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5 Credit Card Mistakes Anyone Can Make

[Wednesday, August 31st, 2016]

You might consider yourself an expert in credit cards. You have a wallet full of the best reward cards, your credit score is solid, and you pride yourself on sticking to a budget. Even so, you could be making one of these five common credit card mistakes. Read through and check to see whether you’re really as credit-savvy as you think:

Forgetting to redeem your credit card rewards. So you signed up for a credit card with a fantastic rewards program. You’re earning frequent flyer miles, bonus points, hotel loyalty points, and cash back with every dollar you spend. But wait a minute. When was the last time you actually redeemed any of those rewards? Lots of people are excited about their rewards credit card when they first apply for a new account, and then promptly forget about those perks as soon as they start using the card. If you haven’t created an online account and learned how to redeem your rewards, you aren’t getting the most from your card. So be sure you log in and take advantage of those rewards.
Getting cash out of an ATM using your credit card. Anyone can have a little emergency and get into a cash crunch – it happens to us all. But one of the most expensive ways out of that jam is to take cash out of an ATM using your credit card. Not only will you pay a hefty interest rate on that cash, but you likely won’t have a grace period before the interest charges start to accrue. So if you’re short on cash, make this your last resort.
Missing a payment due date. It’s easy to accidentally miss a payment due date. Life gets busy, with kids and jobs and pets and other responsibilities. The best way to ensure that you never miss a payment due date is to sign up for automatic payments. Log into your account online and set them up, so the minimum amount due is automatically deducted from your bank account each month before your due date.
Not taking advantage of a balance transfer offer. If you’re carrying a balance on a credit card and paying interest, you need to look at balance transfer card offers. There’s really no reason to pay interest on a debt, as long as your credit score is decent. So many credit cards offer zero interest promotional periods that it’s easy to avoid paying interest for up to a year, or sometimes longer. Be prepared to pay a small balance transfer fee; usually this is 3% of the balance transferred. But if you’re paying a high interest fee on your debt, it’s almost always worth paying this fee.
Maxing out your credit card. Your credit limit is how much you can charge to your account, right? Wrong. It’s just the absolute most that you are allowed to charge. But doing so isn’t a good idea. The best rule of thumb is to keep your balance due below 30% of your credit limit. Ten percent is even better.

Now that you know these five pitfalls, it should be easy to avoid them. A healthy financial life starts with good credit habits, so be sure you aren’t accidentally making any of these mistakes.

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