Using Consumer Credit Cards

All credit cards are created equal, right? Wrong! That’s like saying a dented, 1970s van is the same as a brand new, fully loaded, luxury SUV.

It’s important to know what you’re doing when using consumer credit cards. Consumer credit cards can vary dramatically in terms and conditions that either cost or save you money.

7 helpful Hints on Using Consumer Credit Cards

1 – Shop around for the best deal.
Because financial institutions are extremely competitive in marketing credit cards, you’ll find different terms and conditions among the suppliers. If you’re a smart shopper, you’ll pay attention to the fine print.

2 – Look for the lowest interest rate.
Naturally you want the most credit for the least long-term cost. Look for a credit card with a low APR. That’s the Annual Percentage Rate or the actual cost for credit. It’s basically the price of renting the credit card company’s money for a period of time.

3 – Pay your credit card bill on time.
Time is of the essence here. Make the minimum monthly payment on time, every time and you’ll keep the stated APR. If your payment is late (or missing), some cards bump up your APR by several percentage points.

A late payment could boost your APR into the 18-22% range and it stays there – there’s no reduction for making the next payment, because your late payment threw you into the high APR penalty box with no escape clause.

4 – Check out credit card perks.
Let’s assume that you’re a good credit risk and you’ll make the monthly payments on time. Look for a card that gives a little something extra, like bonus points that can be traded for gifts, restaurant meals, movie tickets, music downloads or travel and hotel stays.

5 – Pay off your credit card in full each month.
As you spend on your credit card, you actually earn something else that you want. That’s making a good deal even better. There are some people who charge everything and pay in full each month, and are easily able to afford round trip first-class tickets anywhere in the world each year!

6 – Apply online for the fastest service.
The fastest way to get a credit card and start shopping is to apply for the card online. In mere minutes, you can complete the credit card application and get approval almost immediately if your credit checks out.

With instant credit, some companies give you a small opening limit so you can shop online right away. You have to wait a few days (usually 7-10 business days) for the actual card to arrive by snail mail.

7 – Switch any balance to a lower interest card.
If you currently have a high interest credit card, you may be able to find a better deal online where you can transfer the balance and pay 0% interest for 6 months, or some comparable transfer incentive that makes it worth your while to make the switch.

Credit cards can be a huge pitfall for the unwary consumer. Using consumer credit cards wisely can enable you to come out ahead.

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