Tips for Using Your First Credit Card Wisely
Credit cards offer a convenient form of payment when you don’t have cash available, or they can also help you fund a bigger purchase that you may not otherwise have the funds on hand for. Credit cards are available through your financial institution (even credit unions!), your favorite retail stores, and other lenders. If you’re considering applying for your first credit card, it’s important to make sure you know how to manage your card successfully so you can protect your credit score. We’re here to help with these tips for how to use your credit card wisely:
1. Don't Apply for a Credit Card You Don't Need
Before you apply for a credit card, make sure you consider your reasons for wanting or needing one. If you have any reservations about opening a credit card, or don’t feel confident that you’ll be able to make regular payments, then it’s probably in your best interest to hold off on applying until you feel you’re in a better financial position. In the meantime, you can focus on reducing your other debts and expenses or supplementing your income to free up more room in your monthly cash flow.
2. Credit Isn't Free
Unfortunately, credit isn’t simply free money. Remember that you have to pay back whatever you spend, plus interest. While credit cards can be very helpful to extend your finances and build your credit, make sure you know your interest rate and your payment due date before you start making purchases on your new credit card. Impulse spending can get you in over your head quickly, but careful spending habits set a foundation that will benefit you for a long time.
3. Credit Can Help in Emergencies
When you’re getting your first credit card, you may not have had much time to build an emergency savings fund yet. Thankfully, a credit card can be helpful for sudden, unanticipated costs. You can use your first credit card to cover these costs, and then pay it off as soon as you can. You’ll be grateful to have your credit card as an option when you need it, and you can start saving extra money to build up your emergency fund so it’s there next time an unexpected expense throws you a curve ball.
4. Pay In Full and On Time
To build good credit with your first credit card, you need to make regular and timely credit card payments, in full if possible, or at least above the minimum payment amount. If you only pay the minimum amount, it will take much longer to pay off your balance because it will continue accruing interest. By paying only the minimum, most of your payment will go towards the new interest charges and very little of it will actually contribute to paying down your principal. However, paying as much over the minimum amount that you can will help you pay down your balance much quicker and will also keep your credit score up and maintain a positive credit history.
5. Keep Accounts Open and Active
When calculating your credit score, credit bureaus take into consideration how long you’ve had an open line of credit. So even if you get another credit card or two down the road, it’s important to keep your first one open and active – and even better, paid off! This shows consistency and responsibility to future lenders. The longer you’ve had credit, the more it will help your credit score.
6. Credit Can Pay Off
When you spend smart, using credit can really pay off! By using your first credit card wisely, you’re setting yourself up for a positive credit history and good credit score from the start. This can help you get better interest rates and terms when it comes to new credit cards or other loans down the road. Since loan providers, financial institutions, and even landlords review your credit history before deciding if you’re a good investment, you’ll benefit in more ways than one from having good credit. As a responsible credit user, you’ll be happy to discover more options are available to you when applying for an auto loan or a home loan in the future.
If you’re ready to apply for your first credit card, our Visa® Credit Cards offer an excellent way to build credit and save money while establishing healthy credit card habits. Apply in Digital Banking, online (for new members), or make an appointment at any of our branch locations.
At Robins Financial Credit Union, our mission is to enhance the financial well-being of our members and community. We honor this commitment by providing educational content to help you make the most of your finances. Read our other blog articles to help you gain the financial knowledge you need to succeed.