October 25, 2023 · Budget, Credit, Savings
5 Tips for Managing Credit Cards and Finances
Credit cards make spending easy. With a credit card, there are no worries about the constant need for available cash for immediate payment. When a credit card issuer accepts our application for a card, consumers have the convenient financial flexibility to buy now and pay later, which means if either an emergency or a great deal occur suddenly and there is a need to pay someting right away, the situation can be managed with credit.
But as with all forms of currency, from paper cash to gold coins to digital cryptocurrency, there are rules and responsibilities for using it. Managing money can be complicated. Anyone can overlook or forget a payment that must be made; then they find out they have overextended their allowable credit limit, carried over a monthly debt balance or wiped out cash reserves. It’s also possible that a consumer may not know or understand all the features of a credit card, but with a little research, that card could provide many more benefits beyond just delayed payment.
Following are just five simple tips for maximizing credit cards while managing your finances:
- Reward yourself. Then do it again next month! Don’t miss out on a reward for using your credit card. For the cards that offer them, credit card loyalty rewards programs come in all shapes and sizes, and they can offer some advantages over no-rewards cards. Card rewards generally provide users with the opportunity to earn cash back or accumulate spendable points or miles (often airline miles) on eligible purchases. Other types of rewards include merchandise, hotel and resort stays, access to airline or other types of clubs, or special premium tickets to sporting events or concerts; there are lots of options for the many preferences of rewards cardholders. Consider your current card and research if a different card is a better deal based on fees, charges and rewards. Also consider that the primary benefit from a cash rewards card is that it can also save money—if the money coming back is built up in an account rather than being spent, which can be an easy way to add to savings.
- Know what your annual interest rate on your unpaid credit card balance is and how it could change…and you should learn what your different fees are. There are many types of credit cards, and they have different interest rates and fees. Some cards have an annual cost just to use the card, while other cards have fees for balance transfers between credit cards, cash advances (usually from automated teller machines, or ATMs), spending above your pre-set credit limit, or for other usage. Having a card with variable interest rates may mean that you may unexpectedly end up paying more on a charge balance carried over from one month to another. Between fees and interest rates charges, using a credit card can be expensive if you don’t know the exact features in your specific card’s agreement. It’s important to understand why and when your interest rate may increase and be prepared for it. Always read all the details of the agreement that came with your card to understand its related costs.
- Pay your charges on time and try to pay the entire monthly balance. To avoid interest charges from carrying a balance over to another month, pay the full amount before the deadline. You can arrange for your credit card to be paid automatically from a checking or savings account using a mobile app or online banking. If you cannot pay the full amount, try to make at least the minimum required payment on the account. Paying after the deadline or less than the full amount owed might be reported to credit reporting agencies, and that information could negatively affect your credit score, which is discussed more below.
- Get into the rhythm of paying your cards on the same date every month to help manage cash flow. Knowing exactly when your credit card payment is going to be made means that you can ensure that enough cash is available in an account to pay that month’s billing statement. Using a regular monthly payment date means that big, new purchases can be delayed until right after the previous month’s bill is paid so charges don’t get too large for a single month.
- Check your credit reports regularly for free, since managing your credit can help you get a higher credit score and improve your overall financial health. When credit cards are used, the credit information is compiled by three national, U.S.-based credit reporting agencies—Experian™, Atlanta-based Equifax®, and TransUnion LLC into credit reports. This report may also contain a credit score, which is a numerical rating of how credit-worthy a consumer is, and can affect how much credit they’re allowed by a financial institution. A high credit score helps determine whether a financial institution considers someone as a low credit risk for different products, including loans (such as mortgages). It also factors into how much they are willing to loan and what interest rate will be charged . A higher credit score can also result in a credit card issuer offering to increase a cardholder’s spending limit. Credit report details could include the total amount of money someone owes on all their types of credit; what types of credit they have (credit cards, mortgages, car, personal and other loans); whether they pay their bills on time; and what credit inquiries have been made by current or prospective lenders such as credit card issuers.
Because credit reports and scores have such a significant effect on personal finances, it's important to review your credit report at least on an annual basis to understand your credit and check for errors, especially personal information such as home addresses or the actual credit cards you now have. In the U.S., consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the major credit reporting agencies. The credit reports may be ordered online from annualcreditreport.com (which is the only federally authorized website that provides free credit reports) or by calling 1-877-322-8228. To get a free report you are required to provide some sensitive personal information (such as your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth) to verify your identity.
Managing credits cards is a continuing topic for the blog, so please check back for more practical tips on using credit cards.
Need more tips on your money?
For more information that may help you manage your costs and finances, look into the free Delta Community Financial Education Center webinars on a range of practical, “how to” topics that could potentially help save you money and enable you to better manage your income, financial assets and life. Please visit the Financial Education Center's Events & Seminars page to review and register for its monthly on-demand webinars.
The Credit Union’s blog has more information that could be educational and helpful:
- Ways to Improve Personal Credit
- Credit Scores 101
- Great CD rates and great service are a winning combination
- How to start saving for retirement with an IRA
- What To Do with Your 2022 tax refund, commission or bonus
- 5 ways to save money on life insurance
- Living your best life…insurance—term vs. perm
- Making tough financial choices in a tough economy
- What is good debt vs. bad debt?
- 10 steps to financial success: part one
- 10 steps to financial success: part two
- 10 steps to financial success: part three
- Buying a car: credit union financing vs. dealership financing
- Three basic tips for buying your first home
- Working from home? Here are 15 financial tasks you can do now
Who can help BALANCE™ your credit and finances?
BALANCE™ is a financial education and counseling organization that offers free services to Delta Community members. Some of its services include credit report reviews, debt management, and information on budgeting, money management and home buying.
Visit the BALANCE™ website to learn about their education and assistance programs. Members can also speak with certified credit and housing counselors to get personalized guidance.
Note that the services offered through BALANCE™ are separate and distinct from any business conducted with Delta Community and are not guaranteed by, nor are they obligations of, the Credit Union.