SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–If you’ve recently received a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail or email, chances are you’re at least somewhat interested. Most offers are designed to grab your attention by highlighting all the benefits. No matter how attractive an offer seems, you should always check the fine print before applying to make sure you’ve gone over the good and the bad. Here’s how you can decide whether to accept the card offer or send it directly to the shredder, from myFICO.
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Check card issuer
Before digging deeper, confirm that the card offer is from a legitimate and reputable bank. If you’ve never heard of the company, a quick internet search may give you some information. While browsing, read some reviews to find out if other customers like or dislike this bank. Many negative reviews indicate that you do not want to do business with this card issuer.
Determine the cost
Consider the annual fee, interest rate, and cost of transactions you plan to make. If you’re traveling abroad, check to see if the card will add foreign transaction fees to your purchases. For credit cards with balance transfer, check the balance transfer fee, even if the card has a promotional rate. And if the card has a promotional offer you’re considering, timing is important. A competitive promotional rate will generally last between 12 and 18 months.
Benefits at a glance
The credit cards with the best benefits tend to have an annual fee, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. Fees can be worth paying, especially when the benefits outweigh the fees. For example, paying a $95 annual fee on a card that waives airline checked baggage fees will pay off after just two flights where you check your bags.
On the other hand, a card can be full of advantages and be a bad card for you. Evaluate the benefits against your current lifestyle to make sure you can take advantage of them. It’s not worth paying annual fees for amazing features you’ll never use.
Look at the rewards
Consider how easily you can earn rewards based on the program and your typical spend. Cash rewards are more versatile than miles or points, but miles and points are still valuable as long as they’re easy to earn and redeem. The offer is less attractive, however, if you have to spend more money to earn a decent amount of rewards.
Consider your credit
A pre-approved offer does not mean a guaranteed approval. It only means that the card issuer thinks you might qualify based on their pre-screening. Once you have completed an application, the card issuer will perform a full credit check and either approve or deny your application. You could be declined for a variety of reasons, such as if your FICO® score has dropped since the offer was sent to you.
Watch out for red flags
Avoid cards that have unusual terms like upfront processing or activation fees or fees to increase your credit limit. Likewise, don’t accept an offer for a card with an abnormally high interest rate or no grace period. Beware of an offer that guarantees approval – it could very well be a scam to collect money or personal information from you.
Comparing your offer to other cards you may qualify for is a good way to tell if you have a solid offer. Once you have decided what to do with the offer, shred the application or other document with your name and personal information to prevent identity theft. Finally, if you’d rather not receive offers for new credit cards, you can opt out of most offers by visiting optoutprescreen.com.
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