How choosing a card can be like online dating apps
By Dawn Papandrea
April 29, 2016
Anyone who has tried finding the perfect mate through online dating knows that you must look beyond the profile page to learn who the person is in real life. By applying that same process to choosing a credit card, you can find a perfect match for your wallet, too.
“Just like dating, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a credit card,” says Matthew Coan, founder of Casavvy.com.
Here are some of the key factors to look for before you decide which card is swipe-worthy:
Finding mutual attraction
On the dating scene, first impressions mean a lot, and the same goes with credit cards, says Coan.
“When researching credit cards, the first thing you will notice is the main components it has to offer, such as rewards and APR,” he says. But remember, just as there is more to people than their looks, there is more to credit cards than just the information that is provided in the advertised description.
Read the fine print that goes with the card. After all, you wouldn’t agree to an in-person date without Googling your online love interest first, right? “There may be a lot of added benefits or hidden fees that aren’t one of the bullet points marketed,” says Coan.
“You want to find a card that’s looking out for you,” says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, wealth psychology expert and host of the podcast “Breaking Money Silence.” For instance, she favors issuers that offer fraud alerts or free credit scores over some one-time offers.
“When researching credit cards, the first thing you will notice is the main components it has to offer, such as rewards and APR. There may be a lot of added benefits or hidden fees that aren’t one of the bullet points marketed.”
— Matthew Coan,
founder of Casavvy.com
For example, retail cards often entice shoppers with a discount on all purchases made that day. “In the moment, you think it’s awesome, but don’t forget to think long term,” she says. “Will you end up with a card to a store you don’t visit that often?”
Store cards, while generally easier to qualify for than many other credit cards, often have higher interest rates and lower credit limits, she says. If you are a loyal shopper of the store, a co-branded or retail card could be a great move, she adds. But be sure to think it through before signing up.
A turnoff akin to the fake profile picture? Some cards might have an exorbitant interest rate increase after an introductory period, says Kingsbury. “Pay attention to what the interest rate will be later on,” she says, to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.
Finally, make sure that you’re in the same credit card dating league before you apply. While there’s no such thing as a guaranteed approval, Coan points out that offers you receive in the mail are targeted, so the likelihood is high that you’ll qualify.
If you’re venturing out on your own looking for a card to suit your lifestyle and needs, CardMatch can help you discover cards that match your criteria and credit profile.
Getting to know each other
Compatibility is a component of most online dating algorithms, so why should your credit card selection process be any different?
“When choosing a card, taking the time and slowing down to decide what is going to be most beneficial to me is important,” Kingsbury says. “Does it fit with my lifestyle?”
And look for card perks that really suit you. One of Kingsbury’s friends purchased a pair of skis that were stolen a few days later. His issuer offered purchase protection, and he was reimbursed for the skis. That’s not a card perk you would necessarily know about unless you took the time to become more intimate with your card’s offerings.
You also want to consider which card will give you the most rewards for the money you are spending, says Coan, especially if you’re looking at high-end cards that have an annual fee. “Some credit cards tied to airlines give you free or inexpensive access to the executive lounge, priority seating, etc., that may be worth it for the frequent traveler,” he says.
On the other hand, if you tend to pay off your card balances over time, you will be best served by pairing up with a card that has a low APR to minimize the amount of interest you’ll pay, he adds.
“Ask lots of questions up front to see if there’s a match, and over time evaluate if it’s meeting your needs. That will help you make a long-term commitment to using credit responsibly.”
— Kathleen Burns Kingsbury,
host of the podcast
“Breaking Money Silence”
Making a commitment
Card hopping isn’t wise if you want to build a strong credit score.
“Every time a hard credit check gets done, it dings your credit report,” says Kingsbury. “You also don’t want it to look like you’re desperate for money. Constantly applying for new credit can seem like you don’t have money to pay for things.” That’s kind of like connecting with every person who winks at you online.
That being said, you don’t have to settle down with the first card that approves you. “It’s OK to break up with a card if it no longer meets your needs,” says Kingsbury.
Sometimes you do outgrow a card. “Look around from time to time to see what is out there,” she says. “For example, starting out, you had a limited credit history and could only get a credit card with a relatively high interest rate. Once you prove your creditworthiness, it may be time to switch to a card with a lower rate.”
Just as you want to be with someone you can get the most out of life with, you should try to find a card that will give you some sort of reward or benefit in the long run, says Coan. Whether that’s paying less in interest, earning cash back on your purchases or scoring free flights, let your personality guide your decisions.
There is a perfect credit card match out there for everyone, so don’t give up if you’ve been burned in the past.
Kingsbury says it’s all about pairing up with the right card and growing that relationship. “Ask lots of questions up front to see if there’s a match, and over time evaluate if it’s meeting your needs,” she says. “That will help you make a long-term commitment to using credit responsibly.”
SEE ALSO: Your guide to picking the right card