4 Top Credit Card Tips
Credit cards have become the payment method of choice for countless Canadian consumers. In our physical and digital wallets or saved in apps and online portals, there are millions of active Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards in circulation. However for some, the costs associated with using their credit card can lead to a troubled financial future. Understanding the fine print in the cardholder agreement, which changes from time to time, can save money now and offset future difficulties. To make your credit cards flexible friends not foes, here are 4 top tips to ensure you’re credit card spending doesn’t come back to bite you.
Tip #1 – Minimum Payment Myth
Did you know…if you only make the minimum payment on your account, depending on how much you owe, it could take longer than your lifetime to pay it all off? Here’s a calculator you can try, which will show you how much your debt is costing you.
On each credit card statement, credit card companies are required to tell you how long it will take to pay your balance owing off if you only make the minimum payment. Look at that carefully and then figure out how much extra you can pay to avoid this trap.
Tip #2 – Partial Payment Interest
Did you know….if you pay less than the full amount owing on your statement by the due date, you will pay interest on the full amount? For example, your balance owing is $1510 and your payment is due today. If you only pay $1500, most cards will charge interest on the entire balance of $1510. Interest adds up fast enough so avoid this trap if you can. If you make an honest mistake – likely paying $1501 rather than $1510 – and normally pay your balance in full, call your credit card company and ask if they’ll reverse the charge for you.
Tip #3 – Interest Rate Change
Did you know….some credit cards may increase the interest rate on your card if you are even one month in arrears? Check your statements carefully each month to see what interest rate you’re being charged. If they do increase your interest rate because you missed a payment it will normally take a full 12 months of on-time payments to get it brought back down.
Tip #4 – Payment Due Date
Did you know… if you make your payment on the due date, the credit card company may charge you interest as if you paid late? In some cases, processing can take up to 5 days. Make a habit of paying your credit cards 5-7 days prior to the actual payment due date to be sure. If any errors occur, contact your credit card company and ask them to reverse any charges.
You may also not be aware, it’s just fine to make more than one payment each month. As part of your pay cheque planning, make payments when you’ve got the money to avoid inadvertently spending it on something else. Along with checking over the purchases you make each month, ensure that all of the payments you make are accurately reflected as well.
The Bottom Line on Using Credit Cards Wisely
Your credit card will be your friend if you know what you can afford to charge and pay off each month because you have a budget. Using your credit card as an extension of your pay cheque means that you could be adding at least 50% to the cost of whatever you are buying. If the sticker price looks like a good deal, decide if it’s still a good deal with interest and fees added on. If it’s not, don’t buy it unless you have the extra cash to pay for it.
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