A credit card is a fast and convenient way to get what you want and need on the go. Using a credit card has many benefits, but also some risks. Before you decide whether to use a credit card, it’s important to know what you need to know to avoid costly mistakes.
The good news is that credit cards don’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to avoid mistakes. As a first-time credit card user, here’s what you need to know.
What is a credit card?
A credit card is a kind of revolving credit issued by credit card companies and financial institutions. When you make a purchase with your card, the financial institution lends you the money for the purchase and agrees that you will pay it back in full by a certain date – otherwise they will charge you interest on the balance.
The card is a physical card, usually made of plastic or metal, with a unique credit card number and a three-digit CVV (Card Verification Value) number for added security.
How do credit cards work?
When you apply for a credit card, the financial institution asks for various information about your income and debt, and then pulls your credit report to determine how much credit they want to give you. For example, a company might decide that your maximum available credit limit is $10,000. Companies may also have daily limits and transaction limits.
The card issuer will also determine your annual interest rate (APR), which, if provided, will charge you after the payment due date following the introductory period. These rates are usually high, ranging from 14.99% to over 21.99%. This is the cost of your borrowing. You can avoid paying interest charges unless you pay your balance in full by the end of each billing cycle.
Every time you make a purchase with your credit card, the purchase amount will be deducted from your available balance until you pay it off. The card is associated with a billing cycle, and at the end of each cycle, the credit card company issues a statement detailing the transactions you made during that cycle, your total balance, minimum payments, and due dates.
Do credit cards work differently than credit cards?
There are two similarities between credit and debit cards. First, both are associated with a financial institution. Second, both are usually physical cards. Otherwise, debit and credit cards are completely different.
A debit card is linked to an active bank account, usually a checking account. Using a debit card is similar to writing a check, except that if you don’t have enough funds to make a purchase, the debit card will be rejected immediately.
For example, if you have a traditional debit card tied to a $500 checking account, and you use your debit card to make a $600 purchase, the card will be declined. If you have selected your bank’s overdraft protection, the transaction may be approved, depending on the bank’s level of protection.
Debit cards don’t allow you to go into debt and don’t affect your credit score.
Do I need a credit card?
Using your credit card responsibly is an excellent way to build credit and earn rewards. Building or improving your credit score is important for many future financial decisions, such as B. auto loans, lease licenses, business programs and even insurance rates.
However, using a credit card is not without risks. The good news is that you can completely offset or avoid these risks.
The Risks of Using Credit Cards (and How to Avoid Them)
One of the biggest risks of using a credit card is having too much debt. Using a credit card is easy, and since you don’t need to have enough funds, it’s sometimes easy to buy things you don’t have the money to buy. An easy way to avoid this is to get into the habit of paying off your credit card balance every week or even every few days. Make a purchase? Pay as soon as you post it to your credit card account. Before you buy, ask yourself, “Do I have the money to buy this right now?” Only buy if the answer is “yes.”
Another significant risk is late payment. Charging your card more than you can afford or simply forgetting to pay can have a significant negative impact on your credit score, and can also result in late fees and a loss of your introductory APR. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, which means it has a large impact on your overall score. Eliminate this risk by making regular payments on your card (whether weekly, setting payment reminders, or signing up for automatic payments).
Annual fees are another thing to consider with credit cards. Depending on the card you enroll, an annual fee may be automatically paid to your card each year. These are usually associated with rewards cards. Check all card details before applying to avoid unexpected fees you are not prepared to pay.
How to buy a credit card
First, write down your goals for using your credit card. If you’re looking for a card to help you improve your bad credit score, you should look for a secured credit card first. If you’re interested in using your credit card to earn rewards, consider the type of rewards you’re looking for. For example, are you looking for cash back, travel/miles, points or a combination of different rewards? Or maybe you’re starting a new business and looking for the best high limit credit cards.
Once you’ve identified goals for using your cards, look for cards that match those goals. But in the meantime, consider the following details:
- Rewards Program
- Benefits (car rental discounts, hotel discounts, referral bonuses, etc.)
- Mobile app options
- Company reputation
Do credit cards help build a good credit history?
It depends on how you use the card, your current debt level, how many other credit cards you have, and more. If you don’t have a lot of debt and you don’t yet have a lot of cards and a free balance, a good credit card that you pay off regularly to avoid interest can be a great way to boost your credit score.
Are credit cards safer than debit cards or other payment methods?
Credit cards offer excellent fraud protection. Major credit card companies have built-in measures to identify and flag fraudulent activity. However, under federal law 12 C.F.R., your maximum liability in the event of any problems is $50 § 1026.12. Unlike a debit card, the money spent comes from the card issuer, not you.
How do credit cards work for people with bad credit?
If your credit score falls into the “poor” category due to poor credit or a poor credit history, your credit card options may be limited – but you can still use them. Look for secured options and, depending on your situation, there may be unsecured beginner credit card options.