Credit Cards

It’s Not Too Late: 5 Credit Card Resolutions to Start Now

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With a new year comes the opportunity to take a fresh approach to how you use credit cards. You can do so under the guise of a New Year’s resolution or just the realization that you might have spent a little too much over the holidays. Either way, now is the time to re-evaluate your credit card use and to chart a better course throughout 2014.

So consider these credit card resolutions.

1. Pay off your balances. 

Credit cards are a great method of payment, but they are a very expensive means of finance. Therefore, cardholders should resolve to pay off their debts quickly and use a credit card only as method of payment. To avoid interest charges and to pay down your debt faster, consider applying for a card with a 0% APR balance transfer. These offers allow you to transfer your debt to a new account with an interest-free financing period of up to 18 months. After your debt is gone, you can pay off each month’s statement balance in full and on time, and avoid costly interest charges forever.

2. Avoid paying annual fees. 

After debt and interest charges, the worst part about credit cards is the fees. In particular, about half the credit cards on the market charge an annual fee, just for being a customer. Thankfully, the competition for your business is so fierce that you should be able to avoid paying fees. First, try to find a card that suits your needs but doesn’t have an annual fee. If that is not possible, try some of these tactics to eliminate paying your annual fee.

3. Scrutinize statements for fraudulent charges. 

It is easy to skim your credit card statements and just pay the bill if nothing wrong jumps out at you. But the recent high-profile security breaches at retailers such as Target and Neiman Marcus are a reminder everyone needs to be vigilant against fraudulent transactions. Taking the time to look over each charge on every statement is the price we pay to ensure the security of this method of payment.

4. Ask for a break.

One of the benefits of having an extremely competitive market for credit cards is that customers have plenty of leverage, and 2014 is the time to use it. Don’t hesitate to call your card issuer to ask for things such as lower interest rates, more rewards or to have an occasional fee waived. It only takes a few minutes, and the worst they can say is no.

5. Manage your credit card portfolio like you do your savings and investments. 

There are people who shop around for the best interest rates on their checking and savings accounts, and manage their investment portfolio every day but continue to use the same credit cards that they have held for years. Like investment opportunities, the market for credit cards changes, and cardholders should respond to the market just like investors do. Those who carry a balance on their cards should seek out the best promotional financing offers and the lowest interest rates, while others who pay their balances in full can seek out the most valuable rewards. Either way, it pays to stay on top of the market.

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