Some of the most popular articles on the Internet have titles like this: The Best Credit Card for Airline Miles. Stories like that get a lot of clicks and hits because everyone wants the card that is "The Best" in its category.
Well, when you see a story like this, go ahead and read it and give the card some thought. But read it with a critical eye. It might, indeed, be the best airline miles card for you. But guess what? There might be a different airline miles card that's a much better fit for you. What are the odds that the card picked as "The Best Credit Card for Airline Miles" is actually going to be the perfect card for everyone on the Internet? And really, you might discover you don't even need an airline miles card.
Let's take a look at what you need to consider to pick the best credit card for you. Not for the whole Internet, or for your neighbor, but for you alone.
What's your credit rating?
Even if you decide that the card advertised as the best in its category is the one you want, you need to do a quick reality check. If you don't know what your credit score is, then consider LendingTree's free credit score, which uses VantageScore 3.0, a model comparable to the traditional FICO score. From this you can get a great idea of where your credit stands. And if you need to improve your credit, then you'll get insights for that, too.
You don't want to waste time--and possibly get a ding to your score for the hard inquiry--if you don't have the credit rating to qualify for the card.
What type of credit card do you need?
This is very important. If you travel mostly by car, even on vacation, then why would you need an airline miles card? See, this is why the best card may not be the best for you. Picking a credit card is a very individual thing. So spend some time deciding what type of rewards you'd benefit from the most.
Let's say you actually do travel by car a lot. The best credit card for you would be a cash back card that offers extra rewards on gas purchases. Or, maybe you have a large family to feed. If so, getting a cash back credit card that offers generous rewards on groceries and department stores is a good way to go. Department stores? Hey, if you have a large family, then you buy a lot of clothes for kids, who grow at the speed of light. Feeding and clothing kids is expensive.
If you travel for work or for pleasure, then the airline miles card that is "The Best" might be a good choice. But you want to think carefully about what type of airlines miles card--or even a generic travel rewards card--would benefit you the most.
If you like the flexibility to fly on different airlines, then you need a credit card that allows you to redeem miles on whatever airline you want to use. If you use a specific airline the majority of the time, then maybe you want an airline-branded card that offers a lot of perks and rewards. The point is to choose the credit card that allows you to benefit the most based on your spending patterns.
Do you really even need a rewards card?
Rewards credit cards always get a lot of hype because they offer sign-up bonuses and all kinds of enticing perks. But maybe you don't use a credit card that often. Or maybe you tend to spend too much if you're using a rewards credit card.
In this case, maybe the best credit card for you is a low-interest credit card to keep in your wallet. Use the card every month on a small purchase to keep your credit looking good. And hang on to it in case you have an emergency and need to carry a balance for a month or two.
Remember, the best credit card is the one that you can benefit from and that helps you keep a healthy credit score.