Credit is a modern convenience that many of us could not live without. It allows us to buy things that are well out of our immediate price range, like a home, a car or even a business. For the average American today, credit is pretty much a necessity.
However, with credit so readily available, and the downward trends of our economy, credit has become a system that is very much abused.
The majority of Americans just don’t understand how to use credit properly and make it work to their benefit. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to people using credit for things that do nothing, but hurt their credit scores. Like the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Not knowing how your credit decisions can affect you could harm your financial standing significantly.
If you have a have a credit card, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to help use it for what it was meant for – improving your credit score.
- Never use your credit card for pulling cash out of the ATM.
Think you need that cash ASAP? Think again. When you use your credit card to take cash out of an ATM, you’re being charged twice. You’re charged once for the ATM fee, and again with the interest on your credit card. In fact, most people don’t realize that credit card cash withdrawals are not eligible for interest-free periods. This means you start getting charged interest from day one. On top of that, you’re likely to get charged a higher interest rate on cash advances than on normal purchases. Your $100 dollar cash advance quickly spirals into a significantly higher amount. If you have any other option, it’s probably best to get the money you need a different way.
- Just say NO to retail credit cards.
The lure of saving 10% – 15% off your purchase can be a strong one. How many times have you been offered such a discount on your purchase at a retail store if you apply for their store credit card? Have you ever stopped to think why they are pushing these deals if it’s such a “savings” for you? Let’s break it down.If you are late on a payment or only pay the minimum amount, the interest rate of retail store credit cards can be significantly higher than regular credit cards. Retail stores send you promotions and offers to get you to spend more at their store. Often, you’ll just put it on your card and keep accruing debt. Remember that it hurts your credit if your balance goes over 30% of your credit limit.Lastly, your credit score is determined by active credit. If you get a card at a store that you don’t frequent, you’re not providing good credit history and therefore the credit card becomes a liability. The better option is pass on the offer of “savings” and, if you really need to purchase something on credit, use a non-store-specific card instead.
- Don’t incur more debt by using credit cards to pay bills.
When it comes right down to it, paying a bill on your credit card is going to do a lot more to damage your credit than it will to provide the help you seek. The problem is, you’re not actually paying anything. You’re simply transferring the debt from the company the bill is from to your credit card company. That’s not solving any problems. Not only are you not reducing the debt, you’re incurring new debt from the interest on our new balance. You also need to be careful that moving your debt from one place to another doesn’t increase your balance to over 30% of your credit limit. Credit cards should be used to increase credit, but only on things that help build your financial and personal worth – not things that decrease it with added charges.