By Eliott M. Kass | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
6 Min Read | December 20, 2021 in Cards
The credit card landscape is changing, making now a good time to reconsider the card that you’re using.
With interest rates expected to rise, carrying credit card debt could become more expensive.
A smart move may be to consider how your spending habits have changed in recent years and apply for a card with features that match your lifestyle.
With credit cards in wider use than ever and average household debt at record levels, selecting the right card for yourself becomes an important financial decision.1,2 But how do you decide which card is best?
Here’s a look at how to choose a credit card and why you might want to choose a new one that’s better suited to your needs in 2022.
When choosing a new credit card, it pays to think hard and choose wisely – it’s usually a long-term commitment. Roughly 25 million Americans keep the same card for at least 10 years, according to a 2016 study.3 That said, here are three questions worth considering when choosing a credit card:
As mentioned, credit card interest rates can often be fairly high. But paying off credit card debt could become even more costly if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in an attempt to tamp down inflation, as widely predicted. And if rates rise, the minimum monthly payment due on credit cards could also increase.5
Rising rates could be especially tricky to manage for anyone with a student loan. In response to the pandemic, the government suspended payments on student loans, making it easier for many people to keep up with their credit card balances. But that forbearance is expected to end in May 2022, meaning that many borrowers will have to resume making payments on their student loans – on top of potentially higher minimum credit card payments.
With a changing credit card landscape comes a new credit card option: buy now, pay later (BNPL). Available from retailers for many years, the popularity of BNPL payment plans spiked since the start of the pandemic as consumers shifted to online shopping. Now card issuers are also embracing these plans, with the most common versions allowing card members to pay off the purchase in a set number of installments, often interest-free if paid on time or with a low flat-fee per plan.
The downside to BNPL plans is that they can make it easy to overspend. And what appears to be an interest-free loan at the outset can quickly accrue late fees and interest charges if payments are late.
Another trend for credit card use in 2022 includes substantial tweaks to reward programs to make them more relevant to shifting lifestyles in light of COVID. In particular, some credit cards that once rewarded travel have been reworked to maintain relevance for more stay-at-home-minded card members. For example, these cards are expected to offer their users more lifestyle-related rewards and perks – like streaming credits and at-home workout benefits – that can be enjoyed without boarding a plane or hitting the road.
Given the likelihood that interest rates will rise, if you carry a balance on your credit card, it might be smart to begin paying it down. With that in mind, it may be worth keeping an eye out for any temporary low interest promotions you may be able to opt into. These occasional perks can help you whittle down debt while accruing less interest.
Even if you don’t carry a balance, you may be leaving money on the table if you stick with your current credit card. In 2021 more cards entered the market, increasing competition. Many card issuers made their terms more favorable in response. For example, many cards upped their rewards offerings, while people with poor or no credit are now more likely to be eligible for cards that offer rewards.
Plus, choosing a new credit card may help boost your credit score. Adding a new card’s credit limit without increasing your total spending may improve your credit utilization rate, which is the percentage of your total credit limit your using – a key factor that contributes to credit scores.
And if your credit score has improved since the last time you applied for a card, you may be able to qualify for a new one with a lower interest rate. If you do choose to open a new card, remember that closing a credit card with a zero balance could lower your credit score.
With interest rates expected to rise, it’s best to avoid carrying a large credit card balance. At the same time, increased industry competition has prompted many card issuers to offer more attractive terms and rewards, making 2022 a great time to choose a new card.
1 “Credit Card Statistics,” Shift Credit Card Processing
2 “Total Household Debt Climbs to Over $15 Trillion in Q3 2021, Driven by New Extensions of Credit,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York
3 “Survey: Millions stay loyal to a single card forever,” Creditcards.com
4 “Consumer Credit – G.19,” The Federal Reserve