Credit Cards: Dos and Don'ts
Credit cards can be a blessing or a curse depending on how they're used.
In this guide, we'll go over some basic dos and don'ts so that you can make sure that you're taking full advantage of all of the benefits credit cards can offer while avoiding spiralling debt and fraud.
Make sure you choose the right card
There is a whole wealth of different types of credit card available; each designed to suit different purposes. Before you take out a card, before you even search for different cards, you should have a long think about exactly what you want to use it for.
A conventional credit card will allow you to spend a little beyond your means between pay checks, offering improved financial flexibility and the ability to make certain big purchases that you can retroactively pay off over time.
But there are various other types of credit card available with specific benefits that you could enjoy, depending on your intended purposes.
If you're credit rating is poor or limited, you might want to consider a specialised credit building card with a low spending limit and high APR aimed at letting you work to demonstrably improve your creditworthiness.
If you're struggling to pay off existing credit card debt then you could take out a balance transfer card allowing you to transfer your debt and put off paying interest while you get back on track with your finances.
Take advantage of any reward schemes
If you do have a good credit rating, and back your ability to keep up with your monthly payments, then you should think about taking out one of the various reward cards available.
Some of the most popular rewards based cards will provide you with points redeemable on international flights for every pound you spend. These points can often also be redeemed for upgrades on existing flights and sometimes for hotel bookings at your chosen destination.
Set an appropriate due date and stick to it
Ideally, you want your monthly due date to be a few days after your pay day, so that you can be sure that you've got enough money in your account to pay off what you owe.
Pay off as much as you can each month
Each credit card will come with a minimum suggested repayment amount each month that will stop interest growing too fast. But if you really want to avoid credit card debt, then the best thing you can do is to pay off as much of your balance as possible each month, prioritising credit card payments over certain other household expenses. Of course, it is not always possible to pay off your entire balance each month ñ indeed this is why most people take out credit cards in the first place.
It's important to balance the credit you borrow with the money you're making so that you can stay on top of your debt. If you're not careful, you could end up in financial trouble as interest rates cause your debt to grow faster than you can keep up with it.
Shop around online to find the best cards
The best thing you can do when you do want to take out a credit card is to compare online using a service like ours. We'll show you a list of the market leading cards in each category so that you can pick whichever one you think suits your needs best.
Don't spend more than you can afford to pay back
The idea of a credit card is to enhance your financial flexibility and allow you to make certain payments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible given the timing of your pay checks.
However, it is important that you don't go over the top and spend far beyond your means if you want to avoid potentially crippling debt.
As mentioned above, you should always make sure that you're balancing what you borrow with what you owe, using a credit card as a helping hand rather than treating it as free money.
Avoid any kind of cash advances
You will generally be able to use your credit card to make cash withdrawals from ATMs, but by doing so you will rack up potentially very hefty charges. This is known as making a cash advance on your credit card.
There may well be times when doing this is necessary, but you should avoid it whenever you can. You are likely to pay less simply by going into your overdraft on your current account, if you have such a facility available.
The same applies when you buy foreign currency with your credit card. If you are planning a holiday, you can take out a specialised card that charges no fees when making any transactions while you are abroad. But bear in mind that even with these cards, you will be charged for withdrawing from an ATM, they should only really be used for purchases using the card itself.
Never give out your credit card details to any third parties
While it might seem straightforward, you should always prioritise security with your credit card. Credit card fraud is a big problem in the UK and so you should make every effort to keep all of your card details safe and secure.
This includes never giving out any of your card details to any third parties, in an email or during any unsolicited phone calls.