Many people take their credit cards for granted. It’s always there for them ready for
a swipe, but are they really getting the most out of it? There are a few simple things
you can do to make that little piece of plastic an asset rather than a hindrance.
1. Pay your credit card bills on time. I know that may seem like an obvious one, but
you may be surprised how many people do not do this simple task. Keeping
everything up-to-date will save headaches and money. If you keep your account in
good standing credit card companies are much more willing to work with you on a
lower interest rate, or special offers. If you think that you may be a few dollars
short one month give the card company a call BEFORE your bill is due. If you are
proactive the card companies are more willing to work with you.
2. Make your payment due date work for you. Many card companies offer the
option of what day you would like your due date to be. If you are the forgetful type
you may want to set the date at, or around the date your other bills are due. If you
do not want to take the financial hit all at once you can make the due date a few
weeks earlier or later than the rest of your bills. Make your due date as comfortable
3. Reduce your interest rate. If you have kept your account in good standing for
some time you may be due for a rate decrease. The card companies probably will
not automatically give you the rate decrease. You have to ask. It does not hurt to
ask. Just give them a call and ask if you can have your interest rate decreased.
That’s it. If they say ‘yes’, great! If you are denied a rate decrease ask why, and
remedy the problem. Many of the card companies will grant you a rate decrease, (if
you qualify), monthly, or quarterly. Keep in touch with the card company and watch
that rate go down.
4. Understand your rewards. Reward cards are great. You get free stuff for buying
other stuff that you need. All of the accumulated points in the world are useless if
you do not, or cannot cash them in. When applying for a reward card find out when
and if the points ever expire. Will you be able to amass enough points for that
Caribbean cruise before those points expire? Do you have to spend $10,000 to earn
enough points for a DVD? Many of the reward programs out there are very good,
but just be sure they fit your needs. If you cannot find a reward program that fits
you needs, don’t fret. You can always apply for a cash back credit card. Who can’t
use a few extra bucks at the end of the month?
5. Read the card’s ‘Terms and Conditions’. It may seem like a bunch of legal
jargon, but take the time to read it. It’s not that long, and it’s available whenever
you are applying online. Make sure you understand how long the intro A.P.R. will
last. Be sure you know if an annual fee will ever apply. Being informed is the best
way to keep yourself out of trouble down the road.
In summary, be smart, be informed, and shop around. Credit cards are not some
mysterious monster. Build a good relationship with the credit card company that
you choose, and you can release the true financial power of the card.