Using a credit card to make purchases has numerous advantages, from delivering incredible rewards and other bonuses to assisting you in building a solid credit profile.
The key to getting the most out of your credit cards is to manage them carefully. To use a credit card responsibly, you must make all your payments on time and be conscious of how your daily decisions affect your accounts.
If you’re not careful, credit cards can cost you far more than they’re worth—but they can also be excellent for your financial health if you know what to do. Here are the fundamentals of using a credit card to maximize rewards, minimize debt, and develop good credit.
1. Always make timely payments.
Payment history has the most impact on your credit score of any element. In addition to late fines and other penalties, failing to make a credit payment for a single billing cycle (approximately 30 days) may result in a negative report being issued to credit bureaus, which will remain on your record for the next seven years.
Simplify your monthly payments as much as possible to minimize memory and financial errors:
Set phone and calendar reminders for your bill due dates, or set up one day per month to pay all your accounts in one sitting.
Even better, set up automated payments to ensure that at least the minimum amount due is paid on time (you can easily add extra expenses during the month or set your autopay for a higher amount).
Your goal is to make bill paying a somewhat stress-free, orderly process; that way, payments can fit neatly into a monthly budget and won’t be neglected accidentally.
Fortunately, if you respond immediately, you can still preserve your credit score from payment errors. Pay your credit card bill as soon as you notice it’s past due.
If you do so before the end of your next monthly cycle, your credit will not be harmed, but you may still be charged late penalties or penalty APRs. Contact your credit card company to see if any fines or fees can be waived.
If you’re having trouble making on-time payments regularly, contact your lender; they may be able to recommend alternatives, such as alternative payment plans.