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It can sometimes feel like the world is a big, scary place made up of money and credit, of debts and bills.

Dollar and cent signs dancing in your head? There’s help. Credit cards are just a tool to accomplish your personal and professional goals. Learning a few tips and tricks from the credit card industry, and you’ll realize that money isn’t so scary after all.

From choosing your first credit card to how to choose the best Visa credit card, there’s a lot to know, and we’re here to help. There are even credit cards for students meant to help defray the cost of higher education. Take a deep dive into the world of money, and harness the power of credit cards for yourself.

The Dollars and Cents Behind Credit Card Debt

The Dollars and Cents behind Credit Card Debt

The average American carries roughly $6,000 in credit card debt. And recently, data show U.S. credit card debt surpassed the $1 trillion dollar mark. That’s roughly an average of $250,000 in credit card debt, per person, across the entire country! Meaning, the average couple pays about $1,000 dollars a month in interest alone.

The rest of the nearly $14 trillion dollars in consumer debt in the U.S. is made up of mortgages, at roughly $9.4 trillion, auto loans at $1.3 trillion, and student loans at $1.48 trillion—among other forms of consumer debt.

Although there are a lot of risks associated with credit card use, and people should educate themselves before taking on additional credit card debt, the truth is, the credit card industry has become so competitive that many companies are offering more consumer incentives that, when used wisely, help maximize the credit card experience from the consumer’s perspective.

Taking advantage of these bonuses can turn your credit card usage from a weakness to a strength. For example, many credit card companies now offer flexible rewards, allowing consumers to choose the kinds of kickbacks they’d like to receive. E-commerce rewards have also become common, and some credit card companies even offer rewards to incentivize local shopping.

Credit card offers are also popping up from unexpected places, like tech companies. Apple, for example, launched its Apple Card in 2019. What’s appealing for many consumers about the Apple Card are the extras. Bonuses like 3% cash back on Apple Pay transactions with select merchants or 2% cash back on all purchases made via the mobile wallet.

There’s also a move among younger consumers toward mobile point of sale, or mPOS solutions, such as digital-native products and services like contactless payments and mobile wallets. Many Gen Z-ers use digital wallets about once a month, and roughly 75% use a digital payment app.

Experts, in fact, predict there will be 16.6 million POS terminals in the U.S. by 2024, and mobile in-store payments are projected to show a compounded annual growth rate, or CAGR of just under 24% grossing $262.6 billion in transactions by 2024.

Like it or not, credit cards are unlikely to go away. Ready to harness their power? Information about how to find the right credit card for your financial purposes is coming up next.

The Wide World of Credit Cards

The Wide World of Credit Cards

Ready to explore the world of credit cards? That’s much more complicated than the question of “to swipe or not to swipe.” Those new to credit cards will likely be overwhelmed by a lot of new terminology. From APR to credit score, the credit card industry can sometimes seem like a foreign language. Before helping you choose a credit card that’s right for your lifestyle, let’s begin by defining some common terms and concepts.

What is APR and Why is It Important?

When shopping for a credit card, you’ll inevitably encounter the abbreviation APR, or annual percentage rate. In brief, the APR is the interest rate of the credit card, expressed over a whole year rather than on a month-to-month basis. Lenders are required by law to inform a borrower what the APR will be, and consumers that understand APR will have a complete picture of just how much they’re spending on their credit card purchase, including interest.

What is an Annual Fee?

Another term common in the credit card industry is an annual fee. It’s important to know that some credit cards charge you a fee each year, just for having the card, and on top of interest on any purchases made during that time. And yes, they charge that annual fee, even if you don’t use the card. For this reason, credit card companies use different annual fees (and sometimes no annual fees at all) to differentiate themselves from one another and earn your business—so shop around.

How do rewards credit cards work?

Like we just mentioned, the credit card industry is crowded. So in addition to different annual fees, many credit card lenders also offer rewards. Rewards credit cards fall into one of two broad categories: cash-back and points.

With a cash-back credit card, the lender rewards you with a small cash incentive to make the purchases with their credit. This reward is often about 1.5% of the total purchase price. In other words, every time you spend $100 at the grocery store, the credit card company kicks-down $1.50 in cash rewards, and over time, these rewards can really add up.

On the other hand, some credit card companies offer points, or airline miles, awarding a borrower “points” for the purchase instead of a dollar amount. Accrued over time, these points can most often be spent on travel, though some credit card companies also offer gift cards for well-known retailers, or even actual merchandise. What’s important to know is that choosing a credit card with points means that every time you make a purchase on the card, you could be taking a little something extra off your next airline ticket, or a few dollars off your next big purchase.

What is a Credit Score and Why is it Important?

But probably the most important term and concept for a new credit card user to understand is credit score. There’s a lot to understand about credit scores, and what goes into a good credit score, versus why some credit scores can be low. What’s important to know, though, is that the higher the score, the more likely it is that a consumer will get a credit card with a good interest rate, among other kinds of loans, or even be eligible for a credit card at all. Just remember, if you’ve yet to accrue much credit, or if you’ve made some credit mistakes in the past, it is possible to improve your credit score, so keep trying and never give up hope.

A Credit Card That Fits Your Lifestyle

Ready to get your start in the world of credit cards? From buying a house to purchasing your first car, it takes a credit score. But when it comes time to build your credit score, where do you begin? Here are three great ways to start building your credit to prepare for a bright financial future.

Best First Credit Cards

To build credit, it takes a credit card. Choose yours from this guide to the best first credit cards. From buying a car to renting a place of your own, a credit card from this ranking will help you strike out on your own.

Best Credit Cards for Students

School is expensive. We understand. A credit card can help students responsibly take care of life’s necessities while they focus on their future. This ranking will help you find the best first credit card, plus give you some credit card pointers for those just striking out on their own.

Best Visa Credit Cards

Visa is one of the most well-known credit card companies in the world. From Visa Traditional to Visa Signature and Visa Infinite, this company is the choice for millions. Find out why, and choose your first Visa card from this ranking of the best cards from this industry-leading credit card company.

Credit Cards FAQs

Choosing a credit card is a big decision and not to be taken lightly. Below are answers to some of your most pressing questions.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

Why stop at just one credit card? How many is too many? To answer these questions, it’s important to understand not only how credit cards work but what effect a credit score can have on a person, both positive and negative.

This article answers both of those questions, analyzing what goes into your credit score — including payment history, credit utilization ratio, credit age, number and mix of accounts, and number of credit inquiries — and also, how many credit cards are too many, how many credit card are too few, and how either scenario can adversely affect your credit.

There may just be a situation when you need several credit cards, but there are also times when you may need to cut back on a few. Find out which scenario best applies to you in this thorough and informative article from RAVE Reviews.

How Do Credit Cards Work?

We swipe our credit card, we get the stuff, we pay the bill. Seems pretty simple, right? Wrong. To become the master of your credit cards and, more importantly, your credit rating, it’s important to understand how credit cards work, from your credit limit and billing cycle to minimum payment.

There’s a lot to be cautious about when it comes to credit cards, but credit cards, after all, are only a tool. In this in-depth analysis of how credit cards work, we’ll teach you how to leverage credit cards to your advantage, including the ins and outs of credit card interest and the different kinds of APR.