NEW YORK ( LowCards.com) -- The start of a year is typically when consumers take a close look at their finances, making resolutions on saving money and cutting expenses. So it's good to know there are steps households can take to save a little extra and protect their finances in 2013, including getting the right credit card. Changing credit cards can save substantial money on interest payments or earn some extra cash via rewards programs. But the choices can be overwhelming; there are more than 1,000 credit cards offered in the United States, and they are not "one-size-fits-all," making it important to thoroughly research and compare cards to find the right one for your needs. Getting started Before shopping for a credit card, it is important to have a plan for how you will use the "loan." Are you a disciplined person that charges what you can afford and pays off the balance in full on time every month? If so, a rewards card is a good option. If you carry a balance from month to month, getting a card with the lowest possible interest rate is the most important consideration.
The ads you see on television and in print can make every card look good, but ignore the pictures of happy faces and the promises in the headlines. Read the terms and conditions of the offer before applying for any credit card. The offer you get today is determined by your credit score and how you have handled finances in the past. The lowest interest rate is given only to applicants with good or 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 interest rate or a declined application. And don't assume you know what your credit score is. Before you apply for a credit card, check your credit score so you know what offer you can expect. This also gives you a chance to find and correct any errors that may be pulling down your score. A FICO score in the mid-700s is considered good, and you can expect to get a relatively low interest rate with it. A FICO score less than 640 may be too low to be approved for a card, so you may have to look at other options, such as a secured card. Low Interest Rates If you carry a balance on your credit card from one month to the next, get a credit card with a low interest rate. The average advertised APR last week was 14.35% according to the LowCards Complete Credit Card Index. The advertised rate is usually the lowest rate issuers charge, so don't stop here. Look in the terms and conditions for the range of rates, because most cards have three tiers. The higher your credit score, the lower your APR will be. If your FICO score is in the mid-600s, you will probably get the highest rate.
Here are some of the most attractive low-interest credit cards: Capital One Platinum Prestige ( COF) The lowest rate is 10.9% (the highest is 18.9%). The card offers 0% through March 2014 on purchases as well as balance transfers with a 3% balance transfer fee. There is no fee for international transactions.