As consumers, we are often bombarded with credit card offers promising lucrative rewards, cashback, and exclusive perks. However, navigating the world of credit cards requires careful consideration, especially when applying for multiple cards. It’s important to have a grasp of the fundamentals of credit cards so you know what you’re getting into when you use one.
It is vital to know that you should wait between applying for multiple cards. When you apply for a new credit card, it triggers a hard inquiry on your credit report. Multiple hard inquiries in a short period can negatively impact your credit score, as it signals to lenders that you are potentially higher risk for seeking excessive credit. As a general rule of thumb, spacing out your credit card applications and being mindful of your credit utilization ratio can contribute to maintaining a healthy credit score.
Credit card fundamentals
When you use a credit card, you are essentially borrowing money from your issuer to make a purchase or to withdraw cash. Then, you have to pay back the amount that you borrowed within a specific time frame. If you do not pay your balance in full, the issuer will charge you interest until it is paid off. Some cards charge annual fees, but then provide different perks like comprehensive reward structures, insurance, statement credits, or travel perks.
What are alternative credit cards?
Alternative credit cards are offered by non-traditional financial institutions, fintech companies, or online platforms. These cards often come with unique features and benefits that set them apart from traditional credit cards issued by banks. For instance, alternative credit cards may have more lenient eligibility criteria, making them accessible to a broader range of consumers, including those with limited credit history or lower credit scores. Some alternative credit cards may also offer innovative rewards programs tailored to specific lifestyles or spending habits.
The most notable advantage of alternative credit cards is that they can be accessible for those that have been denied a traditional credit card or for people that might be hesitant to apply due to their credit history. Many alternative credit card issuers use alternative data sources to assess applicants’ creditworthiness beyond conventional credit scores. This could include income, employment history, and payment behavior for services like rent and utilities. As a result, these cards allow individuals to establish or rebuild their credit when used responsibly.
Another aspect that makes alternative credit cards appealing is their potential to offer competitive rewards and cashback programs. Since alternative card issuers often focus on specific niches or target audiences, they can tailor their rewards to align with customers’ interests such as traveling or online shopping.
However, like all financial products, alternative credit cards have their own considerations and potential drawbacks. Since these cards may have less stringent approval criteria, they might carry higher interest rates and fees to offset the increased risk for the issuer. Before committing to an alternative credit card, it’s essential to carefully review the terms and conditions, including the annual percentage rate (APR), annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and penalties for late payments or going over the credit limit.
Whether you should use alternative credit cards depends on your individual financial situation, spending habits, and credit goals. If you want to build credit, explore tailored rewards or have been denied traditional credit cards, alternative credit cards might be a viable option.