It is sometimes easy to forget that you have to pay for what
you buy. But, as long as you use your credit wisely, you'll
benefit from the convenience that credit can provide. Using
credit responsibly is not always easy. When you carry credit
cards- especially cards with high credit limits - you may
be tempted to spend more money than you should. Today it's
hard to imagine getting along without credit cards. They offer
a convenient way to pay for and keep track of your purchases.
Here are some guidelines for keeping control of your financial
affairs and making credit work for you, not against you:
Read the fine print. The credit application is a contract,
so read it thoroughly before signing. Watch for terms such
as "introductory rate" and periods that expire.
Beware of strings attached. If it sounds too good
to be true, it may be. That rebate card might not be such
a good deal when you add in the annual fee and compare interest
rates. You need to consider more than frequent flier miles
when applying for a credit card.
Shop around. If you get a solicitation in the mail,
on the Internet or at the local bank, compare rates and fees.
The credit card industry is very competitive so interest rates,
credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions
Make a budget. Make sure that you know what is coming
in and what is going out. That way you will avoid nasty surprises.
Beware of impulse buying. If you are an impulse buyer,
limit the number of cards you carry. If you had to pay in
cold, hard cash, would you be making this purchase?
Keep track your purchases. Save your credit card receipts
for checking against the monthly statements and for keeping
a running total of your obligations.
Pay within 90 days. Try not to charge more than you
can pay off in three months. If you need a long-term loan,
check out your credit union, bank or savings and loan, and
compare interest rates.
Pay off credit cards first. Concentrate on reducing
your credit card debt. Paying off credit accounts is one of
the best investments you can make.
Order a copy of your credit report annually. Your
credit report is like an academic report card -- it evaluates
your performance as a credit customer. It needs to be accurate
so you can apply for other loans such as a car or a house.
Don't pay your bills late. Late payments can hurt
your credit rating.
Limit number of credit cards. How many do you really
need? Are you using them simply because you have them?