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You probably just turned eighteen, want to take advantage of rewards or desire the convenience of completing online purchases. Credit cards can make a lot of day-to-day purchases simpler and optimal. Obtaining your first credit card will help you build and learn the foundations of borrowing and repaying credit. Most important of all, using a credit card to build credit. These are the five things to consider when applying for your first credit card.
1: Have the Right Motivation
Before people have credit cards, they often see it as this elusive source of “free money”. Get that idea out of your head. Credit cards mean responsibility and they allow for financial freedom, with wide acceptance online and in stores. This freedom and access to money you’ve never used before will be exciting and new. Be sure you understand it’s no different than having and using your own money, as you will be completely responsible for repayment of anything you charge to your first credit card. Your credit habits will be the foundation for a lifetime of financial health. If you are ready to apply for a credit card, makes sure you’re doing it to improve your personal finances and give you more flexibility in the future. Do not get a credit card because all your friends are getting one or you want to go crazy with spending. Get a credit card because you want to use it responsibly and start learning the ins and outs of the world of finances.
2: Shop Around
If you have a bank account and possibly a bill in your name, you may be able to get your bank to approve you for an entry level or student credit card. Limits on your first credit card won’t be high but it will be the building block to increased limits down the road. Your first credit card really matters as it will be the beginning of your credit reporting and the foundation of your credit score. You will want to shop around online and learn the basics of credit cards. Start by asking yourself, what banks offer student cards? What interest rate does each credit card have? And what are your chances at approval? The approval question will be the most pressing. Student credit cards offer a higher approval rate compared to first time credit card holders. Not everyone goes this route, and some prefer the more guaranteed ‘secured-credit card’ path. A secured credit card works much like any other card, except you need to put the limit up front to secure it. The issuing company will report to credit bureaus, and this will help you build your credit score and become eligible for unsecured credit cards in the future.
3: Use Your Credit Card and Keep Your First Credit Account Open
You’re going to want to build credit history to improve overall credit. While you don’t want to go on a spending spree and max out your credit card, you want to use it regularly and pay in off in full and on time every month. You want to do this for a couple of reasons: to show activity, keep your account open and to create healthy credit history for an improved credit score. This doesn’t have to be a large purchase and payment, anything regular will do, including a Netflix subscription or cup of coffee. You can setup automatic credit card payments with your bank to ensure the balance is paid on time and in full every period. This will be more than enough at first to keep your card open and give you valuable healthy credit reporting from your credit card company. In the long haul, you will want to make sure you keep your first credit card open for as long as possible. Having a credit card consistently open from when your credit report was first created helps build positive credit scores. With a long standing and healthy relationship with your first credit card account, you will pave your route to an amazing credit score.
4: Do not max out your credit card
It’s tempting when you get your first credit card to think you can max it out and make the minimum payments on your own terms without facing repercussions. If you don’t have a good motivation behind getting your first credit card, this could be a common pitfall for many people new to credit. There is something called credit utilization which has a big effect on your credit score. If you max out your credit card and carry a balance, your credit utilization will be very high, and this will affect your credit score poorly. Most first-time credit cards have a balance of $500. If you use the full credit limit your credit utilization will be 100%. Ideally for a healthy credit utilization ratio, you should stay below 30%, or $150 of a $500 limit. Your first credit card is about building your credit score and getting access to more funds in the future. When you have your first credit card, you’ll want to use it regularly but not for any big purchases. Your first credit card is ideal for reccurring payments and any amount you can comfortably pay in full.
5: Avoid Interest, Pay in Full and On Time
With your first credit card, you’ll quickly learn companies do not just give people access to money out of the kindness of their hearts. They stand to make big money on interest. For this reason, you will want to save your money by paying your credit card in full within the grace period. This will keep interest costs at $0. Every credit card varies but they usually have a 21-day grace period for no interest. You will have to check you credit user agreement for your account’s exact time frame. Use your credit responsibly and save on interest.