Many people have a negative perception when it comes to owning a credit card, however, it’s an extremely valuable tool if you know how to use it effectively. You can actually make your credit card work for you so that you can enjoy perks such as an increased credit score and even reward freebies such as Airmiles from an American Express credit card to convert into free flights.
In order for you to use your credit cards to your advantage, you must realise that you need to be just as good at paying them off as you are at spending on them. There are many places in which you can apply for a credit card but do check the annual fees and the APR % before taking one out and spending on them.
If you don’t think that a credit card is for you but you’re looking for a short term loan for cash flow then Cash Lady can help guide you to a sensible loan for the interim.
How to Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage
If you can master some simple habits for using a credit card you can certainly enjoy the benefits of a little bit of cash flow flexibility without any downsides.
Follow our simple tips to make your credit card work for you:
Pay your bill in full every month.
Credit cards are perfect if you’re looking to build your credit score, providing you only spend what you can afford and then pay your bill off in full every month. Most companies actually let you make smaller more frequent payments throughout the month which may actually be more beneficial to help you stay on track.
Getting into the habit of paying your credit card off in full may seem difficult, however, it’s the number one rule when it comes to using them for good. This will help you avoid credit card debt and wasting money on paying interest on purchases.
Don’t pay your bill late.
Alongside paying your credit card bill off in full, you should also make sure you’re paying your bill on time. Some issuers add a late fee onto your bill, again wasting money and late payments can impact your credit score adversely too.
A benefit to paying your credit card on time is that it keeps your interest rate low and will also help improve your credit score over time.
If you are a little forgetful, many credit card providers now have a handy app that can notify you when payments are due. You can also set up a direct debit for the minimum payment each month to avoid late fees, however, do make sure you know when your bill is due to settle the bill. If you’re struggling set a reminder in your phone or add a note in your calendar.
Compliment your budget with your credit card.
If your credit card offers perks such as so many Airmiles per pound (or dollar) spent then you’ll want to use your card to rack these up. The best way to do this is to set yourself a budget for your spending monthly, make all purchases on your credit card to claim the perks and then pay the full balance from your set spending limit.
Log in to your account weekly to keep on track and make sure you’re not going over your budget. Never spend more than you can afford.
Know your limits.
If your card has a high limit that you don’t think that you can manage monthly, you can always ask your credit card company to lower your limit. They should oblige to do this as the ultimately want you to pay the money back.
Alternatively, why not impose a limit yourself as above as to what you can afford. Once you’ve hit that limit, put your card somewhere safe and don’t use it again until you’ve either cleared the balance or it’s hit the next month.
Do note having a higher credit limit may be useful in an emergency.
If you don’t know which credit card is best for you then why not check out the Money Supermarket handy search tool.
Use for only big things.
Credit card debt creeps up on a lot of people with small £10, £20 transactions over the month, instead why not use your card for larger ticket purchases instead.
The best way to do this is to have the majority of the cash available for the large purchase first. Then, after you make the purchase and reap the rewards of your credit card, pay the purchase off as quickly as you can. Again to avoid unwanted interest.
You can also use your card for large, important purchases and then pay it off over a few months with a strict timeline. Of course, you’ll pay a little bit of interest for the pleasure of spreading out the payments but it allows you that little bit of breathing space. If you choose to purchase a large item and spread the payments over a few months do make sure you’re prepared to keep the payments up (and the interest) for this time period.
My advice was to not use your card for any further purchases until you’ve settled your credit card from the large purchase. You don’t want to be in a constant cycle of chasing your credit tail.
Grab all the advantages.
The people who manage to create healthy credit card habits and maximise the advantages and rewards are those that have the most to gain. The best rewards credit cards offer many different benefits from cashback, Airmiles and hotel loyalty points. As we’ve previously outlined, credit cards and the rewards become a lot less lucrative when you’re paying interest on top of your purchases. Do make sure that whatever you’re spending to accrue rewards you pay in full each month.
Does your card have extra perks?
Sometimes your card may not offer rewards, however, it can offer additional benefits and these are worth making the most of. Some include free travel insurance and even extended warranties on products and goods. To make sure you’re getting these benefits for free, again pay your card off in full monthly.
If you can follow our top habits for using a credit card you’ll be able to maximise your credit card and get it working for you to it’s best advantage. It does take discipline but if you’re looking to build your credit score or redeem rewards then you’ve got to be strong-willed and smart with your money.
How do you keep credit card savvy? I’d love to hear below