Credit Card Smart
Six ways to be credit card smart
Applying for a credit card is easy. Using a credit card is easy. Falling into debt is easy. But there are many advantages of using a credit card wisely. So, how do you become credit card smart?
When deciding which credit card you want to apply for, look at the rewards programs and benefits. Don’t just sign up for the first one you see; find out which card has a rewards program you’d benefit from the most. If you like to travel a card that offers airline miles, hotel discounts or vehicle rentals and services might be a good option. If you buy clothes for work on a regular basis look for a credit card that offers shopping rewards. Or maybe you own your business and need appliances or electronics to keep business running efficiently. Cards that offer discounts, rewards or cash back on the dollars you spend could save you money. There are lots of options - find a card that helps you earn while you spend.
Now that you know what kind of benefits you’re looking for, do your homework to be sure you’re getting the best card for you. Research all the cards that offer the perks you’re looking for and compare their interest rates, points system or rewards programs and find one that fits into your lifestyle and budget. Does the card charge an annual fee? If it does, is the fee worth the benefits and effort of using the card? For example, some points and discounts expire so if you can’t ever use the perks in time the annual fee is a loss. However, if the card benefits are easy to use and add more value than the annual fee costs, it might be a wise choice. Check out the fine print and details to weigh your options.
Budget, Basics and Bills
Sit down and budget out all your monthly expenses. Be sure to separate your essentials from non-essentials such as the electric bill vs. dinner out. A smart way to maximize the benefits of your credit card is to charge all your bills and payments to your credit card; better yet set them up as an automatic payment to ensure your bills are paid for on time and sometimes even at a discount - some services provide perks or discounts when you use auto pay. But try to avoid charging non-essentials if you can’t pay for them otherwise.
Pay on time and in full
Since you were able to budget out your monthly essential bills you know exactly what charges will be on your credit card and roughly how much your bill will be each month. Make sure to set aside money each paycheck to pay off the credit card in full. Pay the bill on time to prevent any accrued interest or late fees.
Protecting your card
Most of us have known someone who has been the victim of fraud or have experienced it ourselves. It can feel like a never ending challenge to stay ahead of the next scam or fraudster. Fortunately, there are many tools available to help card holders prevent fraud. CardNav is a great tool to keep your cards safe and in your control. CardNav is a free, mobile app that allows you to personally control and protect your debit and credit cards by setting location services, purchase limits and alerts. Location services prevent your card from being used if it’s not within a radius of your location. Alerts notify you when your card has been used and you can quickly shut your card “on” and “off”. As soon as you receive an alert of a fraudulent charge you can contact your financial institution to report and dispute it. As long as you report if your card is lost or stolen, you won’t be on the hook for fraudulent charges.
Benefits and perks
Credit cards offer a host of benefits you may not be aware of. Most credit cards offer an extensive list of consumer protection including auto rental insurance, travel and emergency services, purchase security, warranty service, price protection and return protection. There are even discounts and perks available if you know how to access them. Check out Visa Discounts and MasterCard Priceless Promotions. You can save on everything from 20% off your favorite retailer to $5 off your pizza delivery.
Now that you have the tools and information to be credit card smart you can truly make a credit card work for you. Managing a credit card wisely can help you build good credit, giving you access to lower rates on big purchases like a car or a home. Knowing how to use a credit card to your advantage can earn you some awesome rewards, great benefits, and help protect you and your purchases. Smart.