Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Picking through the credit card offers

I had the day off from work, so I finally had some spare time to sort through the various credit card offers I've received over the past few months. Seventeen of them to be exact. I applied for two of them over the phone, and was immediately approved for both. A year ago (next Wednesday) I was waiting for the final discharge of my personal bankruptcy, and it has taken be a while to get back on my feet and feel at least marginally comfortable with my renewed financial "security."

I had gotten one credit card back in July, and that is all I really need, but with my upcoming two-week trip to New York City at the end of the year, I felt the need for a little more flexibility. Some of these 0% introductory offers seemed like a great way to spread my expenses over a couple of months. Actually, I have decided not to do that and actually pay off the expenses as they became due in January and February, but at least I now will have the flexibility to shuffle money a little less rigidly.

Of the seventeen offers, I immediately rejected seven because they either had annual fees or simply had nothing special to offer. Two of the offers were affiliated with airline frequent traveler programs. I picked the Frontier-affiliated MasterCard since it offered miles for purchases and the HSBC Household Bank MasterCard which offers 2% cashback on purchases and 0% interest on purchases for six months. The credit limits are modest, in fact together only half of the limit for my CapitalOne card, but it is not my intention to use them for very much in the near future. Both have no annual fee.

I am still considering whether I should actually carry a balance on at least one card for a few months to help start rebuilding my credit history. The 0% introductory HSBC Household Bank card is a good candidate for that. If it comes within two weeks, I may well use it for half of my NYC hotel expenses. If I do run up a balance, it is also my intention to incrementally pay the balance into savings so that I don't need to mangle my budget to pay off the balance a few months down the line.

With three credit cards now (or at least within the next couple of weeks), I no longer need to consider getting any additional cards and have increased financial flexibility for short-term spikes in expenses. I will keep my eyes open for any cashback offers that might be better than the one I just got.

-- Jack Krupansky

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