A credit card allows you to borrow money or buy different products on credit, meaning that you buy now and pay later. Credit cards are very convenient for purchases, and it is very safe to use a credit card. When you get a credit card, you are given a credit limit. You can make purchases up to that limit. You will receive a statement every month. You can either pay the full balance or the minimum amount due. If the latter is the case, you will be charged interest on the balance.
Even if you prefer paying by cash, credit cards are required in many situations, such as car rental, guaranteeing a hotel room or travel reservations, or getting cash advance in an emergency. Credit cards are more convenient and safer than carrying cash. If you are not satisfied with a purchase you made using a credit card, you may dispute the charge until the problem is resolved.
Credit Card Types
Many banks, credit unions, retail store chains, and other businesses issue credit cards.
These types of cards are issued by banks. The major credit cards are Visa, MasterCard and Discover. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards. Discover may not be accepted at some businesses.
Travel and Entertainment Cards:
These are also credit cards issued by banks. The major ones are American Express (AmEx for short) and Diners Club. These cards may give you benefits related to travel (baggage insurance, etc.) and incentives at certain restaurants. They are not accepted as widely as Visa or MasterCard.
Among other specialized cards, American Express offers a regular card and Optima. If you have a regular card, you are expected to pay the balance in full every month. With Optima, you can pay only the minimum amount due. However, you can still pay the full amount in Optima. Otherwise, you will have to pay interest on the balance.
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These types of cards are issued by a particular store or business establishment and valid only for purchases at that store, e.g., K-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, Hecht’s, JC Penny, Texaco, Chevron. However, some stores issue Visa/MasterCard types, as well, which can be used everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.
Cash Back or Incentives
Some credit cards provide cash back or other incentives. Many cards with such incentives usually come with an annual fee.
For example, Discover provides up to 1% cash back. Chase Freedom provides 3% cash back on items that you purchase most and 1% on other purchases.
Sony Card from Capital One accumulates one point for every dollar you spend. When you buy Sony items with a Sony card, you accumulate double points. When you have enough points, you can redeem them for a Sony item, such as electronics, games, or CDs.
Some credit cards such as AAdvantage accumulate one mile for every dollar you spend. When you have enough miles, you can get a free airline ticket. For example, on one card 25,000 miles will earn a return ticket anywhere within continental United States.
Some cards may offer other benefits like travel insurance, lost baggage coverage, or rental car insurance.
Choosing a Credit Card
There are several types of credit cards available with many different banks, financial institutions, and other businesses.
However, please note that credit cards are issued after checking your credit history. Newcomers to the U.S. will have no U.S. credit history; therefore, it may be very difficult to get credit cards initially.