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When was the last time you made a big purchase?

Or the last time you planned a trip or took on a new contracted service like a cell phone?

Chances are if you recently have done any major spending, you did some research beforehand.

If you’re going to spend your hard earned money on something, don’t you want to make sure you get your money’s worth?

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for credit cards.

How many of us have applied for a new credit card before doing a little research first?

How many Canadians, especially when just starting out, take on the first credit card our bank offers us?

Or how many Canadians, who have been banking with the same bank for years, feel the need to be loyal and might not even consider that they could get an even better credit card from a different bank?

Our guess is that a good number of people out there are either:

You could be missing out…

If you’re going to use a card, why not get the MOST out of it?

Why not have a card that suits BOTH your spending and your needs?

Credit cards can give you so much more than just “credit,” imagine these:

…but if you’re not doing your research to find the card that is best for you, you could be leaving a lot of that on the table.

We don’t want people settling for just any card, so here are some tips on making sure you get the best card for you.

Related: The creditcardGenius Mobile App Is Now Live

Rewards and Cash Back

The first area where doing your research can really pay off, is by finding out what cards will give you the best rewards for your situation.

Tip #1: Know what types of credit card rewards are available.

Pinpointing what type of rewards you want, is a good starting point.

Why? If you have no desire to hop on a plane, a credit card that only awards you with airline dollars, wouldn’t make the MOST sense.

So, what type of rewards do you dream about racking up?

Do you dream about traveling the world with credit card points?

Or do you love the idea of putting your rewards into an investment bank account to watch it grow?

Either way, before you sign up for a credit card, consider what you would most like to do with your rewards, and find a card that will help fulfill those dreams.

Keep in mind: While cash back cards can be simple and straightforward, rewards credit cards will often give you a BETTER return on your spending.

Tip #2: Know your monthly spending amounts.

The second, and possibly most important, step you need to take when doing research is to know what your monthly spending typically is.

There are a few reasons why we feel like this step is an important one.

Firstly, your monthly spending should tell you whether or not you should be getting a credit card with an annual fee or one without.

While it’s no secret that people don’t really like fees, if you’re spending over $1,000 a month, getting a credit card with an annual fee could mean more rewards in your pocket and better perks at your fingertips.

Secondly, some credit cards will give you extra rewards for shopping in certain categories, but if you don’t know your monthly spending, you might not know which category multipliers you should put your focus on.

For instance, if you find the majority of your budget is going to filling your card with gas and your stomach with groceries, the will give you a super impressive 4% cash back on all of your gas and grocery purchases.

If you feel good about tracking your spending, but not about spending $99 a year for the credit card above, the is a great alternative.

For an annual fee of only $39, this card will give you an awesome sign up bonus of 5% cash back on gas and groceries for 6 months ($500 monthly spending limit applies), 2% on gas and groceries for up to $500 monthly combined, and 1% on everything else.

Plus, this card is a little more widely accepted than the above Visa – we’re looking at you, Costco.

For some of us, tracking our monthly spending might seem a little overwhelming, but there are credit cards that will give you a straight amount of rewards back, no matter what you’re buying.

The  will give you a solid 2% cash back anywhere you shop and no matter how much you spend. It’s a great option for those of us who aren’t entirely sure what we spend in a month, and for anyone who wants to earn some major rewards.

Low Interest and Balance Transfers

For some of you, having a low interest credit card is not high on your priority list, but the truth of the matter is 46% of Canadian do carry a balance on their credit cards.

Chances are, many of those Canadian are likely spending hundreds in credit card interest every year, that they could avoid if they just did a little research.

Tip #3: Know how much you’re spending on interest.

The majority of credit cards charge an interest rate of 20%, however, there are cards that can go as low as 4.95% (if you have really good credit).

Curious what that means in terms of savings?

If you have $5,000 in credit card debt, and you are being charged 19.99% interest, you will end up paying just under $1,000 in interest over a year.

$5,000 in debt * 19.99% interest = $999.50

However, if you have a credit card like , which has a permanently low interest rate of 8.99% (no matter what your credit score) ‒ you will only be charged $449.50 in interest over the course of the year.

$5,000 in debt * 8.99% = $449.50

That’s a savings of $550 (even more if you carry that debt for longer than 1 year), just for doing a little beforehand research.

Curious how much you’re spending on interest?

Try out our spending calculator:

In a similar manner, there are cards that will let you transfer your pre-existing credit card balance to a new credit card, at a very low rate. Some cards will even give you 0% for up to 10 months.

CIBC has a few cards in their credit card portfolio that offer this introductory rate for new cardholders, including the CIBC Dividend Visa which will also give you 2% cash back on your groceries and 1% cash back on everything else.

Valuable Perks

One sometimes overlooked area of credit cards is the perks.

Credit cards come with so many valuable “extras” outside of the rewards they give you and many people might not realize how much money (and time) these perks could save.

While your rewards earned bottom line is important, credit cards have so much more to offer.

Tip #4: Know what credit card perks are available.

In order to get a credit card that has all the perks you want, it helps to know what credit card perks are out there.

Some credit cards will give you annual credits or lounge access, while other cards will give you no fee foreign transactions or roadside assistance.

And these perks can give you so much value.

Related: The Superhero Credit Card Combination Your Wallet Needs

If you’re a frequent traveler, there are credit cards that give you extensive insurance packages that allow you to forgo buying expensive travel insurance, and will even allow you to decline car rental insurance, saving you anywhere from $15 to $30 a day.

There are credit cards on the Canadian market that give you 24/7 concierge service. You can call a concierge agent and get them to help you:

  • score concert tickets,
  • plan a romantic evening for you and your special someone, or even…
  • do all the booking for your next big vacation.

There are even cards like the , that give you an impressive combination of different perks:

  • one of the best insurance packages out there,
  • 4 annual complimentary lounge visits,
  • 24/7 concierge service,
  • a great sign-up bonus,
  • a dedicated customer service line that is exclusively for BMO World Elite customers, and
  • discounts on car rentals.

Chances are, if you look hard enough, you can find a card that will check off many of your “Perks I Want” checklist.

All of these services can take a good credit card to a GREAT credit card, especially if you know which perks you’ll really make use of.

Tip #5: Know which credit cards perks are worth it for you.

If you’re looking for the credit card that has the best perks, the is your card.

It will give you so many premium benefits like:

  • a huge sign-up bonus,
  • unlimited lounge access for you and a guest (which beats out all other cards on the market right now),
  • VIP treatment at Toronto Pearson,
  • 11 types of travel and purchase insurance (doctor house calls while traveling),
  • upgrades at over 700 different hotels,
  • 24/7 concierge service,
  • a $200 annual travel credit, and…
  • upgraded status in 3 different hotel loyalty programs.

Impressive, right?

While the Amex Platinum does have an amazing sign-up bonus worth up to $625 and an annual travel credit worth $200 (redeemable for ANY type of travel), with a price tag of $699 yearly…

…you will need to make sure those perks are worth it for you in the long run.

If there is a perk you don’t want to live without or a perk that would save you a lot of money, consider the following:

  • Which perks would add value for you?
  • Which perks would save you time and money?
  • Are there any credit card perks you don’t want to go without?

Related: 17 Drool-Worthy Credit Card Perks Explained

5 Tips For Credit Card Research

It’s time. Fire your credit card.

Arming yourself with the best credit card there is for you and your needs, is something that we feel every Canadian should do.

Make your plastic work for you.

The nice thing…credit cards are not permanent.

Perhaps you’re considering a credit card right now for the first time ever…

Or, you have a credit card but feel like you could be earning way more rewards or enjoying better perks…

Or, maybe you want to try a credit card out (even just to take advantage of the sign up bonus), but you’re not sure you’ll want to keep it.

No matter what your situation, with a little research and the help of our Genius Rating, the best credit card for you might only be a few clicks away.