Management Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Credit Cards

Couple sitting in the park with credit card

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. 

Review Paperwork

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. 

Financial Advantages of Having a Credit Card

Shopping with a credit card

When it comes to personal finance, credit cards tend to have a bad reputation. If you were to conduct research, you’d find money blogs and financial experts advise consumers to steer clear of using plastic. In all fairness, this advice is based on the experiences of individuals who misused their credit cards and consequently suffered financially. However, the truth is that when used correctly, credit cards have several advantages. Continue reading to learn more. 

Establishes Credit History

Credit is essential for purchasing products and services. It is a summary of your financial accounts, assets, and money management practices. Whether you’re trying to apply for car insurance or a home loan, your credit history is a determining factor in whether you get approved and how much assistance you can receive. As you might imagine, a person without a credit history doesn’t give creditors, lenders, and service providers much to use. 

Credit cards are one of the first types of financial products you can use to establish a credit history. Many credit card companies have fewer guidelines than banks allowing applicants with no credit history to apply easily. From the moment you get approved, the account is added to your credit report. Creditors then maintain a record of your payments by reporting to the three major credit bureaus every month. 

Builds Credit

It’s not enough to have a credit card on your credit report. If you’re going to get approved for loans and save money on other products and services, you need a favorable credit rating. While several factors determine your rating, making timely payments is at the top of the list. When you use money management practices and tools that help you pay your Sears credit card or your Capital One Mastercard on or before the due date, this is reported to credit agencies, reflecting positively on your behalf. 

Reward Programs

Credit card companies go to great lengths to attract new audiences to their products. Such marketing tactics often include offering rewards programs in addition to a line of credit. Depending on the type of credit card you apply for, you could receive percentages off your purchases, cashback, points towards future purchases, and frequent flyer miles. Some credit cards even offer travel, product, and payment protection insurance. 

Covers Financial Emergencies

While having an emergency savings account is recommended for financial protection, your credit cards can be another nest egg. Should an unexpected expense arise that you don’t have enough money to cover, you can charge it to your card and repay the balance in installments. Using credit cards to cover financial emergencies ensures you can handle the situation instantly to avoid further consequences. 

Fraud Protection

Financial theft and fraud happen all the time. Criminals gain access to valuables and use them to fund their own interests. Victims are left to pick up the pieces. While the odds of retrieving a wallet full of cash are improbable, credit cards are a lot easier. Once you contact your creditor and report a stolen card or suspicious activity, they will provide protection, including closing the card, issuing a new card, and covering the costs of any purchases you didn’t advise. 

Acceptability

For those who love to travel internationally, credit cards are your best friend. It’s a lot easier than trying to acquire local currency. Since most credit cards are accepted everywhere, you won’t have an issue paying for anything from your airline tickets to souvenirs. 

If you held off on applying for a credit card because of all the bad press they get, it’s time to reconsider your decision. Of course, credit cards can cause issues if you take on more than you can afford, max them out, miss monthly payments, and allow fees, penalties, and interest to accrue. However, if you use them to make wise purchases, keep the balances under 35%, and make timely payments, the skies are the limit. If the above financial advantages have persuaded you to want a credit card, ensure that you do your due diligence to select a card that is most convenient for you.