I’ve had the same credit card since I was 20 years old.
As a university student, I was approached by a nice-looking young guy in the university community centre who wanted to know if I would like to apply for a credit card with my school emblazoned on it. I was quite impressed by both the guy and the card, so I went for it.
In the 20 years since, I ditched the university branding but stayed with the credit card company. Frankly, I haven’t given it too much thought since – as far as I’m concerned, as long as my card works - and there’s not too much racked up on it - I’m happy. But in an age when there are dozens, even hundreds of different cards, programs and features available, I wonder if I need to take a look at whether I’ve got the best card for my lifestyle.
Tammy Ezer, marketing director at Insurance Hotline, says most people do need to take a look at the credit card(s) they have and whether they are getting the most out of the benefits provided, or whether another choice might actually save them money.
“People tend to oversimplify or overcomplicate credit card decisions,” she said. “Either people have the same card since they were 16, or every time someone offers them a special promotion they sign up and their wallet is full of credit cards.”
To help you find out if you’ve carrying the credit card that is best for you, Insurance Hotline partnered with Insureye to create a credit card navigator tool that allows people to enter the features they are looking for and find the card that suits them most.
An important tip before you ditch any cards: Don’t get rid of your first credit card because the longer you have had it, the higher your credit score will go. If you close an account you got when you turned 18, it will lower your score.
The first step to figuring out which card is right for you is finding your credit card “personality,” Ms. Ezer says. Here’s a look at three of the profiles she’s come across:
If you travel a lot, your credit card can provide you with numerous insurance benefits, Ms. Ezer says. But nobody reads the fine print. “You know it has trip cancellation, but you might only be covered for trips of three days or less,” she says. “Or a lot of the cards only cover you to age 55; over 55 you aren’t necessarily covered.” There are several different types of travel-related insurance you can get, including trip cancellation, trip interruption, flight delay, baggage loss, hotel burglary – and most cards will offer some, but not all of them. Do your homework to make sure you’re not paying for something you don’t need or missing out on something you do, Ms. Ezer says. And it’s important to keep in mind that you need to use a credit card in order to utilize its insurance benefits. Many cards provide car rental insurance, but if you don’t rent the car with that card, you’re not covered.
The avid shopper
Most credit cards offer no liability in case of fraud, but if you’re always making purchases with your credit card in a multitude of locations, you might want to opt for a card with information identity security, Ms. Ezer says. “It allows you to receive notifications via e-mail or SMS for transactions that are made online, or internationally.” The reason for this? People who shop a lot might not get “flagged” in case of a fraudulent purchase, and you might not notice it on your (very long and busy) credit card statement. Information identity security will keep you well informed of any potentially fraudulent activity.
The points collector
Almost every single card offers you some kind of points, says Ms. Ezer, so it’s worth it to take a look at what’s on offer and find the loyalty program that will benefit you most. There’s gas cards, grocery store cards, department store cards. “There’s a Scene MasterCard [for moviegoers] a Canadian Tire cash advantage MasterCard. “Spend a little bit more time to think about what you have in your wallet, or if you’re going to get a new card, what you’re going to put in their wallet. They’re all vying for your attention, offering you a special deal, an introductory rate, or extra bonus points for signing up.” Also, Ms. Ezer suggests picking one card that you will use most, instead of several different cards with different points programs. (The fewer, the better, I say.)
And while you’re thinking about your credit card, check out The Globe and Mail’s credit card calculator. If you’re carrying a balance, it will help you calculate how long it will take you to pay it off given a specific monthly payment.