Updated: August 26, 2020
A credit card is a double-edged sword. If you use it responsibly, then you’ll reap a lot of financial benefits; But if you’re careless with it, the consequences can leave you in a financial disaster.
Today, I’m giving you 14 quick tips on how to be a good and responsible credit card user. Especially if it’s your first time to own one, or if you’re thinking of applying for one soon.
1. Understand the terms and conditions.
Know exactly what you’re getting to avoid any surprises later on. Particularly know the interest rate, annual fee, and all the other fees and charges.
A friend thought the interest rate of his credit card was just 2.25%. It turns out, it’s just for supermarket purchases and all others, it’s 3.50%.
2. Know your credit card features and rewards.
Know your credit card perks, particularly the discounts and benefits you get when you use it in specific stores or merchants. Aside from the reward points, some credit cards can also give cashback.
3. Be mindful of your card.
Don’t take a photo of your credit card and then post it online. Believe me, I’ve seen people do this.
Don’t just leave it lying around, especially in your house or in your office. Don’t input your credit card details on e-commerce sites or apps that are unsecured. And never give your credit card number and CVV to anyone.
4. Don’t let it out of your sight.
Always request for the credit card terminal to be brought to you, especially in restaurants. If this is not possible, then go to the terminal yourself and watch the transaction being processed.
A friend had his credit card details stolen because a waiter in a restaurant took a photo of his card before bringing it back to him.
Moreover, check your sales slip after every purchase, they might have charged you with an incorrect amount. This has happened to me a few times, and it only takes seconds to do.
5. Don’t treat it as free money.
I’ve met people who think that credit cards translate to free money. It’s not. Owning a credit card does not mean you have extra cash, so don’t use it unnecessarily.
6. Use it primarily for convenience.
I use credit cards because I don’t like carrying large amounts of cash. And it also saves me time from going to an ATM to withdraw cash when shopping. This is the number 1 benefit of credit cards.
7. Leverage on zero-interest installment plans.
Another great benefit of credit cards is the 0% interest installment for large purchases. You’re not paying more than you have to, and you get to do more with your budget.
8. Use your virtual credit card online.
Some credit cards offer a complimentary virtual credit card as an added layer of security. Use it for your online purchases instead of your actual credit card.
Moreover, activate the one-time PIN (OTP) and turn on SMS notifications, so you can immediately catch fraudulent online transactions.
9. Check your credit card statements thoroughly.
When your bill arrives, immediately check if the transactions are all familiar and in order. In the event there’s an unfamiliar charge, don’t worry and just report it immediately.
Credit card companies are quick and responsive to this issue. Fraudulent transactions are swiftly reversed, your card gets blocked against further use, and a new credit card is sent to you within days.
10. Only spend what you can afford to pay off monthly.
As mentioned earlier, credit cards don’t provide you with free money. So make sure that you don’t buy anything that you can’t afford to pay within the month.
It’s part of your financial discipline to always pay your balance in full, so you can avoid paying any interest.
11. Never miss your due date.
Credit cards have hefty late payment fees and exuberant penalty charges. Avoid them by paying before the due date. If you can, pay your outstanding balance as soon as you receive your credit card bill.
12. Always ask for your annual fees to be waived.
There are now credit cards that offer no annual fees. It’s good if you have that. But if yours come with an annual fee, then don’t worry. Just be a good credit card user, and your annual fees can easily be reversed upon request.
On a side note, your late payment fees can also be reversed sometimes if you call them with a valid excuse for missing your due date.
13. Avoid having too many credit cards.
One credit card is often enough. Having two credit cards are okay. But three or more is already excessive in my opinion. The temptation to spend is greater, and you’re more prone to missing out on payment due dates if you have too many credit cards.
14. Avoid making cash advances.
Credit cards are not meant to be used for cash advances. The interest rate is too high and it’s immediately charged upon cash withdrawal. So it’s best to avoid doing this.
It’s still best to have an emergency fund. And if you need cash, try other loan options first, which usually offer lower interest rates.
A credit card is not a necessity. You can actually live without one, in my opinion. But I also believe that the benefits you get from having one are too good to miss out on.
A credit card is a double-edged sword. And to learn how to use a sword, one must first master when to use a sword.