It’s October!

Well, it’s October, and you know what that means? Yes, your mailbox is likely filled with all sorts of offers… credit cards with no interest, catalogs with pre-approved lines of credit, and personal loan offers! Some of them look pretty tempting, don’t they? But, should you fill any of them out and return them? Should you complete the application online? Should you even consider the offers at all?

Honestly, yes and no to all of these questions. While the offers are definitely worth considering, you also need to do your research before applying for ANY credit card, catalog card, or personal loan.

First and foremost, check your credit score! Most of the mailers that you receive are based on the demographics of your state, city, town, or even your specific neighborhood, and not necessarily on your specific credit profile, so checking your credit first gives you the basic information that you need to start with before you even consider a single offer. If the offer is for a credit score that’s much higher than yours, you are likely to be rejected, which definitely hurts your credit score. And if the offer is for a credit score that’s much lower than yours, you will most certainly pay a higher interest rate, additional fees, and lose out on the perks that come with a credit card for better credit. So, start with your credit score.

Once you have your credit score in hand, you’re ready to move on to the next step. Consider each offer carefully! Remember, these are bulk rate mailers, and they’re not necessarily tailored to your specific needs, so what looks good at first may not compare to other options that you most likely have with other credit card, catalog, or personal loan vendors.

The best place to start is the individual credit vendor’s website. Are they legitimate? Are the terms that you see in your offer the same as you find online? Are they typically for individuals with credit scores in the same range as your credit score? Remember, these days, everything and anything is fair game to scammers out there trying to steal your money, your identity, or worse, and as such, you must consider everything and anything as suspect.

Once you’ve determined that the offer is legitimate, then it’s time to compare the offer in your hands to other offers that are out there. Are you getting the best interest rate? Are you getting the best rewards? Would you be paying fees? Is there a better option for you?

Unless you do the research, you can and you will lose out on the best credit card offers, and that will most certainly cost you more in the long run. So, do the research first, and then enjoy the benefits of those credit offers!

Here’s a good place to start: