5 Good Credit Card Habits to Start Right Now
Good credit card habits can mean the difference between getting ahead and building a good history of credit or falling behind in debt and being overloaded with bad experiences. Aside from the obvious benefits — such as paying off your credit card balance every month — highly responsible credit card users are also happier and less stressed about their money.
Why? Because they have more control over their finances and can reap the rewards: the literal cash back and travel rewards that come with being a good credit card user. Here are five smart credit card habits to start right now if you want to stress less about your money.
1. Register for the Card’s Website and App
If you haven’t created an online account for your credit card, or signed up to use the mobile app, now’s the time to do so. Registering your card and creating an account on the credit card company’s website gives you instant access to your account balance, transactions, benefits and loads more. With the mobile app, you’ll also be able to receive real-time alerts if there’s a fraudulent purchase as well as be able to cash in on rewards you’ve earned so far.
In other words, having access to your account online or on your mobile phone is a much more convenient and secure way to manage your credit card account. You can dispute charges immediately after they post to your account or chat with a representative in real-time, so there’s no time wasted when it comes to keeping your account secure.
2. Use a Rewards Card That Matches your Spending
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to choose a credit card that matches your actual spending habits. Many of us think we spend a lot of money on certain categories, but you’d be surprised at the actual numbers once you start tracking everything.
In addition, it’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your spending habits every quarter in the event your needs change. You may notice patterns in your spending that make more sense for you to use a credit card that offers rewards on grocery store purchases. Or you may be better off with an all-around flat-rate credit card so that you don’t have to worry about rotating or bonus spending categories.
In other words, choose a rewards credit card that matches your spending habits and then adjust accordingly over the coming months and years. Think of credit card rewards in the same way investors think of getting better results from their investments.
3. Sign up for Text and Email Alerts
Most of us don’t have the time to log into our bank or credit card accounts every single day. But it’s still vital for us to keep tabs on credit card spending and transactions. The best way to do this is by signing up for text and email alerts so you don’t miss a double transaction posting, or any other important credit-related event.
Some credit cards will send alerts as you’re nearing your credit spending limit so that you don’t go over and incur additional fees. This is also handy for when you have an upcoming payment due so you’re not late. Going over your credit spending limit or paying a bill late can ding your credit score. Signing up for text alerts can help you keep this from happening.
4. Always Negotiate for Fees to be Waived
In the event you do incur a late payment fee or go over your spending limit, don’t despair. Nearly all credit card fees are negotiable and can be waived. Some credit cards even have this feature built-in with late payment forgiveness. Simply call up your credit card company or shoot customer service an email, and request for that particular fee to be waived.
Explain to them a bit about your situation or how this is your first offense. They’re people, too, and they want to keep you as a happy customer, so it never hurts to ask. You could save a lot of money on credit card fees simply by negotiating a bit with the customer service representative.
5. Know Your Credit Card’s Perks
Do you know all the perks and benefits your current credit card company offers? In addition to brand-specific benefits (from Chase, Citi or Barclay for example), your card may also come with perks directly from Visa, Mastercard or American Express themselves. Many credit card perks include coverage for car insurance on any rental, travel insurance, emergency roadside assistance, credit monitoring and many other benefits that are already built in.
To verify what your credit card’s perks are, simply log into your online web portal, then click on the Benefits link within your account. You can also do a quick Google search to see the list of perks that come with the card — or check out Visa's or Mastercard’s websites directly. Verifying your current benefits on your credit card could save you a lot of money in the future, such as not having to buy additional warranty coverage or being covered for changing travel plans when an emergency pops up.
Start These Good Credit Card Habits Now
Remember: Bad credit card management can cost you thousands of dollars, so it’s important to start following good credit habits now. The younger you are when you establish these habits, the better off your financial situation will be when you’re older and ready to make a major money decision, like buying a home or retiring. Start now, and reap the benefits of good credit card management far into your financial future.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.