Although credit cards are easier to obtain today, especially if you have a good credit score, having this additional source of funds is something that you shouldn’t take lightly. This is because using a credit card is still a privilege and not a right. It is something that you can’t afford to abuse or misuse.
Failing to manage your credit card use can leave you with a large amount of debt. This could then cause long-lasting damage to your financial health, particularly to your credit score.
It is, therefore, important that once you have a credit card, you aim to use it responsibly. You need to be a responsible user and owner, whether you are being issued your first card or your subsequent ones.
Managing Your Credit Card Use
Using the right tool for comparing credit cards before applying for one is a good first step to take towards being a responsible credit card owner. By getting a card that suits your budget, lifestyle, and needs, you will find it easier to use it efficiently and stay on top of your expenses and payments.
In addition to this tip, below are the top six ideas that will help you become a more responsible and smart credit card user:
1. Use your credit card to buy things you can afford.
Credit cards are not the same as cash. Whenever you charge or swipe, you will have to pay the total amount of your purchased item plus interest. In case you don’t pay the full amount, the interest gets compounded every month that you carry a balance.
To avoid falling into a debt trap, use your card to buy only what you can afford. You have to be able to come up with the money for the loan payments with your current budget.
If you want to buy something expensive with your charge card, such as a kitchen appliance or gadget, it is best to save up for it first so that you will experience fewer difficulties in paying off the balance.
2. Keep track of your spending.
If you use your credit card frequently, ensure that you check all the transactions you made. Look into the frequency of usage, where, and why you used it.
Monitoring your card use is quite easy since you can set up an online account with your provider or bank. Once done, you can review your expenses using the provider’s website or mobile app.
Another option would be to keep all your credit card receipts and a running total of your expenses. You can take photos of the receipts using your phone if you don’t want to keep several small pieces of paper in your purse.
By staying on top of your credit card expenses, you will be aware that you are spending within your budget. You will also be sure that you do not exceed your credit limit and that no unauthorized transactions will be charged to your card.
3. Pay your credit card bill in full or as much as you can every month.
To reduce the finance charges you have to pay each month, pay off the entire balance whenever you can. This is the only way you can enjoy your credit card rewards and avoid interests that will add up the longer it takes for you to pay for your purchases.
However, if you can’t afford the full payment, pay an amount that is still higher than the required minimum fee. Pay only the minimum amount if you have very little to spare at the moment.
4. Always pay on time.
When you miss or delay payments, you will have to pay a late payment fee. This is on top of the finance charge you will have to pay as well. To avoid paying more than you have to on your credit card spend, pay your bill or a portion of the full amount on or before the deadline.
Paying on time also comes with the benefit of having a good credit history. By being a responsible credit card customer, you show lenders that you are reliable.
With a good credit history and score, you will have an easier time applying for other financing products such as loans.
5. Be careful when using your card online.
With numerous credit card scams happening left and right, you always need to be on your guard whenever you charge something online.
Start by using only a secure Internet connection when using your card online. Avoid using free Wi-Fi in public places since you will make it easier for hackers to steal your personal data with these connections.
Additionally, when shopping online, make sure the website is secure. It should start with “https” and have the padlock icon.
Lastly, avoid saving your credit card information on any website. Make sure to uncheck the box that asks you to input your details.
6. Stay within your limit.
Finally, never go over your credit card limit. If you do, you will be charged an over limit fee in the amount specified in your card member agreement.
Also, when you go beyond your limit, you will damage your credit rating.
Tracking your credit card use regularly will help you stay within your credit limit. And to build credit and still be prepared for emergencies, always keep your balance below 70% of your limit.
By being a responsible credit card owner, you will stay out of debt. More importantly, you will be happier and less stressed out because you are in control of your credit card expenditures.
Deepak Kumar is a Co-Founder of SoulWallet, a neutral comparison portal for consumer financial services. With a team of “out of the box” thinkers with a deep understanding of the UAE consumer banking industry, the company helps customers make the best choices while shopping for financial products such as credit cards and loans.