Credit cards – they’re convenient and they’re safer than carrying a lot of cash around. Even better, when used the right way, they can save you time and money or get you out of a tight spot in an emergency. Of course, we’ve all heard the horror stories too – people buying things they don’t need and getting buried in a pile of debt, and fraudsters that cheat you out of all your money – but with a bit of care, you can stay safe and still benefit from credit and deals. Try these easy ways to get the most out of your credit card.
When you pick a card, select the one that gives you the best offers for your lifestyle. Most providers will offer more than one card, so check out the limits and the features of each before you settle for one. Always, always read the fine print. It can be boring, but it tells you everything you need to know about your card. Compare fees, interest rates, warranties, purchase protection, insurance, travel insurance, and so on, before you commit, and never be afraid to ask questions. Even after you make your choice, don’t forget to stay informed and keep an eye on your interest rate. You might have chosen a card with an awesome introductory offer, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always stay that way. Switch to a new card if the one you have doesn’t give you the best deals and features or fit your lifestyle.
Get to know your card even better than you know your favourite lines from movies. Figure out all the offers and fees and make note of your interest-free period and billing cycle so you don’t spend unnecessarily. If you buy things closer to the beginning of the cycle, then you’re making the best use of it, because you have a longer period till you have to pay. If you need to make an immediate payment that can be claimed through insurance later, for example, manage timing, and you could essentially not be paying anything.
Make sure you pay your bill fully and on time, rather than paying the minimum charges. It’s easy to put it off, and paying as little as you can is tempting, but then you have to pay interest, which can add up faster than you’d think. The best way to pay on time is by setting up a standing order so it gets paid without you thinking too much about it.
Make use of offers – that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes this could mean choosing to shop at a place that gives you better deals. Or becoming eligible for discounts by planning your buying so that you buy more at once rather than smaller amounts more frequently. This is where your early research comes in handy - be sure to pick a card that offers discounts that suit you. Check your subscriptions regularly too, to make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t use.
Say no to cash withdrawals
Watch out for interest on cash withdrawals. Depending on your terms, unlike for purchases, it may be charged immediately. There may also be a fee associated. Don’t forget to check what counts as withdrawals. E.g. buying traveller’s cheques and sometimes even electronic fund transfers.
Guard your card
Keep your card safe and use trusted sites for purchases. Keep an eye on your bill, either through internet banking or SMS alerts. It’s not just fraud that you should check for, but sometimes genuine errors too. Speak to your credit card provider and the shop if it seems like you’ve been charged extra.
Protect your credit rating
Missed payments and defaults affect your credit rating. Keep in mind that a good credit history means you can borrow more if you need it.
Even with a credit card, plan your spending, because it can’t fix everything. If it looks like you aren’t going to be able to pay, speak to your bank or credit card company before it becomes a problem, and they will help you work things out. After all, when you use your credit card better, it’s better for everyone.