Credit cards can have many practical uses. You might be using credit cards to maximize rewards or simply to have convenient access to borrowed funds. The reasons to have and use a credit card can vary, but everyone should follow some basic rules when it comes to using a credit card efficiently.
If you misuse your credit cards, it could affect your credit score and overall financial health. Let’s take a look at the common mistakes many people make with credit cards so you can avoid making them yourself!
Paying the Minimum Payment
Your goal might simply be to preserve your credit score, so perhaps you just pay the minimum on time and as agreed. Meanwhile, interest racks up and compounds on your balance and you go into debt.
Paying interest on borrowed money can be a necessary evil, but it’s not ideal. Credit card interest is often the highest out there. Aim to pay off your credit card, in full, each month so that you can use your hard-earned money to save, invest or pay down debt.
You should also be aware that having a high balance on your credit card could affect your credit utilization ratio and negatively impact your credit score.
Not Paying Attention to Your Billing Statements
One of the great things about using a credit card is that the monthly statement gives you a way to review your spending each month. Use this to your advantage!
Take the opportunity to review all the charges you made during the month. If something doesn’t look familiar, investigate and dispute unauthorized charges as needed.
You may be paying for errors and getting overcharged in ways you’re not even aware of. Taking a few minutes each month to double check your bill to avoid fraudulent charges, unused subscriptions or overpayments is a good use of time. This will only save you more money in the long run.
Getting Too Close to the Maximum Spending Limit on Your Card
When you spend the maximum or even get close to the limit of your credit card, you’re affecting your credit utilization ratio. It may seem harmless because you don’t actually hit your limit, but your credit score can be adversely affected by a high credit utilization ratio.
There are a couple of ways to avoid this issue. The simplest one is to spend less on your credit card. It may be easier said than done, but hopefully, you have other methods of spending besides your credit cards.
Another way to avoid getting too close to your limit, is by getting approved for a higher limit on your card. The key is to not increase your spending as your credit limit increases.
You can also just leave unused credit cards open in order to keep your total available credit limit higher. Another way to maintain a good credit utilization ratio is to pay your balance off each month (early, if possible). Most credit card issuers submit your balance to credit bureaus once a month. They submit the balance of your account at the time of reporting. If you pay your card balance off earlier, then the credit card issuer will report a lower amount than your actual spending for the month.
Making Late Payments
When you pay any of your bills late, you’re penalized. A late credit card payment is not any different. Not only can you incur late fees by your card issuers, your credit score can be affected.
Even just one or two missed payments can create a ding in your credit report. The blemishes on your record can lead to a decrease in your credit score. The simple solution is to make your payments on time. It may help to put payments on autopay so you can set it and forget it in time each month.
Closing Credit Cards
Many of us have unused credit cards that take up space in our wallets. While it would be convenient to close the accounts and get rid of the cards, it would likely negatively affect your credit score.
The unused cards still have credit limits, even when you’re not actively using them. These unused cards add to your total spending limit, which can lead to a lower utilization ratio. Your credit score is positively impacted by a lower utilization ratio, so it could be worth it to keep these “inactive” cards open.
The only exception is when you’re paying a high annual fee. If you cannot justify the annual fee with great benefits like rewards or perks, it may be best to close the card. Your credit score may dip temporarily, but it should recover as you continue to practice good credit habits over the long term.
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