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TheStreet Open House

Best Credit Cards for 2012

NEW YORK ( LowCards.com) -- The start of a new year is typically when consumers take a close look at their finances and make resolutions on saving money and cutting expenses. Changing credit cards can save substantial money on interest payments, or earn some extra cash with attractive rewards.

But credit cards are not one-size-fits-all, and shopping for the best credit card to fit your specific needs is a must. The credit card offer you get today is determined by your credit score and how you have handled finances in the past.

Credit cards are not one-size-fits-all, and shopping for the best credit card to fit your specific needs is a must.

Getting started
When shopping for a credit card, you must first determine what kind of credit card consumer you are. Are you a disciplined person that charges only what you can afford and pays off the balance in full on time every month? If so, a rewards card is the best credit card for you. If you do carry a balance from month to month, though, you should not be concerned with the rewards of a card, but in paying off this balance as quickly as possible. For you, getting a card with the lowest interest rate is the most important consideration.

Know that credit card companies can make every card seem like the best on the market. Television ads, emails and direct-mail pieces tout the low rates and benefits of every card. But consumers should look closely at the terms and conditions of the offer before applying for any credit card. The lowest interest rate is given only to applicants with good to excellent credit scores, not to everyone who applies. If you don't have a good credit score, you could get an offer with a higher rate -- or a declined application.

Before you apply for a credit card, check your credit score so you know what offer you can expect. A FICO score in the mid-700s is considered a good score, and you can expect to get the lowest interest rates. A FICO score less than 640 is too low for normal credit cards and you will have to look at other options, such as a secured card.

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