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Four Mistakes To Avoid With Credit Cards
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These simple tips concerning your credit cards will help you save money and improve your credit score. This information can also help you steer clear of costly debt and use of credit card incentives that really offer little value to typical credit card holders.

Get a credit report

Request your report from each of the consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion by doing a simple internet search to find their free website. You can request your credit report free every 12 months.

Review the report and note the cards issued in your name, or the name of a family member. Don’t forget that you should have a report for every adult in your household including a spouse, or young adults still at home.

Why? One of the biggest mistakes consumers make is to forget exactly how many credit cards they have, and even worse understand how much they really owe.

Read your mail

The 2009 Credit CARD Act created new rules requiring more disclosure concerning fees, charges and interest rates. The final changes were put in place in August of 2010.

Next time you receive a letter from your bank, remember despite a welcoming tone they rarely contain good news, and usually report increased fees or rates. Congress passed legislation to encourage disclosure and to make sure you to read the fine print. Doing so allows you to avoid higher cost credit cards.

Having one too many will cost you – dearly

There are fewer and fewer cards that don’t charge annual fees. If you’re holding an airline or other card that offers points you’re certain to pay fees of anywhere from $50 to $80 per year or more.

The fees add up quickly; you may be paying hundreds of dollars a year to earn points or miles that never create enough value to even come close to helping you buy your next airplane ticket.

Be especially careful of airlines that offer other airline perks such as companion travel. In many cases they’ll attach rules that govern how these vouchers can be used, so be wary of two for one trips that are costly because you can’t look for discounted fares.

Pay your bills

Credit cards are often the most expensive ways to buy something. Minimum payments are never enough to repay your debt in short order. Pay a minimum 3% on a $3,000 balance charging 18% interest, and you can expect to be making those payments for the next 10 years or more

Credit cards should be used as a convenience for short term purchases. Try to pay in full amounts you charge to avoid spiraling debt and higher compounded interest charges.

The author has nearly three decades of experience in all aspects of consumer finance, including banking, insurance, investments and lending.

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