7 Ways to Get a Better Credit Card Offer

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A better offer may be out there -- if you're willing to look for it.

New is better. At least, that's what most businesses seem to think. Whether it's a new cable plan or a new job, it seems like all the best deals are reserved for the new folks.

Credit cards are no different. Many -- if not all -- of the best deals to be had in the credit card world are offered to new cardholders rather than existing ones. This can include everything from introductory interest rates and sign-up bonuses to extra purchase rewards and annual fee waivers.

As with many things, however, you shouldn't necessarily take the first offer you find. The quality of a new credit card offer can vary quite a bit from source to source, even for the same card. This means you may need to hunt around a bit to ensure you're getting the best offer possible for your new credit card. Here are seven credit card offers to be on the lookout for.

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1. Public offers

The most common type of credit card offer will be the public offer available on the issuer's website. This may occasionally be the best offer available, but usually it will simply be the standard card offer. You should start with the public offer, as that will give you a baseline to which you can compare other offers you find.

2. Incognito offers

In some cases, the public offer you find on an issuer's website can vary based on things like your browser, location, or IP. Using your browser's incognito or private mode can sometimes reveal a better offer than you see when browsing normally.

If you know someone with the same card you're after, a referral link may be the way to go. For one thing, referral links often come with better card offers than are publicly available. They can also be good for the referrer who gives you the link, as they typically earn bonus rewards when you're approved.

4. Direct mailers

Well before websites, there were snail mail credit card offers -- and they're still around. Usually bedecked with words like "pre-approved" or "pre-qualified," these offers aren't actually guarantees of approval. But they do often have better sign-up bonuses or intro offers than are publicly available.

5. In-account offers

If you already have an account with a bank that issues credit cards, you may occasionally be shown a credit card offer when you log into your account. These offers may just be the standard public offer, but they can sometimes be better quality.

6. In-branch offers

Although few of us hit the brick-and-mortar bank branches these days, you may want to swing by for a visit if you're in the market for a new credit card. In-branch offers are often more lucrative than other offer types, especially when it comes to the size of the sign-up bonus. Being given an offer by the teller in a bank branch may also indicate you have a higher chance of approval than other types of pre-approved card offers.

7. Check-out offers

If you're in the market for a co-branded credit card, then your best offers might actually pop up (sometimes literally) during check out. You may be booking a flight through an airline's website, for instance, when a pop-up offer for a co-branded airline credit card appears during checkout. These offers are usually different from the public offer -- and frequently better.

Check out the fine print for every offer

One thing to watch out for when comparing credit card offers is the fine print. While one offer may seem better than another on the surface, further inspection may reveal the other shoe dropping. For example, one card offer may have a bigger sign-up bonus -- but also a larger spending requirement. No matter where you apply, check all of the terms and conditions before you (digitally) sign on the dotted line.

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