Credit cards are a powerful financial tool and as the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If you are looking to get your first credit card, these tips can help you use it in a smart, financially-sound way. If you abuse your credit card, intentionally or unintentionally, you could find yourself in financial distress.
Credit cards can help build your credit score. Good credit scores can, in turn, allow you to access better loans and mortgage rates, higher limits on future credit cards and more. Credit cards can also damage your credit score if you use them unwisely. Avoid maxing them out, always pay your monthly statement on time and pay more than the minimum if you can. Try to pay in full whenever possible.
1. Consider Becoming An Authorized or Joint User First
Not comfortable with having your own credit card yet? See if a relative will let you become an Authorized or Joint User on their card. If you become one, you will be issued a card with your name on it but the primary cardholder will be held accountable for charges and payments. Some credit card companies may report credit activity for you as the Authorized or Joint User, and if the card is being used wisely by all parties, you could earn good credit yourself.
2. Treat It Like Cash
If you don’t have the money now or won't in the near future to pay off the purchase, you may not want to put it on your card. You'll increase your risk of accruing interest and expanding what you owe. This can put you into debt which can be hard to get out of and hurt your credit score.
3. Pay The Balance In Full Or Close To It Every Month
Make sure you pay off your purchases at the end of every billing cycle. This way, you’ll avoid paying interest, possible late fees and avoid damage to your credit score. Making only the minimum payments will cause the interest to really add up, costing you more money in the long run.
4. Use It To Build Your Credit
When you pay off your balances every month, you establish a positive credit history. You demonstrate to credit agencies and lenders that you can handle the responsibility of credit. This will become important when you want to buy a car, rent an apartment, or buy a home. Your credit score shows how financially responsible you are and is used by those checking to predict your future responsibility. On the flip side, late or consistently missed payments can damage your credit score, making you a higher risk to future lenders.
5. Always Check Your Statements
Unfortunately, credit card fraud is a very real thing. Check your statements every month to make sure there aren’t any unrecognizable charges. If you see a purchase that you didn’t make, report it to the credit card company immediately.
6. Avoid Scams and Fraud: Don’t Share Your Info With Anyone
Credit Cards are private and one way to help you avoid fraud is by never sharing your card information with others. Don’t let others use it, even close friends or family members. Beware of phishing scams where someone calls pretending to be the credit card company and asks you for personal information to “verify who they’re speaking with”, such as the security code on the back or your billing zip code. Your credit card company will already know this information and will not call you asking for it.
7. Look For A Good Rewards Program
A rewards program is designed to give card holders everything from merchandise to miles and even cash back, just for using that card. While cards for first-time users may not have a breadth of rewards available, it can’t hurt to look. Every card’s rewards formula is different, so make sure you understand what your rewards options are before you decide.
With a First Source credit card, you get the purchasing power of Visa®, for safe and secure transactions thanks to the EMV chip technology. We offer great options like non-variable rate cards and variable rate cards with reward options.
Learn more about our credit card options and benefits to see if one is right for you. If you‘re ready to start the application, click “Apply Now.” If you have more questions, feel free to give us a call at 315-735-8571.
Article adapted from BALANCE Financial Fitness Program.