Credit cards are a fantastic way to build credit, but things can quickly get out of control. One expense can lead to 10 purchases and, before you know it, your bill is too large for you to pay off by the end of the month. Then you’re stuck with a roll over balance and a high interest rate. So, how can you avoid this and other credit card faux pas? Follow these tips:
Shop around. Don’t choose the first credit card option that comes your way. Look at multiple factors, including: interest rate, annual percentage rate, cash back fees and annual fees. Some credit cards will offer a large credit limit, but a small disclosure can reveal a large interest rate. Do your research!
Stick with one card. One of the biggest mistakes for first time credit card users is that they don’t stick with one credit card; they get multiple at a time. This can lead to big, scattered balances and the inability to pay them off. Many feel the more cards they have, the more they can spend. This is where the trouble starts: it can lead to low credit scores and massive debt.
Keep a low balance. A $500 to $1000 balance is perfectly fine for your first card. Not only are these amounts typically easier to keep track of, but it’s also unlikely that you’ll need to go over those amounts at any given time. Start small.
Make payments before they’re due or on time. Paying your credit card bill multiple times a month, or whenever you make a purchase, is key to a good credit card history. This avoids any potential late fees and the possibility of a balance roll over with a large interest accrual. If you’re unable to do that, make sure you pay it on time. Enrolling in automatic payments is a good practice. Not only does it take the weight off of you remembering to pay, it saves you the hassle of logging on every time.
Don’t share your information. Pretty simple. Sharing your information can lead to identity theft and fraud. Make sure that you are the only one with access to your credit card and credit card information.
Keep it active. This is the key to building a credit line. Make sure you use your card every three to four months with smaller purchases that can be easily paid off. This keeps your card from going dormant and helps you build a stronger credit history.
Whenever you’re considering investing in something, even a credit card, make sure you do your research. It’s easy to get lost in the financial flexibility that comes with owning a credit card, but it’s just as easy to fall into debt. Be smart and adopt healthy credit card habits, and you’ll have a great financial tool at your fingertips.