6 Tips for Using Credit Cards Responsibly
A credit card can be a valuable tool if used responsibly. Here are some tips to keep in mind
It’s easy to get in the habit of using a credit card when you make purchases: it can be a simple, fast way to pay, whether you like the convenience of not carrying cash or are all about earning rewards when you spend. But what about your other credit card habits? Are you using your card in a way that helps—or hurts—your credit?
Protect your finances by following these general guidelines:
1. Make payments on time
This should come as no surprise, but payment due dates can be overlooked. All it takes is a vacation during your due date or a busy schedule to miss a payment—and accrue late fees and finance charges as a result. Make it a priority to pay your bill on time—every time—whether you set up a monthly email alert or reminder on your smartphone.
Remember: Late and missed payments can show up on your credit report and lower your credit score.
2. Pay more than the minimum
When you receive your monthly credit card bill, you’ll see your statement balance along with a minimum amount due. But use caution: minimum payments come with interest charges that can quickly add up or hurt your credit score. A minimum payment is just that: the minimum you can pay to keep your account in good standing.
3. Read your card agreement and know your terms
When you open a new credit card account, it’s best to read the credit card customer agreement and the account opening disclosures thoroughly. This way, you’ll know what to expect when it comes to due dates, fees, interest rates, and other information.
Not sure how to understand your credit card terms? Read this article to break down common credit card terms.
4. Check your monthly statements carefully for accuracy
Billing and transaction mistakes can and do happen. You can help protect your credit by checking your statements carefully, either online or when they arrive in the mail. If you do find an error on your bill, call your credit card issuer right away to let them know—it might be a sign of fraud.
5. Stay below your credit limit
It might seem like staying under your limit is all you need to do, but in reality, how far under your limit you stay can affect your credit score. There’s so ideal number exactly, but credit experts suggest using below 30% of your total available credit to maintain a good credit score.
Know your credit limit, and stay well within it.
6. Report a lost or stolen card immediately
Report your card lost or stolen if you're missing your card or think someone stole your account number. When you do, your card issuer will deactivate your old card so no one else can use it, and you can tell the issuer if there are purchases on your account that you didn’t make.
Many card issuers offer $0 fraud liability where you won’t have to pay for unauthorized charges if your card is ever lost or stolen and used without your permission, so be sure to report a loss as soon as possible.
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