What's your type? 3 credit card profiles of savvy shoppers
By Maryalene LaPonsie
I was probably about 19 when I stood in line at the supermarket and whipped out my credit card to pay for some groceries. I don't remember what I was buying, but it was apparently too much for the older man behind me. He couldn't help but ask how I was going to pay my credit card bill. My flippant response was something to the effect of "My kids will take care of it when I die." He rolled his eyes, and I rolled them right back.
Now that I am slightly older and, ahem, more mature, I can see the error of my ways. At the time, I had the profile of a credit card abuser...racking up debt with reckless abandon. No doubt, I expected a money tree to bloom in the back yard at any moment. But truth be told, without a plan, it is just a matter of time before you self-destruct under the weight of impulse purchases and mounting interest rates.
Savvy shoppers, on the other hand, fall into three profiles when it comes to credit card use. If you don't see yourself in one of these profiles, it might be time to re-evaluate whether you are credit card user or an abuser.
The Zero Balance Shopper: These shoppers have perfected the art of leveraging zero percent credit cards. Rather than pay double-digit interest rates, they charge large purchases to a card with a zero percent introductory rate. Then, before that expires, they shift balances to a new card offering zero percent balance transfers. To make this strategy work for you, look for a card with no balance transfer fee.
For a while, it seemed as though zero percent balance transfer credit cards were going the way of dodo, but they are back. One of the best choices for smart shoppers today is Slate from Chase, which offers qualified new customers 15 months with a zero percent APR on balance transfers.
The Rewards Guru: These folks know how to make their money work for them. They use their card for everyday purchases to rack up points and then pay off the card at the end of the month. They take advantage of seasonal promotions that can earn up to 10 times the normal number of reward points. They find the best debit card rewards so they are constantly earning regardless of which card they use.
When shopping for rewards cards, remember that you are not necessarily comparing apples to apples. The best cash-back credit card may not be the best one to earn airline miles. A couple of cards worth considering include the Capital One® VentureSM Rewards card for miles and the Chase Freedom® Visa card for cash back.
The Convenience Cardholder: Finally, we come to those who simply don't want to hassle with checks or walk around with a wad of cash. Convenience cardholders aren't necessarily concerned with rewards, and have the cash to pay off their balance each month. They appreciate having a record of all their purchases in one place and like the added consumer protections they receive from using credit to buy goods.
For convenience cardholders, the biggest consideration when shopping for a credit card is to find one without an annual fee. Of course, it is always nice when you get something in return too. The Discover More card has no annual fee and offers up to 5 percent cash back. Another option is the Citi Forward Card, which provides one point per dollar without an annual fee.