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Be a credit card genius, make a smart application choice

by Peter Andrew
Be a credit card genius, make a smart application choice

Last Tuesday, comScore�, a company that describes itself as a “global leader in measuring the digital world”, published its latest Online Credit Card Report. Although some of the document focuses exclusively on credit card use on the Internet, much of it takes a broader view. And among its most interesting insights are those concerning how consumers think when they’re applying for a new card.

Credit card applications: the selection criteria

In December 2010, comScore conducted a survey of almost 2,000 Americans who use the Internet and have at least one credit card. Purists should note that not all credit card users are also Internet users, so the results may not reflect the general population entirely accurately. However, given the near ubiquity of online usage in this country, any skewing of outcomes is likely to be tiny.

Anyway, the survey asked those respondents who had shopped for a new credit card in the previous 12 months about the factors that were most important in choosing the product they ultimately applied for. The results were:

  1. Low annual percentage rate (APR)/interest rate–38 percent
  2. No annual fee–25 percent
  3. Rewards program–16 percent
  4. Introductory offer for new account–13 percent
  5. Low APR for balance transfers–8 percent

Researchers then asked all respondents (not just those who’d shopped for a new card over the previous year) to score the importance to them of certain credit card features. The resulting ranking was:

  1. Low APR/interest rates–40 percent
  2. No annual fee–28 percent
  3. Rewards or points–13 percent
  4. Card accepted as most merchants–8 percent
  5. High credit limit–5 percent
  6. Reputation of the issuer–3 percent
  7. Customer service–2 percent
  8. Low APR for balance transfers–1 percent
Credit cards and smart choices

People who write about credit cards come across a whole lot of stories about consumers who’ve made dumb choices. And this may lead them (your blogger included) to believe that people in general pick their plastic using poor criteria. But the comScore research suggests that this belief may be mistaken, or, at least, exaggerated.

The study breaks down results between people who perceive their credit scores to be excellent or good and those who think they’re fair or poor. And, to a large extent, both groups value selection criteria in ways that suit their needs.

For example, those with excellent/good credit scores worry less (34 percent) about having a low APR than those with fair or poor credit reports (53 percent). And that makes perfect sense. Those in the first category are less likely to carry forward balances than those in the second. That means that they should be less concerned about credit card rates; they’re less likely ever to have to pay any interest.

Credit card rewards

The same applies to credit card rewards or points. Those who believe they have excellent or good credit rank these higher (17 percent) than those who identify themselves as having fair or poor scores (6 percent). And, again, that suggests an informed and self-interested awareness. APRs tend to be higher for plastic with rewards programs, and those who are likely to carry forward balances frequently are often better off prioritizing low credit card rates. Those who never pay any interest should often seek out the most generous rewards program.

Credit cards & lifestyle

The trick to choosing a new credit card is first to sit down and make a realistic appraisal of how you’re likely to use the product. If you’re struggling to cope under the burden of high credit card rates on significant debt, then you should prioritize finding great deals on balance transfer credit cards. If you never carry forward balances, focus on rewards. If you frequently carry forward significant balances, look for low interest credit cards.

This isn’t rocket science, and the comScore study suggests that there’s a good chance you’re already making intelligent choices–and that’s especially likely to be true given that you’re an Index Credit Cards visitor. However, another part of the study could be read as meaning that most consumers don’t invest enough time in carefully comparing all the available offers. So make sure you’re not one of them.

Tomorrow, this blog will dig further into the comScore research to find more useful information.

Disclaimer:The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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