Got your first credit card? You must be informed about the advantages and disadvantages of that small, rectangular piece of plastic you’re holding. While credit cards grant you a huge purchasing power in an instant, a huge responsibility also comes with such privilege.
In personal finance, using credit cards are usually discouraged for they often result in a debt curse. But the truth is, these cards are not that bad. With great money management and good spending habits, you can make your credit card work for you and not against you.
But before you get too excited about using your credit card and enjoying its perks, check out these eight simple reminders before start swiping.
1. Be Prompt in Monthly Payments
Start clean by paying off your balances in full on time. If you can’t pay the full amount, try not to easily rely on the convenience of quick cash loans. Pay as much as you can afford and inform your credit card issuer so they can negotiate payment extensions and lower interest rates.
Keep in mind that your payment history has the greatest impact on your credit record. Abusing the grace period or failing to pay at least the minimum result in service charges and interest rates that not just consume your wealth but negatively affect your credit record.
2. Maintain A Realistic Budget Plan
The words “budget” and “credit card” could go hand in hand if you use your credits properly. Credit cards help in tracking your expenses, managing cash flow, and acquiring rewards and perks.
In creating a spending plan, the first step is listing all your monthly expenses and comparing it with your monthly income. If you have upcoming bills, sort them out based on due dates and interest rates to avoid paying for charges. Prioritize the essentials but don’t disregard the small things in your budget.
Then, track your spending. You may go through your bank and credit card statements and see where your money has gone. You can also use a few online tools and mobile apps like Mint, Personal Capital, and BudgetTracker to make budgeting easier.
Since you have only 30 days to pay without interest, try not to let your card payments exceed 20% of your monthly income. Keep on using cash, debit cards, and checks, especially for small purchases.
3. Always Opt for Low Credit Limit
In the U.S., the initial credit limit for first-time users ranges from $500 to $900. After a few months of being a responsible credit card holder, you are given a higher credit limit, which raises your initial limit to $1000 or more and boosts your credit score.
However, it doesn’t mean you can spend it up. Even with the increase, try to keep your credit limit low and your demands below your means. Bear in mind that the increased amount might seem like a reward but it is still a borrowed money that needs to be responsibly spent.
4. Keep the Card Active
An inactive account can harm your credit. If you failed to use it for a couple of months, your lender may stop providing updates to the credit bureau about your account and may lead to the permanent closure of your account since companies know that it costs a lot of money to retain an inactive user.
We’re not saying you should splurge in the mall using your credit card. Even small purchases every three or four months are enough to keep the card alive and kicking.
5. Don’t Share Credit Information
A credit card is a personal property, and you are responsible for all charges on your card. Never give out the number and other details to other people even to your close friends, unless the weight of a specific situation calls for it.
If you love online shopping, make sure you give out information to reputable sites to avoid cyber theft. Turn your computer firewall on to prevent hackers from stealing your personal data. Another tip is to ensure that the website has a HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) code located at the address bar, which means that all information you’ll encode is secured.
As soon as you realize that your card has been stolen, lost, and used fraudulently, call the card issuer immediately. You have no additional responsibility for charges you didn’t make.
6. Pay Attention to Your Card Issuer And Their Notices
The credit card issuers take full authority over the use of the card by the consumer. They provide certain notices such as annual fee increase, credit limits, rewards, and other updates on your card that you should not miss.
With this, you should always keep an eye on the materials your credit issuer sends you, read and understand the credit card agreement thoroughly, and keep all the documents. If you don’t understand a term, ask. Know all your rights as a consumer, and the best way to defend yourself when certain issues arise is to be informed.
7. One Card is Enough
As a first-time credit card holder, you are advised to start at a slow pace and stick to a single credit card. Keep in mind that the number of credit accounts you have can make or break you.
The more credit cards you have, the more rewards you can get and the higher chance of boosting your credit score, which is crucial in qualifying for short-term and long-term loans. However, having multiple cards can also be risky. It adds more pressure in tracking your expenses and payment history, paying on time, and utilizing your credit efficiently to maintain a good credit record and not fall into debt.
8. Keep Calm And Swipe
Every time you pass by the mall with a credit card in hand, learn how to chill and practice self-control. Remember that your greatest enemy is yourself. Always go back to the main idea and purpose of your credit card – to lend you money for you to purchase the items you need. Start slowly and think before you swipe.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for QuickCash, an Australian-based business, providing short-term cash loans for your borrowing needs.