Updated: 9/20/2011 5:46 PM ET|
10 worst credit card mistakes
There's no denying that credit cards can be useful financial tools, but they come with some dangers. While debt is the most obvious risk, it's far from the only one.
There is plenty of debate over whether or not you should use credit cards, especially if you are in debt. But if you have credit cards, you want to be sure you are using them to your advantage and avoid costly mistakes. To help you avoid these mistakes, here is a look at the 10 biggest credit card mistakes people make:
1. Using your credit card like a debit card
Your credit card is not your bank debit card. Never put your credit card into an ATM. No, it's not going damage your credit card, but it will cost you. Often you can expect a flat fee for getting a cash advance, as well as an astronomical interest rate on top of that for the convenience.
2. Signing up for a card with an annual fee and not setting a reminder in your calendar
It is sometimes a good idea to sign up for a new credit card to get a big sign-up bonus or take advantage of a balance-transfer offer. However, if you ended up with a card that has an annual fee, be sure to set a reminder in your calendar if you don't plan to keep the card and want to avoid the fee. Far too many people pay annual fees on credit cards because they forget to cancel the card in time.
3. Not properly researching foreign transaction fees
Before traveling overseas, you need to realize that every credit card has different foreign currency exchange rates and international transaction fees. Typical fees are anywhere from 0% to 3%. If you have several cards in your wallet, you should use the one that has the best exchange rate.
4. Lending someone your card or card number
This is a recipe for disaster. If you give someone your card number, he or she may go wild making purchases. Protect your account by refusing to give out your card or card number.
5. Putting more on your card than you have in the bank
Credit card debt is one of the most costly types of debt. In fact, it is one of the main reasons so many people face huge financial problems. If you have a card, you need to be sure that you have a system in place to limit or monitor your spending. You need to know how to budget with your card, and if you don't do it well, you need to immediately address the ensuing credit card debt problems.
6. Giving anyone other than your spouse signing rights
If you get a secondary card for someone, you are liable for all the charges. If you're married, you're already liable. Otherwise, you are taking a serious risk by adding other card members. The only possible exception might be your children; if they have accounts, you should monitor them closely.
7. Not calling to ask to reduce your APR
If you are trying to get out of credit card debt, call your card issuer and ask for a lower rate. Just gather a few offers for lower rates you have in your mailbox and threaten to leave if they don't reduce your rate. If the issuer doesn't budge, move your balance elsewhere.
8. Signing up for a card to get a free T-shirt or 10% discount
There can be some very lucrative sign-up bonuses. Your best bet is to sign up for cards with really good offers. Free T-shirts and 10% price breaks off small-ticket items off are not good incentives.
9. Not properly managing your statement and payments
Some people get into credit card trouble simply because they don't review their statements and they don't have a system in place for paying their bills. You need a system. If you are not in a habit of reviewing your statement, it is likely that you are making some recurring payments you know nothing about.
10. Not taking advantage of credit card rewards
If you have a credit card, you might as well be getting rewards. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as the best card for everyone, because the right card depends on your spending habits. Just be sure your spending is offering you something of value in return.
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