Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Cards

How are you using your credit cards? Do they sit in your wallet, longing to see the sunlight? Or are you getting the most out of the benefits that come with them? A lot of people claim they have a credit card to “build credit” or “in case of an emergency,” but these are often fringe benefits to having them. What exactly are you missing out on?

Choosing the Right Cards

First, you should figure out what constitutes the “right card” for you. It depends on what you like, to be honest. Does it come with perks like cashback or other kinds of rewards? There are a lot of credit cards that have perks like the Target REDCard, where you get 5 percent off every purchase, or the Chevron Visa Card, which offers a slew of discounts on gasoline. You should research all of the options available to you and see if you can find a credit card offered by stores and locations you frequent.

A good credit card for college students to have is Amazon. Many students use Amazon to avoid paying the markup often added by bookstores or to get the book if they slept in too many times. The only gas stations that offer credit card perks that I currently know of are Fred Meyer, Shell, Costco, and Chevron/Texaco. The cards to avoid are the cards you will most likely never use except for once a blue moon. This is because a lot of credit cards, like the GAP and Old Navy, will cancel your card on you if you don’t use it within a certain timeframe. No ifs ands or buts and certainly no warning. Be sure to check before you apply for a card that you will rarely use.

Rethink How You Use Your Card

Let’s be honest: You could use your credit card like a debit card in most situations. As I suggested in a previous article, you should consider using your credit card for daily purchases and just pay the balance every so often to keep your utilization down. Not only does this help build your credit, but it also saves you money on purchases you would already make. It might not feel like much at first. But keep track of your savings and cashback rewards. Whenever I need something for the house that I’ll buy at Walmart, I’ll buy it at Target with a Target REDCard and save 5 percent. Easy!

A Word of Warning

This is a great way to use your credit cards to build credit and to enjoy some perks. But it’s important for you to take care in how you do this. Always be sure to have enough in your checking account to cover your purchases before you use your credit cards. I can’t stress enough how important this is. In the past, I’ve found myself unable to make that payment and the lesson I learned was rough. My card had 24 percent interest on it, which isn’t too bad when you realize that’s two percent per month. But I didn’t really have an additional two percent to pay. Be sure to check out how much you should have in your savings account before getting too carried away.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. I like my cash-back card, although later this year I plan on getting a card with more rewards (I think my card currently is a flat 1%). However, I like my basic no-rewards card for future/unexpected larger purchases where I may not be able to pay the entire balance in one month, so the interest wouldn’t be so much. But I use both cards, and my rule is to only purchase what I can pay in its entirety (with the exception of very large/unexpected/emergency items).

    Earlier this week I saw a special on my local news about an “anchor” in credit card debt. One guy who they interviewed had a large debt because he thought that he only needed to pay the minimum balance. The argument was made that statements aren’t clear enough to say that although you need to pay the minimum balance, not paying your bill in its entirety will result in added interest and a climbing balance. They also claimed that the box saying “if you make no more additional purchases and only pay the minimum balance, it will take X months and a total of $X including interest” wasn’t easy to see. Hmph. Even before I worked in banking and had no one explain to me the basics of credit cards (my parents never had them and still don’t), I could see on my statements and comprehend easily what the terms and payment conditions were. Paying $35 per month (I think it’s a general minimum payment, at least on my cards) isn’t for unlimited access to credit, which sounded like the interviewee’s rationale, despite admitting that he had the income and bank account balances which could have paid his cards off every month and not lead him to the debt. It took him four years to crawl out of it.

    I wish that there was a Personal Finance 101 course/seminar offered to high school and college students – explain checks, savings accounts, keeping a budget, credit cards, loans, etc. By starting off young on a good start, it would be easier to stay financially healthy down the road.

    Good article! I enjoy your personal finance posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that you’re responsible with your credit cards. It’s refreshing to see our generation trying to have a little more financial sense 🙂

      I never had personal finance in high school and the past 10 years show it. It wasn’t until I was taking a math class at BYU-Idaho entitled ‘Math for the Real World.’ It was an introductory class to teach everything you mentioned you wished you could see as well as an introduction to statistics and they even taught how tax brackets worked. We had a lot of projects that included things like loan amortization, too. It was extremely eye opening.

      Since I’ve been learning more and more about personal finance, I’ve become much more passionate about bringing personal finance and economics back to high schools. Personally, I think it’s about time that we stop making excuses for our state education systems that cut these vital classes in favor of standardized testing.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s