Using a credit card can build your credit history, and credit is extremely useful when you don't have enough cash. But although it’s common to shop with a credit card, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Credit is a useful tool, but only when used responsibly. Here are seven things to keep in mind before swiping your card.
1. Set a Monthly Limit
Just because your credit card has a sizable limit doesn't mean you have to spend this much. Credit cards are not magic cards and you have to pay back every dime. To make sure you don't go overboard, set a monthly limit and only charge what you can afford.
2. Know Your Due Dates
Your payment history makes up approximately 35% of your credit score, so it's important to always pay your bill on time every month. When a statement arrives, immediately open it and make note of the due date. You can pay your credit card bills online to ensure you don't miss a due date, or you can sign up for automated payments.
3. Don’t Apply for in-store Credit
In-store credit isn't a bad thing in moderation, and if it's a store you shop at frequently. But if you always apply for in-store credit in order to save 10% off your purchase, you can unknowingly hurt your credit score. A credit inquiry – or new credit application – can shave as much as 2 to 5 points off your credit score. Applying for credit every now and then won't damage your score. But if you submit 10 credit applications in a short span of time, that's up to 50 points you can knock off your score.
4. Check Your Statement
There’s always a chance that someone will get hold of your credit card numbers and go on a shopping spree. So it's important to check your statements carefully. But don't wait for your statements to arrive in the mail. Sign up for online bill pay and monitor your credit activity at least once a week. If any fraudulent activity occurs, you can catch the problem early.
5. Check Your Credit Report
Not only should you check your credit card statements on a regular basis, you should check your credit file at least once a year. Every consumer can receive a free credit report from each of the bureaus once a year. You can contact the credit bureaus directly, or you can order your free credit report from AnnualCreditreport.com. All you have to do is fill out the form and answer a few basic questions to confirm your identity.
6. Keep Cards in Your Possession
When shopping with a credit card, it's important to always keep cards in your possession. Never loan a credit card to a friend or relative. You're the primary account holder, so you're responsible for charges on the account. When using your credit card at checkout, make sure the cashier hands the card back to you.
7. Shop Smart Online
If you love online shopping, a credit card is one of the best ways to complete a purchase. But when you enter your credit card information on a website, there’s the chance of your credit card number ending up in the wrong hands. Be cautious and only shop from reputable sites. Also, make sure websites have a security logo or lock. These websites offer better security, reducing the likelihood of a hack or security breach.
If you don't like carrying cash, credit cards offer simplicity and convenience. However, it's important that you understand the proper ways to manage your credit card, or else you could end up with a lot of debt and a damaged credit score. What are other things to watch out for when shopping with a credit card?