When it comes to finding a credit card, you better shop around. Whether you are applying for your first credit card or seeking a better match for your financial needs, investing some time in research will pay off. Read reviews and evaluate how credit cards compare in interest rates and rewards programs. Explore the fine print so that you understand the card’s terms and conditions before you apply. Assess how you plan to use the card: are you more interested in travel points or cash back?

Know your credit score when you start shopping for a credit card and you will have a good idea whether you qualify for the card’s lower Annual Percentage Rate or APR. Judge whether you would want a credit card if you can only qualify for its higher rates.

Pay close attention to the credit card’s penalty APR. Find out what action would incur the penalty APR and how long you would pay the penalty rate. Check into the card’s fees. You will want to know what you’ll pay for taking a cash advance or making a late payment. If you are looking for a credit card that offers rewards, weigh the value of those rewards against any annual fee. If you are looking for a new credit card because you want to transfer a balance, find out about any balance-transfer fee and the APR you will pay once the introductory rate expires.

Do you expect to carry a balance on your credit card, or do you plan to pay off the balance every month to avoid interest charges? The big FYI here is that about 60 percent of Americans carry a balance on their credit cards. Carrying over a balance does nothing to build your credit, and you’ll avoid paying interest if you pay off your credit card balance every month.

Credit cards with the lowest APR may work best if you think you will carry a balance most months. Even though most of the low APR cards will not offer you rewards, many do not charge an annual fee and they will not charge as much interest on your balance. If you are not expecting to carry a balance from month to month and do not think you need a low APR, you may find cards that offer rewards are attractive.

Your bank or credit union is a good place to start your search because they may give you a better offer based on your established business with them. Do some comparison shopping, and don’t apply until you’ve done your homework. Once you have investigated several choices, limit your application to only one card. Applying for several credit cards in a short period can lower your credit score. Go after the card that both meets your needs and offers the best chance of acceptance.