We all agreed that credit cards make purchases and paying your bills easier. Using a credit card is also a good way to boost your credit score. However, failing to properly manage your credit cards can lead to a lot of unnecessary expenses, negative listings, headaches, and stress.
If you’re tempted to buy things you can’t really afford just because you can charge them on your cards, it will benefit you to leave them at home when you go shopping. When you have an emergency, rely on an emergency fund to avoid charging unplanned expenses on your cards.
You eventually realize that you are NOT just paying for the items, you are also paying the interest charged by the card issuer for allowing you to buy those items in the first place or put it in another way, you are paying twice to use the card.
Compare credit lines, APR (Annual Percent Rate – over and above the interest rate as advertised it includes other related fees such as the administration fee, initiation fee, closing costs, insurance, rebates, and discount points) to figure out which card will work the best for your circumstances.
It is advisable to consider the APR when comparing credit cards because it is always greater than the nominal interest rate advertised as it will give you an idea of which is the best credit card for you and yes do not forget to consider your credit score when you apply.
Many companies, from banks to supermarkets and department stores issue their own credit cards. Ask yourself if you really need another credit or store card, chances are you don’t. Before signing up go through the fine print so you know what you are signing up for, such as:
- What are the interest rates (many store cards may charge up to 24%)
- What are the rules around late payment fees or add-on fees?
- What is the credit limit?
- Does the card start with a low introductory interest rate and then increase at a later stage?
- Do you know anyone who uses the same card. Ask them about their user experience (check reviews).
Follow these tips to avoid spending a lot on fees and interest while boosting your credit score:
- Pay your bill on time, and pay more than the minimum required. Not only will you avoid late fees with this strategy, but you’ll also pay off your balance quicker, thus saving money on interest, too. For example, if you have a $500 balance on a card with a 15% APR, you would end up paying $595 over two years if you make the minimum payments of $20/month.
If you fail to make your repayments to the bank or other creditors, you could be negatively listed, that’s about the last thing you need when you are already in debt. It means that you have a bad credit profile (bad credit record) at a credit bureau.
The term is used to declare that one is unable to qualify for credit due to a negative listing on their credit record. These listings are placed on your record by creditors whose accounts you have not paid or by attorneys who have obtained judgements against you.
- Try to pay more than the minimum required, if you make payments of $50/month instead of the $20 minimum payment, you would end up spending a total of $528 to pay off your balance in a little less than a year and the bonus is you will pay less interest. Be consistent with your payments. Missing a payment or paying less than the minimum will negatively impact your credit score and future loan applications.
- Keep your balance as low as possible. Your credit score goes up if you keep your balance relatively low compared to your available credit line. Ideally, your balance should be less than 30% of your available credit line.
- Avoid maxing out your credit card or making large purchases unless you plan on making a significantly larger payment to cover these expenses. Consider applying for a credit line (limit) increase if you cannot pay off enough on your card to stay around the 30% mark. Do it as once off and not impulsively.
- Read the fine print on rewards cards. Credit card providers typically charge higher APRs and fees to compensate for the cashback and other rewards. The best strategy for using a credit card with rewards is to make enough purchases to qualify for the rewards, but then pay off your balance in full every month to avoid paying interest.
- Keep it simple. Owning too many credit cards can make managing your accounts not only difficult but stressful. You’ll be more likely to miss a payment when the going gets tough in cases where you become unemployed or retrenched or when there is no income.
- Be careful with balance transfers. This can sound like a good option if you qualify for a credit card with lower fees and APR. However, most credit card companies will charge you a transfer fee, which is usually a percentage of the debt you are transferring. Paying 3% of the amount you’re transferring to get a slightly lower APR might not save you money.
- Avoid cash advances on your credit cards. A cash advance (ATM withdrawals) can be a tempting option because this cash is very easy to get, but you’ll have to pay a fee and will have to make larger monthly payments to compensate for this charge. Cash advances often have a higher rate of interest as well.
These tips will help you stay on the right track with your credit cards. Keep in mind that you can easily avoid fees and spend less on interest by being responsible and planning your expenses and payments in advance, wisely, and properly.
If you do not understand how the credit card works before signing on the dotted line make sure you fully understand what you are setting yourself up for.
Shop around for a better credit card every two years or so. You will qualify for better products as your credit score improves from following these strategies.
Be aware that all the consumers who have taken up credit (debt) in one form or another have a credit profile or status. It is the history of financial fitness (credit history) that is kept by the credit bureaus and the information is requested and then shared by everyone from banks to money lenders to businesses to employers.
They want to know, can we trust this person, business, organization? Can they pay back the money we have lent them or can we trust them in a position of responsibility? Your ability to pay back your debts makes up a major part of your credit profile. A good credit rating will make your life much easier, while bad credit can become a major stumbling block if you want to access credit in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post, leave a comment below if you found this piece helpful and share your experience with using credit cards or where you are battling to keep up with credit cards payments. Thank you once again for gracing us with your presence.