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How to Choose Your Best Credit Card for 2013

Stocks in this article: AXPCCOFDFSJPMMAV

Slate from Chase (JPM)
Slate offers a 0% intro rate for 15 months on balance transfers, but the unique feature of this card is that it is not charging a balance transfer fee when you transfer during the first 60 days of account opening. The ongoing APR is 11.99 to 21.99%.

Cash rewards
According to Consumer Reports, 56% of Americans pay off their credit card debt each month, so reward cards are a good option for the majority of Americans. If you are undecided about the best reward card for your needs, a card that gives you a little extra cash is always a good choice. A common reward payout is a penny per dollar spent -- so reward cards won't make you rich, but every little bit helps. Some also offer a bonus as a new customer if you make a certain amount of transactions during the first three months. Cash-back cards typically have a slightly higher interest rate, so apply for a reward card only if you will pay off the entire balance each month.

Chase Freedom
Get a $100 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months. You will earn an unlimited 1% cash back on everything you buy. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in seasonal spending categories that change every three months. The interest rate is 12.99% to 22.99%.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express (AXP)
Earn $150 cash back in reward dollars when you spend $1,000 in the first three months of membership; 6% cash back for the first $6,000 of purchases at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets; 3% cash back on gas at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and select departments stores; and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There is a $75 annual fee.

Fidelity American Express Rewards
Earn 2% cash back on purchases when you direct your deposit into your eligible Fidelity account. Every $2,500 spent equals a $50 deposit. The APR is 13.9%. There is no annual fee and no limit to rewards.

Secured cards
If your credit score is too low (less than FICO 640) to qualify for a regular credit card, a secured card may be your best option. These require a security deposit, which will be your credit limit. Choose a card that reports your payment history to the credit bureaus, because this can eventually raise your credit score if you use this card responsibly and make all payments on time. You do not have to use this card, but just keeping it open and in good standing can create a positive credit history. Secured cards offer almost 100% approval, but they also charge higher interest rates and fees.

Capital One Secured MasterCard (MA)
Get automatic reporting to the three major credit bureaus. You can earn credit line increases based on your payment and credit history. The card requires a $200 minimum security deposit, and your credit line will be equal to your security deposit. The interest rate is 22.99% and the annual fee is $29.

Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of LowCards.com, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."
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