Credit card tips can change with the wind — or as you enter different stages in life. If you’re young and trying to build credit, start with a low credit limit. If you travel a lot, consider an airline or hotel credit card. If you have a lot of debt, it’s a good time to put those cards on ice. Great credit? Look into what rewards you might qualify for. All this advice can, at times, get a little overwhelming. Fortunately, there are certain credit card habits that will always apply. Here are 10 basic credit card tips that will last your lifetime.
1. Try to Pay Your Statement Balance in Full
Paying interest increases the cost of everything you purchase with your credit card, so you should try to avoid carrying a balance as often as possible. If you do have to carry a balance, try to keep it below at least 30% (ideally 10%) of your available credit limit. Doing so will help keep your credit score intact. You can come up with a payment plan to get rid of any existing credit card debt you have here.
2. Never Make a Late Payment
Late payments can result in costly fees, damaged credit and sky-high penalty annual percentage rates. Fortunately, there are many tools that you can use to make on-time payments including e-mail and text alerts or automatic payments that you can initiate with your issuer.
3. Carefully Examine Every Statement
Credit card users enjoy robust protections against fraudulent transactions, but you may have to report the activity to your issuer to take full advantage of them. Regularly reviewing your credit card statements can help you spot fraud as soon as it occurs. Calling your issuer immediately to dispute the charges and have the card replaced can help ensure you’re not on the hook for them.
4. It Never Hurts to Ask
If you have ever made a late payment by accident, then you’ve probably incurred a late fee. But if you take the time to ask for the fee to be removed, many card issuers will do so. You can also try asking for annual fees and foreign transaction fees to be waived, for your interest rate to be lowered or for your credit limit to be raised. (Keep in mind, the last two may result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could ding your credit score.)
5. Read Your Terms and Conditions
It’s important to thoroughly read the terms and conditions associated with any credit card you are using or are thinking of applying for. You’ll want to know, for instance, what fees will be imposed and when, if an APR change may go into effect and what your rewards programs entails. You should also check your privacy agreement and whether your card is subject to an arbitration clause.
6. Keep Track of Your Credit
The most important way to ensure that your credit card spending habits are in line is to regularly check your credit. Some credit card issuers now offer free monthly FICO credit scores on your statement. You can also request free copies of your credit reports each year from AnnualCreditReport.com and view your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
7. Regularly Re-evaluate Your Credit Cards
The only constant in the credit card industry is change, so it’s important to regularly take a look at the credit cards that are in your wallet. Then, examine the market to see if there are newer products available that will better meet your needs — which may have changed since the last time you comparison-shopped for cards.
8. Avoid Cash Withdrawals
Nearly all credit cards impose cash advance fees and very high cash advance APRs, so you should avoid using your credit card for cash at all costs. Remember, it’s always better to use your ATM card when you need cash.
More on Credit Cards:
- Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
- How to Get a Credit Card With Good Credit