Like any powerful tool, credit cards can be useful or harmful, depending on how they are used. Used wisely, credit cards offer a secure and convenient method of payment along with impressive benefits and valuable rewards. Yet when cardholders make mistakes, it can lead to costly fees, interest charges, debt and ruined credit.
So keeping that in mind, here are the five worst credit card mistakes that you can make.
1. Paying Late
If you think about it, cardholders receive an amazing deal. They can buy what they want now and pay for it later — borrowing money at an interest rate of 0% by simply paying their entire balance in full and on time. But if you make your payment late, then you will incur both late fees and interest charges, and you may see your rate rise to the penalty interest rate. To avoid this, pay electronically, which is more reliable than mailing a check. Also, be sure to use any email or text reminders offered by your card issuer. And if you do happen to make an occasional late payment, be sure to request that the fee be waived, which most card issuers are willing to do for customers in good standing.
2. Failing to Pay
What’s worse than paying your credit card bill late is not paying it at all. In addition to the rapidly growing fees and interest charges, you could soon find your account frozen and your credit history severely damaged. Some cardholders miss payments by accident when they do not receive their bill, so it is important to make sure that your card issuers have your correct address, email and telephone numbers. Others fail to pay their bills because they don’t have the money. In this case, cardholders should let their card issuers know what’s going on and try to work out a payment plan.
Payment history is the single biggest factor in your credit score. Missing payments and paying late can hurt your credit scores, costing you more down the road. You can get two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com to see where you stand.
3. Not Understanding Cash Advance Rates & Fees
Inexperienced credit card users may be forgiven for assuming that an ATM withdrawal would be treated much the same as a regular purchase, but that is not true. When most credit card users receive cash, they will be subject to a fee and a higher interest rate as these withdrawals are considered to be a risky type of loan called a cash advance. In addition, there is no grace period on cash advances, so interest charges begin accruing immediately and don’t stop until payment is received. To avoid this, many cardholders choose not to create a PIN number, which is necessary to withdraw cash, while others request that their credit card’s cash advance limit be set to zero.
4. Co-Signing an Application
Perhaps the only thing worse than getting into credit card debt is being responsible for someone else’s. Yet that is what some people do when they co-sign a credit card application for a friend, relative or domestic partner. What these applicants are really doing is opening up a joint account in which both parties are individually responsible for repayment of all charges made to the account, regardless of whose charge card was used. So while it might have seemed like a good idea to help someone out by co-signing, you may end up paying someone else’s debt, ruining your good credit, or both.
5. Giving Out Your Credit Card Number
While you may have given out your locker combination in high school, or left your house keys with a neighbor when you were away, it is a bad idea to hand over your credit card or even just its number. Once a credit card’s number is disclosed, it makes it much more likely for it to be used fraudulently. In addition, images of credit cards with legible numbers sometimes appear on the Internet through social media, which is a recipe for fraud. If you need to authorize someone to make charges for you, just make them an authorized user on your account, which is usually free. This way, they will have their own card, and you can revoke their card privileges if necessary.
More on Credit Cards:
- How to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates
- 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit