There's also no guarantee you'll ultimately avoid the charge. If the annual fee is imposed before you remember to close the account, you will have to pay it.

To avoid any undue damage to your credit scores, opt for a credit card only if the annual fee is in your price range. If you do aim too high or mistakenly incur an exorbitant charge, Creamer suggests that you ask your issuer to waive the fee in exchange for keeping the card open longer.

"Oftentimes, they will, especially if you've had a decent history with them," she says.

Bouncing balances from one card to another

Balance transfer offers, which allow consumers to move existing balances onto a new credit card at a low or 0% introductory annual percentage rate, can certainly be helpful to someone looking to pay down debt. However, McClary says consumers need to make sure they understand an offer's terms and conditions. 

"There's a ticking clock that starts once you make the transfer," he says, explaining that many offers feature retroactive interest on any balances you fail to pay down in the offer period. "All that interest is going to be heaped on there."

If that happens, a cardholder may be tempted to bounce the balance onto another credit card with an attractive introductory APR. Doing so repeatedly can generate a high number of credit card inquiries, which can negatively impact your scores. Such activity can also provide a debt-ridden consumer with a false sense of financial security.

"Don't fool yourself into thinking you've done something to pay (the debt) off," Creamer says. Instead, pick one card for your debt, and focus on your budget on making sure you pay off the balance in the introductory period.

Opening a store card to get a discount

Retailers have long offered big discounts if a customer opts to sign up at the register for that store's credit card. Taking up a clerk on this offer can leave you with a heavy liability, though.

"These cards have very high interest rates," Creamer says. If you carry a balance, a high rate will easily negate any deal you may have been given. Store cards typically also feature very low credit limits and can be used only at that particular retail chain. The limitations don't justify the ding to your scores from a credit inquiry.

Creamer says it's a good idea to skip the store credit card and opt instead for a more-traditional product that provides more-flexible spending and is more likely to bolster your scores.

If you do frequently shop at a particular retailer, ClearPoint's McClary suggests asking if the store offers a co-branded card backed by a traditional issuer or bank. These often feature more favorable terms and conditions and are accepted more widely.

For instance, one Amazon.com co-branded credit card works as a normal card but comes with a 13.24% APR, charges no annual fee and lets cardholders earn three points per dollar spent on purchases from the online retailer.

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