How to Use a Credit Card the Right Way

If you possess and intend to use a credit card, be a savvy borrower and only use a credit card to your utmost advantage. This does not mean treating yourself to a new wardrobe or even buying a big screen TV (we can be saving for items such as these – and if we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it ;)). Rather, only swipe your credit card for big-ticket items that actually possess some merit. Perhaps, a computer for your family, or a new laptop for your child going into college.

When scouting for a new credit card, compare benefits before applying. For instance, a bank other than your own may be offering cashback rewards that may be redeemed for coupons and other savings. In this way, the credit company is paying you back for being a loyal borrower. Don’t settle for the first credit offer that comes your way, and read the fine print before you apply.

If you are offered a store credit card (from department stores such as Macy’s which have their own house card without a Visa/Mastercard logo) that will earn you a chunk of change off your first purchase, consider a couple things before you accept the card and close it after the initial purchase. Borrowers think that they are smart in doing this, but remember that your credit score will be dinged for both opening the card (the credit inquiry) and closing it as well (damaging your length of credit usage).

Although lenders do not want you to pay your balance off in full each month (and your credit score may actually suffer from doing so), attempt to pay at least three times the minimum payment every month. For some borrows, with APRs as high as 30%, the minimum payment may be equal to the total finance charges – meaning, by paying only the minimum payment each month, you will never have your balance paid off.

Q: Do You Need a Credit Card to Build Credit?

A: You can build credit in other ways than using credit cards. Simply having utility bills or even a cellphone contract in your name, that you pay on time every month, will establish credit.

Credit cards are not a necessity of life. Most people acquire credit cards to be able to spend money that they don’t have, on things like furniture, food, or even clothing. Why not teach yourself and your children to save up for items that you will need later? Because, chances are, you don’t need it today. So, refrain from opening store credit cards, and if you do possess a major credit card, attempt to keep it in your wallet for as long as possible.