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Credit card basics

Impacts on your credit report

Opening and maintaining a credit card with on-time payments is a signal to creditors that you can manage your debt effectively. On the other hand, missing payments can have a negative effect. While the impact of a missed payment may lessen over time, your credit report will retain this late payment information for 7 years.

What is APR?

A credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR) affects the amount you pay when borrowing money against your credit card. Most credit cards let you avoid paying interest if the balance is paid off each month. Unpaid balances each month can cause the interest to accumulate over time. Ideally, keeping balances under 30% of your total credit limit or lower, would be better for your finances and credit health.

Applying for credit cards

As with any type of credit, careful consideration before applying for a credit card can be a wise approach. Knowing what type of credit card can benefit you, and what your spending limits are can help you on your financial path forward. If your credit is less than perfect, knowing what you are matched with can help you see what is available to you. And, if you are trying to build or re-build credit, secured credit cards can be a good option.


Reward credit cards can include cash back, travel, retail, and gas rewards. Each type appeals to different consumers based on their spending habits, but most have a set of features that should be taken into consideration when choosing a rewards card.

  • Sign-up bonuses: These are typically promotional incentives that can change frequently, along with the terms of the incentive. Some offers will provide a set amount of points on sign-up, but the conditions may vary, such as the amount you need to spend and frequently within a time limit. So, making sure you can meet those conditions before you apply can ensure you can take advantage of such bonuses.
  • Fees: Some credit cards will have annual fees waived in the first year, but paying attention to this and your spending volume will make sure your costs don’t exceed the value of your rewards. Also, some cards may charge a foreign transaction fee, and finding a credit card with little or no fee could save you significant money.
  • Perks: Common types of perks include return/refund protection, price protection, extended product warranties, theft and damage protection, access to airport lounges, free luggage checks, flight cancellation insurance, rental car insurance, and fraud protection.
  • Tiered reward points: Different types of cards offer points or cash back depending on where you shop. Paying attention to where you spend significantly, can help you maximize your rewards.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from third party companies ("our partners") from which Experian Consumer Services receives compensation, however the compensation does not impact how or where the products appear on this site. The offers on the site do not represent all available financial services, companies, or products.

*For complete information, see the offer terms and conditions on the issuer or partner's website. Once you click apply you will be directed to the issuer or partner's website where you may review the terms and conditions of the offer before applying. We show a summary, not the full legal terms – and before applying you should understand the full terms of the offer as stated by the issuer or partner itself. While Experian Consumer Services uses reasonable efforts to present the most accurate information, all offer information is presented without warranty.