Whether you’re trying to establish or improve your credit history, a credit card is a viable solution. They’re a lot easier to qualify for than a personal loan and can be used as many times as you’d like to make purchases (as long as you continue to pay down the balance). However, all too often, people obtain credit cards and mishandle them, resulting in an accumulation of debt and poor credit history.
Essentially, the most effective way to reap the benefits of being a cardholder is to be financially responsible. Whether this is your first or fifth credit card, the tips listed below can make credit cards more comfortable to manage.
Select The Right Card
Not all credit cards are the same. As such, it is essential to do research to determine which is best for you. More than the credit limit, you want to apply for a card with low-interest rates, minimal fees, and perks or rewards programs that you can use to your advantage.
It’s exciting to receive an acceptance offer from a credit card company. However, keep in mind that accepting this offer is like going into a contract with the creditor. In exchange for a line of credit, you agree to repay the balance in full, along with any interests and fees. So, before signing on the dotted line, however, you should review all the paperwork. You want to ensure that you’re aware of what you’re getting into.
Develop a Management System
To be a responsible cardholder, you must develop a system to keep up with your accounts, due dates, and payments. When you’re unaware of what you’re spending, when payments are due, and how much is owed, you run the risk of missing payments. Missed payments then lead to late fees, penalties, accrued interests, and a negative credit rating.
Fortunately, there are several strategies and tools to manage your credit card accounts. You can install a debt payoff app that can assist you with payment reminders, automatic payments, and late payment protections to keep your accounts in order. You can also use debt management apps, calendars, and automatic bill pay services through your local bank.
Make Timely Payments
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to pay your credit card bills on time. Review your card statement to identify the due date. Then set up automatic payments or put a reminder in your calendar to ensure they are paid by that date. If you’re short on funds for one month, at the very least, you should pay the minimum amount to avoid late fees and poor credit ratings.
Keep a Reasonable Balance
Just because you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit on it doesn’t mean you should spend the entire $1,000. Most account holders fail to realize that the utilization rate is a factor used to calculate your credit score. A utilization rate is how much you owe compared to your card’s credit limit. Lenders and service providers use this information to determine your ability to handle your bills. Keeping your credit card balance at 35% or lower is advised. So, if you have a $1,000 credit limit, you try and maintain a balance of no more than $350.
Make Informed Purchase Decisions
When you have an extra few hundred or thousand dollars, it can be tempting to spend it on things you really want. What’s important to remember, however, is that you have to repay the balance with interest. While you don’t have to pay it upfront, the interest and fees accrue over time, increasing your outstanding debt. You could spend years trying to pay off that flat-screen television or that new wardrobe you purchased. So, it’s best to make informed decisions when using a credit card. If it’s not something you can repay in a few months, chances are you should wait.
Credit cards can be a real gem when used correctly. They can be the foundation for establishing credit, enabling you to acquire anything from loans to affordable car insurance without an issue. To reap the benefits of credit cards, you must manage them responsibly using tips like those provided above.