When it comes to choosing the right credit card, you’ve got plenty of options. A good card can give you a long promotional period, a great interest rate and reward you with some nice benefits . On the other hand, a bad card at best takes up undeserved space in your wallet, like so many stripes of vanilla ice cream in a carton of neapolitan, and at worst can result in larger balances and serious financial damage.
If you’ve made some uninformed decisions in the past and put the wrong cards in your wallet, now is the time to make the switch. Here are five telltale signs that your credit card sucks.
1. Lame rewards programs
Cash back and other rewards programs are great ways to cut your credit card balance and save on things like airline flights and hotel stays. If your card offers no rewards points or cash back, however – or even a measly 1 percent — it might be time to look elsewhere. Some cards feature as much 5 percent cash back on various spending categories throughout the year such as movies, restaurants, and Internet shopping.
2. High fees
Some credit card providers do a good job of keeping fees to a minimum, while others nickel and dime you to death. If you hold a card with an annual fee, foreign transaction fees, over limit fees and so on, examine whether the benefits you get are really worth the expense in real dollar terms.
3. Exorbitant APR If you pay your balances off every month, you don’t have to worry about interest rates. If you don’t, however, you are throwing money away on any card with a high APR. The main thing that triggers your rate on a credit card is your credit score, but some cards do offer lower rates than others, all things being equal. Right now it’s possible to find APRs starting as low as 10.99 percent on some cards, so shop around.
4. Changing due dates
Ever get charged a late fee because you noticed after the fact that your issuer changed your due date on you? If so, the issuer probably notified you in one of those “updates to your account” letters that rarely gets read. This is a sure sign your credit card sucks. If it has ever happened to you, “fire” your credit card provider immediately and get a new one with more ethical policies. If it’s a credit card that has advantages you like and need, simply pay better attention when your bill comes in the mail and always make sure your payment is sent in well before the due date.
5. Crappy customer service
Ever try to call customer service only to be put on hold for an extended period of time? What about an elaborate phone tree where you can’t get to an actual human? If you’re wasting hours of your valuable time just trying to get the answers you need about your credit card account, find a company that takes better care of its customers. In a recent study conducted by J.D. Power  on credit card customer satisfaction, American Express and Discover occupied the top two spots.
Now that we’ve determined whether or not your credit cards suck, let’s talk about how to use the good ones effectively. If you currently have balances, wipe them from your slate as quickly as possible and commit to never carrying them again, completely eliminating the need to search for a card with a low APR. Look for ways to reduce your monthly bills or simply rein in your spending until they’re history. Identifying whether or not your card sucks is important, but when you find one that doesn’t, it’s just as important to make sure you use it prudently.
What do you think? How do you determine whether a credit card sucks?
John Parker is a writer who focuses on covering trends in the financial space — including credit cards, mortgages, real estate and banking.
(Photo: Ben Schumin )