Applying for a credit card is arguably easier than it's ever been. Price comparison sites enable you to find a great deal with just a few clicks of a mouse.
However, this also means it's easier to make the wrong decision. Choosing a credit card isn't just a matter of taking the first deal you come across - there are a number of factors you should consider before deciding which card is right for you.
Finding the right type of card
First of all, consider all the different types of credit card on offer. The right card for you will depend on what you want to use the card for.
For example, a 0% interest purchase credit card allows interest-free credit for all purchases (for a set time period), making it ideal if you're going to be doing a lot of spending and not repaying the balance in full within the following month. On the other hand, a 0% balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer debts from other cards and repay those debts interest-free for an agreed period.
Then there are reward and cashback credit cards, which give you rewards or money back for each pound you spend. You'll usually get all your rewards as a lump sum every 12 months.
It's important to remember that some cards will also charge you for transferring balances - or may have an interest-free purchase period, but heavily penalise you for cash advances - so it's important all of these points are considered in advance of applying for any new credit card.
Finding the best rates
Once you've decided which type of credit card is most suitable for you, it's time to look at the rates on offer. If you're after a 0% interest deal, this may seem less important - but remember that any balance remaining at the end of this period will be charged at the card's standard rate, so it's worth looking for a card with a lower interest rate.
Also remember that people with a strong credit rating are more likely to qualify for 0% interest deals. If your credit rating is less than perfect, then you might find this type of deal isn't available to you and you may need to find an alternative credit card with the lowest rate available in your circumstances.
However, if you're confident you can afford to repay your balance in full each month, you'll never pay any interest, so this may be less important. But do consider how any debt you take on might be repaid if there was a change in your financial circumstances.
Applying for the right deals
Every credit card application you make will be recorded on your credit history. This is why it's important to be realistic: if you don't have the best credit rating but apply for the best deals, you'll probably be rejected. The more you're rejected, the more applications will show up on your credit report, which may make future lenders less likely to lend to you.
Only apply for deals you think you have a realistic chance of qualifying for. If you're unsure, you can check your credit file for any adverse information by contacting any of the main credit reference agencies (CallCredit, Equifax or Experian). Plus, many comparison sites now provide details of credit cards specifically available to people with a less-than-perfect credit history.