There's responsible credit-card usage, and there's smart credit-card usage. Permit me to draw some distinctions.

If you're charging on your card only sums that you can afford to pay, you're being responsible. If you're paying off your credit card bill in full each month, you're being responsible.

If you're a smart credit card user, though, you'll have done some digging to find the card or cards right for you. For example, if the sad fact of it is that you're carrying credit card debt, you'll want to have a card with as low a rate as possible. If you travel far and wide frequently, you may want a card that rewards you with miles. And if you simply use your card for lots of purchases, while paying it off regularly, you should perhaps focus on finding a card that offers you compelling rewards -- in the form of cash, even.

Take me as an example. I'm currently using a credit card that gives me 1% back on all my purchases, and on some, I get 5% back. Over the months, these little rewards add up. I recently cashed in a check the card sent me for $263 -- not bad, eh? Not only do I get the convenience of paying for most things with plastic -- I even make money on the deal.

Learn much more about the surprisingly interesting credit card industry in our Credit Center, which also features tips on getting out of debt, along with guidance on how to manage your credit effectively. (We even offer spiffy Motley Fool credit cards.) Really. I mean it. There's some great stuff in our Credit Center, and it's all free reading.

The following articles can help you:

You can also read about all things credit-related on our Consumer Credit / Credit Cards discussion board.

Oh, and while we're on the topic, you might want to consider investing in one or more credit-card-issuing companies, such as American Express (NYSE:AXP), JP Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MWD), Citigroup (NYSE:C) or Capital One (NYSE:COF). Two of them have recently been recommended in our Income Investor newsletter, advancing some 10% or so in just a few months. Try the newsletter for free, and you'll be able to see our entire long list of recommendations.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.