Like it or not the holiday season is approaching quickly.  Yes, it does seem like it just happened... But soon, we'll all be heading towards the malls, department stores, or our favorite online retailer to find the perfect gifts for friends and family.  Before you decide what credit card you're going to use this year take a close look at the terms.  This quick guide is designed to help you with what to look for.

The devil really is in the details when it comes to credit cards, and there are a few factors you should definitely look for.

1. High & Variable Interest Rates
You'll want to watch out for high interest rates.  This is the number that determines the amount you'll pay in interest if you carry a balance from month to month.  A high rate could be considered anything over 20%APR.  At Health Care Family Credit Union the highest credit card rate we charge is only 16.9%APR.

Variable rates are another thing to look for.  Believe it or not there are cards out there that allow your interest rate to go up if you are just a few days late on making a payment.  These rate hikes can be significant, which can drastically extend the time it will take you to pay the card off if you're only making minimum payments.  It can also drastically increase the total amount you'll pay to get the balance to $0.

2. Annual Fees
Some card processors on the market, even some high-profile cards, still charge an annual fee for you to access your credit with them.  They often charge $50 to $100 or even more annually to you so you can make purchases with the card.  You shouldn't have to pay these.  The credit card industry is too competitive for you to have to pay an annual fee to use your card.

3. Rewards
Points, miles or cash back?  Which one is really the best.  That depends largely on you and your personal preferences.  How often do you actually fly somewhere?  If you only take a flight once a year or less, a card that rewards you with miles might not be the best solution for you.

What about cash back cards?  Many of these cards will charge an annual fee.  Many times, they will also have a higher APR and can cap how much cash back you can earn in a year.

Points are the way to go for many people.  Points earned annually aren't typically capped and you can get a card with no annual fee.  Points do expire, so pay attention to your balance and when certain portions of your points should be used by.  Reward points offer flexibility in the rewards you can receive for using your card.  They are typically good on all kinds of merchandise and even certain travel arrangements.

Take a hard look at your card and compare it to a Health Care Family Credit Union card to see which one actually is the better deal.  HCFCU cards offer:

  • Low, fixed rates
  • No annual fees
  • ScoreCard Rewards Points that are good for tons of merchandise and travel
  • No balance transfer fees
  • Online account access.