According to a May 2021 Federal Reserve report, as many as 83% of Americans have at least one credit card, leaving approximately 17% that currently don’t have a line of credit. But it’s becoming more complicated to live without a credit card, given how often the average person does business with online companies, as well as local companies which are improving their online presence.

If you’re considering getting a new credit card, switching to a new credit card, or reapplying for a card after the “seven year swipe”, read on for some suggestions.

1. Choose a big, reputable credit card provider

Try to avoid smaller credit card companies if you can. By applying to some of the biggest credit card companies out there, like Chase Bank, American Express, Citibank, Capital One, Bank of America, Discover Card, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, you’re more likely to receive quality customer service and support.

You will also be getting a highly flexible card that can be used almost everywhere.

2. Figure out what kind of card best suits you

Ask yourself: What do I want from a credit card? For some, cash back cards are best, where you earn cash back for things like groceries and gas. But first you will have to make sure that you can get cash back from your local stores and gas stations.

If you would prefer a travel or international card and want to charge purchases abroad or redeem miles, you will have to figure out if it’s worth it for how much you travel and if these cards are accepted at the airlines you want to fly with.

3. If you’re planning on buying a house or a car soon, don’t apply for a new card

If you’re planning on making a big purchase like a car or house within the next 12 months, you should hold off on applying for a new credit card. This is because the credit card company will do a hard inquiry on your credit, which will hit your credit score and cause some damage there.

However, if you have better than fair to good credit, a credit check may knock off only a few points off your credit score. Refresh your memory on what can push a credit score down.

4. Diversify your applications in case you get turned down

There are many different uses for a new credit card, including funding a new business, or even refinancing an old debt. But don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Just like with anything you apply for, like a job or a gig, make sure when applying for a credit card that you don’t just go with one company. After all, they might turn you down, especially if you have a large credit limit with another company.

Focus on how much you’re using off of your card every month. This is called the credit utilization ratio, and it should be kept as low as possible before you start applying.

5. Search for better introductory rates are temporary

Many favourable introductory rates are temporary. If the interest rate on a card looks low, that’s what is commonly known as a teaser rate.

It is federally required by law that credit card companies may allow a teaser rate to go on for as long as 6 months, but it can be withdrawn even earlier than that if you’re more than 60 days late on paying off your bill.

Be sure to ask up front if the rate provided is a teaser rate and what you’re really expected to pay once the grace period is over. For more on the subject, read about the rights of credit card providers and common practices.

6. Analyse all of your older accounts

True, closing your old accounts will keep you safe from identity fraud, especially if you don’t plan on checking it regularly.

However, keep in mind that closing multiple credit accounts will often lead to a dip in your credit score. Be mindful of this before closing all of your accounts that you could still use periodically for better credit.

Tips on Using Your New Card

One of the best feelings after applying for a card (at multiple locations, ideally) is being approved for a new card. But when activating your card and getting it all set up, consider setting it up to accept direct deposit with your job to make sure there are no barriers to you getting your money.

You can also set up autopay for your credit card bills so you never forget to make a payment on time. Also, if you’re transferring a balance from one of your old cards, you will usually have your provider work that out on their side so it should be in your account by the time you officially open it.

As life goes on, you might find yourself in need of more than one credit card. You may also find yourself in the market for a new credit card if your previous creditor just isn’t cutting it for what you need.

It’s always a big decision to open a new credit card account, but hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to make a sound decision that works for you and your situation.