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Make credit cards work for you

If you're like most people, your mailbox is overflowing with credit card offers. Before you shred the next batch, take a look and see what the credit card companies are offering these days.

Find the perfect card.

Which card is going to be "your" card? That depends. What benefits are you looking for? Do you want to collect airline miles for a trip? Do you want to receive rewards from a particular store or vendor? Fortunately, there are many choices out there and with a little research you can find a card that suits your needs.

Compare offers.

Don't jump to sign up for the first offer that looks good. Be sure to read the fine print because interest rates, annual fees, payment terms and reward redemption will vary widely from company to company.

Skinny down your wallet.

Once you've added a new card, you might want to consider closing older accounts. Closing accounts that have higher fees or interest rates can save money. However, there can be drawbacks to closing established credit card accounts. Understand the potential impact on your credit score before you close down old accounts.

Access to low interest funds.

If you need ready access to cash, many credit card companies offer no interest, or very low interest rates called teaser rates, for a certain length of time on cash advances. Carefully check the terms on your card.

Fringe benefits.

Many credit cards come with extra benefits most people don't use or even know about. Some offer additional car or accident insurance when you travel. Others provide an extended warranty on certain purchases. Know the details so you can take full advantage.

Don't forget to redeem.

As you start piling up points, don't forget to use them. Some rewards will have an expiration date on them. Don't lose out on the very benefits you signed up for.