ARLINGTON, Va. (TheStreet) -- As you mature, your financial needs grow and evolve along with your personal life, tastes and values. You most likely wear different clothes than you did in high school or college, for example, and you should be using a different credit card.
Having a card that meets your specific financial needs is important to maximizing your savings. Some cards provide initial bonuses lucrative enough to get you a free hotel stay, airline ticket or as much as $250 in cash, while others offer 0% interest rates for 21 months or ongoing benefits such as 6% cash back on major spending categories. In short, it pays to have the right one.
But determining the best card is often difficult. Offers change constantly, and it's difficult to get a thorough sense of exactly what's out there. So let's take a look at the different types of credit cards needed for major phases of life, as well as specific examples of well-suited cards.
Life stage: Retirement
There's saving for retirement and there's actually reaching it. If you're close to retirement, get an investment-oriented credit card such as the Fidelity Investment Card, which sends 2% of every purchase you make into an eligible retirement account.
If you're retired, you simply want a credit card that will enhance or help you save on whatever it is you want to do. If you want to travel, get a travel rewards card such as the Capital One Venture Rewards (Stock Quote: COF), which provides 2% cash back when miles are redeemed for any travel-related purchase. If you also want VIP treatment in airports and hotels as well as exclusive access to concerts, shows and sporting events, get a charge card like the American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) Gold Card or Platinum Card.
Life stage: Having a baby
When you have a child, your financial interests immediately shift to investment and saving for the future. A 529 credit card is a great way to increase your monthly deposits to educational savings accounts. For every $2,500 you spend on the 529 Credit Card from Fidelity you have the option of depositing $50 (i.e. 2% of your purchases) in your child's 529 education account -- a tax-deferred savings account many parents open to provide for their children's college tuition.
Life stage: Going to college
Most people have little if any credit history when they reach college -- unfortunate, given how important a good credit score is to renting an apartment, buying or leasing a car or even getting some jobs. Using a credit card responsibly (i.e., paying your bill in full and on time) is the easiest way to build credit because usage information is sent monthly to the major credit bureaus. The breadth of the expenses you're responsible for will likely expand significantly in college as well, so the card you get should not only be catered toward newcomers but also provide rewards for everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. The Capital One Cash Rewards for Newcomers is that card. People without much credit history can get this card, which has no annual fee and provides 2% cash back on travel purchases and 1% on everything else. Plus, Capital One credit cards can be used overseas without extra charges, so you'll be able to minimize the cost of any rite-of-passage backpacking trips.
Life stage: High school
A credit card is a vital step in a successful, hands-on personal finance education. Interestingly though, the type of card you get to serve this purpose has nothing to do with your kids. People younger than 18 cannot open credit cards on their own, so you should simply make your child an authorized user with a low credit limit on one of your credit cards. The exact card you use for this purpose doesn't matter because the primary objective of this exercise is twofold: getting your kids to use only the portion of their available credit that they can afford to pay back each month and giving them an early start in credit building.
—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.