How To Choose The Right Personal Credit Card

Madison credit union credit cards
Take time to find the right credit card.

As the famous saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

This timeless piece of advice can be applied to many different things, but few more fitting than the mighty credit card. Yes, while all Madison credit unions offer credit cards that give members a chance to earn rewards points on the things they buy, make emergency purchases, and simply treat themselves every once in a while, they can also open the door to a load of financial troubles.

Here at Dane County Credit Union, we offer a number of really good credit cards for members, based on your financial needs and lifestyle; we offer credit cards suited to students, those interested in air travel, business and cash back rewards, and those who just want to build strong credit with a low interest rate. Quite simply, we can offer you a credit card to fit your needs—no matter what.

But before we dig into the specifics of which cards best suit which members, let’s go over a few basics. First, the interest rate on a credit card is basically a fee you pay for the privilege of borrowing money. Credit cards either have fixed interest rates—which remain the same—or variable interest rates, which fluctuate over time.

Second, credit cards have limits. Your limit is the total set amount of money the card issuer is letting you borrow. This amount depends on your credit history. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to flirt with your credit card’s limit as this can potentially hurt your credit score. In other words, don’t max out or go over your allowable limit. Keep balances low and make payments on-time to protect or build your score.

The first step in deciding which credit card is right for you is to consider your spending habits. If you’re planning to pay your credit card bill every month, you needn’t worry too much about the interest rate.

If you do plan on carrying a month-to-month balance on your credit card, however, you’re going to want to pick a card with a lower interest rate. Perhaps the Visa® Platinum Card—a non-rewards card with no annual fee and a low interest rate—is the card for you. This is also a great card if you’re planning on using your credit card primarily for emergency purposes.

Yet if you’re planning to use your credit card to buy most products, like groceries, gas and other normal expenditures, you’re probably more interested in a card with a generous rewards program. Just remember: You want to avoid paying extra for a rewards-based card.

DCCU Rewards Credit Cards
Both the Visa Signature® Bonus Rewards Card and the Visa Signature® Bonus Rewards PLUS Card offer a bonus percentage on all points earned each month, with no annual fee. While you earn 1 point for each dollar you spend with both cards (which can be redeemed for cash back, travel and popular retailer gift cards), the traditional Rewards Card offers a 25% points bonus each and the Rewards PLUS Card offers a 50% points bonus each month on regular points earned. For both cards, redeeming points begins at 2,500, for which you can receive $25 cash back.

For members who are interested in earning cash back on their purchases, the DCCU Cash Rewards American Express® Card is the way to go. With this card, members earn 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on supermarket purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases, all with no annual fee.

Our final rewards card, the Travel Rewards American Express® Card, is for members who travel often. With this rewards card, members receive 3 points for every $1 spent on airline purchases, 2 points for every $1 spent on hotel and restaurant purchases, and 1 point for $1 spent on all other purchases. Additionally, this rewards card—which does have an annual fee—makes members eligible to save 10% when they fly within the contiguous 48 states.

DCCU Credit Cards For People With Limited Credit History
For our college student members, we offer the College Rewards Visa® Card. This rewards-based credit card helps struggling students pay bills on time, as well as aid in making their initial financial decisions that help establish a strong credit history. As an added bonus, card members can get additional rewards points by enrolling in programs like auto-pay and eStatements.

The perfect card for members who are just beginning their credit history, or looking to improve their already-established credit history is the Secured Visa® Card. Though this card has an annual fee of $35 and a minimum security deposit of $300, it allows you to a carry a balance while earning interest on your secured savings account. Improving your credit score with a Secured Visa® Card  is as easy as signing up!

When comparing and contrasting each of these different credit cards, be sure to thoroughly read the fine print—which can be found here—so that you know exactly what you’re applying for. And after you’ve applied, received and activated your credit card, you can begin making smart, responsible purchases while simultaneously building your credit.

Just remember: Use a credit card for needs and not wants, avoid unnecessary fees and don’t skip payments! Because with great power does come great responsibility. And credit cards, which offers great convenience, are mighty powerful.


Published by

Tom S.

Tom is a 2006 graduate of UW Madison, currently residing in Verona with his wife and 2 girls. He has been passionate about writing ever since he was 15 years old, and displays that same enthusiasm in his work today. When he’s not sharing insightful financial wisdom, you can find Tom chilling on the Union Terrace, enjoying craft beer at the Great Dane, or hiking at Governor Nelson State Park. In the Fall he loves to take his family to Badger Football games!