Choose the best credit card


I recently graduated from university and I was lucky enough to land an entry-level job in my field. I can finally start planning out my financial future. A part of that future will involve a credit card. I’ve resisted one til now but I think it’s time. But there are so many out there, and I don’t really understand the differences. How can I choose the best credit card for me?

Robert H.
Victoria, British Columbia

Hi Robert,

Congratulations on your new job. You are indeed lucky to get a job in your field, straight out of school – well done! I’m also glad that you’re putting thought and energy toward planning out your financial future, it’s certainly something that young people need to do, as early as possible.

As far as choosing the right credit card for you, well, you’ve already completed the first step and you’re already ahead of the game. How, you might ask? Well, a recent survey1by American Express Canada found that only 15 per cent of card holders researched their credit card options. Most people (60 per cent) blindly apply through their bank. By simply writing to me, you’re doing more work than most people.

Interestingly, the survey also pointed out that many (68%) state credit card rewards programs are important to them. The logic here might be a bit baffling – rewards seem to be important, but not important enough to seek out the best card. Well, it’s baffling until you step back and realize just how many cards are out there, and how difficult it is to root through them.

People get intimidated and go the easiest route, which is probably through their existing bank. Let me lend a hand. Here are three things to consider when choosing the best credit card for you:

  • Dollars and cents – Before you even begin to think about tantalizing rewards programs, you need to think about what you can afford. Rewards are fun but an alternative route is to go for a low-fee and low-interest card. You won’t rack up points but you stand to save yourself a lot of money on monthly interest and annual fees. If you are not confident in your ability to pay your full balance every month, you will want to find the card that offers the lowest rates out there.
  • What tickles your fancy? – If you are able to pay your balance every month, you can start to consider rewards cards. These cards typically have a higher APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and they may also have annual fees. Think about the kind of rewards that matter the most to you – travel, gas, groceries, or even cash back – and look for a card that will work towards your goals. But remember, failing to pay your full balance will end up costing you; interest will pile on and all of a sudden your “free” flight isn’t so “free” anymore.
  • Use the right tools – Put the internet to use and check out the wealth of credit card info on the web. CreditCards.ca2 and RateSupermarket3 are great resources for comparing Canada’s credit cards. It allows you to go at your own pace from home, instead of being pushed by a credit card salesperson or a bank employee.

Robert, take your time, think about your priorities, and don’t do yourself a disservice by sticking with your current bank simply based on loyalty or ease. You have the power to save money and earn rewards with the perfect card – you just have to put in the work to find it!

Best of luck,

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about a debt management program or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to [email protected]. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.