer card lets cardholders transfer their balances from one card to another for a temporary relief from interest while they pay off the balance. The best balance transfer cards have zero-interest periods that last 18 to 21 months, but almost every balance transfer card has a fee of $5 or 3 percent of the transferred amount.
Credit card rewards
Credit card rewards are points, miles or cash back that you earn when you use a rewards credit card. You can earn rewards at either a flat rate on all purchases or higher rewards rates for specific spending categories like dining or gas. Reward earnings can be unlimited or have spending caps, depending on the card.
Points and miles are often associated with travel cards and can be redeemed for travel-related purchases like airfare, hotels and car rentals. Cash back rewards are often redeemed for statement credits, direct deposits, merchandise or even gift cards.
In addition to base rewards, some cards will offer sign-up bonuses, which are bulk rewards credited to your account after spending a certain amount in the first few months. The best sign-up bonuses are proportional to the required spend, and you should pick a card based on how well it fits your long-term needs, not just for lucrative points or miles.
Every card has its own credit score requirements for approval and they will differ among card issuers. Cards with the best perks tend to be reserved for people with good to excellent credit scores, while other cards like secured cards or student cards have lower score requirements. Lenders will use your FICO credit score or VanatageScore to determine your creditworthiness at any given time. Both systems measure your credit activity, payment history, credit utilization and the length of your credit history to calculate a score. These scores are then reported to the three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
Here are the score tiers and ratings for FICO and VantageScore:
- Poor: 300-579
- Fair: 580-669
- Good: 670-739
- Very good: 740-799
- Excellent: 800-850
- Very poor: 300-499
- Poor: 500-600
- Fair: 601-660
- Good: 661-780
- Excellent: 781-850
Issuers offer cards for the full range of credit scores, including:
Consistently check in with your own personal financial goals to select a card that will be the best fit.
An annual fee is a charge that you get each year for holding a particular credit card. Not all cards have annual fees, but the ones that do often have extra perks and benefits that could make the annual fee worth it. Some of these benefits include travel credits, enhanced purchase protections or cash back rates that more than cover the annual fee. Remember there are cards with annual fees that cannot be recouped by benefits or rewards, so compare credit cards thoroughly or opt for a credit card with no annual fee.
Credit card fees
Almost every card will have fees that come with it in some capacity, though some fees may be easily avoided, depending on the card. The most common fees include annual fees, late payment fees, cash advance fees and balance transfer fees. Penalty APRs and late fees are charged after missed payments while foreign transaction fees are usually 3 percent of any charges you make at merchants abroad. Check the terms and fees of any card before applying to ensure you can avoid or minimize fees.
5 credit card application tips
- Regularly check your credit report. Keep tabs on your credit reports from the three credit reporting bureaus and dispute any discrepancies. You can usually check your credit report for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Do all you can to improve credit score. Paying your credit card bill in full and on time each month is one of the best ways to improve your credit score over time. You should also work to keep your credit utilization ratio low and diversify your credit mix to help boost your score.
- Don't fill out too many applications at once. Carefully shop for and compare credit cards before you apply. Each card application results in a hard credit pull, which can affect your overall score if you have too many credit checks in a short period.
- Only apply where your approval chances are high. Only apply for cards that align with your current credit score range so you have the best chances for approval. If you have a low credit score, don't apply for a premium travel card. Inversely, if you have a great score, you shouldn't apply for a secured card.
- Know what happens if you're denied. Not all credit card applications go the way we want them too. If your application is denied, the issuer is required by law to send a letter in the mail explaining why.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank's website for the most current information.