Getting your first credit card is an exciting milestone, but it’s also a step that comes with a great deal of responsibility. While having a credit card can offer users many benefits, including laying a foundation for a strong and secure financial future, it’s important for first-time users to understand how to manage their card to prevent this highly useful tool from becoming a financial liability.
If you’re about to apply for or have recently received your first credit card, read on for a look at some tips that can help you make sure you’re using it to your advantage.
Understand the true importance of a credit card.
A credit card isn’t simply a piece of plastic that can make your shopping trips more convenient—it’s actually an important, and potentially easy, way to build your credit history and grow your credit scores.
Having good credit is critical for a range of future financial scenarios, from buying a home to financing a car, and a credit card, for most people, is the typical first step that paves the way. In other words, you need to be aware that the way you use your credit card right now can have a big impact on your financial future, so it’s important to take the responsibility seriously.
Monitor your credit.
Keeping a close eye on your credit score is the best way to make sure that your credit is growing the way you want it to. You can typically access a credit report on an annual basis from a number of different credit bureaus. Meanwhile, some financial platforms offer helpful apps that allow you to keep tabs on your credit behavior and understand any changes to your credit score.
Know the rate and fee details for your card.
When you get your first credit card, make sure you take the time to read all the fine print. Information about interest rates, late payments, and foreign transactions might seem tedious to wade through, but if you’re not clear on all these details, you could find yourself facing some unexpected charges down the road.
Don’t charge what you can’t afford.
This is an obvious tip, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating: don’t use your credit card as a way to spend more money than you actually have. Credit card debt can accumulate quickly and spiral out of control before you realize it. This not only puts you in a challenging financial position in the present, but it seriously damages your credit score and, thus, your future credit opportunities.
To keep this happening, make sure you don’t charge anything to your credit card that you can’t actually pay for. In the beginning, it may even make sense to use your credit card only for small, regular payments you know you can take care of easily, such as household utility bills.
Prioritize timely credit card payments.
When you make your credit card payments, not just how much you pay, is another factor that influences your credit score. Even if you pay your bill one day after it’s due, a late payment can be a big setback to all that good credit you’ve been building. To keep up with payments in a timely fashion and ensure that you don’t fall behind, track your credit card payment date on a calendar along with all your other bills so you know exactly when it’s time to settle up.
Review your statements carefully.
Far too many first-time credit users fall into the habit of checking their monthly statement just for the total that needs to be paid, failing to review each item on the statement. While it can take a bit of time to double-check all your charges, you’re setting yourself up for trouble if you skip this step. Someone might have used your card to make fraudulent purchases, a merchant where you used your card might have made a mistake, or a technical or system error might have resulted in charges that shouldn’t be there—in short, the best way to be sure you’re only paying for what you actually charged to your card is to carefully review your statement each month.
Know what to do in the event of credit card fraud.
Speaking of fraudulent charges, as a first-time credit card user, you should know what to do in the event that someone starts using your card fraudulently. The good news is that credit card companies typically cover most, if not all, fraudulent charges that appear on your card, but it’s up to you to notice and report these problems (this is where the habit of carefully checking your monthly statement comes in). You should alert your credit card company to even the smallest fraudulent charges—and, of course, you should cancel your current card and request a new one as soon as any fraud is suspected or detected.
In Guyana, anyone over the age of 18 (with valid photo identification) is eligible to apply for a GBTI VISA Gold or VISA Classic credit card—there’s no need to have a GBTI account in order to become a cardholder. For more information about the application process, including details on card fees and benefits, visit gbtibank.com.