If you’re new to credit cards, the world of credit can be a bit confusing. You’ve probably heard some conflicting things about how they work and what they mean for your future financial health. But one thing is clear: if you smartly use your credit card, it can really help build up your score over time. Before applying for a credit card, here’s what you need to know about that process:
Smart credit card use is crucial for keeping your credit score healthy
It’s easy to think that a credit card is an easy way to make purchases, but it’s important to remember that a credit card is not a free pass to spend money. Instead, it’s a tool that can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. If you’re taking advantage of your credit cards responsibly, such as making payments on time and keeping your balance low, then the benefits of having one will include building up your credit score.
You’ll have to have a credit card to help your score
You’ll first need a credit history if you want a credit card. Credit cards are a way to demonstrate that you can pay back what’s borrowed and manage debt responsibly; in other words, they’re evidence that you have money management skills—and that’s something lenders prefer.
Since credit cards are an essential part of calculating your FICO score, it’s important to understand how they work and impact your financial life.
As per experts like SoFi, “When you apply for a new credit card, however, it will generate a “hard inquiry,” which can lower your credit score temporarily.”
You need to understand APR before you go further
APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate. It’s a rate expressed as a percentage of the total amount you borrow, and it is not the same as your interest rate on loan.
The APR is what you will pay per year on that money—for instance, if your APR is 16%, that means you’ll be paying 1/16th of the total amount borrowed (in this case, $1) in interest each month or each year if you don’t pay off your balance before then.
Don’t spend more than you can pay back
The most important thing to do is to make sure you’re not spending more than you can afford. Don’t use your credit card to make purchases that you don’t need, and don’t spend more than what you can reasonably pay off each month. And finally, don’t borrow more than what’s reasonable for your income and expenses—it’s not worth it!
Pay on time, every time or your credit score will tank
It’s important to pay your credit card bill on time every month, or else your score will drop. If you miss a payment or take too long to make it, the damage can last for years.
If you only miss one payment because of an emergency, that might not be a big deal. However, missing several payments in a row could put serious dents in your credit score, meaning that lenders will be more reluctant to give you credit in the future—even if they’ve done business with you.
Now that you know how credit cards work, you’re ready to shop for the best card. Use these tips and suggestions to choose one that fits your needs and helps you build a healthy credit score over time.