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10 Common Credit Card Mistakes To Avoid

by Refi.me Staff on May 12 2021

Credit cards offer a wealth of benefits, from giving you more spending flexibility to helping you build your credit score. However, they are a powerful financial asset only if used responsibly. Misusing your credit card can hurt your credit score. It can cost you hundreds of dollars by way of interest and late fees, seriously damaging your financial health. Avoiding these 10 common credit card mistakes will help you reap the benefits without suffering the downsides.

#1. Not Paying Your Balance In Full Each Month

Most credit card statements offer holders two payment options – a minimum amount due and the total amount due. Paying only the minimum amount can seem like an easy way to wiggle out of paying the larger total amount. However this option will cost you more in the long run. When you pay only the minimum amount, the balance carries a high interest. This interest keeps accruing till the total outstanding is paid off. You end up paying much more than if you had just paid the full amount by the due date.

Always pay off your balance in full every month by the due date. If you cannot, look for ways to cut down on your spending.

#2. Maxing Your Credit Card Consistently

Using all of your available credit or even close to the limit consistently can damage your credit score. This is even if you pay your bill in full by the due date every month. Maxing your credit increases your credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30% of your score. A high ratio will hurt your credit score.

Keep your utilization ratio low by not using your card unnecessarily. If you have no choice but to use it, try to make part payments through the month. This will help keep your balance on the lower side and protect your credit score.

#3. Taking A Cash Advance On Your Credit Card

Most credit cards allow you to take a cash advance, which may sound very tempting when you’re short on cash. This is never a good idea however. Cash advances attract very high interest rates, which start accruing instantly. Some cards also charge an upfront transaction fee of about 5% or higher. The high cost of taking a cash advance definitely outweighs the benefits.

Best not to buy something if you don’t have the cash on you. If you absolutely must, borrow the money and return it as soon as you can.

#4. Applying for Multiple Credit Cards at Once

When you apply for a credit card, the issuing company will run a hard credit pull to check your score. This is to determine whether or not to approve your application. Every hard credit pull will knock a few points off your credit score. The damage is negligible with one hard inquiry but several hard inquiries performed within a short period can damage your score substantially.

To avoid hurting your credit, it’s advisable to do your homework first. Research multiple credit card companies, their eligibility requirements and, most importantly, your likelihood of being approved. Then take a look at the card’s terms, conditions, and fees. Only apply for one that’s a good fit for you in every way.

#5. Closing Old Credit Cards For No Reason

The length of your credit history is one of the factors that goes into calculating your credit score. The longer your credit history, the better for your score. When you close an old credit card, you lose its available credit. This will cause your credit utilization ratio to increase, which results in your credit score losing a few points.

Keeping your old credit cards open is particularly useful if you have high balances on the credit cards you’re using. However, this is only beneficial if you’re not paying any fees on the old card. If you don’t use the card and you’re paying a high annual fee, weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

#6. Not Reviewing Your Billing Statement

Before paying off your bill, it’s always a good idea to go through the entries. Make sure you’re weren’t charged extra or charged twice for a purchase. Also look for purchases that you don’t remember making. It could be a case of identity theft. If you find any errors, call the credit card company and get those charge removed so you are not paying extra unnecessarily.

#7. Relying On Your Memory To Pay Your Credit Card Bills

Life happens and we miss deadlines all the time, no matter how much we say we won’t. Missing your credit card due date can cost you in fines. It will also impact your credit score. To avoid these consequences, link your card to your bank account and set up auto-pay. This ensures that your credit card bills will get paid on time every month.

One thing you must make sure is that you have enough cash in your checking account on the payment date to cover your bill.  Another alternative is to set email notifications or any other form of reminder that works for you.

#8. Not Knowing Your Card’s Benefits

Every credit card comes with its own set of perks. Understanding the benefits you get with your card will help you get the maximum value from it. You could save money on your gas bills or on purchases at certain stores. The savings can add up to a tidy sum over time.

#9. Not Understanding The Card’s Introductory Offers

Many credit cards come with introductory 0% APR offers in an attempt to lure new customers. With this offer, interest is waived on new purchases, balance transfers or both. However, this offer is usually valid only for a limited time. It’s important to understand exactly when the 0% APR on your card ends so you don’t incur unnecessary charges.

#10. Chasing Credit Card Rewards

There are thousands of credit cards available. Each of these offer different rewards. It’s tempting to get multiple cards just to avail of the different perks. However, more often than not, the trade-off is not worth it. You have to accumulate thousands of points to redeem some of the more attractive rewards. This just forces you to keep spending as you chase different rewards. It can be a vicious cycle.

Your credit card can be a powerful tool but only if you exercise self-control and use it wisely. Avoiding these 10 common credit card mistakes will set you on the right financial path.

 

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