Remember the days when credit card companies would send you a new credit card in the mail? No pre-approval offering. No catch. Of course, by using the card the first time, you agreed to whatever terms the credit card company offered.
In the wake of mail theft, credit card companies soon changed their marketing methods. Instead of sending you a real credit card, they sent you letter with a fake credit card attached. The letter guaranteed you were pre-approved and all you had to do was fill out the form and send it off in the mail in order to get your new card.
The credit card companies and banks are still very aggressive in using this type of marketing, but they are now turning to today’s technology to pull the consumer in: the Internet. More and more companies are finding that web sites and online application forms are capturing the attention of a new generation of credit card holders.
It’s fast. It’s easy. And approval can be instantaneous. Online applications have everything that a tech-savvy consumer needs to fulfill their instant gratification needs.
Looking for the Best Card from the Comfort of Home
The Internet has created a culture of comparison shopping, and credit cards are no exception. Sitting at their computer at home or the office, anyone can not only apply for a credit card online, but spend a few minutes shopping for the card that best fits their needs. Whether they are looking for a low interest rate or a card that offers the best perks, credit card users today don’t have to wait for the right offer to come in the mail. They can go out and find the best card spending only a little easy time surfing the web.
Taylor Maddox, a work-at-home-mom in Colorado, agrees. “I have two or three cards I got online. I use one for business that has an awesome cash back program and another one that sends me gift certificates from local stores. I use that one when I buy stuff for home.”
Maddox says she spent about thirty minutes shopping online for cards that fit her “personality and lifestyle.” To find the best match she used Google’s search engine with keywords like “credit card rewards program.” From there she filtered her search until she found just what she was looking for.
Don’t Forget About Security
Not everyone is as convinced that applying for a credit card online is the best idea. Jim Thurmond is a computer network security specialist who works in the Silicon Valley. He likes to warn his family and friends of some of the dangers they might encounter online.
“Identity theft is a really serious problem right now,” Thurmond says. “I get four or five emails every day pretending to be from banks and well-known companies like eBay. They’re all fake and they all want my personal information.”
Known as “phishing,” these kind of emails pretend to be from a real company and ask you to log in to your account to handle take care of some business on their web site. The emails you receive and the web pages you visit look convincing, but they’re not real. When you enter your personal information such as a user name and password, the site takes you to a page telling you that your password was wrong. What it really does is capture your information so a hacker can log in to your account at a later time.
“Most banks and credit card companies want you to enter very personal information such as a social security number and your mother’s maiden name,” Thurmond says. “You want to make sure you can trust the company before you hand over the goods.”
Thurmond advises to only do business with companies you know and recognize. “Your chances are better with an established company that you already know and trust.”
Never visit their web site from a link provided to you in an unsolicited email. Banks or credit card companies don’t send emails to customers. If you want to visit a company’s web site, type the URL in the address bar or click on a link from a reputable search engine.
Finally, make sure you are submitting your private information through a secured web server. If the address contains “https://” (note the “s” at the end) or there is a little padlock icon at the bottom of the web browser, it’s reasonable to assume your information will be secure.
Finding the Best Card
Credit cards are not all alike. When credit cards (or “Charge-A-Plates”, as they were known then) first came out, there was less choice. Cards didn’t offer rewards and perks. Cards didn’t come with different designs. About the only differenced between cards were the interest rates and the credit limits.
Today the modern credit card user has a variety of options. You can find cards that offer airline mileage or cash back programs. Some will send you gift cards after you’ve spent a pre-determined amount. There are different interest rates and annual fees. There are secured and unsecured cards. And, of course, cards today come in an astonishing variety of designs to help you showcase your personality.
Not all benefits are the same and it pays to think about how you intend to use your credit card or cards before you apply. Finding the right card will let you take advantage of all of the benefits that come with the card. If you don’t travel much, a card that offers airline miles may not be the best one for you. Like any purchase, it pays to shop around.
Applying for Your Credit Card
Applying for a credit card online is a very simple matter. On the bank or credit card company web site, you’ll find a fill-in-the-blanks form. You’ll need to enter all the information you’d find on a typical credit card application – name, address, social security number, salary, etc., so make sure you have all that information handy.
Most services allow for instant approval, meaning that once you submit your application, the credit card company will let you know immediately if you’ve been approved. Depending on your personal financial situation, a customer service representative will need to review your application. If this is the case, it may take a week or more to get an answer. (You’ll always get an answer by postal mail and not by email.)
Once your application is approved, you’ll get your card in the mail in a week or two.
It’s also good to know that most credit card companies allow you to manage your account on the Internet. You can pay your bill, view your statement, and change your account settings. One credit card I have even allows you to request a credit limit review online.
Shopping and applying for a credit card online is a great way to compare cards and find the right one to meet your financial needs and personality. While most banks and credit card companies are trustworthy and reputable, make sure you take steps to protect your personal information.